Haven: Wild Duck Holiday Park, Norfolk

Last week we went on a short break to Wild Duck Haven Holiday Park near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. We have been to a couple of other Haven sites before but this particular one was new to us. I was very pleasantly surprised by it, I found the entire park rather more ‘toned down’ than some of the others I have previously been to and the natural woodland surroundings were beautiful. It was a peaceful environment to be in, whilst still having various facilities on the doorstep (along with the ducks, rabbits and squirrels all around us!) We very much enjoyed our stay and I would happily return to this site. See the website for further details http://www.haven.com/parks/norfolk/wild-duck/

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Our caravan surrounded by woodland
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Inside the caravan (the central heating throughout was particularly handy for a cold wet October!)
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The ‘centre’ of the site with an entertainment complex, restaurant, fish and chip shop, Spar shop and swimming pool.
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Duck statues (there were real ones to of course!)
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Watching the waterfall.
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Playground in the middle of the woodland.
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Climbing on the web.
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Another playground.
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Practising climbing skills
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Sandpit play area.
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This huge wooden tree house was hidden away in the middle of a pretty woodland walk.
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Chilling.
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Tree climbing
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Sitting in a tree.
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We found some chestnuts on the woodland walk.
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She also enjoyed having a ‘tea time party’ with Rory the Tiger, including party games such as pass the parcel, musical statues and musical bumps.
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Last but not not least she loved joining in the disco and meeting the Haven ‘Seaside Squad’ characters.

A Typical Week in Home Education?

In reality there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ week for us, we are interest-led and we tend to go with the flow as we feel this suits our needs as a family. The freedom to do this is one of the many reasons we love home educating. I will share more of our personal educational philosophy sometime but that is really a separate subject so I will leave it for now. However, this post aims to give a flavour of the type of thing we might find ourselves doing and a rough gist of what our week might look like. So here is a brief summary of our week:

Saturday

In the morning Squiggle played outside in the garden with her dad. She also picked some blackberries then helped to clean and feed our rabbits. After this we decided to head to the seaside at Southend for the rest of the day.

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Playing on the beach
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Collecting seaweed
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Paddling in the sea

Sunday

We spent some the day at home then decided to pop to Milton Keynes shopping centre for a little while (where she particularly enjoyed the caravan show and studying the inside of a working clock)

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This is the model plane she made at home

Monday

We went to London Zoo for the day.

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We enjoyed seeing the star fishes and seahorses in the aquarium
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Iguana in the reptile house
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The gorilla striking a pose!
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Petting farm
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Squiggle spent a long time playing in the water fountains with an acorn. She had fun designing a science experiment to see which fountains could hold the acorn up in the water. She did lots of investigating how easily the acorn moved in the little stream as well.

Tuesday

We played at home for a while (self- directed learning) then we decided to go to Paradise Park for the rest of the day.

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She decided she wanted to play with some coins that had been left on the table so this led to learning to recognise and sort different coins. We also had a discussion on the value of things.
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Watching how the otters behave
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We enjoyed watching the white tiger take a bath

Wednesday

We had planned to go to a local park to meet up with some friends in the morning then we also went to Leighton Buzzard park in the afternoon.

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Fleetville park
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Counting the shapes then setting the dial to the correct number
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Developing her climbing skills and confidence
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These stepping stones wobble to make this more challenging.
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Balancing skills

Thursday

We stayed at home today so I produced a hidden parcel that had arrived recently, which she was very excited about. It was a zip wire for her hex bugs! This of course inspired her to play with these for sometime, including lots of exploration and discussion about how they work. Activities she later chose included playing Reading Eggs and Maths Seeds on the laptop.

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Hexbugs
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Maths seeds

Friday

Most of our day was spent at the scout hut for art group then ‘meet up and play’.

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Exploring clay at art group
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Doing scratch art

Naturally Growing Foods

We have really enjoyed discovering what fruit is naturally growing in our garden over the past couple of months, we have been lucky enough to have a delicious range of food including raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, tiny wild strawberries and crab apples. We also visited our local ‘Pick Your Own’ fruit farm a couple of times where we picked (and enjoyed eating of course!) yummy blackberries, red currents, black currents, gooseberries, raspberries and strawberries. See website http://www.hawkswickfruit.co.uk/ We now plan to expand this interest further by growing some more of our foods in the future.

Reaching up to pick crab apples from the tree in our garden
Reaching up to pick crab apples from the tree in our garden
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Tiny wild strawberries growing in our garden
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Picking gooseberries from the fruit farm
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We enjoyed picking our own fruit from a local fruit farm

A Trip to Weymouth, Dorset: Haven and Sealife Centre

We stayed at Weymouth Bay Haven holiday park, which Squiggle particularly enjoyed. Nearby there was a sandy beach at Bowleaze Cove, which also had a quiet little funfair. For more information about Bowleaze Cave see website www.bowleazecove.co.uk and for further details on the Haven site we stayed at view the Haven website here.

