Colchester Zoo

August 19, 2012

20120819-131004.jpg

20120819-131020.jpg

20120819-131033.jpg
During a stay at Nana and Grumps’s we took a day out to Colchester Zoo.
We went on Friday, but it was still pretty busy, we had a queue to buy our tickets (£17.99 for adults, £11.50 for children over 3 – but tesco club card points are currently offering £5 tesco voucher for £20 entry voucher for the zoo). It is quite a small zoo, in that it’s quite compact, but still has plenty of different animals to see, we forgot to bring a pushchair for Alice, but in the end didn’t need it as it was all accessible even for little legs. (In fact I think a pushchair would have been difficult to manoeuvre in the narrow, often steep sloped pathways and routes through the animal houses, it would be a nightmare for anyone in a wheelchair!)
After getting in, we tried to head to the bottom end of the park, where the elephants and giraffes are, but on the way were distracted by the chimps, spider monkeys, leopards,meerkats and our picnic – I didn’t mind, the rucksack was quite heavy with all the sandwiches. Then we hurried onto the elephants to make feeding time at 12.10.
You are given the opportunity to feed lots of different animals here. The queue for feeding the elephants was massive and so assumed we wouldn’t get a turn, so wandered about looking at the other near by animals (giraffes, rhinos, zebras and ostriches), but on wandering back the elephant queue was gone, but the elephants were still there and the keepers had some cabbage left so we did get a go, although the girls got a bit worried about elephant snot, so me and Nana got to feed them on their behalf. There are convenient sinks to wash your hands after.
Then we took a ride on the ‘lost Madagascar express’ (little train!) and saw the flamingos and the wolves on the little journey, then the train stopped for us to take a walk around insde the lemur enclosure! Or ‘king Julians’ as my girls called them, after Dreamworks ‘Madagascar’ character. Then stopped for icecream. After that we saw the tigers, wolves, komodo dragons, red panda, penguins, sea lions and orangutans and stopped again for a drink. Martha had a play on the enormous play park by the entrance while I took Alice to see a ‘mummy snake’ (anaconda) – Nana wasn’t too keen on this idea! Then a quick stop at the zoo shop and home.
We had a lovely day out, and I would recommend Colchester zoo to anyone with small children as you get to see all the classic zoo animals up close without too much walking. There were plenty of cafe’s, picnic areas and toilets, and the opportunities for feeding and meeting the animals up close are amazing. It might be worth a bit of pre-visit research to find out exactly what you want to do and at what times.

Legoland

May 15, 2012

Its been a bit shameful that my kids first trip to Legoland Windsor (Resort as it is now)  was last weekend, considering I live 10 mins away and I used to make the models there. This was my first time back in 10 years! and we all had a wonderful time. Sunday was one of our 1st sunny days for months. so we took the opportunity to get out in the sunshine and visit the Park, we made a packed lunch, the girls raided their piggy banks for pocket money and got there early for the 10am opening. Alice is still under 3 so she went for free, Martha has a season ticket (upgraded from her last visit with her Granny and Papa) and Mr Peacock and I shared a 2 for 1 coupon, so effectively we paid for 1 adult ticket which cost £43!! Not bad for a family of 4 but a shocking amount without the vouchers/deals. However with so many vouchers and deals out there at the moment (check out Tesco clubcard points deals and pick up the 2 for 1s on Tesco food packaging), I think paying full price at the gate for a whole family would be a bit like paying full price for a sofa at DFS.

We got on the Hill Train and started at the bottom of the Park at the Dragon coaster, this is exactly the same as I remember it but he magic of seeing it all through the eyes of a 5 year old made it much better. I took Alice onto the smaller ‘Dragon’s Apprentice’ which was the most queuing I did all day, as its only a small coaster with one car it takes an age to wait your turn, but she enjoyed it very much. Then Martha wanted to see Miniland (“the houses you made mummy”) although in honesty I didn’t really work on any newbuild in Miniland while I was here I remember making a few replacement cars and people and small scenes and cleaning it all during the closed season, but that doesn’t sound as good. Then we went into Duploland and had a go on the ‘Chopper Squadron’ it was called whirly birds when I was last here, and ‘Fairy Tale Brook’, ate lunch by the little playground and watched the puppet show. Martha did her driving test at ‘L-Drivers’ in ‘Traffic’ as for the bigger traffic school kids need to be 6 (although the little school was a bit easy for her), and then we went on the ‘Atlantis Submarine Voyage’, which was amazing. The kids loved the sharks and Rays in the tank with lots of Nemo (clown) fish. So much that Alice spent her pocket money on a cuddly fish with ‘sleepy eyes’ at the exit shop. We wandered through Lego City and went on the Orient Expedition train ride, had ice-creams by the lighthouse, did the few fairground rides, now themed ‘Kingdom of the Pharoh’s’ and headed back the The Beginning to see the new Star Wars Miniland exhibit, which was pretty amazing by modelmaking standards, all in miniland scale, a treat for all the nerdy parents but a bit dark and noisy for Alice. Martha took forever in the Big shop looking for something to spend her money on, but we eventually got out and they fell asleep on the way home.

The Park looks fabulous at this time of year, possibly because all the models I made have been removed or are not used anymore, but I know how much work goes into building, repairing, maintaining and cleaning all those Lego models so well done to all my ex-Lego-colleages – good work! The kids both keep asking when we can go back, but I like to keep big days out as one off treats, but I’ll try not to leave it another 10 years!

