What do you get the family or child for Christmas who already has everything they could possibly need? More plastic tat? Or something that’s going to provide memories that last longer than the wrapping paper?
We’re a big fan here of buying experiences rather than stuff. Are you?
This weekend for a few hours, I played tourist in my home town of Hull. I joined a group of bloggers, mostly from out of town, to experience some more grown-up activities, courtesy of Visit Hull and East Yorkshire. It was a nice change to do something without the children. I haven’t played out in Hull as a grown-up very often in my own right since having children. Since then, Hull has experienced a lot of welcome changes, a lot of which were implemented in the run-up to and the duration of Hull’s tenure of UK City of Culture in 2017.
Chester Zoo, in Chester, Cheshire is one place we’ve been meaning to go for a long time. In Summer 2019 we acheived it! We were staying at Delamere Forest camping and caravan club site, and Chester Zoo is approximately a 30 minute drive away.
Hull in East Yorkshire is a great place for a short break. We were City of Culture in 2017 and for good reason. There is a lot of things to do in Hull. We have numerous festivals including the massive Freedom Festival which is on every September, as well as festivals which hark to our maritime history.
InflataNation is on Beverley’s Flemingate development, a (very) short walk from the train station and around 5 – 10 minute walk from the bus station. There is a multi-storey car park right next door which costs from £1 for 3 hours.
We visited here in July 2019 as an after-school treat. Thank you to InflataNation for inviting us.
InflataNation is an indoor adventure park. It’s a massive room full of bouncy-castle fun. It is suitable for all ages from teeny tots to adults. For an after school treat, it was perfect.
Booking is advised – via their website at https://www.inflatanation.com/locations/beverley/ – take care when booking. I didn’t find the website all that intuitive to use and inadvertantly booked the wrong time. I then needed to call up the central helpdesk and get my time moved, which was a little annoying. Ah well, I’ll be more careful next time!
You are advised to turn up half an hour before your allocated time – your time is your bounce time – and you will need some time to book in, complete your waiver form, and de-shoe. To save time, you can print off your waiver form and complete it in advance (the form holds enough space for up to four bouncers),
We turned up half an hour in advance as advised only to find we were the only ones in there – straight to the desk, took two minutes to check in and then we had our pick of the tables in the upstairs seating area before our session started. If you go at a time like we did, you probably won’t need the full half hour, but in busier times you definitely will.
There is a snack bar downstairs which is good for snacks and drinks. You will need at least a drink after an hour of bouncing!
My 8 year old twins love InflataNation. There is lots to do – it’s not just about bouncing – there are slides, ball pit areas, obstacles, and more. I put them through the rope at our start time and only saw them when they needed a quick drink. They don’t need their old mum anymore (apart from being the keeper of the money and the chauffeur).
For us parents, InflataNation has a viewing gallery, a snack bar, and air-con. There is a nice window overlooking the road and the train track below. I’ve spent worse hours to be honest.
After school, it seemed a lot quieter than on a weekend. I would definitely come back to do an after-school session; it was relatively quiet and peaceful, easy to book in, and was a good way of letting the children blow off some steam after a hard day’s graft at school.
InflataNation currently have seven locations around the UK; Beverley, Manchester, Cheshire, Stetchford (Birmingham), Glasgow, Newcastle, and West Bromwich.
Have you visited one?
Disclosure – we were guests of InflataNation. All opinion is our own
We had a good few days. Our holiday was sandwiched between the July heatwave and the August storms. We had a couple of nights which were a bit blustery and we woke up to a partially flooded pitch on our last morning, but we got away with the worst of the weather.
Where is Delamere Forest Camping and Caravanning Club Site?
Delamere Forest camp site is adjacent to Delamere Forest in Cheshire. The Forestry Commission manages the 972 hectares of woodland which is good for walking and cycling. There are six car parks, and a train station right next door to the camp site, which is handy!
The camp site is adjacent to the forest rather than in it. It is a fairly typical Camping & Caravanning Club Site; not too flashy, well maintained, and run by a friendly and helpful team.
What is there at Delamere Forest campsite?
There isn’t much at the site. There is….
toilets and showers, and also a family bathroom
A laundry room
A washing up room
Motorhome toilet disposal point
An information hut
….and that’s about it. There is no park, but the girls did find some very good rope swings a short walk from behind our pitch, which got a lot of use!
The fish and chip van calls on a Friday. There is also an entertaining site cat called DelBoy who likes attention but will let you know if you give him too much – top tip, wear trousers.
