5 Places in Hertfordshire to Visit For That Festive Feeling

Are you trying to find festive things to do with the kids that will get you all into that Christmas spirit? Here are five places to visit in Herts for some family fun that will leave you feeling wonderfully festive…

1. Willows Farm Santa Spectacular

We go to this Santa Spectacular event every year and it’s a fantastic day out. Not cheap but plenty of festive fun to be had! More information on my previous blog post here.

2. Notcutts, St Albans

Notcutts is a nice place to pop into on a tight schedule, because you don’t need much time to enjoy the festive magic yet is still well worth a visit if you are local, mainly for the giant dancing snowman! I have heard santa also visits on occasion, sometimes even for breakfast or tea with guests! (Event must be booked in advance). 

Notcutts, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Christmas, Santas Grotto, snowman

3. Ayletts Nurseries, St Albans

I have already written about this lovely local garden centre, because it was Christmassy enough to warrant its own separate post! Great festive atmosphere.

4. Van Hage Garden Centre, Great Amwell (nr Ware)

Again, Van Hage is so fabulously festive that it has a post of its very own! With an ice rink, grotto and wonderful Christmas displays, it is enough to take the scrooge out of anyone! 

5. Christmas Drive or Walk

Earlier in December, St Albans Christmas market would probably have taken this spot. But a Christmas walk or drive to see beautifully decorated houses is something that we all really enjoy and is a well-loved activity for many families. Our personal favourite is Beech Road in St Albans, who are raising money for Mount Venon Marie Curie Cancer Wing with their amazing display, but I’m reliably informed by Diary of an Unexpectant Mother that there are also brilliantly decorated houses on Brocket Road near Lemsford and lovely lights on Handside Lane in Welwyn Garden City. Amy from The Smallest of Things also suggests Blair Close in Hemel Hempstead too. Wherever you walk or drive, you are bound to spot plenty of festive sights! 

Beech Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Christmas, festive house, charity fundraising, go fund me, living life our way

And two more just outside of Hertfordshire…

Centre: MK (Milton Keynes)

There is an excellent Christmas event in Middleton Hall, which is situated within this large shopping centre. There is a carousel, train, snow globe and huge igloo which houses santa and his elves. The activities charge separately and aren’t cheap, but it does mean you can pick and choose, and it is a great treat. Plus, even if you skip any of the parts that cost and just have a general wander, it is still beautifully festive.

Crews Hill Garden Centres (Enfield)

If you aren’t familiar with this area, Crews Hill has a long row of garden centres. It’s a fab place for garden or outdoor enthusiasts at any time of year, but during Christmas it becomes a mini winter wonderland. Don’t miss Springtime nurseries, which is particularly festive! It has real reindeer, plus an indoor train ride to visit the grotto, an ice rink and a snow globe. 

Springtime nurseries, Crews Hill, Christmas, garden centres, Living Life Our Way

Do you have a favourite place to visit for that wonderful festive feeling? Please share yours with me in the comments section! 

Willows Farm Santa Spectacular (St Albans, Herts)

Santa Spectacular Willows Activity Farm is a great day out at any time of year. But Squiggle particularly loves their festive event Santa Spectacular, which runs daily from the last week of November until Christmas eve. There are a variety of seasonal activities on offer, such as ice skating, writing a letter to Santa, Festive Wood Ride, shows, making a cuddly toy, and of course an opportunity to meet the man himself! In addition, there are also some new activities for this year, including elf school, snowball shoot-out and a 3D film sleigh ride. We didn’t do anywhere near everything, but that is what is so nice about having so many options, families can pick and choose what they most want to do! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

We visited on a weekday in November so it was fairly quiet. At the entrance we were greeted by an elf, which I’m sure many children would be delighted by! For a minority of children it might be slightly daunting to be approached on arrival, but the other elf and the lovely lady at the ticket kiosk were aware of this and discreetly addressed it by calling her over to give us some space. I must say I was really grateful for their help and support in starting our day off on the right foot! For most though, I’m sure it is a great welcome that adds to the festive atmosphere and magic of Christmas. 

