Longdown Activity Farm

Our trip to Longdown Activity Farm is the fourth and final episode of our mini break to the South Coast. The other reviews can be found here:

  • Flying with a toddler – Part 1 – (here)
  • Oceanarium and Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)

I found out about this attraction via Twitter (@NewForestBreak) and with it being 10 minutes drive from Paultons Park, we headed down there on a sunny, but cold Sunday February morning, whilst not knowing what to expect really.  Finding the farm is quite easy and there is decent (free) parking the other side of the road. This is fully signposted.

Heidi does like her animals and so it felt like a safe option to spend a couple of hours, and so we went in to see what it was all about. As you go in, there are some toy tractors for the kids to play on, as well as a couple of table tennis tables which were clearly meant for warmer (and less windy days!). However, with our trusty map in hand, we made our way to the animals.

Longdown Activity Farm is a traditional farm, in terms of the animals that it has – goats, ducks, cows, horses – pretty much everything Old MacDonald had. The difference is that you are allowed to feed them! There are set times to feed set animals so it does help to plan ahead a little and plot your way around the small farm so that you take advantage of these experiences. It would only take 10 minutes to walk from one end to another. So while the farm isn’t huge, it is big enough, especially for little legs!

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As a result, we began by bottle feeding the baby goats. This was fascinating for Heidi as she has never seen an animal take a bottle. Being able to feed it herself was lovely! After that, we went to the animal petting attraction, where tiny baby chicks to hold, as well as able to stroke a rabbit as well as a goat. To finish off, we fed the adult goats, albeit food from a plate as they are clearly past the bottle phase!!

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It was lovely to have the opportunity to let Heidi feed and get really close to the animals. It is all well and good seeing them at the other side of the fence, but it was something else letting her feed them. Interspersed with the activities, there are lots of other animal enclosures to look at including ducks, rabbits, horses and calves.

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On a weekend, the little ones are able to ride (for an additional charge) on a Shetland pony,. We took advantage of this, especially as Heidi loves to go on the donkeys at the seaside, or use me as a horse in an evening!

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Lovely Shetland pony

There are a number of enclosed (free) trampolines which is a good way to do something a little different. There is also a small, but perfectly adequate (free) play gym, which will keep the little ones busy for half an hour or so, while the adults relax. Even though it was freezing cold outside, it was relatively warm in there, even though the front was completely open! Here (on weekends), there was a facepainter and for an extra charge, children could have their face painted,. As a result, the farm got a tiger for an hour or so!

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There’s a Tiger!

In terms of taking a toddler, it is important to be aware that Longdown Activity Farm is a working farm. As such, expect it to be a bit muddy and cold (in winter!) so wear appropriate clothes! There are toilets, baby change and feeding rooms, which we didn’t go to, but they looked quite good. There is also a cafe and farm shop, but we had spent all our money on facepainting and horse rides!!

One thing to note is that you obviously have to wash your hands after finishing stroking an animal. As such. it might be a good idea to wear short sleeves, or take a spare top for the way home. The water is nice and warm, but after a while, the sleeves get all wet and unpleasant.

After all that, we spent 2 hours at Longdown Activity Farm. However, we did miss a couple of bits out because of a tired toddler. We would definitely go back, and would perhaps go at a slightly different time so we could do some of the other activities that we missed out.

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Oceanarium

Our trip to the Oceanarium in Bournemouth is part 2 of my write up of the mini break we had on the South Coast.

The other reviews can be found here:

  • Flying with a toddler – Part 1 -(here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – (here)

Getting to the Oceanarium

So after landing in Southampton mid morning, the plan was to drive to Bournemouth and basically explore a bit and have a bit of a seaside day. So after driving 45 minutes, we arrived in Bournemouth. The drive was a lovely, relaxing drive through the New Forest. However, due to roadworks, took a bit longer than anticipated. I hear that in summer, this journey is a bit of a nightmare due to traffic, but certainly not a problem in late February!

So after approaching Bournemouth, we followed the painted (and sometimes worn!) sandcastles on the road down to the beach and picked up signs for an “Oceanarium”. Having not done any research previously, I was putting two and two together as to what it was and we decided to go for it.