The site has an 11pm to 7am curfew when the site gates are also locked to cars. While the site gets some noise from the nearby road, railway line, and the occasional plane, there was no noise from the site itself once 11pm came around. We have found that Camping & Caravanning Club Sites tend to have well-behaved guests who appreciate the value of sleep, and Delamere Forest is no exception.
The Wi-Fi wasn’t the best, either getting on it or getting any decent speeds, but I did get a very strong mobile signal all week, which I wasn’t relying on before I got there.
What pitches are available at Delamere Forest?
We stayed on a grass pitch with EHU. It did get boggy on our last night but then we had got a lot of rain overnight. To be fair, it did look the worst pitch on the entire site that day, so I wouldn’t say that Delamere Forest camp site has a significant waterlogging problem.
There is a mix of grass and hard-standing pitches, and EHU and non-EHU pitches. In total, there are about 40 pitches. If you want less noise, ask for a site away from the busy road, though this might put you in closer proximity to the railway line – where the trains stop about midnight.
We found our pitch to be a good size, level, and not too springy considering the rain we had in the UK throughout July. Our pitch was quite far from our electric point so we borrowed an extension lead from the site for £10 refundable deposit. Pitches were a nice distance from the neighbours and there was room to put the car next to the tent.
What is there to do at Delamere Forest?
There is lots to do at and from Delamere Forest Camping & Caravanning Club Site…….
1 – Explore Delamere Forest
The main things to do are a lot of walking and cycling. There are two gates from the campsite with direct pedestrian access to the forest. Here we found some rope swings.
There is also a Gruffalo trail. We did find the starting point for this, which is a short walk from the Go Ape! cabin.
2 –Go Ape!
A little further down and you get to Go Ape! We love Go Ape! and have done the course at Dalby Forest in Yorkshire a couple of times – both the full and the junior versions. We also tried out the Delamere Forest Go Ape! and both courses here got the thumbs up. I can state that the senior version is much higher and more challenging than the Dalby Forest one, but I didn’t cry once. It was hard work and I was fully prepared not to be able to walk the day after, but I did OK on that front. This is a great experience for 2 – 3 hours and is recommended for anyone that likes a challenge.
3 – Go on a train trip
From the Train Station right next door (go out the main gates, down the road for about 200 yards, and then you’re there!) you can get trains to Chester or Manchester.
The trains are fairly frequent and run til quite late. We decided to go to Rhyl for the day, which was about 90 minutes from Delamere, including the change at Chester. Chester itself looks worth a visit and we will definitely be visiting there on a future trip.
4 – Visit Cheshire Oaks.
Cheshire Oaks is a huge outdoor shopping village adjacent to The Coliseum, an entertainments park. We went one day here as the teen was booked onto a movie at Vue she absolutely HAD to see. Me and the tween went around the shops, and there was more than enough to keep us occupied, including the Cadbury and Lindt outlets, an M&S outlet, and The Works. We lunched at Wagamamas.
Free all day parking, and very easy to find. This is about 20 – 30 minutes drive from Delamere Forest.
5 – Visit Gulliver’s World in Warrington.
The twins wanted to do a return visit to Gulliver’s World. They had been with grandma last year and loved it. So while me and the girls shopped and lunched in Cheshire Oaks, the twins took Dad to Gulliver’s. They had another good day despite some heavy showers. It’s about a 30 – 40 minute drive from Delamere Forest. Have you been to Gulliver’s World?
6 – Go to Chester Zoo.
We have all been wanting to do Chester Zoo for a long time so we took the opportunity to go while we were at Delamere Forest. It’s about 25 – 30 minute drive from Delamere Forest.
Chester Zoo is huge! It felt a lot bigger than other zoos we’ve visited, and it was a superb value day. We were there from 11am until about 5pm and saw soooo many animals. We took a picnic to save some cash and there were lots of places to eat.
What did we think of Delamere Forest Camping and Caravanning Club site?
We like the site. It’s clean, quiet, and family-friendly. There isn’t much to do on the site itself but there were lots of other families there and the younger girls soon made some friends to play with.
We loved the wildlife – there was a good variety of birds and also some fairly tame rabbits which came out at dusk to eat the grass around the tents
It’s a good base for exploring Cheshire and there are some good local attractions. We would definitely use the site on future trips to the area.
Disclosure – we were guests of The Camping & Caravanning Club. All opinion is our own.