Once in the farm, we headed to the magical ice rink first because this is one of Squiggle’s favourite activities to do there. When we arrived, it had just opened and was still empty so we had it to ourselves! Squiggle can no longer fit into over-the-shoe style skates so she wore proper ice skates for the first time, which she was very excited about. The rink is synthetic, which makes it less slippery than real ice, but the polar bear and penguin supports are handy for less experienced skaters of any age! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Squiggle was keen to meet Santa so we made sure to fit that into our day next. We got very lucky and found it completely empty! This meant we were able to browse the cute Christmas scenes and displays on the way through to the grotto at our leisure then go straight in to see Father Christmas as soon as we were ready, with no queuing. 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

We had a quick chat with Santa in his wonderful homely grotto, then he presented Squiggle with a key to his magic toy shop (where they can choose any toy they want!) and the photographer took some photos. Squiggle then hurried excitedly to the toy shop, which is filled with a good selection of toys to suit a variety of interests and ages, where she promptly found a cuddly toy seal – that she had just told Santa was on her wish list! (What luck!!!) We also purchased a couple of the professional photos taken because own cameras are not allowed in the grotto. They certainly weren’t cheap but they are lovely photos!

Back outside, there was a meet and greet with a gorgeous real husky dog. This seemed like a good cue to go and make our own cuddly toy version, which included in the entrance price. This is also where you can write and post a letter to Father Christmas, but Squiggle opted to do this at home instead when she was less distracted!

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Dotted around Willows, both inside and out, are lots of festive displays that really add to the atmosphere. For example, this one is next to the ice rink by the entrance to the grotto.

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Aside from the festive fun, there are plenty of regular Willows Farm facilities available too. Squiggle let off some steam in the indoor soft play and outdoors too, including the fab new Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground that opened earlier this year. We also popped into the animal barn quickly to see the animals, including the reindeer.

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

It was a fantastic day out that we all really enjoyed. For more information, and to save money by booking tickets online, check out the Willows Activity Farm website. We are feeling very festive after our visit, Merry Christmas everyone! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm (St Albans, Hertfordshire)

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground at Willows Farm in St Albans, Hertfordshire is a million pound plus development based on the famous Beatrix Potter characters and CBeebies animated series. It opened its doors in April 2016, the year that marks the 150th anniversary of author Beatrix Potter, who has captured our hearts and imaginations for over 100 years with her well-loved children’s tales. It is also the only one of its kind in the world, how exciting!

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Beatrix Potter
There are different sections within Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground.

There are different sections within the Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, such as Mr McGregor’s Garden, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s kitchen and laundry area, Mr Bouncer’s Great Invention, Jeremy Fisher’s Musical Pond, Lily Bobtail’s Nature area, Benjamin Bunny’s Tree Top Adventures and of course Peter Rabbit’s Secret Treehouse too!

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Beatrix PotterPeter Rabbit’s secret treehouse is set around a 100 year old ash tree.

I particularly love Jeremy Fisher’s Musical Pond with its lovely little range of interesting instruments. These are good for various age children I imagine, and they are a great sensory activity.

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Jeremy Fisher musical pond, musical instruments, SEN, sensory activity, Beatrix Potter
Jeremy Fisher Musical pond

We haven’t ventured into Mrs Tiggy- Winkle’s area yet because Squiggle is usually too busy playing in the other areas but I have had a quick peek and it looks lovely, particularly for younger children. I wonder if the confined space of the indoor bit might get abit much for some SEND children during busier times but it did look like there were some great sensory activities in there too. We also haven’t explored Mr McGregor’s garden yet. This area includes opportunities for ‘heavy’ lifting of giant radish, which is another great sensory activity. It all looks like alot of fun!

