All things Wild

Yesterday we visited All things Wild, a family attraction based near Evesham in Worcester. I have nothing but positive feedback for this place as we had such a wonderful time yesterday and we can’t wait to revisit. Of course yesterday the sun shone down and for the first time in forever we were wandering around in our t shorts for most of the day which certainly helped matters as of course everything is outdoors at the moment and the indoor attractions are closed.

This however had no impact on us as there was so much to do. When we arrived at our pre booked arrival time slot we were greeted by a friendly attendant at a small outdoor kiosk, and Arlo was given a wrist band to enter. The first thing he spotted was a fabulous wooden play area, and he would have been happy to run around this all day but as soon as he spotted the enclosure behind with meerkats and porcupines he realised that there were animals to see and off he ran.

The grounds are marked out in a one way system with arrows and no entry signs which makes it easy to wander around, and at various points there are short cuts so that you can skip around and get to your favourite places. I think yesterday we went around three times in total. At first Arlo ran around at speed just wanting to see everything and then when we got back to the beginning he said he wanted to go back to various places.

So where to begin? Just past the first few animal enclosures which are all beautifully maintained with healthy and happy animals we went through to a huge meadow, lawn and second play park area. This location of the grounds had everything, from a mud kitchen of childhood dreams, to a barefoot trail, musical instruments, a go kart track, mini golf and more. I did notice that throughout there were plenty of hand washing and sanitising spots and notices to politely ask guests to take only ten minutes at each area. With so much to see and do this isn’t a challenge.

Just beyond the open field there is a nature trail with some magnificent bug houses to explore and of course Arlo took his time wandering around here with big houses great and small along the route, plus all manner of sculptures, and informative signs to read. There are worksheets for trails you can print from the website in advance of your visit as around the site there are stamps to collect and so many things to spot.

Just after the nature trail we found the entrance to invite us to step back through time. I knew that this was a dinosaur attraction but I was not prepared for just how wonderful this would be and neither was Arlo. As soon as we got to the bend in this woodland path and could see the field ahead of us full of enormous dinosaur sculptures we were in awe.

I can’t even describe how excited Arlo was, he of course can identify all sorts of dinosaurs but we came across some new ones to add to his encyclopaedic knowledge.

Each dinosaur had a very handy sign with how to pronounce its name and more information about each creature. We also spotted interactive prompts throughout this area which were perfect for his age. “Can you stretch as tall as a diplodocus?”

There were Picnic benches and spaces spotted throughout the park providing plenty of room for families to picnic and maintain social distance, and it was a pleasure to greet so many families enjoying their days out on our travels. At the end of the dinosaur trail Arlo really enjoyed the play areas, mainly because they included lots of sand pits.

He was happy to clamber on board a real digger and then also play in a digger themed sand pit with a slide right beside it, placed in the shadow of a real army helicopter. It’s the stuff of his childhood dreams to see all of these things and get to look at them close up, and this is all before we properly had a chance to meet any animals. By this stage it was time for a snack and so we paused at the vintage bus shack for cold drinks and ice cream before setting off again.

Just behind the bus Arlo spotted some “creatures” and so it didn’t take long for us to set off again, following the one way system around a series of paddocks and enclosures. I was expecting children’s farm animals, and was more than happy to meet chickens and goats etc, but I wasn’t prepared to come across camels and zebras here too, never mind everything else!

The variety of animals All things Wild has to engage with is immense. Arlo didn’t know which way to look and was totally in his element as we ambled along at our own pace. Every so often Arlo would spot something new and run off ahead to investigate, the design of the enclosures is fantastic for little ones with viewing windows at just the right height throughout the park.

Most of this area has very wide paths and so people could pass by us safely as we took our time greeting all manner of creatures from parrots to monkeys, and again picnic benches spotted around for rest spots, by the end of the day I’d easily covered my 10,000 steps and more. The pathways are all flat so easy for strollers and pushchairs to navigate.

The farm yard walk through experience with the friendly goats was a highlight for Arlo as they crowded around us for attention, and he confidently stood right in the middle of them all. Then we went on to meet donkeys and a pony and bunnies – and we also spotted a lovely little collection of Fancy mice just like Bingo, Arlo’s mouse at home before coming to another hand washing station.

