A lovely long family bike ride

Since learning to ride his bike without stabilisers our Monkey just can’t get enough of it. He wants to go on a bike ride everyday, and often multiple times. We love it and thankfully LM loves sitting in her “chair” on the back of my bike too so we get out quite a lot.

On a very sunny Saturday last week we had no plans for the afternoon, so I came up with the idea of a slightly longer bike ride than we’d done previously. We are so lucky that we live close to a country park so most of our rides end up there or at a local playpark. I fancied a change though so we headed off to another lovely spot, a lock over the river.

It really is a longer cycle for Monkey so we thought we’d try it and see how we went, and he did brilliantly! Much of the journey is on a path next to the Nene Valley Railway line and at one point we were chasing a diesel train on the tracks. His little legs couldn’t quite keep up but Monkey certainly gave it a good try.

I originally thought we would just get to the lock over the river and turn back, but we got there in no time and Monkey was keen to continue, so onwards we went.

Down near the rowing lake are some sculptures that have been there since 1987 and that Hubs and I remember from when we were kids. This was getting quite far now, but Monkey was adamant he wasn’t ready to head back so we continued on and both kids loved seeing the sculptures… Especially the ones hubs has nicknamed “dinosaur poos” hehe can’t think why that would appeal?PhotoGrid_1491834925600

I loved the one that looked like lots of open doorways, and miraculously managed to get a family snap of us all standing in a different doorway!20170408_143654

It was such a glorious day to be out, and lovely to see Monkey enjoying his bike so much. At times he was tired and needed a breather but on the whole he was fine. It was funny cycling behind him as he was having little conversations with himself, making up scenarios and vouching and whizzing and kept bending down low when he wanted to go fast to “get the baddy” or something haha.

It was just lovely and both hubs and I feel this is such a huge step as a family, to go on proper bike rides at more than a walking pace. I can see us doing this a lot this summer I really can. Well done Monkey!

 

Fun in the sun at Fineshade Woods with the Gruffalo Spotter App

Wasn’t the weather last weekend just stunning? A bit of sunshine can work wonders and I think almost all of us were out there in some form to make the most of us weren’t we? We had already arranged to meet friends at Fineshade Woods, which is a forestry commission forest near to where we live, and were quite pleased to be able to go there in the sunshine as we’ve only ever been on rainy or cold days before!

The biggest difference was obviously how busy it was, still we were there early enough that we managed to park and met our friends. First up was a little play on the fab play area near the visitors centre.PhotoGrid_1491833272213

Then we headed off onto their newest trail, the Gruffalo trail! They had a Gruffalo trail here previously which ended with a sculpture, but I knew this one was all about the latest app, the Gruffalo Spotter, so I had downloaded it prior to arrival. We headed off down the trail and could immediately see the difference a sunny Sunday made, as it was busy! The kids loved spotting all the signs along the way even though we sometimes had to wait a bit to get close to some of them.PhotoGrid_1491833054674

The app itself is based on an augmented reality. You scan some of the signs and then the characters from the book come to life on your device. It’s kinda cool… But I’m not that convinced I have to admit. On a bright sunny day it was tricky to see the screen… And we only had phones rather than a tablet which I guess may be better.PhotoGrid_1491832908962

But for small children, I don’t think they really got why things were on my screen but weren’t really there. Trying to get them to pose for photos was tricky too as they were standing next to a sign and didn’t really get why. Monkey grasped it a bit but LM didn’t have a clue what was going on really! It didn’t help that it was a busy day as sometimes we had to wait to get to one of the signs, which the little ones really didn’t see the point of!

Then, the worst bit for us was that the final one, with the Gruffalo… Just didn’t work. I tried a few times and restarted the app but just nothing. I don’t think we were the only ones either so it was a shame. By that point the kids were pretty hungry anyway we easily distracted them and headed to the cafe.

I don’t think the app and the downsides detracted from our enjoyment of the trail… But actually I don’t think they enhanced it either. We all loved running around and playing in the woods and looking out for clues. The images we saw and pics we took gave us a bit of a giggle but I just think that actually for my kids at least, that they would have liked something tangible they could see, more than something on a screen. It also meant I was behind my screen a lot trying to get it to work, rather than being present and joining in the fun with them.