Located right on the beach, the view is perfect out to sea. However, I imagine that the location also means when it is busy, it is difficult to get to. However, we found a car park very close by and made our way in.

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The Oceanarium itself

It turns out the Oceanarium is a marine animal attraction, similar to The Deep in Hull. It has penguins, fish, sharks, turtles and a crocodile, as well as a walking tunnel so you feel as though the animals are all around. Our favourites were the lovely large turtles. Due to their swimming style, you can tell the little ones that they are waving!

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We stayed for about 90 minutes and caught most of the penguin feeding show. This was quite intimate as well, and not in a bad way. Unfortunately with a toddler, you never quite manage to see all of the show. However, they are something to plan the visit around.

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Facilities

In terms of child friendly facilities, there is a very small soft play area. This will give the adults 10 minutes rest as there is only 1 climbing frame so there isn’t much to explore. We didn’t check out the changing facilities, and with most of these kinds of places, navigating with a pushchair would be difficult. This is because it is on a number of levels and the lighting isn’t brilliant as it needs to be dark-ish for the animals. However, navigating carrying a 2 year old toddler isn’t that easy either!!

A couple of things that stand out for the Oceanarium are the beautiful views from within the venue. There is a balcony with seating and an ice cream kiosk at the back of the penguin viewing area. This is beautiful and would be fantastic in summer, although a bit nippy in winter!

The second is the fact that you can come and go as much as you want during the day. We didn’t take advantage of this due to having a tired toddler. However, given that it is about 10 yards from the beach and pier, you could easily spend all day in the same location, rotating between the Oceanarium, the beach, the pier and the other seafront attractions.

Bournemouth Seafront

We did briefly venture onto the gorgeous beach, which looked clean. However, more importantly, it didn’t look like good sandcastle-making sand! We also went on the pier, which had amusements and a cafe, which we didn’t go in. Instead, we favoured fish and chips eaten in the car (classy!)

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All in all, a very pleasant couple of hours spent in Bournemouth. This set us up nicely for the rest of our break, but also left us wanting to spend a few days (when warmer!) to explore Bournemouth more.

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Knowsley Safari Park

A foggy, dark autumn Sunday took us to Knowsley Safari Park, just on the outskirts of Liverpool for a day out which turned out to be a highly enjoyable day!

While it sounds like a long way to go, it only took 40 minutes from the Yorkshire/Lancashire border of the M62. The Park is well signposted and on the main roads and so if you avoid rush-hour during the week, it is a really easy drive.

Entry into the park was a little slow as only 2 payment windows were open (Drive through style). As such, if you’re the only adult, make sure the payment window is at your side!! We went when it was half price and so we paid £9-ish. As H is under 3, she was free, so pretty good value for money. (Prices as at November 2015).

Upon entry you have 2 options; drive through the safari (you can do this as many times as you like) or go into the animal park. We did the animal park first and everything was surprisingly central. This allowed Heidi to walk most of it herself. This is a bit different to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park which seems to cover much more land.

Animals

In terms of the animals, there were giraffes, which you could get very close to due to the elevated viewing platform. This was a hit, especially as they seemed to like the attention of people looking at them! There were also elephants, but they were a bit less sociable, as well as the usual meerkats etc.

A couple of surprising ones were the sealions and the bats. The sealions have a show which we missed. However, the venue was busy, so it must have been good.  (Update: we have been since and the show is brilliant!). The bats attraction was where you could go into the bats habitat (akin to a cave!) and they were flying free around you. The little ones will either love or hate this. However, if they hate it, the exit is next to the entrance!!
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We didn’t see any of the talks/shows, which I should have factored in, if I was planning properly. But it leaves something to do next time!

Because it was relatively quiet, you didn’t feel as though you had to ‘move on’ after looking at the animals. We spent about 20 minutes looking at an owl, which Heidi thought that she could control and make it whistle by doing a dance for him!
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We had a spot of lunch, which was the usual kids lunchbox. However, there was quite a good range of food for both adults and kids and the prices didn’t seem too bad. There were also vending machines and with these, you could pay by card, which was a first for me!