After this area we washed our hands after handling the animals and I was expecting to be back at the beginning again, but we turned left and went on another route, which took us through an Australian themed area with kangaroos, Emu’s and all sorts just before we came to the boundary line where there were more goats to greet along a beautiful trail, and just opposite some Rhea’s. Now Arlo knows the difference between a Rhea, an Ostrich and an Emu and will talk about this for an hour if you ask him.

We paused under the blossom trees beside this path to have another snack, but before I could pack up Arlo was off again as he spotted something in the distance, and he ran back to tell me he’d found some lemurs. I did spot signs here and back in the Australian yard for walk through animal attractions which are closed for the time being but this didn’t dampen our day at all, Arlo didn’t even notice and so the next time we get a chance to visit and I tell him he can walk through enclosure with parrots – he’s going to be beside himself.

We got back to the beginning after two hours and Arlo had another run around in the play park, and I got us some chips from the take away cafe (and I noticed an insane looking indoor soft play area behind some closed off screens). There were plenty of benches around the play park and two structures, one for the little ones and one for older children so Arlo enjoyed these for a while before coming over to tell me he wanted to see the dinosaurs again, and so off we went. The second time we wandered around the grounds we spotted so much more we’d missed out because there is just so much to see.

Arlo’s favourite spot was another sandpit which had a hidden dinosaur fossil to find. We’ve been making our own fossils with clay at home and it made his day to discover T Rex teeth.

There were swings and more sandpits and of course a second chance to visit the ice cream kiosk at this stage before heading back to see more animals. My personal favourite were the beavers, I don’t think I’ve seen any before and didn’t realise they were so big.

There was also a huge selection of birds and parrots Arlo took his time watching, especially because we found the parrots, with an African Grey just like Sam at home. We also spotted Macaws and Hawks in different spots and now we were mid afternoon some of the monkeys and other animals we didn’t spot earlier were out and about in their enclosures.

We were enjoying the warm weather and so for the remainder of the afternoon we wandered around again taking shortcuts and headed back to the meadow and play area, where Arlo became head chef of the mud kitchen. I watched him from a distance just enjoying himself and playing happily with other children also making the most of the sunshine and then we both took off our shoes and went along the barefoot walk together – a fabulous sensory experience.

We had such a wonderful time here and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. At the end of every day I ask Arlo what his favourite things were and last evening he told me “everything” before reeling off a list of animals. He eventually fell asleep in the car on the way home exhausted from our day and clutching on to his dinosaur toy purchased from the gift shop.

The tickets were £14 each – amazing value for money, car parking was free. There are toilet and hand washing facilities, a reasonably priced take away cafe at the main entrance, along with the ice cream kiosk and picnics are welcome. Even with the indoor attractions closed this makes for a fantastic day out and is now on the top of the list for recommendations of family days out in the Midlands.

The Zog Trail at Warwick Castle

We had a wonderful day out last week at Warwick Castle. The unpredictable weather we’ve been experiencing lately seemed to settle for one day and the sun shone down on us as we explored the castle grounds. I booked our tickets online in advance and the trail was included in the ticket price. If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s a fabulous tale from the author of the Gruffalo. A dragon called Zog enrols at dragon school and the trail followed the book as he progresses through each school year.

Arlo is very familiar with the story and the backdrop of the castle emerged him right in to the magic of story telling. I packed a bag with our book and a stethoscope (if you know you know) and as soon as we arrived we were greeted at the castle entrance by lovely team members who gave us our trail passport to stamp throughout the grounds. You will require a face mask at the main entrance. The first year at dragon school Zog learns to fly.

This beautiful large sculpture greeted us very near to the main entrance and it was easy enough to figure out how the trail worked – with five different locations to represent the school years in the book all marked out with bright orange and blue bunting, so there’s no chance you can miss the locations in the grounds which are marked on the map. Everything is of course outdoors and so although there were little queues as families ahead of us were taking pictures, it was easy to maintain social distance, and this was the same throughout.

As we wandered down towards the castle we were greeted by a knight, and Arlo was in awe – we in fact met several characters dressed up as we wandered around the grounds and they were all fantastic, happy to pose for pictures but also really engaging with the children, bringing the magic and immersive experience to life. This particular knight noticed Arlo’s personalised clothing and so greeted him with a “good day sir Arlo” which delighted him.