Like I say, we had a really lovely day. Catching up with great friends and having a fun outdoor adventure in lovely woods on a gorgeous day. I’m just not sure I’d bother with the app next time!PhotoGrid_1491833176426

Have you tried the Gruffalo Spotter app? What did you think? Am I being overly negative about it or did you think the same?

 

Lions & Tigers & Giraffes, oh my! Our day at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Our little lady has a real thing about tigers and giraffes. She has watched the tiger episode of show me show me countless times and has a real love of giraffes. “Gi-rar” surprised us as being one of her first words and actually while all other animals are named by the sounds they make (moo, miaow, woof woof, even an elephant is called an “oooooh” and a lion is a “rar” )” tagar” and “girar” are the clear exceptions in being called by their actual names. Because of this I’ve had it in my head that we should take her to see them in a zoo.

It turns out that most of the zoos within easy access for us only have either tigers or giraffes, rather than both, with one exception being Whipsnade Zoo. There’s no denying it is a pricy day out but we had about £10 of tesco vouchers we were able to exchange which did take a chunk out of the cost for us. Hubs was able to take a day off during half term too so, with great excitement, off we went! It’s a little over an hour for us so not too bad and we got there shortly after it opened. We were so lucky too as it was a beautiful morning.20170220_101836

We headed in and the first animals we saw were the lynx cats. LM adores cats so she was thoroughly excited about the “miaows.” Monkey was telling her off and saying that they don’t miaow, until we pointed out on a sign that actually they make a lot of the same noises as housecats! Then it was on to the beautiful brown bears which looked on so cuddly! We also saw some sleeping wild boars, where LM kept telling us to shhhh, and a wolverine bounding about but I didn’t get a photo of that.PhotoGrid_1487612449012

We were headed to the penguins and couldn’t believe it when we came out on the hilltop to this incredible view! Again we were so lucky with the weather as we could see for miles, it was incredible. We tried to get a little family selfie but we had the sun in our eyes so it didn’t work too well, still, not the end of the world!PhotoGrid_1487612641962

We saw the penguins, which Monkey was massively excited about (as he is in penguins class at school), then some reindeer before stopping for a little picnic looking out at the view. We had hoped this would be a cup of tea stop but as our half term is a little out of sync with the rest of the country’s sadly lots of small places like this around the park were closed.PhotoGrid_1487612860827

The view was beautiful but it was incredibly windy on this edge of the park and we were more than happy to go back in a bit, to see some animals of Africa, including antelope, meerkats and lions. The lions were incredible and so huge! They were asleep just in the other side of some thick glass and they were incredible to see. They were so cute too as one went in for a snuggle with some of the others and there was a lion sandwich!PhotoGrid_1487613068984

After the lions it was on to one of the animals we had particularly come to see, the Giraffes! LM was a little scared to start with, and let’s face it, they are very big, but they have a wonderful viewing platform which I think helped put her at ease. She was absolutely loving them!PhotoGrid_1487613361037

We then headed to the edge of the zoo again to see some cheetahs and hippos. It is here that I must mention the sheer scale of the place, as there are quite long walks between each animal. Which is good as they have spacious enclosures, but it was a bit of a trek at times. According to my Tom tom watch we walked around 13000 steps in the 5 hours we were there! You can pay extra to take your car in, and there are places to park at the various areas but, I’m a bit of a cheapskate for one thing, but also wasn’t sure about getting the kids in and out of the car constantly. Anyway we walked to the cheetahs which were gorgeous, and the hippos, which were mainly hiding underwater, though we did get a couple of snaps when it popped its head up. Along the journey we did also see zebras and flamingos!PhotoGrid_1487613582218

We had a little break in one of the cafes that was open, we only bought snacks as we had brought our picnic with us, but the food choices did look and sound very tasty! After that pitstop, it was on to another of the highlights, seeing the Tigers! The kids were very excited about this and we got to see them pretty close up.PhotoGrid_1487613775663

We then had a real bonus, we walked round to the other side of their enclosure, where there is a great viewpoint, and watched the Tigers having a real spat, it was incredible! The roar was so loud and they really went for each other. We saw them have another go at each other shortly afterwards, and we assumed the female must be in heat or something. Amazing to watch though, LM found it particularly hilarious and then was running around roaring at us all! Think she needed to be caged :)