In terms of nappy changing facilities, they were pretty much standard. However, it would have been good to have a toilet in the same room as the nappy changing mat. This makes it so much easier for single parents!!!

Safari

After seeing the animals in the park, we went on the safari. Because of the low speeds, a lot of parents had their children on their laps so they could see the animals. If you feel comfortable doing this – do it. The kids see much more and it helps pointing animals out to them. You never get out of second gear and it is a once in a lifetime experience! The safari takes around an hour (please note if potty training!) and obviously you can’t get out, as there are lions, tigers and all sorts of other animals on the safari. Most of the animals can get up to the car which can be wonderful for the little ones. However, it is also wonderfully terrifying, so it is a test of parenting and driving skills to make sure they are comforted!

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The “highlight” of the safari is the monkey enclosure. As my car is about to be scrapped, I decided to drive through. But if you have a car that you like, please don’t go in!! You can drive along the outside and see the monkeys, but obviously going into the enclosure, you get really close to them! This is perhaps the most memorable part for Heidi as she mentions the monkeys now with such accuracy and enthusiasm, although she did get scared a little bit. It isn’t every day where monkeys climb on the car!!
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Rides

After the safari, we went on the amusement rides. For £10, you can buy an unlimited ride wristband so you can go on the rides. The best part of this is that parents can go on for free if the kids are little, so you aren’t paying twice. The rides are just right for toddlers/preschool children and the attendants are great in keeping the children entertained (and sat down!). They are good in knowing what little children are like in terms of not knowing what car/boat to go on etc! I have to say thanks to Gemma and Jess for putting a big smile on Heidi’s face when she was going on the roundabout! I am sure the queues would be huge during the summer holidays, but we had free run on the rides!
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So, after 4 hours there, we headed back home after a hugely enjoyable day. You could stay longer if your child had more stamina/was older. However, Heidi was asleep soon after joining the motorway on the way home, which was a bonus!

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Dinosaur Discovery Park (12/9/2015 )

** This attraction is now closed **

On a wet Saturday afternoon, we made our way to Dinosaur Discovery Park, in Horbury Bridge, near Wakefield (WF4 5PT) for an hour of dinosaur excitement.

Before you head off, check the opening times as it isn’t generally open during the week in term time (http://www.dinosaurdiscoverypark.co.uk/) Also, do a Google street view check as to where the place is, as it is hidden away behind a cafe. I made this mistake and had 20 minutes of driving round the same quarter mile stretch of road!!

So, entry is generally £4 each and in the venue is about 10 realistic (from what I imagine given that I am not a dinosaur expert!) dinosaurs which move either my sensor or by you controlling the levers.

The ones with sensors were really good and you can tell that love and effort were put into them all and the ones with levers were perfect for the little ones. Caution, they are a bit scary so if your child is a bit nervous, this may not be the one for you…

The best bit was the dressing up outfits (think Rod Hull and Emu). There was a toddler sized one and an adult sized one and as we had the place to ourselves, we wandered about pretending to be dinosaurs!

The best bit for older kids would be the maze…I don’t want to give any tricks away but this can be quite scary but really fun for those in and out of the maze! It is pitch black and so we used a torch to navigate round as the dark would have been too much for H… Please tell the members of staff if you are going into the maze and are quite nervous…trust me!

There is also a sandpit where you can dig for fossils. This would be good for older kids, but we were having fun dressing as dinosaurs!

If you look on their Facebook page, you will see questionable reviews… if you want to spend all day at an attraction, this won’t be for you. However, if you want to spend an hour going somewhere a bit quirky, seeing something a bit different, and maybe learning something if your child is interested, then it is worth a visit.

It is, however, a little bit surreal for the want of a better word. The dinosaurs are clearly painstakingly built and are deserving of a better location and overall attraction. As the dinosaurs are just placed in a warehouse, there is no underlying activity for the little ones to keep them hooked.

As for the topless caveman and cave woman – while historically accurate (I think…) perhaps not appropriate for a supposedly child friendly attraction. It is in the middle of the attraction so you can’t miss it either – great!