The second and third parts of the trail were near to the horrible histories maze and so we spent a decent amount of time getting lost in World War One trenches and a Viking armoury before we even entered the castle courtyard. I think it’s fascinating for Arlo to have this kind of experience, I have a fondness for history myself and to see him connect the dots and realise that Viking’s are (or were) real and not just fiction is fabulous.

Back to the trail – the second and third locations were interactive – there are “stamping pads” in front of each exhibition display which Arlo was familiar with because at the Christmas light trail these were jumped on to change the colours of the lights in the castle grounds. This time the set for the second year of dragon school gave our delightful roars with a good stomp, and the third year display shot out water to put out the accidental fires. At each display area the story of the book was to be heard as it was read out over the tannoy system.

As we headed across to the Castle, Arlo spotted another Knight, on horseback and at this point he decided he wanted to be a knight too – and conveniently the first gift shop was just through the gates and so he got a sword, shield and helmet. I did notice that some families had come prepared and their kids were dressed up as knights for the outing (a great idea if you want to avoid the gift shops on the day). These accessories came in very handy when we went back to Dragon School.

The interior castle grounds are decked out with socially distanced bench seating and there are mobile catering units here serving all sorts of snacks and treats, so here was a good spot to pause for elevensies and to use the loos, before heading across to climb up on an adventure up the castle fortress. “Sir Arlo” led the way and as we got to the top we paused for a while to take in the scenic views which were stunning. Clearly a great spot for a castle, and there’s some interesting signs throughout this area which let you know all about the history of the castle.

I took so many pictures at the castle, how could you not?

Arlo stopped and looked over the grounds spotting a Zog trail location in the distance and so we ambled down and strolled across the river to learn to rescue a princess. I love that in the book gender stereotypes and the tradition of fairy tales having damsels in distress is turned upside down.

Princess Pearl in fact is a strong independent character and ends up helping Zog and so this children’s book has a fabulous twist to its plot. None the less it was fun seeing the adventure course set up at this area to practice princess rescuing with the backdrop of the magnificent castle.

After all of this hard work it was time for us to find a picnic spot, and so back across the bridge to the expansive lawns we found a grassy riverside spot just opposite the boathouse, and to our delight we spotted deer across the water popping in and out of view. There were more mobile catering units in this area available and plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy the spring afternoon and scenic views.

Arlo tucked in to his packed lunch and we pulled out the story book to read it through and recap our adventures of the day so far. With one more year of dragon school left to complete he was hyped up to wander around and try to find Zog again.

We took the long route the grounds through pageant field and around to the peacock gardens, playing hide and seek around some of the most magnificent trees on our travels.

There were peacocks everywhere you looked in the gardens, you could hear them before you saw them. We were lucky enough to see them display their feathers proudly for us to take some pictures and they seemed to love the attention, either that or they were competing between themselves.

There is a lovely terrace here overlooking the gardens which is open for seated alcoholic drinks if you’re tempted, and you can also purchase takeaway ice creams, which Arlo spotted a mile off. There’s another toilet facility here just behind the building too.

Just around from the gardens the final year of dragon school is set up, on the lawn in the shadow of the castle fortress. At this location Sir Gadabout appears at appointed times to award students with their gold stars. To earn your badge and complete dragon school you have to engage in a game of Sir Gadabout says (just like Simon says). This is where Arlo’s sword and armour came in handy – there was plenty of up and down, point to the sky, kneeling etc for him to participate and he thoroughly enjoyed this part of the day.

Once you’ve earned your final stamp in your passport you can meet and greet a mascot Zog and show him your star and get a photo opportunity. Of course as it turns out the Princess doesn’t need rescuing, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how their adventures end. We spent the best part of five hours at the Castle enjoying the open space, having such a warm day made it all the more enjoyable, well worth the cost of ticket entry, which was £17 for adults and free for under threes.

Returning to the West Midlands Safari Park

Every day for the last three months Arlo has been asking to go to the Safari park – as annual pass holders we would visit regularly prior to lockdown and it’s quite literally one of his most favourite places to visit and so of course it had to be the first place we went to when the countries outdoor attractions re-opened on April 12th.