Next up were some rhinos, which Monkey loved, purely because of the mud they were stomping around in! The elephants are having work done on their area so it was a bit of trek to get round to the all weather paddock that there were in at the time, but they were lovely to see. A little one was having great fun playing with a ball, and it would have been lovely to see them roaming in their big paddock!PhotoGrid_1487613983008

The kids had seen the playpark by this point and were desperate to go and play so we then headed there for a good old run around. The park was huge and the kids loved every second, LM did really well on the park that was clearly meant for older kids too!PhotoGrid_1487614097676

There is also an indoor soft play in this area, and a petting zoo/farm but we didn’t make it to either of those. After 5 hours and 13000 steps hubs and a were getting tired of it was time for us to head off. Shame not to see the sealions, butterflies, crocodiles, Monkey’s, lemurs and anything else we missed but we definitely feel we made the most of the day and saw lots of animals.

Have you taken your littles to the zoo? What are their favourite animals?

Snowdrops Week at Easton Walled Gardens

I make no secret of that fact that we like to get out for an adventure, whatever the weather… But I have to admit that the weather forecast for this weekend tested even our resolve! Grey, rainy,snowy and freezing… We did debate our sanity ever so slightly but after a chat over the breakfast table, the kids were adamant that we go so go we did, to somewhere we hadn’t been before, the Walled Gardens at Easton, just south of Grantham.

I saw some friends had visited last year on Facebook and thought it looked lovely, so had a bit of a nosy. When I saw they had opened for one week in February to show off their snowdrops, I was determined we would go for a visit. I have to admit I had hoped for a perfect winter’s day with blue sky… But sadly that was not to be on the day we had earmarked to go. So we wrapped up and donned waterproofs and it was off we went.PhotoGrid_1486993192113

Even on such a bleak day it was still obvious how lovely and how well cared for the gardens are. PhotoGrid_1486993514477

We loved having a good old explore, and LM particularly loved the giraffe statues… She does love a “gi-rar!” PhotoGrid_1486993862252

And the snowdrops certainly didn’t disappoint! PhotoGrid_1486994037732

There is a a lovely little hut in the gardens, which would be a lovely place to sit on a summers day… And was a lovely place to escape the drizzle for a few minutes!
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We had a lovely lunch in the tea rooms of jacket potato, baguettes and warm soup to thaw us out a little, then, after a tantrum about wearing her coat it was back outside to explore the rest of the gardens. I loved the fact that they provided balls, hoops and even quoits to play with and we certainly put them to good use! PhotoGrid_1486994665771

Then it was time to come home and thoroughly defrost ourselves and snuggle in the warm. We had a wonderful day, though with some serious tantrums and feistiness from our madam alomg the way… Though I doubt any outing would exist without those from her at the moment!

I was so glad we braved the weather, though, as we really enjoyed ourselves, and I look forward to. Coming back in the warmer months, hopefully on a sunny day!

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A winter’s morning at our local country park

We are incredibly fortunate where we live, that we have a fantastic country park basically on our doorstep. I don’t like to name it as hubs feels it is too clear an indication as to where we live, but we can walk/cycle there so easily. It is the perfect place for a family outing, to meet friends and generally have a play. Last weekend we arranged to meet some of our friends there for the morning.

It was such a clear, but very cold and frosty winter’s morning. Though it is very close it can be a bit too far for little legs to walk (especially the homeward bound leg after running and playing all day) so we decided to cycle over. I adore that LM loves being on the back of my bike, and Monkey is getting much stronger and able to cycle faster and for longer meaning we can have a bit of a family bike ride (though still a very sedate one!). It was gorgeous cycling over in the morning sun and sparkly frost.PhotoGrid_1485353769385

We had a look around at some of the ice and frozen plants, and shells etc before our friends arrived.PhotoGrid_1485354002746

They joined us for a play on one of the playareas, which was interesting in the ice, as the slide was seriously slippy, so much so that LM flew at one point bless her!PhotoGrid_1485354216821

The kids then had great fun chasing bubbles, which looked gorgeous in the sunlight.PhotoGrid_1485354309545

