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 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.

#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!

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! 

Seaweed, childhood unplugged, get outside, outdoors, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun
Investigating the beach

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

Family fun, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoors, get outside, childhood unplugged
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

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

Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire

There is plenty to do at Paradise Wildlife Park. In addition to the wide variety of animals, there are also various other areas such as soft play, paddling pool, sand pit, construction area, go carts, train, woodland walk, bouncy castles and several play areas, as well as shows, talks and feeds. There are also various ride-ons and games for additional cost. The price is reasonable in my opinion, in comparison to similar days out, especially given the amount of facilities included in the price and the high running costs of the zoo. However, there are often discounts available through groupon and similar sites, which makes it somewhat more affordable. More information about Paradise Wildlife Park can be found on their website https://www.pwpark.com

 

 

 

 

 

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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 18: Sylvanian Families at Whitchurch, Hampshire

Ok, I admit that Sylvanian Families might sound like a very loose connection to the 30 Days Wild theme! But this lovely day out is held in a picturesque village, set up by a little river with ducks and other wildlife, with a pretty flowery backdrop for the character meet and greet. It was very scenic! It was really nice to visit somewhere different, as well as the excitement for Squiggle of a Sylvanian themed day out of course- as has been mentioned on this blog many times before, she is a big Sylvanian fan!

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Squiggle meeting Tiffany Silk Cat

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Dancing in the marquee

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Ralph Walnut Squirrel

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Lots of goodies!

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Freya Chocolate Rabbit

It was a really lovely day out. Thank you to Sylvanian Storekeepers in London www.sylvanianstorekeepers.com for organising!