We always park up as soon as we arrive and head to the walk about areas when they are the quietest. You greet the penguins first thing and then can go and wander around the ice age and dinosaur exhibits. Arlo literally ran through these areas as if he was checking that everything was still in place, and I found myself sprinting to keep up with him. With not too many people around in the morning we had unrivalled fun.

Of course the indoor attractions such as the reptiles and lorikeets are closed but as we were graced with the sunshine we were happy to wander around outside, and ambled down to the far corners of the Safari park to greet the hippos and I bought Arlo a wrist band to enjoy some rides, he’s now over 1m tall and so can go on quite a few of the different rides. As an annual pass holder I get a Discount on these and so he went on his first roller coaster, and my personal favourite – the Log Flume.

This area of the park opens at 11am and we noticed that the drive through Safari was jam packed when we first arrived, but cars started to space out by noon and the park area was a lot busier, so we went against the grain and retraced our steps back to our car, pausing to get some lunch. I usually take a packed lunch but we fancied something warm and so I queued up for a takeaway chicken and chips, and we paused to eat before heading on Safari.

We were delighted to see so many of the giraffes out and about from the moment we entered the drive thru, there’s nothing quite like the sheer delight of seeing Arlo’s face as they lean down to the windows and peer in to see if you have any animal food. I highly recommend purchasing a pack or two upon arrival for this experience.

The roads were still busy as we drove around but we really enjoyed watching all of the animals who seemed to be living their best lives – I caught this rhino rolling around in the mud to cool off and Arlo thought this was hilarious. I did ask Arlo to tel me his cavities animal and he said “everything” – and started listing off all the different animals in the order we usually see them, but things have changed recently at the Safari Park.

The route has changed and there’s still some building works taking place around the new Safari lodge area, and so now the drive experience takes longer, we were in the car for around two and a half hours, and I expect this would take longer in the morning. So it’s a good idea to use the loos before you start, there’s a one way system at the block in the car park so even though it’s busy, it doesn’t take long.

As we went past the cheetahs Arlo was in full form, telling me all about how they’re the fastest animal in the world. At home over lockdown I’ve been filling the gaps by letting him watch David Attenborough and so he acted like a little tour guide, and was telling me things which I had to fact check on Google as we went around, but he’s always right!

My personal highlight was meeting Inesh the new baby rhino, we watched as his mum and another rhino were having a little bit of a confrontation and running around their paddock. I didn’t realise that rhinos could move that quickly and we ended up watching for a good fifteen minutes, before moving on to see more of the animals.

You know you’re near the end of the Safari when you come back to the African plains and are greeted by the zebras and the giraffes once more. Animals often congregate here as they know they will get fed by visitors and so it can create a little bit of a bottleneck but the park keepers do well to herd the animals around and make sure they aren’t blocking the traffic. There’s two lanes for cars all the way around the park and so you can use these lanes and pass cars if you want to.

After we had completed the drive experience we went back to the walk around areas, Arlo had an ice cream and we went back on some more rides and wandered right to the back of the area to find the children’s play park and the African Village. The park at the Safari is a lovely space for little ones, very bright and cheerful and with plenty of bench seating, toilets with baby change facilities and a take away coffee stall it’s a fab place to pause with little ones.

Before retracing our steps back through the park at home time we visited lemur woods, at this time in the early evening it was deserted and all of the lemurs were gathered near the main entrance, anticipating feeding time I think, and so we got to see them up close. Adults have to wear masks in this area and there’s hand sanitiser at the entrance and exit, and in fact throughout the park to use.

Arlo had an absolutely wonderful day and it felt, dare I say it “normal?” I have to praise the staff, who were all really friendly and acknowledged Arlo as he greeted everyone he encountered. He fell asleep in the car on the way home and just like that our first day out of lockdown was over. I’ll be renewing my annual pass so that we can visit regularly.

The Botanical Gardens

Now that spring has finally made an appearance there’s an abundance of colour bursting in to life at the Botanical Gardens. We have been visiting the gardens since the 1980’s when I was a little girl so trips to the gardens are always nostalgic for me. There’s some areas of the gardens which remain unchanged and every time we visit we find a new corner to explore. This is a great place for us to visit with grandma now that we are allowed to meet up outdoors.