We then walked over to go to another playarea but at this point LM threw a mega wobbler and basically wouldn’t stop screaming. One of those times where you can’t really even work out what is wrong or what she wants you to do. Always fun. Eventually she was happy to ride on Daddy’s shoulders which thankfully gave us a break from the screaming!PhotoGrid_1485354415362

Thinking she may be cold we stopped at a cafe for some hot drinks and cake to warm us all up, before going out onto the nearby sandy play park. The kids love this park and had so much fun out there, going through tunnels, jumping off ledges, going down the slide and playing in the sand in general.PhotoGrid_1485354535511

With lunchtime approaching and knowing we had to get back to our bikes, and then cycle home, it was time to head off. I love a good cold morning out when you can then wrap up warm and cosy when you get home :)

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Hills & Holes, Barnack, Lincolnshire

A little to the north of where we live is a little known nature reserve, and a place that I love, called Hills & Holes. It is the site where limestone was quarried to build Peterborough cathedral, and quite simply this left the area with lots of hills, and lots of holes!

I know it sounds a bit odd but honestly I love it there. I have so many awesome memories of running up and down all the hills and in and out of the woods there as a kid.  Hubs did the same with his family too so it is a place we have always said we wanted to take the kids, and finally it feels like LM is old enough to start to enjoy it, so with some rare sunshine forecast on Saturday morning, we headed over.PhotoGrid_1484575491854

Monkey could not get his head round what we meant when we said we were going to Hills & Holes, and he was even more confused when we pulled up in one of the few laybys that class as parking on the edge of the village and walked through a little gate. But as soon as we got in and he saw the hills, well he was about as happy as a 4yr old gets at the prospect of an adventure!PhotoGrid_1484574948014

It’s difficult to see in the pictures just how hilly and undulating it is… but I’m sure you get the idea! PhotoGrid_1484575419728

I was so proud of LM as she did so well walking up and down some of the seriously huge hills holding Daddy’s hand…  Though her little legs definitely got tired after a while and she needed a carry the rest of the way.

At some times of the year there are sheep in some areas of the reserve. We wandered over to say hello and they were all staring at us and being quite friendly. But then when we carried on walking they started following us, which unnerved LM a bit bless her. We were a little perplexed and turned back to see the ram push his way to the front of the sheep and start stomping his feet at us! We weren’t really sure what to do at that point other than calmly but swiftly carry on our way.  They all followed us, with the ram leading them, though thankfully at quite a distance, for some way until we went through a gate into another section of the reserve. I have to admit that I’ve walked through herds of sheep a number of times but have never been confronted by a ram before. What should you do in that situation?PhotoGrid_1484575642847

Anyway, after that little bit of excitement, as LM was needing to be carried we were getting a bit tired (carrying a toddler up and down hills soon becomes hard work!) so headed home. We had a lovely time though. I’m so glad the kids are old enough to start to enjoy it now and look forward to going back many more times over the years for some fresh air and a run around!

Things you need to know about Hills & Holes.

Hills & Holes is on the edge of the village of Barnack, just to the south of Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Parking is in a few laybys on the road between the reserve and the village itself.

Dog’s are welcome but there are signs up when sheep are in the reserve to let you know they need a lead.

It is not remotely buggy friendly or even accessible so if a little one isn’t big enough to walk themselves then they will need to be carried!

No toilets or refreshments etc. of any kind.

If you live nearby have you ever been to Hills & Holes?

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Canons Ashby with Friends

I’m a bit late writing this post but a few weeks ago we met up with some lovely friends of ours, Sarah from Run, Jump, Scrap and family, at National Trust’s Canon’s Ashby. Living a fair distance from each other we often meet up somewhere like this in the middle, and I can’t believe that the last time we went to Canon’s Ashby was a little over a year ago! We’ve met up at other places since then but still hard to believe it was a year since the last time we were there, playing in the autumn leaves. We were particularly excited to meet up with them this time as it was to be the first time that we met the newest addition to their family, beautiful baby piglet.

