Whilst the kids were still on Easter hols we took them to see something new and something that we use quite a lot when the weather's reasonable. Hopefully my insight into some of the attractions here in the New Forest will encourage and assist you in making a visit here for yourself.
We had never been here before so it was nice to see something new and be able to tick another attraction off the list. It was really easy to find as it's clearly sign posted from the A31 as soon as you approach Ringwood. When we arrived it was almost time for the Owl display in the main barn but we had a quick walk round the first few enclosures which house quite a few different types of owls but also Kites and other birds of prey that I believe are all rescued birds.
The Owl display was about 30 mins and it was great to see these birds up close. They were trained to fly to the handler who was constantly moving around the barn by using food as a reward. They flew so low that they feel like they brush the top of your head and you feel the wind as they silently go past. They really are amazing birds! At the end we got see a baby Owl and I have to say it was ugly, poor little thing. The kids were allowed to touch it and it's fluffy feathers were so soft, they just really are ugly.
After that it was back outside and we continued around the enclosures of rescue birds. We got to see Liberty herself up close, the centre is named after an American Bald Eagle called Liberty, and she is very impressive.
Time for a quick cuppa in the cafe and then next on the agenda was the reptile display. A very well presented talk about the snakes, tarantulas & lizards.
Each time she spoke about a different reptile/spider she walked around the crowd showing everyone up close what she was talking about. They insist that you don't touch though, just look! The python at the end was laid out on the floor at the front and everyone was asked to come close to see her, i'm not sure what her length was but she almost stretched from one side to the other - massive! Although these are not my most favourite things it really was interesting and great for the kids to experience these animals in a controlled environment where it was not frightening for them.
Another wander around outside and then it was time for the outside flight display in the arena. It was a little bit windy out there but the birds still did very well. Again we saw some Owls, a Caracara - a very intellegent and funny bird from the Falkland Island that just runs around on the floor & virtually tripping the handler up to get his food.
The main event though was Liberty flying and very impressive it was.
After this we decided to come home as it was a bit chilly but you could easily stay longer - a full day out and great for kids and adults alike, well worth a visit.
This is one of our regular haunts as again it's enjoyable for both kids and adults. You can just walk, cycle, play golf at the 18 hole course, ride the narrow gauge railway, play in the tree tops with Go-Ape, do the play trail in the forest, play in the massive sand pit play area or the older timber play area or just sit and have a picnic. This place does cater for everything but in a lovely simplistic kind of way. You only have to pay for parking which does vary depending on the time of year but it still isn't expensive for a family day out, I believe the max charge is about £8-£9 for the day. It's easily found as again it's clearly sign posted from the A31 just after Ringwood.
One thing you need to know is that there are no bins in the park as they just encourage mess and wasps, so you do need to take all your rubbish home with you.
We always take a little picnic with us aswell as our own bikes, but if you can't there is bike hire there and also a very nice cafe. If you are interested in doing the tree top adventure with Go-Ape it is strongly recommended that you book this in advance as it is always very popular. You can watch most of the circuit from the ground below and it is fun to watch. There are usually lots of screams and giggles going on up there! It's great fun if you don't mind heights, we did it a couple of years ago.
The main play areas can get busy but on the play trail you can at least keep moving. All the play structures on the trail are made from logs and ropes and they look great. It's been very well designed and laid out and even big enough & sturdy enough for adults to have a go aswell. They are always updating and modifying the trail so quite often you come across a new structure, this year there are quite a few, some are still under construction so we are eagerly waiting to see what they will be.
On the other side where the lake and playgrounds are, there's also a lovely big grass field which has picnic benches and plenty of space to play football, rounders, cricket etc if you are organised enough to take all that stuff and you can even bbq on there too. It's all very relaxed and friendly. The 2 main playgrounds are fantastic - the sand pit area is great for the younger children in particular but the big ones still enjoy it too. Then there is the older side which has more climbing structures and a zip wire which is great fun. Also on this side there is the narrow gauge railway which runs around the playgrounds and lake. It's a great minature train ride which the kids love but there is an additional fee for this.
I really, really like it here and on a warm summers day in particular you can stay until sunset, if you can last that long!! It's a fantastic fun filled, full day out just enjoying the great outdoors and for not that much money. Kids don't need electronic games, just give them some logs to climb on and some trees to hide in and they love it!!!