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Making a beach collection
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Footprints in the sand
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Enjoying the funfair rides
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Helter skelter slide with her grandad
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She was most excited about going on the funfair wheel (or in her words a mini London Eye)
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Exploring on a nature walk.
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Playing outside at Weymouth Bay Haven Holiday site.
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She enjoyed going swimming and meeting characters on-site at Haven (although not at the same time!)
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Trying out the dancing game

However, the highlight of the trip for us had to be the Sealife Adventure Park in Weymouth. Although it was very expensive it was a fantastic day out and we would definitely love to return! It is also worth noting that Sealife Adventure Park is part of the Merlin group so annual pass holders get in free. For more details see their website here.

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Giant crab
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Sting ray close up
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Walk through tunnel, beautiful giant turtle
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Fascinating ‘sea worms’ and shrimps
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Jelly fish
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Learning about crocodiles
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Fun educational facts
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It also has an excellent splash park and paddling pool, one of her favourite bits of course!

Princess Diana Memorial Playground, London

Princess Diana Memorial Playground is in Kensington Gardens next to the palace. It has an excellent range of equipment suitable for children under 12, all adults must be accompanied by a child. There is a queuing system for when the playground reaches maximum capacity but on the plus side this really makes a difference to the playground not feeling too over-crowded, especially during peak season when other places can often be uncomfortably packed. Further details of this playground can be found on the website https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/sports-and-leisure/diana-memorial-playground

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There are giant musical instruments set in pretty natural surroundings.
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Lovely natural wooden playground with lots of equipment.
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Sensory garden
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Wet sand
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There is an impressive pirate ship in the centre of the playground.
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There is a stream to paddle in with a stone crocodile.
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The playground is set in beautiful surroundings and it has a wonderful calm vibe.
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Great shade for a warm day.

Summer Fun: Parks and Paddling

Editors Note: Update 09/05/16 See here for latest information on splash park and paddling pool opening times for summer season 2016 and links to official websites

 

 

 

We have enjoyed visiting a range of places over summer and we especially loved finding fun places to cool down on the wonderful hot days we had! Here are some of the places we have been over July and August…

 

This is Stockwood Park Discovery Centre in Luton. It has an interesting museum and lovely playground, free entry. (The bus is not always there and was not open during our visit unfortunately, she still loved running around it though!) http://www.lutonculture.com/stockwood-discovery-centre/stockwood-discovery-centre/

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Highfield park in St Albans has lots of green space and hidden pockets containing little play areas dotted around, plus there is also a tree trail. The leaflet for the tree trail is available at Charters Health Club. “The Trail is 3km (2miles) long and follows a circular route. The trail identifies 25 different trees, each with a numbered way marker, the leaflet provides you with interesting facts about the various trees.” The Highfield Park summer fete this year included an agility show, much to Squiggle’s delight! There are a few other events held at the park throughout the year. http://www.highfieldparktrust.co.uk/index.php/visiting-the-park-mainmenu-33

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This is Leighton Buzzard park. As well as a lovely playground suitable for a range of ages it also has an excellent splash park to. Squiggle loved it but it was far too busy to get any pictures!

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This is Morris Playing Field in London Colney. It has a small paddling pool and play area, as well as a football pitch and tennis courts.

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We enjoyed a day trip to Southend to paddle in the sea and play in the sand. There is a small children’s climbing frame on the beach next to a large fun fair. This picture makes it look rather less crowded that it really was though!

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We also enjoyed looking for crabs, Squiggle was fascinated watching them…

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We love Verulamium park. Lots to do in this massive beautiful parkland including feed the ducks (duck food can be puchased from Inn On The Park cafe), let off steam in the play area and cool down in the splash park (again too many other people in the background of our pictures to publish them!) There are also tennis courts, football pitches, an outdoor gym and Roman remains. http://www.stalbans.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/parks-and-green-space/parks/Verulamium-Park/

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Wick nature reserve in St Albans is a hidden gem for us. Popular with dog walkers and families alike but this place never seems to get very busy as many locals don’t even know about it! There is a little play area, small woods and green space. Great place to go exploring!

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Having lived in St Albans for most of my life, this local recreation ground on Sherwood Avenue had remained secret from us until this summer.

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Fleetville park in St Albans has recently been refurbished in the section aimed at older children and also now has an outdoor gym.

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Cassiobury park in Watford has a lot to offer. A paddling pool area with three large paddling pools (one heated), a lovely playground, miniature train (£1) and river walks (also good for paddling and watching canal boats).

 

 

 

And of course plenty of opportunities to splash around in the paddling pool at home…

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Last but not least, this does not technically belong on this post as it is not a park (nor a place to paddle) but the indoor beach at Centre: MK (throughout August only) was definitely worth a visit to.