We got there a little early, and it was absolutely freezing! Thankfully we were all wrapped up warm and while LM was fixated on seeing the chickens, Monkey and I ran around having a bit of a leaf fight,before we headed to the cafe for a hot chocolate while we waited for Sarah and Co.photogrid_1480069386744

After warming up and having a little snack it was time to head out and explore the grounds, after the kids had a game of hide and seek with hubs that is!photogrid_1480069491380

The gardens are great fun and the kids loved running about, though poor Gremlin took a tumble and twisted her ankle which stopped the fun a little.photogrid_1480069607336

To warm up we headed into the house itself, and headed straight to the nursery which is set up with toys for the kids to play with. They had loads of fun in there and the gorgeous piglet woke up so we got to enjoy some cuddles with her.photogrid_1480069778688

We headed for lunch not long after and after some yummy food headed back outside for a play, adults and kids alike hahaphotogrid_1480069971192

Then the rain started. We headed into the priory in the hope that it wouldn’t last too long. The kids had a whale of  a time chasing each other round the pews and generally messing with each other while us grown ups got to have a good old natter.photogrid_1480070047897

With the rain getting worse rather than better we decided it was time to call it a day. We had so much fun though as always and look forward to our next meet up :)

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Sudbury Hall and the National Museum of Childhood

Last weekend we were headed to the Peak  District to celebrate my aunt’s 70th. As it is a fair old distance for the kids in the car we decided to do our usual and break the journey at a National Trust place along the way. We chose Sudbury Hall because I heard it had a great play area and also because we thought that the kids may enjoy the museum of childhood if the weather turned sour.photogrid_1478181773530

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Visiting Auntie Maggie

My parents are both from South West London and when I was growing up we spent a lot of time there visiting my grandparents and aunt and uncle. As such it holds a special place in my heart and there are lots of memories based there. My lovely Auntie Maggie still lives there and as we hadn’t been down for about a year we decided to take a few days down there.

We met Maggie at National Trust Claremont Gardens. Somewhere I had apparently been as a child though I don’t remember. (My memory for specifics is pretty awful!) It was a stunning place to explore and we had a lovely lovely day. PhotoGrid_1472762044121

Then it was back to Maggie’s and after the kids’ tea we took a walk over to the common. Cannon Hill Common is somewhere that will always hold a lot of memories. My grandparents lived on one side and my aunt and uncle on the other. We often walked between the two, went to see the ducks on the lake and to play on the play park. It was really nice to share it with hubs and the kids and we had such a nice evening walk. The kids particularly loved having a good climb on some fallen tree trunks as the sun went down.PhotoGrid_1472762350041

The next morning we decided to visit Deen City Farm which wasn’t too far away. A lovely little farm which is free to enter and has numerous lovely animals to see including pigs, chickens, cows, goats and even an Alpaca! You can cuddle some Guinea pigs, bunnies or ferrets for a couple of pound and there is a nice play area too. Unfortunately we had a pair of incredibly cranky kids that morning so we didn’t stay too long, but it was lovely!PhotoGrid_1472762803623

We decided to have a slightly chilled afternoon and our Little Madam really needed a nap (having gone about 3 days without one) so hung out at Maggie’s for a while. We did some drawing and tries to teach the kids to play boules in the garden.PhotoGrid_1472763062607

Monkey had a snuggle on the sofa with daddy while LM thankfully had a nap which she really needed. On our trip to the common the previous day we had seen lots of blackberries and had promised Monkey we would return to do some picking, so when LM had woken up a bit we headed back to the common. We got a fab haul and Monkey and LM had such a lovely sibling moment together, walking through the woods holding hands.PhotoGrid_1472818594080

We aimed for the play park on the common and were pleasantly surprised to find the paddling pools there filled, both with water and with children! We were totally unprepared but it was so hot there was no keeping LM out of there, and Monkey soon followed. Honestly it was the happiest I had seen the kids in days being able to cool off in the water, even fully clothed haha.PhotoGrid_1472820049939

That evening we had a bit of a disaster. While showering the kids (as Maggie doesn’t have a bath) Hubs unfortunately managed to pull a bit of the shower off the wall, sending water everywhere. He got it back together and we thought that was the end of it until water began pouring through the ceiling! Nightmare! After a bit of panic initially we had a glass or 2 of wine and had dinner and waited for a plumber to come out. He helped put our minds at ease that it was back together properly and there would be no more leaks. Turns out there was a screw missing which is why it came off so easily so it wasn’t entirely hubs fault!PhotoGrid_1472820111655

The next morning I went for a lovely run across the common while the kids had some scrumpy boiled eggs for breakfast. Then it was back to the common for a visit to the play area before packing up and heading home after lunch.