The peacocks greeted us as soon as we arrived. After checking in at reception we took a sideways route straight to the corner of the gardens as the glass houses remain closed due to social distancing requirements, but on a bright spring morning we were happy to remain outdoors, and we began to walk along the footpath to the left towards the bird houses.

An array of feathered friends could be heard chirruping from across the lawn as Arlo was delighted to make the acquaintance of a Macaw and a cockatoo, running around the bird houses several times and calling us to show us new birds he spotted each time.

The peacock seemed to follow us around and stood proud admiring the topiary bush of himself from the aviary and then appearing suddenly in flower beds as we wandered around.

We followed the paths around the circumference of the gardens, through a woodland walk and down to the school gardens which appears have just been replanted with vegetables. The butterfly house area right down the bottom was closed off but we did see freshly prepared beds ready for planting and so I expect this area will be in full bloom come summer time.

The “secret pool” at the bottom of the woodland walk and fern trail was a hub of activity for some blackbirds and Arlo enjoyed bug hunting amongst the roots of some of the more established trees, and this was the only area we encountered mud – most of the gardens are easy to explore with footpaths suitable for prams and strollers. There are some alternative little side paths to explore so it’s worth little ones wearing wellies.

We paused along the way for elevensies under a blossom tree. Throughout the gardens you can find peaceful rest stops like these benches but in busier areas such as the play area and main lawn seating areas are closed off for now to aid social distancing, it’s worth bringing along a picnic blanket for lunch on the lawns if you’re planning an all day visit.

We arrived early at about 10am and so we had the place to ourselves when we first arrived, lots of space for Arlo to enjoy being Arlo, we noticed pretty quickly that visitors arrived in droves and by the time we left the car park was full, but there’s plenty of space outdoors to explore.

We picked up a scavenger hunt trail from reception on our arrival and so Arlo was kept busy looking for different textures and nature finds throughout the gardens.

My absolute favourite spot is the pond which is abundant with fish, the magnolias scent was glorious and filled the air and we spent a while spotting goldfish and just enjoying the tranquility of this space. It’s hard to believe that you’re a stones throw from the city centre here.

The play area is another of our favourite areas, some of the spaces are sectioned off and Arlo was a little disappointed to not be able to play in the sand pit or on the big slides but I promised him we would roll down the grass lawns together so he didn’t remain downcast for long. We wandered up past the historical gardens and the fountain to find a brand new alpine rock area before heading to the promenade at the top of the lawns.

We had hot chocolates from the cafe hatch at the top of the gardens which is open for takeaways and then decided to do another circuit of the gardens taking a different route entirely, and chancing upon new spring blooms from different views. The gardens are well established here and there’s a huge variety of beautiful plants for garden fanatics to enjoy and so it’s ideal to visit with the grandparents.

We can’t wait to revisit in the summer when rainbows of flowers fill the space and hopefully live music will be able to go ahead, as planned. The restoration work on the bandstand has finally completed on and it’s looking absolutely beautiful at the moment. You must book online for visits to the gardens. Adults entry tickets are £6.00 and under 5’s are free. There is also a £2 charge for parking.

Cycling at Kingsbury Water Park

We had a wonderful afternoon at Kingsbury Water Park, we opted to hire bicycles to make sure we could see as much of the space as possible – and with fifteen different lakes and 600 acres to explore we will most certainly be coming back again.

The best bit about Kingsbury for Arlo was the play park area, and this is why we visited in the first place, as we had been visiting Middleton Hall just around the corner for the Easter trail. Kingsbury has one of the best play areas in the Midlands with multiple climbing frames to suit all ages – Arlo got a great chance to run around and whilst watching him from a safe distance I noticed Big Franks Cycle hire was open and so I went to enquire about hiring bikes on the spur of the moment.

You can hire bikes after filling in a short form and providing your driving licence as ID, there’s no need to book, but of course they are very busy and you might have to wait for a bike to become available – they have a range of different options, this three wheeled contraption with a seat and a safety buckle for Arlo was the machine of his dreams. He sat and enjoyed the high life taking in the views and munching on his snacks whilst I pedalled around the lakes.