With half-term on the horizon, Lightwater Valley invited us up to have a day out and see what has changed since our last visit (back in 2013). I have to say that while we loved our day out there six years ago, we could see room for improvement. The improvements have been made, and more, and we had another fantastic day out. Thank you, Lightwater Valley!
This is a guest post about The Hawk Conservancy Trust in Hampshire by Emma of Bavarian Sojourn. Emma is a Mum of three, a recent repatriate to the UK after a lengthy stint abroad, and she last visited the Hawk Conservancy when she was around 11 years old (and she’s not going to tell you how long ago that was!)…
Emma and her family were guests of the Hawk Conservancy for the day.
The Hawk Conservancy (just off the A303 in Weyhill near Andover) started
life as Weyhill Zoo in 1966. Between 1980-1981 the decision was made to
specialise in birds alone. It’s now home to a large collection of
raptors, with many having been rehabilitated. It has a focus on European
birds in particular, but there are many from further afield too.
Our visit took place in the first week of the Easter holidays before the
spell of beautiful warm weather. The grey drizzly day meant that
The Hawk Conservancy was possibly less busy than it might have been, but the
weather didn’t detract from our visit at all.
My last visit (my parents ran a village pub nearby) was quite a long time
ago now, so to see how it’s expanded in terms of size and of influence in
conservation fields was really wonderful.
We were given children’s activity sheets on arrival, and these helped keep
our three-year-old occupied throughout the day (with a prize at the
end!). He made his first port of call the bird-themed play area, which
gave me plenty of time to take pictures of a few feathered residents.
Throughout the day there demonstrations and talks aplenty. We
learned all about Vultures and why they are so important (whilst they enjoyed
brunch!). The fact that they are disappearing due to poisoning and
other factors is sad, and worrying for the ecosystem, and the Hawk Conservancy
is instrumental in trying to change people’s opinions on these misunderstood
birds (and helping to rescue those that have been poisoned). We
definitely came away with different views on these hilarious characters.
We then went on to watch them in the Wings of Africa Flying Display, where
we might have imagined ourselves in the midst of some African plain if it
hadn’t been for the weather. Talking of water, take care of where you sit
and take heed of the splash zone warnings if you don’t want to get wet!
We didn’t really mind, the owl almost brushing the top of our heads more than
made up for that!
The secretary bird was also a huge hit with all three children, his super
fierce snake “killing” demonstration was actually very sweet (just
don’t tell him that, I would hate to hurt his feelings!)…
Then it was time for the real highlight of our visit – meeting the
Burrowers. Not the tiny people who lived secretly in the doors and walls
of an English house, but a family of tiny Burrowing Owls hailing from North and
South America, and quite possibly the cutest birds I have ever seen.
Whilst you have to pay extra in addition to the entrance costs for this
VIP Encounter, it’s honestly well worth it in our opinion as you get a decent
amount of time with them inside their enclosure, and as there’s a limited
number of people allowed in each session, it’s a truly unique experience.
We were entranced by these tiny owls who were perfectly free to stay in
their tunnels if they felt like it, but instead inspected us as much as we
inspected them as they ran between our feet, hopped on our laps and perched on
our hands. Whilst the three-year-old was too young to meet them
(the minimum age is 6), my 12-year old and 14-year old were utterly captivated
and even managed to get a selfie or two with their new friends. It’s not every
day you get to do something like that!
After a good hearty lunch at Feathers Restaurant (they also do cream teas
here that looked really great!), we headed over to watch the Valley of the
Eagles flying display (which was also watched by a few wild raptors on the
outskirts!). The grand finale was the flight of an American Eagle who had
started his journey a good few miles away in a demonstration on how fast he can
fly. The Three-Year-old was starting to flag at this point, but we
were able to blackmail him with the promise of a tractor ride on the cowslip
covered meadow dedicated to the Hawk Conservancy Founder – Reg Smith. A
great end to the day!
The Hawk Conservancy is open all year round with the exception of Christmas
Day, Boxing Day, and a short period of time at the beginning of each year when
essential maintenance takes place. We thought it to be very
accessible for pushchair/wheelchair users, and family friendly.
It’s really not your average day out, the conservation, rescue, research and rehabilitation work the Hawk Conservancy do both for birds in the UK and across the world is really humbling, and we found it to be a really inspiring family day out. Plus, where else can you get to meet a Burrowing Owl? Highly recommended.
Disclosure – Emma and her family were guests of The Hawk Conservancy for the purposes of this review. All opinion is their own. Information correct at the time of publication.