We had such a lovely few days, albeit with some difficult moments with some cranky children. But that’s normal really, especially when we were so busy and it was so hot and sunny! I thought Maggie would be glad of the peace once we left but apparently it is very quiet without us. We will just have to go again soon won’t we!

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Where to go on holiday in Dorset with toddlers

Thanks to our lovely friend who lets us housesit for a couple of weeks in the summer while they are out of the country, we are getting to know Dorset pretty well and have had some wonderful days out with the kiddies. So I thought rather than loads of posts about each place, I would compile a list of where to go on holiday in Dorset with toddlers, based on our experience. Now of course this list isn’t exhaustive and there are probably lots of other wonderful places to visit too.. But these are our favourites so far.

Places to see Animals

Weymouth Sealife Centre

We do love a good aquarium or sea life centre, and the one in Weymouth is a particularly good one as there is so much to see and do. Animals wise, there are so many fish, sharks, rays, jelly fish and all sorts of different habitats to have a look at. There are rock pools where you can stroke starfish and try not to get nipped by some lovely big crabs. There are also some other wonderful animals there too, with seals, penguins, frogs, turtles and otters in addition to the more traditional aquarium animals. The kids adored looking at them all.PhotoGrid_1470042544783

It’s not just about the animals though as there also some great fun rides to go on, including a log flume, and they have a fantastic splash zone. I recommend taking swimwear for the kiddies as the paddling pool with slide and water fountains are really great fun. There is also a normal play area which the kids loved too.PhotoGrid_1470045821973

Before you go: It is definitely worth booking tickets online before you go as they are much cheaper than on the day. Everywhere is very accessible for pushchairs for little ones and there are loads of places to sit and enjoy a picnic. We ate from the cafe there and the kids enjoyed it but it was  bit pricey and there wasn’t a huge amount of choice so if we went again i would definitely take food with us.

Monkey World, Wareham

Monkey world near Wareham is a really lovely place housing primates which have been rescued from less savoury zoos or from the pet trade. It is a lovely site, with nice big enclosures for the monkeys and lots of viewing points s you can see them swinging around happily or having a rest. There are all sorts there, with Lemurs, Orangutans, Chimps, Capuchin Monkeys and Spider Monkeys to name but a few and the kids loved looking around.PhotoGrid_1470037514165

There are also some really great playparks for your little Monkeys to clamber about on, with some dotted around the park and a particularly brilliant big one at the end which the kids adored.PhotoGrid_1470037283481

Before you go: Monkey World is really accessible with paths suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs, they even have swings which can be used with wheelchairs. We ate there and while there wasn’t a huge amount of choice in the cafe we chose, the food was simple sandwiches and was all we really wanted anyway. There are a few cafes throughout the park, as well as snack stops and lots of places to sit if you would prefer to take a picnic. Toilets are also dotted about and easy to find and on the whole we were impressed, places were clean and food wasn’t too expensive.

Abbotsbury swannery

Abbotsury is a small village to the west of Weymouth which houses a few great tourist attractions. A childs farm, tropical gardens and a swannery. You can buy access to all 3 for £17  for an adult which makes it very reasonable, however we have only seen the swannery so far. The swannery is such a beautiful place, very peaceful and we found it really lovely to go somewhere a bit different. The swans are all so well cared for and the kids adored seeing the signets. Monkey was also thrilled to be able to take part in the feeding of the hundreds of swans. They are well practiced at this to make sure that everyone who wants a go can have a go and it was great fun.PhotoGrid_1470038174374

The kids loved exploring across the site and they particularly loved the giant maze in the shape of a swan. Monkey loves a maze and the great thing about this one was all the percussion instruments dotted about. There is also a quiz you can complete if you find all of the points throughout the maze which Monkey really enjoyed. I was glad to have the map they gave us at the entrance as it helped us get out quickly when LM got tired and hungry for her lunch!PhotoGrid_1470039078612

Before you go: Everywhere is accessible for pushchairs or wheelchairs, and I would recommend taking a pushchair for little legs as it is quite a walk from the entrance to the swans. There is a playpark by the entrance and a lovely cafe  with a great menu, but this is also by the entrance so we decided to take a picnic to avoid having to walk back at lunchtime. There are plenty of lovely spots for a picnic including a nice shady area for sunny days, or benches to sit and watch the swans. Feeding the swans is at 12:00 everyday and well worth joining in with.PhotoGrid_1470037864804

Beaches

Many of the beaches around the South and West of Dorset are shale, or stony, beaches, which can be lovely but lets face it, the best beach days out with toddlers are sandy ones where lots of sandcastles can be built. To that end, here are favourite sandy beaches in Dorset.

