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.
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.
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!
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 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!
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.
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!
More photos from a previous visit can be found here.
These are some of the things we have been doing so far this month…
In addition to these activities, we also practised estimating (time mainly) and discussed the difference between a guess and an estimate. We have also played a game several times that she invented whereby we try to recall what we were doing x number of days ago. This proved to be a fun memory game and we enjoyed talking about past events, as well as doing the maths to work out how many weeks, months and sometimes years ago the day was. I also discovered she didn’t know what a typewriter was when she found a miniature toy one (then again, why would she know!) So we discussed technology and how it has progressed, which she found very interesting.
We went to Van Hage today, not for the first time, but I really think it deserves a mention as a great (and FREE) family trip out. In addition to things you might typically expect to find in a garden centre there is a lovely animal garden. They have a range of animals there and offer opportunities to interact with some of the animals at weekends and during school holidays (see website for details). There is even a miniature train ride (small charge of 80p per passenger applies).