Much as I love a good theme park, some of our best days out are out in the wild, running free.
We live in Dorset, close enough to visit the seaside, forest or countryside – all of which is fun and best of all free. There are a few country parks local to us but one of our favourites is Avon Heath as it is less commercialised than its close neighbour Moors Valley.
Avon Heath has miles of tracks offering an opportunity to explore some of Dorset’s internationally important heathland and its rare wildlife. The park is dominated by lowland and wet heath, acid grassland and heather, which is broken only by clumps of birch and pine and we always take a different path whenever we visit in the hope of spotting some of the resident creatures which include Sand Lizards, Smooth Snakes, Dartford Warblers, Woodlarks, Nightjars and the Silver-studded Blue butterfly.
Spotting wildlife isn’t for everyone although they have made it easier here with a hide and a big blackboard to write down what you have seen that day and the kids love to join in, even if they have just seen a Wood Pigeon.
So what are the 10 best things to do when at a Country Park?
1. Climbing Trees – make sure you find a sturdy one with lots of branches to make getting up, and back down, easier.
2. Animal Tracking – this is great fun to do along sandy or muddy pathways. We found lots of dog paw prints and also some birds and judging by some rather large cow pats, there were some cows around too
3. Jumping Up and Down in Muddy Puddles – if it has been raining, and it has been raining a LOT, take a change of clothes for the kids, don your wellies and release your inner Peppa Pig.
4. Look for local wildlife – Wildlife is all around us and we have found ants, snails, beetles, worms and of course bigger creatures like horses and cows. We haven’t been lucky enough to spot a deer yet though.
5. Water Play – Nothing seems to capture a child’s imagination like water. We have great fun skimming stones, creating ripples or just gazing at our reflections in the water.
6. Build a Den – OK, so this one we found pre-built but we added our own finishing touches to it. I love watching it fire the kids imaginations and they were busy “cooking” us all sorts of wonderful delights.
7. Walking with Friends – it is always more fun when you go out with friends and we were hanging out with the CharlieMoos gang. When one child got tired the others rallied round and we had races, sword fights (with sticks), joke telling and a few games of hide and seek.
8. Find a stick! – When you are a child there is apparently no better toy than a stick. You can build your own stickman, have sword fights and even pretend its a gun. Apparently the bigger the stick, the better it is!!
9. Take a picnic – Nothing beats eating in the great outdoors where you can find a comfy spot and sit down to eat whilst having a good old natter with friends and family.
10. Let them run free and watch their imaginations fire. Eliza was looking for elves and fairies here and the boys were off building a bridge over a stream.
There is so much to do outdoors and all seasons are different, plus a I find a couple of hours of outdoor play puts my kids in a better mood and they sleep better that night!!
What are your favourite things to do when visiting a country park?