Weymouth beach

The area to the east of Weymouth, near the sea life centre, has a long and stony beach, however the beach at the centre of Weymouth itself is a very lovely sandy beach, perfect for taking the kids to.PhotoGrid_1470040425793

Before you go: The beach was clean and the sea wasn’t too cold, even though we were there on an overcast day. There are public toilets, lots of places to buy ice creams and buckets and spades, and to hire deck chairs from. There are a couple of options for parking within easy walking distance, you could park near the pavilion and Jurassic Skyline, which is quite close to the beach, or as we did, park at the Swannery car park, which is very easy to get to and also only a short walk to the sea front.

Middle Beach, Studland

In East Dorset, in an area known as the Isle of Purbeck, we found a truly lovely, lovely beach at Studland bay. It’s just one of those lovely lovely places you don’t want to leave and can’t wait to get back to! The bay is huge so there is plenty of space and we opted for Middle Beach, so I’m not sure what the other areas are like. There is supposedly a naturist area on the beach but this is apparently well signposted and we didn’t come across it.

We loved this beach because the sand was clean and perfect for  digging and building castles. We arrived when the tide was fairly high and it went out throughout the day. This is the perfect beach for paddling as the water is very shallow and you can walk out really far without it ever going over your knees. This also means the water is a lovely temperature and gets steadily warmer throughout the day, it is also incredibly clear so no nasty surprises. Our littlest lady isn’t a fan of the noise of waves but she loves exploring the pools created by the receding tide, and we even found som nature to explore in them.PhotoGrid_1470037069712

There are gorgeous views from the beach, you can see over to Poole and Bournemouth to the north, or looking straight ahead you can even make out the Isle of Wight! To the south of the bay are Old Harry’s Rocks.PhotoGrid_1470036928156

Before you go: Maintained by the National Trust, parking is free for NT members. Access from the car park to the beach isn’t too far but it is down a fairly steep and uneven path through and behind a lot of beach huts, so I wouldn’t recommend taking a pushchair down, though I did see someone manage it. There are toilet facilities and a cafe which were very nice though we took a picnic with us. The beach is dog friendly so be aware of that, dogs are supposed to be kept on the lead however many owners flouted this rule, though we only had one instance of dogs running through our things, as most were well behaved and looked after.

The Durdle Door

The Durdle Door tops many a “must see” list for places to visit while in Dorset, but it is not the most accessible place, especially if you have small children. You can read more information about how not to do it from my post last year, which includes a map of the route to get to the beach itself.

The Durdle Door is a stunning rock formation of an archway in a simply stunning spot on the south Dorset coastline, honestly you would think you were in the mediterranean or something with the clear blue waters and it is definitely worth a visit, though it is not without it’s challenges. It is the one beach I am mentioning here which is a stony beach, because the views are worth it but no sandcastles are being built here.PhotoGrid_1470061898589

Before you go: The access from the car park to the Durdle Door and beach is incredibly long, steep and includes a lot of incredibly steep steps. I would definitely not recommend taking a pushchair and advise you to travel light. It is stoney beach so no point taking buckets and spades, and when we were there the waves were pretty rough so the kids would not go near the sea. There are no toilets and the only facilities are an ice cream van about halfway down so take plenty of drink and some snacks if not a picnic. For more information, read this post.

The beach at Swanage is also said to be very lovely and sandy however we are yet to visit so I can’t say more than that really!

Portland

South of Weymouth is the island of Portland which has places to visit too. We found out too late about a pirate graveyard which Monkey would have enjoyed, but we did manage to visit a couple of places on the island.

Portland Bill Lighthouse.