There’s three different cycling routes you can take, the staff at the cycle hire were happy to give us advice and so we opted for route three, (the longest one) despite it being many years since I’ve ridden on a bike we were assured it would take us about an hour and this was spot on, even though we paused a few times an route to feed the ducks. The trails themselves were easy to cycle with surfaces paths throughout, all wide enough to pass walking families safely.

Whilst concentrating on cycling I couldn’t take many pictures along the way but the views were glorious even for an overcast day. We encountered people fishing and horse riding and we also passed alongside the Echills wood railway which is having some renovation work done whilst closed (due to distancing restrictions). I’ve promised Arlo we will come back and ride the train as soon as we can. Following the train route we found another fabulous adventure play park to explore at the end of a cycle trail and paused here for ice cream from the van and to meet some geese and moor hens.

It’s £4.50 to park at Kingsbury for the full day, the cafe is open at the moment for takeaway food and the toilet facilities are also open and you can purchase a day fishing permit from the visitor centre. Check out the Facebook page for the most up to date visitor information.

The bicycle I chose was £14 to hire for an hour. There are various different bicycles at different prices to hire for varying lengths of time.

Exploring Middleton Hall

This beautiful Manor House and it’s grounds is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the Midlands, it’s just around the corner from Kingsbury water park, and makes for a delightful couple of hours outdoors. The hall is currently closed due to covid restrictions but with spring in bloom there’s plenty to explore within the grounds. On our visit this week we were delighted to be able to complete the Easter egg trail.

With nine eggs to find Arlo was ready to explore the grounds. The beautiful lake which you are greeted with as you enter the drive way is a sight to behold and the backdrop to the gardens. Before we set off I paused to grab hot chocolates from the cafe which is offering. Takeaway service.

We started our egg hunting on the nature trail, following a path alongside the lake and were greeted with our first egg very quickly. Giant and brightly coloured they are easy to spot from a distance. Each egg had clues which we had to solve to find letters which were then unscrambled to receive a treat at the end of the trail. With a little bit of help from Mummy Arlo was able to spot the clues – I noticed that families were enjoying solving the clues together, with older children participating. Some of the puzzles had us adults scratching our heads!

Along the nature trail we also spotted lots of fairy doors and ladybugs hidden in the trees, Middleton Hall is going to be hosting a fairy trail soon if you don’t have time to head out this Easter – this gives us an excuse to return again another day. Once we were satisfied we’d found all the eggs along the nature trail (HINT – it’s worth heading right to the bottom of the trail) we retraced our steps back to the lawn, pausing to explore the bug hotels for inhabitants along the way.

The lakeside path took us through a beautiful orchard next, which was ablaze with daffodils. We wandered through the trees and found some more eggs and clues to tick off our list and pausing to take in the views across the lake and feed the ducks too. Arlo loves being outdoors and exploring, and he was absolutely thrilled to find a door to a “secret garden” not far from this spot.

The walled garden is on the verge of bursting in to colour, it’s fascinating to visit places like this several times a year to see how things grow and change and appreciate the effort which goes in to maintaining such a beautiful space. On one side of the garden there’s rows upon rows of flower beds and we found another egg and clue hidden in a corner. Arlo’s has been planting flowers at home and so he’s very interested in plants, flowers and all of the colours at the moment.

On the adjacent side of the walled space there’s a wonderful herb garden. We took our time here as the clue had us hunting around in the flower beds and whilst we were there we set about smelling the leaves of some of the more unusual herbs growing and having a little bit of a sensory experience too.

Once we solved this clue we had eight letters and were almost sure of the answer but had one last egg to find to complete the task and so Arlo ran off, hot on the trail because he’d spotted this one on the way in and then he proudly took his clue card across to the yard claim his prize, and he also got a sticker because he found a golden egg on his travels.

Middleton Hall is open from Wednesdays to Sundays to visit, adults tickets are £7 and under fives are free. Visits must be pre-booked online and the Easter trail is running up to the 11th April. Click the image below to head to the website.

You can also purchase plants and once restrictive lift visit the courtyard which has an array of small businesses hosted in the stables and a lovely new coffee shop too.

