Thursday, 25 April 2013

School hols fun part 2

It's took a while to finally get round to writing this one!

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.

Liberty's Owl, Raptor & Reptile Centre nr Ringwood                             

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.

Moors Valley Country Park

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.

It's always a good idea to take some old bread with you aswell as there is a large lake with ducks and swans that always enjoy a feed.  You can walk or cycle for a several miles around the edge of the park and lake and it's more peaceful out there if you want to get away from the crowd.  

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!!! 


Thursday, 11 April 2013

School holiday fun

When the kids are off school I always feel like I should take them out somewhere and entertain them for at least a few of the days, so I thought I'd tell you about where we have been.

Paultons Park inc Peppa Pig World
For the last 9 months this has been a favourite of ours as we became season ticket holders last summer and have tried to make sure that we use it. Our Children are 8 and 3 and this family theme park definitely caters for both of them.  The weather was a bit cold so we only stayed for 3 hours but we still had a lot of fun.  We even got to try the new 4D cinema.  We had already experienced 4D at Legoland so knew what to expect, but to be honest I came out of it with mixed feelings really.  The amount of waiting time seemed excessive especially after being told by the attendant that it was only 5 mins until the next showing, there was hardly any people queueing, and then when we finally did get inside nearly 30 mins later, they were only half filling the auditorium - so we probably could have got in to the show before as it's only a 15 mins movie! Anyway the only movie was in my opinion a bit too scary for the kids as several had to be taken out crying half way through, including Sophie and the clarity/focus of the film was not very good either.  
The one really good thing about it was the effects, the chairs move and vibrate, the water & wind spurts out from the back of every chair and bubbles float out of the ceiling.  This was a definite improvement from the Legoland one as their effects all only came out from the front stage or above in the middle of the ceiling, so not everyone got the full experience.  I am glad we tried it but I certainly won't be queueing for it again.  
The rest of the afternoon was very good, the children love the indoor soft play area of Peppa Pig World and we also managed to fit in some of the rides too.  All in all I do recommend this as a great day out but if you are paying the day ticket price make sure you stay all day and get the most for your money.

Longdown Activity Farm
We had'nt been here for quite a while so it has changed a little.  As soon as we arrived it was time for the baby goat feeding, which the children love.  You feed them with bottled milk and the goats are so funny, they climb on top of each other to try to get a bottle and then gulp it so quickly they nearly pull it out of your hand.  
Next door is the trampolines which are always a favourite and always very busy, so while the kids got the chance they had a play in there. After this we walked around the chick shed and guinea pig shed where some had just had babies & they were so cute.  Next was the petting corner, for this we had to queue for a while but the children were kept busy looking for eggs in the hens nesting boxes.  
The kids got to hold tiny little chicks, stroke the baby bunnies which were so, so soft and adorable and then brush the baby goats which I have to say were so placid and well behaved - nothing like the ones we fed! 
Another play - this time in the soft play area and then outside on the pedal tractors & go-carts.  
A new addition this time was pony rides, you do have to pay an extra fee for this but it was very popular.  Sadly the big tractor ride was cancelled due to the soggy field, but normally we do really enjoy this bumpy ride.  
The kids however were quite happy playing at the outside play ground and picnic area which then leads quite nicely to the pig feeding.  The pigs pen has lots of plastic tubes which you pour feed pellets down for the pigs and the kids just seem fascinated by.  They kept on going back round in the queue for more.  The straw play barn is another great play area with a couple of slides and masses of straw bales and the kids had loads of fun running around in a very safe environment.  Finally on our way out we had a look round the very lovely farm shop and bought some yummy strawberries to eat in the car on our way home.

New Forest Reptile Centre's Wild Wednesday

We have been to the Reptile Centre before, but not for "Wild Wednesday".  Last year we had one of the RSPB volunteers that was working at the centre stay with us, and she had recommended it back then, so I thought we should take her advice and check it out.  Admission is free but you pay a small fee for parking.
There are about 6 pods which house the reptiles that are native to the New Forest, but obviously they only become active when the weather is warm.  We did manage to see a couple of common lizards and a toad, but sadly no snakes - although we have been lucky enough to come across Adders & Sloworms out in the Forest.  

There were a few stalls set up with activities for the kids like colouring in & making things and although we didn't do it, I believe there was a nature trail too. 
There was a lovely gentleman there with two telescopic bird viewers set up watching a nut feeder, allowing everyone to see the birds feeding right up close, it was great.  There had been a Woodpecker and lots of Siskins and Tits and apparently he had seen a Nuthatch but it was in hiding.  He was really helpful and very interesting to chat too.  

In the main hut they have some TV screens that are linked up to live webcams that are watching the birds close by and one in particular is the live feed from a secret but local Goshawk nest. 

If it is a nice warm day there are picnic benches around and also some walking trails, so you could make a day of it and it's just a really nice, peaceful place which is fun & educational without the kids realising.