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Mr Bouncer Great Invention, interactive technology, Beatrix Potter
Mr Bouncer’s Great Invention

Mr Bouncer’s Great Invention is an interactive latest technology feature where children can play games about colours or calculations, and dance to music. It reminded me somewhat of a fancier version of the dance-off style arcade games or dance mats you can buy for use with consoles at home! It is a nice activity but it can be difficult during busier times if multiple children try to play on it at once. Also, the sound effects coming from here combined with the various other sound effects nearby is potentially overstimulating and I think could easily cause sensory overload for some (SEND) children. The activity itself is certainly a great game though if you have the chance to properly play it! 

One thing I feel could be improved is that it would be far better if the various interactive ‘noisy’ features were more spread out or if there were less of them. Ideally it would be useful if there was more control over them too! Obviously during busier periods this perhaps wouldn’t make much difference, as most likely everything would be in use for the majority of the time regardless, but during quieter times it would be really beneficial if the interactive features could be interacted with rather than automatically activated. For example, Benjamin bunny seems to ‘talk’ at you everytime you get close, as do various other things. I’m sure many SEND children would be much more comfortable if they could choose for this to happen and feel able to move about freely without inadvertently setting off noises around them. However, this does not stop Squiggle enjoying this fantastic playground! (Although I suspect it may do for some).

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Lily Bobtail's Nature Area, bug hunting, nature, Beatrix Potter
Lily Bobtail’s Nature Area – Bug Hunting

Another part I especially love is Lily Bobtail’s Nature Area. I am not sure why this section, or the rest of the playground, isn’t actually made from more natural materials, rather than just made to ‘look’ that way. I assume this is due to durability and maintenence I would guess but I don’t know. Either way it does have a lovely natural vibe to it that I really like. Counting the rings on the old tree stump to discover the age of the tree is interesting!

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Lily Bobtail's Nature Area, old tree stump, nature, Beatrix Potter
Lily Bobtail’s Nature Area – old tree stump

We haven’t caught any of the shows yet, although they are on at regular times daily, but we did meet both Peter Rabbit and Lily Bobtail (during two separate visits) which was a massive highlight for Squiggle; she loves character meet and greets! 

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, character meet and greet, Beatrix Potter
Meeting Peter Rabbit
Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out, Lily Bobtail, character meet and greet, Beatrix Potter
Lily Bobtail hugs

In addition to the actual adventure playground itself, the Peter Rabbit theme continues in other parts of the farm too; including indoor imaginative play at Cotton-Tail Village and the outdoor assault course Peter Rabbit Woodland Trail.

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, Willows Farm, Hertfordshire, places to visit, days out
Peter Rabbit Woodland Trail

All in all, Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground certainly adds a brilliant new dimension to the overall Willows Farm experience! Entry into Peter Rabbit Adventure playground is included in the general ticket price for Willows Activity Farm, and the cost of this varies throughout the year. See website for further details, and book online to save! 

Christmas: Ayletts Garden Centre, St Albans, Herts

We love visiting Ayletts garden centre at Christmas, they always make a wonderful effort with their displays and often add extra activities or competitions for children too. This year is no exception!

As you walk into the entrance, there is a very modest display with Christmas tree. But keep walking beyond that and the garden centre opens out into a lovely walk-through Christmas scene. Each year there is a different theme, usually featuring cute woodland characters.

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Walk-through Christmas scene.

Next to the entrance to the walk-through scene is a large snowman with a twist; turn the handle to make him come alive! It’s quite sweet and I like the retro style way it works, rather than it randomly going off when people walk past, which often gets annoying!

Grab yourself a pencil and paper to take part in their free competition. Find the ten letters hidden around the Christmas sections to make up a word, and have a go at naming the snowman too, then post it in the box before you leave.

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Squiggle doing the free festive competition.

There is also a collection for Age Concern as part of this display, so don’t forget to take a few coins to throw into the little ‘pond’ there!

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families, Age Concern
Squiggle throwing coins into the ‘pond’.

There is a large Christmas section in a separate building in the middle of the garden centre. They sell everything from confectionary to lights, to singing santas!