Littlehampton

July 25, 2010

Another Day out during Mr Peacock’s week off was a trip to the seaside. We were looking for a proper British ‘bucket and spade’ seaside town, with a sandy beach, amusements and a good chippy, and Littlehampton was recommended to us. We got down there about lunchtime and headed for the west beach, and could not understand why there was just a small pebbly bit of beach, until it clicked that it was high tide, one of those extra high summer tides so no sand whatsoever, we could see a small bit of yellow sand over on the east beach so stopped for lunch at the excellent ‘West Beach Cafe’, it’s posher ‘East Beach Cafe’ shaped like an oyster shell, we could see on the other side of the River Arun. It was lovely. We had a smashing lunch of fish/sausages/thai fishcakes and really good chips. Martha scoffed her lunch – which makes a change. (www.eastbeachcafe.co.uk)

We had a little wander about the sand dunes looking for the wildlife highlighted on the information boards, then headed over to the little stretch of sand on the East Beach. Martha went swimming while Alice and I dug in the sand, but the weather was a bit grim and Martha got very cold so we went to the ‘Harbour Park’ amusements. Alice had a little nap in her pushchair and Martha had a ride on the gallopers and a little car that went round and round and up and down, 3 year old heaven. You have to buy tokens for the rides at the harbour park and as they sell them in round numbers and take various amounts on each of the rides you could find yourself bringing a few home. We had ice creams and then as the sun came out and the tide went out, back to the beach to build sandcastles.

Littlehampton was a lovely day out, its a really charming, quiet pretty beach town. How much more ‘British Seaside’ can you get?

We are really, very lucky to live so close to Windsor, for its great Great Park and all the wide open space and greenery. Another jolly day out for Martha is going to “see the soldiers”, as they change the guard at the castle. For those who don’t know, the daily guard change happens at 11am. To “see the soldiers” for free (without going inside the castle), you can watch them march from the barracks to the castle – just before 11, and watch the old guard march back again- just after, they are usually accompanied by a full marching band for extra theatrics.

We went a couple of weeks ago, and then had lunch in Windsor as a treat, although a picnic on the ‘Long Walk’ is usually what follows. Martha loves the build up, we usually try to get a seat on the benches outside the castle opposite the statue of Queen Victoria so we can hear them coming up the hill. This last visit we were treated to the Star Wars theme.

Marwell Wildlife/Zoo

July 17, 2010

Mr Peacock took a week off work last week, we decided not to spend the money on a holiday cottage, but did days out from home.  We have been meaning to take a trip to the zoo for ages. Martha loves animals, but has never seen most of her favourites for real, I don’t know what your stand is in terms of how humane zoos are, but I think that their work in animal conservation should not be completely knocked and as a first experience for many kids to develop an interest in animals and their welfare it has its place.

We had been planning to go to Regents Park’s London Zoo, but have heard that most of their bigger animals have now been moved to Whipsnade (although I would happily go for the Lubetkin Penguin Pool!), and Marwell was recommended as an alternative. It’s an hour away from us down the M3 and so avoided the M25/M1 to Whipsnade. It’s fairly smallish zoo so perfect for little ones and it was pretty quiet – apart from the school groups.

It was a good day out, Martha and Alice loved seeing the animals up close, particularly the penguins. Marwell have windows  so you can see underwater in their enclosure to see them swimming. Most of the animals seemed to have large and well planned spaces and I liked the fact that most of them contained a mix of animals, the zebras shared an enclosure with Ostriches, Waterbuck and Giraffes (although all the giraffes seemed to be in their giraffe house so we got to see them up close, including a very cute baby who seemed to enjoy the attention, posing for photos). Having said that the enclosures for the big cats, Marwell has Leopards, Tigers, and Snow leopards did seem small, but you did at least get to see them, except the tigers who were sleeping in their houses. Its a shame they don’t have any elephants, but we saw lots of other interesting and rare animals including a red panda and white rhinos.

It was a fairly expensive day out with entrance to the park (including a donation and guide book) for 2 adults and 1 child over 3 being almost £45! We took a picnic and there was plenty of picnic spaces, including some undercover ones. Unfortunately we only discovered the undercover ones after a rain shower drove us into the zoo restaurant, which was not too expensive and very comfortable, and much easier to feed the baby. We ate our sandwiches for tea in the car on the way home!

Tate Modern

June 14, 2010

So we finally took Martha (and Alice) to the Tate Modern for a day out on Sunday. Martha broke her collar bone a week ago and I am struggling to find things to do with a 3 year old with one arm. I have been meaning to take her for ages, I love a trip to a gallery or exhibition and hope that both my girls will love it too – or at least find something of interest in the experience so I can carry on poking about the artworks of the world without too much of a fight! So the pressure was on to make her first memorable experience be a good one. (I have taken her a few times before but she was very small since Alice, we have not been round any major gallery spaces.)

I did some groundwork with the Tate website http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/explore/. You can set up your own tour, browsing the artworks for relevant works and adding them to your ‘tour’ for when you visit. I picked works by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Piet Modrian and Bridget Riley, among others. Partly because some of these artists are featured in the gallery on ‘poissonrouge.com’ (any mum who has not discovered this gem – post about it to follow soon). So we took a picnic, and ate it on the patch of grass between the building and the thames, which was lovely. Then we went inside for a poke about. On a weekend (12-4ish?) the Tate offer a scheme called start, which offers free games for kids to play around the galleries, Martha was not inerested but I am sure many other kids would be, you can find a desk with a ‘menu’ of games for various ages between the 2 galleries on level 3. However the prep we had done and the little tour was more than enough to keep my 3.5 year old and me happy, especially as (with a raised voice because of the slight echo) she would find a painting on her tour and announce to the room “mummy we have this one at home”. Her favourite painting was the Bridget Riley that ‘made her eyes go funny’!