#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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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!

Stay Wild: Changing Seasons

The season is changing. This past week we have spent some days on the beach, swimming in the sea, whilst other days we have been hunting for conkers and looking for signs of autumn.

Seaside, autumn, childhood unplugged, outdoor life
Day out at Southend-on-Sea beach

I love this time of year. It has an air of peace and tranquility about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s like everything is shedding remains of the past and preparing to start afresh, hopeful for the future. Wonderful.

Changing season, nature, outdoor life, get outside
Signs of autumn

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

Precious Moments From Our Week (Living Arrows)

As I look back through my photos from last week, I am reminded we have been on alot of adventures and had so many special moments. Choosing just a select few to share is hard! But here are my particular favourites, in celebration of childhood…

Monday: We went to a local park to play ball games. 

Squiggle was so excited when she scored!

Tuesday: Squiggle made Haven Seaside Squad finger puppets. In the afternoon, she loved doing some of her favourite songs at music class. 

Wednesday: We made ourselves a pretend lagoon in the garden (with our paddling pool and lots of imagination!) Later, we went for a picnic and enjoyed watching the local wildlife together.

Squiggle stood in this tree watching a squirrel.

Thursday: We went exploring at a local nature reserve. Squiggle took a seeds and berries ID activity from Nature Detectives website.

Friday: We had a lovely day at Whipsnade ZSL Zoo. It was a very wet day but we were still lucky enough to see many of the animals close up.

Squiggle observed the sealions swimming around underwater and showed them her cuddly toy sealion!

Saturday: We had a lovely day out at Willows Farm. She has been hoping to return here to revisit Peter Rabbit’s Adventure Playground since June so she was very happy!

Squiggle was thrilled to meet Lily Bobtail for the first time.
I love this action shot!

Sunday: We visited Aldenham Country Park SEN playground.

Living Arrows

Morris Playing Fields (Paddling Pool and Playground), London Colney, Hertfordshire

As the summer clutches on for one more burst of sunshine before autumn descends, I thought I would share some information and photos about Morris Playing Fields in London Colney, Hertfordshire. This is a popular summer destination amongst locals, mainly because it has a small outdoor paddling pool that is great for warmer days (or not so warm days too, if you are anything like us!) 

The paddling pool has a walk-in shallow end and steps for the deeper end, which is approx 1 metre (disclaimer: this is my own estimate so no idea on actually accuracy of this statement!)

The only downside is, because it is a very small local outdoor paddling pool in a confined space, that it can get extremely busy and this can be abit too overwhelming or overstimulating for some children, especially those with SEND. 
However, if the visit is timed right, during a quieter period, it is a lovely place to play!

The paddling pool is in a fenced off area behind the separately enclosed playground. 

There is a small carpark adjacent to the playground that serves this and the paddling pool, as well as sports facilities at the playing field itself.

The playground has a variety of equipment, suited to a range of ages in the younger age bracket. I believe there is another facility for older children/ teens at a different nearby site but I have not yet visited this. 

It has a slightly retro feel about it, it reminds me of the playgrounds I visited as a child. Very old style, but well loved all the same!

The helter skelter slide is a particular favourite…

For more information about Morris Playing Fields see pdf flyer

Stay Wild: Bird’s Nest

Whilst walking through a local woodland, I spotted on the path this beautiful bird’s nest… 

I looked around for any signs of distressed adult birds, babies or eggs, or any other indication there had been a disruption or predator attacks, but it was clear it had been naturally discarded. A quick google search suggested it was therefore fine to remove it as it would be disposed of anyway.

Squiggle held it and studied it carefully, then we discussed how it was made. Look closely at the way the twigs, moss and grass on the outside are woven together, very impressive! We agreed that would be a difficult challenge even with fingers, yet birds manage it with their beaks. It really is so incredibly clever!

I researched and concluded that this nest was made by a Song Thrush. It is similar to a Blackbird’s nest on the outside but, as you can see from the photo below, inside it is hard, which differs from the interior of a Blackbird nest. 

The female Song Thrush uses her chest to compact together mud, dung and rotten wood to form this hard interior. This technique is exclusive to this one type of native English bird. 

It was so interesting to stumble across this exciting find on our walk. Very fascinating! 

Stay Wild- Virtual Flashmob: A Rainbow of Colours

30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts just announced a virtual ‘flashmob’ to help us all stay wild! Run outside right now, do something ‘wild’ and take a photo or video clip then share it online. So I grabbed my phone, went into the garden and looked for a rainbow of colours…

It didn’t take long at all; there are so many colours in our natural environment, even just in a small garden. The only struggle was blue; the british ‘summer’ let me down abit there, as there was practically all cloud and no blue sky, so I tried to get the tiny glimmer of blue there was and failed! But a fun challenge nonetheless! #StayWild

Places To Go: Summer at Ruislip Lido

Ruislip Lido is a great place to visit during the summer, with lots of (FREE!) outdoor fun to be had; including a splash park, sandy beach, large play area on the sand, woodlands and a train ride (charge applies for this).

If you are visiting with young children, or those with SEND, please keep in mind that the play area is next to open water and not enclosed. Also, no paddling or swimming is allowed in the lido itself.

Here are my photos from our latest trip…

Days out, places to go
Ruislip Lido- Squiggle took this photo herself from the play area on the beach.
Places to go, things to do, summer, water play
Splash park
Places to go, days out
Squiggle found some shells on the beach!
Places to go, things to do, nature, wildlife
Beautiful blue damselfly in the woodland

For more photos, including the beach play area, please see my previous blog post here: Ruislip Lido autumn 15

We think Ruislip Lido is a lovely place anytime of year (although please note it is practically entirely outside, but we don’t mind- that’s what waterproofs and layers are for!) For further information, visit their website here.

30 Days Wild – Day 30: 7 Reasons To Love Nature

Wow, we have come to the final day of 30 Days Wild! So to mark the end, today I thought I would write about why it is great to spend so much time outdoors in nature.

There are so many reasons to love nature! Here are my top 7…

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1. Good for the mind: Being outdoors in a natural environment helps our mental health. It reduces anxiety and depression, and generally decreases our stress levels (which brings me nicely onto reason two…)

2. Good for the body: Being outside has physical health benefits. The fresh air is great for our bodies, being outside helps us dose up on much needed vitamin D, walking boosts fitness levels, outdoor activities builds our immune system whilst also improving our sleep, and even our eyesight!

3. Good for the soul: Being in nature encourages organic mindfulness and meditation, which helps us to feel calm, relaxed and happy. Feeling connected to nature and the earth increases empathy for others and helps us to gain inner peace.

4. Sensory activities: Our natural environment offers great sensory input that helps to intergrate our senses and align our central nervous system. This helps us feel more balanced.

5. Helps to develop essential skills needed to learn: Time spent outdoors helps with cognitive thinking, problem solving, attention span and focus.

6. Provides learning opportunities: Being in nature means exploration and real-life firsthand experiences! It leads to many discussions about nature, our environment, the world around us, sustainability, and being a responsible global citizen.

7. Last but not least, nature inspires us and sparks creativity!

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And here are some examples of such inspiration and creativity from Squiggle today…

Squiggle designed a nature game. Take it in turns to roll the dice and move around the board. First to get all the way round is the winner. If someone lands on a challenge square and completes it, that person gets another turn.

These are the player pieces to move around the board…

She also made up a song about nature (I put together the video quickly to match the lyrics, just so I could share the voice recording)…

Stay wild, everyone! 💚

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