At the southern tip of the island there is a lovely lighthouse called portland bill. It is a stunning place to visit with the ocean all around and the remains of a quarry of Portland stone perfect for scrambling over. There is a visitors centre you can pay to look around and older children and adults can pay to go up the lighthouse however as we wouldn’t all have been able to go, we were content just exploring the outside.

Before you go: there is a great big car park there and a lovely little restaurant nearby, which was child friendly although the child meals were quite pricey in my opinion.PhotoGrid_1470484998639

For the lighthouse itself it is approx. £3 to go in the visitor centre or £7 to also climb the lighthouse. But, be aware that babies and small children cannot be carried up. Children must be over I think 1.1m tall and able to get up under their own steam.

Portland CastlePhotoGrid_1470485386491

Portland Castle is run by English heritage and we found it to be a great little Fort, actually about the perfect size for a short trip with our little ones. Under 5s are free and it is just under £6 per adult to get in. The kids loved exploring the ramparts and seeing the cannons. They also really really enjoyed the dressing up area, as you can see below!

Before you go: we did take the buggy but had to abandon it a couple of times as it isn’t really accessible as tou would expect from such an old Castle. There is facilities and a nice cafe on site though sadly they didn’t seem to serve ice creams when we were there.

Other places to visit

Swanage railway and Corfe castle

One of our highlights from our holiday last year was our trip on the Swanage Steam Railway to visit Corfe Castle. The railway runs between Swanage and Norden, just to the north of Corfe Castle. You don’t have to visit the castle on your trip, and you can visit the castle without riding the railway but it does make for a nice day out to combine the two. We chose to drive to Swanage and take the train to the castle where we loved having a good explore (we do love a good castle) then return to Swanage to drive home. You could however park at the castle and take the train to swanage too.

Kids love trains so our two definitely enjoyed a ride on the train and the staff were great with stamping tickets etc. The Castle itself is simply stunning with the ruins perched atop a hill with amazing views of the surrounding countryside.PhotoGrid_1470061213131

Before you go:  There is no car park at the station in Swanage, just a co-op with a short stay, however there is a large car park just 5-10 minutes walk away. The journey between Swanage and the castle is about 20 minutes so we had a picnic on the train, however there are some cafes at Corfe Castle which are lovely too.

On arrival at the castle we were advised not to take our pushchair up as the ground was very uneven, however we did see others pushing buggies around so I think that is up to you really. the National Trust do have some baby carriers you can borrow. It is very hilly and steep so may be tricky to navigate for some little legs. LM wasn’t walking when we went last year so she was carried around by us.

Dorchester Dinosaur Museum

There are a few museums in Dorchester but we have only visited the Dinosaur Museum so far. We went on a particular wet and rainy day on our holiday last year. It is a lovely little museum with lots of Dinosaur information and some great model Dinosaurs.PhotoGrid_1470060203184

It isn’t very big however so on a wet day it can get incredibly busy and quite warm as a result. There are stairs inside so we were asked to park our buggy near the entrance.

Before you go: Don’t plan to stay too long and be aware that you may not be able to take a pushchair with you and if you do it will make getting around quite tricky.

Munchkins Cafe Dorchester

A really great find for a rainy day is this stay and play cafe, possibly the best of its kind I have seen. With over half of the cafe, and much of the garden, dedicated to toys and play areas, the kids absolutely adored it. there is a slide which goes down the set of stairs in the cafe and just so much for the kids to play with. Outside is a sand pit and some water toys for hot days too.PhotoGrid_1470070097120

Add to that the food we had was delicious and there is free wifi, perfect for blogging or surfing while the kids play.

Before you go: There is a charge for playing at the cafe, however this is discounted for siblings and one charge lasts for 7 days which makes it incredibly good value. They have fantastic facilities for baby changing, even providing nappy bags and hand sanitiser free of charge. There is a breastfeeding room should you wish for some privacy and just about anything you can think of that your little ones would like. Because  it is great, weekends and rainy days can get busy, however on a dreary week day when the kids needed a quiet day we found it to be perfect and it wasn’t too busy. The nearest parking is on Trinity Street and is £1 for a couple of hours.

So there we have it. Some of our favourite places in this neck of the woods. No doubt there are lots of other wonderful places but hopefully I will have given you some ideas for where to go on holiday in Dorset with toddlers.

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