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Development is not a race- the joy of seeing fine motor skill progress at her own pace

Here is squiggle’s writing development over the past few months, since she first decided to pick up a pen in order to try to write:

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This was her mark making in February 2013
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This was her ‘writing’ in May 2013
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June 2013- starting to form letters, some correctly. This says ‘book, bus, london’
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‘happy fathers day’ (15th June 2013)
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‘grandad’ (written backwards!) June 2013

And here is her drawing development (see the creative development page for 2011-2012 for comparison)…

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London eye drawing March 2013
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This is a map of St Albans she drew in April 2013
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This is her drawing of a person 9th May 2013
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Big Ben drawn and cut out independently May 2013
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London eye and a london bus June 2013
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London bus with a funny face drawn in late June 2013
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People in a garden looking at flowers June 2013
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Crocodile June 2013
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Observation drawing from a book 25th June 2013
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Funfair wheel 9th July 2013 (the circles in the middle are the cogs she noticed while riding on it)
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A very busy paddling pool! July 2013
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She copied the picture her dad had drawn for her and then added her own ideas to. July 2013
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Pigs on a swing 10th July 2013

A simple day in the garden

Today Squiggle decided to spend all day playing outside in the garden. As soon as she went outside one of our cats, Gingerbread, followed her and promptly started to drink some dirty rain water that had pooled up on her sand pit cover. This got her wondering about our cat’s eating and drinking habits so she developed her own experiment to find out what he prefers.

She collected some grass (as she has seen our cats eat this) and two containers, one for wet grass and one for dry. She then asked if she could put some cat crunchies in one of them, so I took this opportunity to explain the concept of a ‘fair test’. She decided she would therefore put an equal number in each and only change the wet/ dry aspect (we should have used the same containers to of course, we discussed this later!) She then observed him to see what he ate most of. She discovered he seemed to prefer wet and concluded this was possibly because he could then both eat the food and drink the water to. She even gave the mixture a name ‘cat lick’ and said it is produced in a place called ‘Gingerbread Gardens’.

(Please note our cat was a willing participate in this investigation, I would go as far as to say he very enthusiastic in fact; we did however talk in brief about it being entirely up to him whether or not he chose to take part though obviously!)

She had her lunch outside in the garden, where she spontaneously did some adding up with the food items. Later when it started raining she became fascinated with watching snails. We talked about them in detail, discussing their differently coloured and patterned shells, studying them carefully and observing them. We also counted them, then she carefully handled some.

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Explaining to our cat what she is doing
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Observing to see what he eats most of
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Writing her instructions
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Explaining to him that she has made a book for him
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Reading the instruction book to him
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Finding snails in the rain
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She found it fascinating to watch them
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Holding snails with care
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How many snails can you see?

Supporting current interests and finding new ways of ‘strewing’

Squiggle loves it when we have our food shopping delivered, she loves seeing what colour the van will be then helping to carry the bags into the kitchen and finding out what was ordered. So I decided to turn this into a potential opportunity by ordering an alphablocks magazine, since ordinarily she would ignore magazines on the supermarket shelves and reject any suggestion to buy one, but I thought it might be another useful method to help develop her reading and writing skills. She found it ‘hidden’ in the shopping bag and was very excited she had been bought a ‘present’. She couldn’t wait to play the free word game before enthusiastically asking me to help her read the magazine together. Great result for my new strewing method!

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Playing the word making game, spelling out ‘pig’

A couple of days ago we were walking to the park when we walked past a man with a poodle. Previously nervous around dogs, she unexpectedly put her hand out to stroke the dog as he went past. Myself and the very supportive owner gently explained it is best to check a dog is friendly and wants strokes before reaching out, then gave her the opportunity to pet the very excited dog who kept licking her, which she loved! Later on we walked past a lady walking her dog and Squiggle loudly asked if it was ok to stroke her, which the dog (and owner) were happy for her to do. The rest of the day was spent talking about dogs, playing with her dog sylvanian toys and acting out dogs. Fast forward to Saturday. After music class we were deciding where to go next when I remembered an email I had received from Littlebird about a Pet Show at Earls Court and thought it would be a good way to extend her new found interest in dogs. We drove down there and had a lovely time learning about different breeds of dogs and enjoyed seeing other animals to. She particularly loved seeing a dancing dog!

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Outside London Pet Show
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Stroking the horse during a grooming demonstration
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Poodle
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Irish Red Setter
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Greyhound
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Rottweiler
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She loved meeting the dog character
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Dancing with a cat!
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Petting a hamster

Since we were close by we then popped to the Science Museum to play in the Basement.

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Water play
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Quiet ‘room’
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Light and colour
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Working steam engine
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Working wheel

On the way home we drove past Big Ben and the London Eye, she was so excited because we happened to pass by at exactly 3 o’clock so we heard the chimes. She had been hoping to hear them so was exceptional timing! A lovely end to a lovely day.

Van Hage- it really is more than just a garden centre!

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).

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Stroking a snake at the reptile encounter today.
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She had the opportunity to touch a lizard.
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The chickens roam around freely and some are happy to be touched.
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They have a lovely range of animals.
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Looking at the giant bunnies and goats.
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She was able to stroke a tortoise today as well.
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We enjoy looking at the pretty displays.
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There are fun facts and activities in the animal garden.
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She learnt she was about the same height as a penguin.
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There is lots of useful information available.
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There are lots of flowers to look at to of course!
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The pet shop has a resident cat.
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There are lots of interesting things to look at in general.

 

Definitely worth a visit! See website for more details of events and activities http://www.vanhage.co.uk/garden-centres/great-amwell/