As someone said, you can spend £2 on a 2 minute fairground ride and not bat an eyelid, and in comparison, this is decent value for money. The only way independent outlets like this will survive and grow and get better is if we support them. This stuck with me as the place was empty on a Saturday afternoon… However, I am not overly surprised that it was empty.

In terms of other practicalities, it is completely indoors, flat and so there is no need for a pushchair if your child can walk and actually it is a perfect place for them to toddle about if it is quiet as there is space and it isn’t too big (probably the size of a 5 a side football pitch)

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Ripley Show

We went to the Ripley Show, which is a countryside show/fair held in the grounds of Ripley Castle, Harrogate. It cost £8 per adult and free for toddlers. There are various price points for various ages, young and old. Car parking is free, plentiful and well organised.

The first thing I should point out is that most, if not all, transactions were in cash so don’t rely on the plastic!

Ripley Show is split into 2 sections either side of the lake. The fair side was more “toddler friendly” as the animals were smaller and you could get up close to them. At the heart of the show is the judging of various animals, crafts and other activities. As such, it isn’t a traditional “farm” day out. However, this only adds to the experience of seeing how animals adapt and react to different scenarios.

Speaking of animals on the far side, there were pigs and sheep, along with ferret racing and exhibition

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Perhaps the highlight was the sheep shearing show which was highly entertaining and well worth staying for. For the little ones, you are best getting to the front as the crowds do flock to it. However, because of the outdoor nature of the show, there will always be space.

On the near side of the lake are stalls (numerous and diverse), a cow tent which is exactly how it sounds as well, as well as 4 show rings where the horses seemingly were. There was also a show jumping ground and a dog activity track and there was plenty of activities to watch for the little ones. In some of the tents were some of the entries into the vegetables and crafts competition:

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As Ripley Show is an outdoor event, if it is raining, you are in trouble and so an advance check on the weather is needed! I didn’t see any baby changing facilities so if you need to, take a towel to act as a changing mat! We took a pram because of the size of the grounds and it is difficult for the little ones to walk the large distances. However, some of the terrain is difficult simply because the fields are seemingly used for farming the rest of the year, so it is good exercise! You can also bring dogs (on a lead) so that adds to the atmosphere as well!

Ripley Show is (apparently) a scaled down version of the Yorkshire Show. However, that is a complement as it is excellent value for money and it has everything that you want/expect form such an event. While not marketed for young families specifically, it is pretty much ideal if your little ones are into animals. If not, and they don’t like the Great Outdoors, it won’t be for you!

We have put Ripley Show on our list to visit again next year, so long as the weather is good!!

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Manor Heath Park – Halifax

With only a morning of pleasant weather to play around with on a July Sunday morning, we made our way to Manor Heath park in Halifax, which is about a mile from The Shay.

Manor Heath Park

Free on street parking is plentiful and the park itself is quite sizeable to walk round, if your heart desires. We were drawn by the wet play area and made sure we took a spare set of clothes for Heidi which was a great idea! The wet play area has a small amount of sand and it is just about enough for the little ones and the wet play area is a series of taps and troughs taking the water within the play area. It is good enough to keep the little ones occupied for 15-20 minutes, by which time, the cold water will start having an effect!

We then moved onto the playground which was about twice the size as a standard playground. As such, there was nothing at such a level where a toddler couldn’t go on. The exception to this was a high slide, which is probably for kids aged 8+ but there are a couple of other slides for the smaller ones. The equipment was safe and clean and in good condition. We spent about 30 minutes here before the clouds started formed and we decided to keep on moving. However, we could have stayed another 30 minutes.T

Tropical Centre

We then went into the Manor Heath Park tropical centre. This was the only part which cost us (£1 each, under 5’s are free). It is billed as a butterfly house, but there were no butterflies! However, there were plenty of fish and tropical plants! However, the best part was seeing the terrapins on the path as we walked round. There were so settled that they let Heidi lie down next to them and let her stroke their shells! She was absolutely made up with it!

As you can expect, it is quite hot in there and as it is all flat, try and leave your pushchair in the reception area. This is particularly true as the paths are narrow and they tend to get in the way! We spent about 15 minutes in there which felt about right. There is also a garden which won’t be much interest to the little ones!