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Squiggle dancing with singing santa.
Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Miniature Christmas scenes.
Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Squiggle loves these statues!

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families

Ayletts is a family run business situated on a dual carriageway on the outskirts of St Albans. It has a large cafe, good disabled access and a good size car park. Next door to the garden centre is Partners Pet Supermarket, an independent pet store, and Maidenhead Aquatics, which has a small soft play area in the cafe and fish you can feed. It is well worth a visit if you are local and have up to a couple of hours to spare. Especially during the festive fun!

Christmas at Van Hage, Great Amwell, Hertfordshire 

Van Hage is a large garden centre in Hertfordshire. It has a massive free car park and the garden centre itself covers a very generous sized area, both indoors and outside. In addition to the huge selection of brands and items for sale, there is also a restaurant, miniature railway (small additional charge), free animal gardens and various events.

Van Hage, Great Amwell, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, days out, garden centre, animal gardens
Van Hage animal gardens
Van Hage, Great Amwell, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, days out, garden centre, animal gardens, wildlife
We love these DIY wildlife ideas!

During the festive season, they also have a very popular ice rink. Sessions can be booked online in advance, which is essential during busier periods. There are dedicated parent and toddler slots and a very limited number of SEND sessions too. Prices vary, but most sessions cost £10 per adult or £8 per adults, with certain concessions available, plus there is an additional charge for supports from £5 each. Further details are on the website.
Van Hage has a great Christmas selection, with cute displays and a Santa’s Grotto. I don’t know what the actual grotto experience is like as we haven’t visited, but the rest of the garden centre certainly helps us to get into the Christmas spirit!

Van Hage, Great Amwell, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, days out, garden centre, reindeer, family fun, festive, Christmas, winter
Giant reindeer at the entrance
Van Hage, Great Amwell, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, days out, garden centre, festive, winter, Christmas, family fun
Van Hage at Christmas

More photos from a previous visit can be found here.

Littlesea Haven Holiday Park, Weymouth, Dorset

Last month we went to Weymouth for a mid week short break to Littlesea Haven Holiday Park. This was our second trip to Littlesea and, given it was one of our favourite Haven sites, we were very keen to return! It certainly did not disappoint.

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Pretty scenic views at Littlesea Haven Holiday Park

Littlesea is a lovely site, with scenic views and nice little ‘Tiger Trail’ nature walks. Squiggle really enjoyed following the Rory footprints on our map, so good for developing her map reading skills too!

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Tiger Trail on-site nature walks

There are also several playgrounds on-site, with a variety of equipment suitable for a range of ages. It is great that there are different play areas dotted around the park, as it encouraged us to explore further to find them all!

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Playground outside main entertainment complex
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
The playground in the campsite section of Littlesea
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
A lovely little natural playground

The holiday park is set next to Fleet Lagoon nature reserve, with pretty nature walks and coastal paths. We did find that some of the paths were abit too overgrown (and that is baring in mind we often explore wild overgrown areas!) and it was not always clear where to walk next, so better signage might be useful. However, I am not sure how much of this belonged to Haven, as it wasn’t clear at what point we left the site. Regardless, we had fun exploring and enjoyed a wonderful walk to Chesil beach.

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Beautiful nature walks overlooking Fleet Lagoon
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Exploring Fleet Lagoon

The caravan itself was clean and spacious, with everything we would need for our stay. We were also very kindly upgraded, which meant the quiet but central location of the caravan suited our needs perfectly. (A quiet area of the park is absolutely essential for Squiggle).

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Caravan at Littlesea Haven site

There is a good range of on-site amenities and facilities including; a Spar shop, gift shop, coffee shop, take aways, restaurant, bar, arcades, soft play, pool, golf, sports courts, entertainment venue and multiple play areas, as mentioned.