The Easter trail at Trentham Gardens

We have been out and about again today and this time our travels took us to Trentham Gardens, which are amongst the finest in Britain. A week ahead of Easter there has been a Beatrix Potter themed trail added to the grounds.

You can book online to visit the gardens. Tickets are £12 for adults and under 3’s are free. The Easter trail pamphlet is an additional £2.50 and can be exchanged at the end of the trail for a treat. We took the pre booked line at the entrance and avoided all of the queues, you do have to select an arrival slot time but if you’re early the ice cream shop is open and there’s also toilet facilities to use at the entrance.

Trentham Gardens site has a wealth of activities to participate in, we were given the winter and spring spotters guides and a historical one too, and it was fascinating to see the remains of Trentham Hall too. The extended site also includes a garden centre and a shopping village which will hopefully bounce back to life as soon as restrictions lift and with free parking this in itself is a grand day out, that’s without mentioning the monkey Forest and Tree Top Adventures (must be booked separately) which are also set to re-open shortly. There really is something for everyone here.

The extensive grounds at Trentham circulate the beautiful lake which has a mile long walk you can amble along at your leisure and there’s plenty to see and do. Arlo took along his own camera today and was busy capturing the ducks as well as spotting the infamous Jeremy Fisher along the trail.

The upper flower garden is where the majority of the Peter Rabbit trail was located so all of the markers can be found along paths which are easy to navigate with pushchairs, and it’s not too challenging for little ones. With such a vast area to explore we found that we had plenty of space and didn’t at feel like our social distancing was compromised. It feels as though spring is about to burst in to life with daffodils and early bulbs blooming to bring the first wave of colour through in the gardens.

Arlo was delighted to explore the display’s created for every single character, we were looking for letters on wooden eggs to complete a puzzle. He’s just starting to recognise letters and so as soon as he recognised a character from the books he ran ahead to find the “abc” for us. Then once he finished examining the displays he looked up to see the surroundings he would pause to catch his breath. The placements have been very carefully chosen with lots of open space and to take you around to some of the best corners of the gardens with great vantage points.

We also decided ahead to purchase the fairy trail pamphlet for an additional £2.50 – these permanent sculptures by a local artist are dotted around the gardens and the lake and you will encounter many of them if you keep your eyes peeled whilst looking for Peter Rabbit and friends. There is a one way system now around the gardens so some of these are harder to spot if you’re determined to finish the trail but this change helps the social distancing. Wanda the mermaid is a new addition and can be found basking in one of the fountains.

Hunka Munka the mouse was holding the last clue to find, and once we had all the letters we had to unscramble them to find a word to complete the trail. (I won’t post the answer spoiler.) The walk took us about an hour as we paused to feed the ducks in the stream and ambled slowly along and we then got the chance to play in the adventure park – the slide, maze and the barefoot walk remains closed but all of the other apparatus including the sandpit were available for Arlo and others to enjoy. We also went up behind the maze in to the open field where sheep were grazing just to say a quick hello.

We retraced our steps back to the lake and noticed that the Italian tea rooms were open to provide takeaway food and that there are also “pods” are being set up for family bookings which will provide fabulous views across the lake for afternoon tea. The toilet facilities here are also open. We sat and enjoyed our picnic and trail treats watching the nesting moorhens before continuing our casual stroll – I hardly noticed I’d achieved my 10,000 steps for the day.

We can’t wait to come back and visit as the seasons change, we want to finish the trail and visit monkey forest next time. I highly recommend Trentham Gardens as a Midlands based family friendly attraction. Click below to book.

Bodenham Arboretum

Bodenham has become another one of our most favourite outdoor places to explore, and is a hidden treasure of the Midlands. As you turn in to the main drive you’re greeted with a landscape of rolling hills and in spring time there’s plenty of lambs to see skipping in the fields.

The visitor centre is adjacent to the main pool, and it’s a sight to behold as you walk down from the car park you feel

As though you’ve totally escaped to the wild – I highly recommend purchasing duck food to scatter in to the water because you will meet swans, ducks, geese and also some giant fish at this first pool and there’s also a visitor centre / farm shop with takeaway food options and toilet facilities.