There is a cafe on site which seems to have good reviews and there are toilets (20p each). They weren’t the cleanest so if it is dry, you might be best to do a nappy change in the park! All in all, a good morning out and really good value for money!!

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Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…. – Scarborough Edition!

As the temperatures begin to warm up, it is time to start heading to the coast! There is a wealth of things to do on the North Yorks Coast and having thought about this post for a few days, I would be doing it a disservice to try and fit it all in one blog post, so I have decided to concentrate on Scarborough today.

The inspiration for the blog post was that on Tuesday, me and Heidi spent a daddy-daughter day in Scarborough and we both had a wonderful, if exhausting time! Having got parked up at 11, we left at 4 and by 4.01, Heidi was asleep on the way home!

First things first – Scarborough is a nightmare to get to on a summer weekend. The A64 is a slow road after York and so it may be best to go on the M62 to Goole and go up through Howden and Driffield. Take plenty of entertainment for both the big and little ones!!

If you have never been to Scarborough, the sand beach is probably half a mile long from end to end and even at high tide, there is beach available to go on. The town is just above the resort area (South Bay) and accessible via the steep hills/lift cars (approx £1 single). About half a mile away from South Bay is North Bay and while it is possible to walk between the two, it can be tiring.

There are a number of must-dos which have been particular highlights for me and H

South Bay

Scarborough Spa Orchestra – http://www.scarboroughspa.co.uk/orchestra-welcome

During the summer period (July and August) the orchestra do a Monday morning performance called ‘Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ which is aimed at toddlers and young children, but I am amazed at the number of adults without children who turn up. It is quite interactive and a different set is played each week. As the show is aimed towards the little ones, singing, dancing and clapping is encouraged! It is only £3.50 each and lasts for 90 minutes and is brilliant entertainment. I have already booked the first and last shows of the season off work so we can attend. The show is held outdoors (in good weather) so hat and suncream are necessities. Also, they did a Christmas show which was absolutely brilliant!

Fish and Chips

The south bay is filled with fish and chip restaurants, ice cream stalls and arcades. Probably the best one is the Fish Pan on the front (it has a blue front) and the prices are reasonable to sit down and eat and they welcome babies and toddlers. When I went, they didn’t have a changing table, which proved to be a problem. Perhaps a bigger problem is the seagulls on the front, as they are quite large and vicious and they are prone to attack for food, so it is probably best to eat in a restaurant or have someone ready to chase them away. In terms of ice creams, the favourite is the Harbour Bar, where they do lovely ice creams and milkshakes, all set in a 1960’s diner setting. (http://theharbourbar.co.uk/)

North Bay

Sea Life Centre – https://www.visitsealife.com/scarborough/

Full disclosure – we haven’t been here yet, but from the outside, it looks like a good half-day activity and something a little bit different to the usual seaside activities. However, check for 2 for 1 deals or early booking deals.

Peasholm Park – http://www.peasholmpark.com/

Peasholm Park is on the north bay and as part of the park, there is a boating lake as well as miniature golf and on certain weekends, there are events on, in particular dragon boats! It is a really good place to stroll around with the pushchair, as well as being a good place to let your toddler toddle towards the end of the day when it is a bit quieter, although beware of the big ducks and swans!!

Openair Theatre

Across from Peasholm Park is the openair theatre, where they get a number of good acts during the summer season. However, there is also a miniature railway where big and little ones alike can go and have a ride.

Scarborough Cricket Ground

One more for dads rather than tots, but the Scarborough Festival occurs usually in August where Yorkshire CCC play a County Championship game at the cosy ground. The crowds are good so you may have to get tickets beforehand.

Out of town

Mini Monsterz – http://www.minimonsterz.co.uk/

This indoor play area is a bit of a hidden gem, located in an industrial estate in Cayton. The play area is fantastic (I am becoming quite an expert!) and one good thing is that they don’t allow the place to get too full, so everyone has a table and there is enough space in the play area. It is a little bit pricey, especially as they charge for adults, but it is worth the money and the food is good also. They have a similar complex in Whitby, which is just as good (and a bit quieter). As a result, I would head there early in the day and stay for lunch!