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way, environment
View of golf
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Arcade

The swimming pool was newly refurbished last year and is lovely, with fun water features that Squiggle loves. Both indoors and outdoors there are shallow paddling pools, as well as the deeper family swimming pools. The changing rooms are quite small but adequate. There is also a separate pool for water sports and activities, for an additional charge, which we didn’t personally take part in but they do seem to be well recommended by others who have, and having a separate area dedicated to this is a great idea.

The showbar has been refurbished even more recently, just this year. It is a spacious venue with a good size stage and dance floor. The entertainment held in the showbar is a fun mix of discos, shows and competitions. Squiggle adores the Seaside Squad shows and she loves to meet them for cuddles; this is one of her highlights of Haven Holidays. Because of the nature of her needs, it is important that she feels unhurried during these meetings (otherwise it triggers her severe anxiety and OCD), which can be difficult during busier times or with certain members of staff present (and is difficult for me because I can’t mention it around her, as that also makes it much worse!) However, the majority of the team seem very understanding of SEND in many ways, and do a wonderful job generally. And Squiggle had a fantastic time meeting several of the characters!

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Meeting some of the Seaside Squad

 

The characters also give some great positive messages through their songs, shows and activities, for example about exercise, healthy eating and taking care of our environment. Squiggle often sings lines from Greedy’s songs such as ‘pick up all the rubbish and put it in the bin’ and dances around to keep fit like Rory. These are great role- models for children!

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way, healthy eating, health, environment
Seaside Squad showtimes

This emphasis on healthy lifestyle and environment etc… runs throughout many of the daytime activities on offer too; with plenty of sports and games, and outdoor activities such as den building, exploring nature and wildlife spotting. I also really liked the information displayed in the corridor between Reception and the entertainment complex too.

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way, nature, wildife, outdoors, environment
Display in main complex
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way, wildlife, nature, environment
Bug Hotel

Overall, this was an absolutely wonderful holiday and we would highly recommend it. Thank you Haven for another brilliant time!

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Littlesea Haven Holiday Park

(Photos of our previous trip to Weymouth are here).

#Blogtober 2016 – Day 20: 5 Things About Hertfordshire (Visitor Attractions, Days Out, Things To Do)

Hertfordshire has a wealth of parks, nature reserves, conservation areas and other beautiful outdoor spaces, important historical sites, major attractions, and other lovely places to go and things to do. It is just outside of London, with easy routes into the capital city, so that is also an added draw to the area.

I could easily pick far more than five things to mention but rules are rules, so here goes…

1. Roman Verulamium

St Albans is home to the ancient site of Verulamium, a large Roman town, features of which are still present today. There is a hypocaust with beautiful mosaics, Roman theatre (considered one of the best examples in the country), an award-winning museum, and even remains of the Roman wall within Verulamium park itself. There are also Roman baths in Welwyn. Great for history enthusiasts!

Other historical places in Hertfordshire include Berkhamsted Castle, Hatfield House, Celtic Harmony Camp  and Knebworth House.

Days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, home education, history, blogtober

2. Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour 

Much of this world famous movie series was filmed at Leavesden, which is now home to the hugely popular WB studio tour. A must do for any Harry Potter fan. Film fans might be interested to know that Elstree studios and Pinewood studios are also nearby.

3. St Albans Abbey

This stunning cathedral is voted top by Tripadvisor for things to do in Hertfordshire. It has the longest Nave in England, bell tower, extensive medieval wall paintings and gorgeous glass painting, The Rose Window, unveiled by the late Princess Diana in 1989. People have been visiting the shrine of St Albans for over 1700 years and it is a national pilgrim site.

St Albans Clock Tower is also nearby.

4. Parks and Nature Reserves

There are plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces to visit in Hertfordshire. Some of the most notable places include Cassiobury parkVerulamium parkAldenham Country ParkAshridge estate and Fairlands Valley Park to name just a few.

Days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, autumn, nature, blogtober, living life our way
Cassiobury Park, Watford

5. Family Days Out

Paradise Wildlife ParkWillows Activity FarmNatural History Museum at Tring and Hatfield Aviation Museum are all popular days out within Hertfordshire, with many more nearby in neighbouring counties and London boroughs.