We usually choose to follow the five pool trail which takes you right around the edge of the grounds, through woodland and past (of course) five pools and the interconnected streams. There’s plenty to see along the route – which in its entirety is about 4km, but you can cut back to the main pool and visitor centre at any time.

Along the route there’s a huge variety of trees and plants to see, and some great open spaces with breathtaking views for miles over the open country side. As you head along the winding trail there’s something new to be found around every corner.

My favourite place is down in the valley alongside the stream where there’s a fabulous den and some logs across the water to balance on. It’s a great place to pause and when we have visited there has literally been no one around so it feels as though you’re totally alone. This is the spot where we usually end up reciting our favourite stories.

Bodenham is also home to a working farm which has a variety of animals, which during Spring time is a wonderful place to visit to see the lambs and calves. Of course this area is Arlo’s favourite place. You can cut short the woodland walks and head straight to the farmyard from the main pool, otherwise this area of the grounds is at the end of the five pool trail.

On the opposite side of the big pool there’s further extensive grounds to explore at your own pace. We found a hidden bridge to a small island which was a great picnic spot, a gazebo surrounded by daffodils and we also found the beginnings of another trail which we have earmarked to explore in our next visit. We can’t wait to see the beauty of spring emerge at the Arboretum.

To find out more, including visiting times and entrance fees head to their official website:

Entrance prices are £6.50 for adults and £3.50 for adults with free car parking. There’s no need to book. The toilets are open and basic food and drink is available for takeaway. The restaurant is however closed at the moment.

Umberslade Farm Park Pony Experience

We find ourselves in the midst of tier three right now just before Christmas and many of our planned activities have been cancelled. I’m heartbroken for all of the businesses struggling right now amidst the chaos of 2020 and am also delighted to see places such as Umberslade Farm try to make the most of things.

During the summer we visited and went on a 5k trek around the grounds and I noticed recently they are offering a one hour toddler pony experience for £35. This is a completely unique experience and I haven’t managed to find any horse experiences in Birmingham for children Arlo’s age and he is animal mad so of course I jumped at the chance to book this up.

The £35 booking fee is for the entire family and this can include up to six people. I organised this for a day we would be taking care of Paloma, and they both loved every second. Prior to arrival Charlotte had sent us an email to remind us to wrap up warm and prepare for mud. The thermometer was reading just one degree today but we set off out for our trek regardless.

Just before we met Charlotte at our agreed time slot we had a chance to grab a drink from the cafe and a quick run around in the park. The pigs were also nearby to say a quick hello and then it was time for our experience to begin. Charlotte led us to the main barn, the goats we had fed when they were tiny back in February were jumping up to say hello, as were the donkeys…. the llamas looked like they could take or leave us if I’m honest and as we walked past their fluffy turned up noses we met our pony for the first time.

Peppa our beautiful white pony was chosen by the kids because she looks just like a Unicorn. Charlotte gently encouraged Paloma and Arlo to take the reigns and lead her out of the barn and across the yard to a stable where we got properly acquainted. We were the only family and so had the entire place to ourselves, which meant the kids got a really special experience.

Peppa was given a good brush and then dressed with her boots, saddle and matching bridle – this experience enabled the kids to get up close to the pony, and so by the time it came to put their helmets on they were feeling extremely confident and rearing to go.

It was Arlo’s turn first to leave the stable yard on Peppa and head to the bottom of the famous Umberslade estate drive, we walked along chatting away happily together before we paused for a swap, and Paloma then got in the saddle to take the lead on the trek up the hill through the muddy puddles – eventually we discovered a breathtaking view just in time for the sunset.

We had a chance to take some pictures together at the top before changing for the kids to take a second turn each riding as we head back retracing our steps. Peppa seemed delighted to splash through all the muddy puddles and walked faster back because she knew she had a carrot to look forwards to. Having the chance to view the estate from this vantage point at sunset was just magical.

We returned back to the yard safe and sound at the end of our hour and said our goodbyes to Peppa, both Arlo and Paloma were entirely overwhelmed and sat in the car all the way home chatting about their experience. We had such a beautiful time and we really hope that we can come back and continue to visit Umberslade and all of the other animals in the not too distant future.

December is sold out but keep an eye out on their Facebook group and website for updates