Days out, things to do, family fun, blogtober, living life our way
Willows Activity Farm, St Albans

#Blogtober16

Sylvanian Families Trail, Hatchlands Park (Guildford, Surrey)

Recently we visited Hatchlands Park, which is a beautiful National Trust site in Guildford, Surrey. Being a huge fan of Sylvanian families, Squiggle was keen to do the Sylvanian Families nature trail, open until the end of this year.

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There is a small charge to enter the park, including the Sylvanian Families Trail, of £6 per adult and £3 per child, or £15 for a family ticket (these prices are for park only, cost to enter whole site including house is extra. Prices are on the website here). National Trust members get in free.

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The trail has a series of signs as you walk through the wood, each with nature questions and clues from members of woodland Sylvanian families. There is a more difficult question at each stop, making it fun and informative for all ages.

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We did get abit confused when we reached the end because there was no obvious finishing point. We probably should have realised from the number of clues but even so, a clear indication, such as a finish sign or message from one of the Sylvanian families, would have been a nice additional touch.

National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way

Regardless, we really enjoyed the trail and the wooden sculptures were lovely. Squiggle got so excited each time she spotted one and loved cuddling them!

National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way

For more information see their website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatchlands-park/features/sylvanian-families-trail-at-hatchlands-park

Whilst we were there, we also went to Hatchlands Park playground. It has lovely natural play features, including a wonderful treehouse. Squiggle really enjoyed playing here and it fitted in beautifully with the surrounding natural environment.

National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Treehouse
National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Balancing
National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Den seating
National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Climbing

All in all, it was a fun day out!

Days Out: A Trip to the Seaside (Southend On Sea, Essex) 

Southend On Sea in Essex is a popular seaside choice for many. It boasts stretches of both pebble and sand beaches, play water fountains, play areas on the sand, plus a brand new lagoon for paddling and swimming. 

Days out, things to do, places to go, family fun
Water play fountains

For those looking for a little more action, there is a Sealife Centre on the seafront, an award winning funfair, indoor play centre, pier, traditional style amusement arcades and a large selection of shops, restaurants and cafes. 

Places to go, days out, family fun, childhood unplugged, get outside
Beach, overlooking pier and funfair

For us, it is a relatively short drive away from Hertfordshire that offers us a fun and relaxed day out by the sea, so is definitely a winner! 

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Investigating the beach

For more information about Southend, including special events, things to do and places to stay, see Visit Southend

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Collecting shells

Three Shells Lagoon, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Three Shells Lagoon at Southend-on-Sea in Essex is a newly built man made lagoon that opened this summer. The lagoon is the size of a football pitch and is 1.1 metres at its deepest points. 

Swimming at Three Shells Lagoon, Southend on Sea, Essex
Squiggle was laughing at how I reacted to the cold water initially- but she wore a proper wetsuit, I didn’t!

Despite visiting in the last week of September, it was still warm enough to wriggle into our swimsuits and go for a swim. It was cold, but we soon got used to it! Squiggle enjoyed practising her swimming skills in the sea water, as well as paddling and splashing around in general. I think it’s wonderful to be able to enjoy swimming in a natural environment, whilst not being entirely in the open water with an inexperienced young swimmer. I imagine it would also be great for learning water sports.

Swimming at Three Shells Lagoon, Southend on sea, Essex
Three Shells Lagoon

One thing I did wonder about was how the lagoon water is kept fresh and hygenic. So I did some research and found the design quite interesting. “Sheets of welded metal inside the rock walls retain the seawater when the tide comes in, whilst rubberised material at the base of the wall will prevent silt and mud from entering and exiting the lagoon. Valves have been installed into the wall so that the lagoon can be emptied and refilled, ensuring a high quality of regularly-replenished bathing water.” (Southend government website) For further information about the lagoon www.southend.gov.uk