Today we returned to Knebworth House which is close to Stevenage in Hertfordshire. It is very well signed locally and is just off of the A1M.
Knebworth is a Tudor-Gothic style house surrounded by formal gardens and acres of parkland.
The gardens are very pleasant with different areas to explore such as woodland, a kitchen Garden, formal gardens and a maze.
Also within the gardens are Knebworths dinsosaurs ! There are about 30 large fibreglass dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures to be found. All have information boards about them and there is also a chalk board to draw on and a sound machine which you turn to make the sounds of some of the creatures.
You can tour round the house itself with a guide. Les has done it before and found it interesting but I think the tour is designed for adults or older teens as both boys found it a little dull. In this area there is also a cafe and restaurant and a shop.
We then headed to the adventure playground. There are things here for all ages, like a water play area, obstacle courses, a bouncy castle, a wooden fort with climbing equipment, zip wires and swings and various other apparatus but one of the main draws in the play area are the astro slides.
There are three types, a slower more gradual astro slide which is suitable for all ages and then a spiral slide which is very fast and has a slight drop so suitable for slightly older children and finally a "deat hslide" which has a vertical drop. All of these have staff supervising at the top of the slide to make sure children are correctly in their mats. The slides are always a big hit with my two.
Knebworth has something for all the family and I would highly recommend it.
Over this bank holiday weekend Audley End which is an English Heritage property in Essex had a World War two event on.
Audley End is close to the Essex/Cambridgeshire border and is well signed.
The house itself is interesting with stuffed animals, shell and fossil collections, and lots of paintings and weaponry on the walls.
There are formal gardens to the back of the house and the rest of the gardens is parkland designed by Capability Brown which covers acres of the surrounding landscape.
This weekend they had various activities on linked to the war which included demonstrations of guns and grenades, military vehicles that children could sit in, parachuting demonstrations and a reenactment of the storming of a bridge complete with explosions.
Also there were children's activities such as traditional games like skittles, battleship, hoopla etc and cargo nets to climb under. An assault course was also set up for children complete with a very bossy Sergeant Major to put them through their paces.
There were lots of re-enactors with equipment you could look at and they were all very welcoming to our questions.
It was a good day out. A nice location and an interesting event.
In the north of Bedfordshire is a village called Cardington which is home to two humongous hangers, originally built to house airships in the early 1900's, famously being home to the R101 Airship.
More recently the sheds have been used for filming for Batman, Star Wars and Inception and for tv programmes like Its Not Rocket Science and Top Gear and also music videos such as Rihanna's Shut Up And Drive.
One of the sheds is home to the Airlander 10 a hybrid airship which is currently the largest flying aircraft of all time. Last week the Airship made its maiden flight and today we found out that it was undertaking another test flight so we headed over to Cardington to see if we could get a good view of it.
We were very lucky to find a field which was right next to the site and we got a great view of the airship flying, circling and then landing successfully before then taking off a few minutes later for a second flight.
An amazing experience.
Today we visited Ashridge Forest near Tring in Hertfordshire with some friends. Its free to park and there is always lots of space as it covers over 5000 acres of the Chilterns countryside.
First we headed to see the Bridgewater Monument which is the first thing you notice when you arrive. You can climb to the top via 172 steps and it has far stretching views including towards London. There is a small charge to climb it and the staff gave us some binoculars for the children to use at the top and a spotting sheet so we knew what to look out for.
We then headed for a little play area to the left of the monument which had logs etc to climb on and over.
There are lots of different walks that you can do at Ashridge which vary in length from about 1 mile to over 10 miles so it really depends how energetic you feel. The visitors centre has maps of the different routes.
We took the path that circles the meadow and found plenty of dens and things to explore in the woodland.
The main meadow and the area in front of the monument have open spaces so are suitable for ball games/ kite flying etc.
There is also a small visitors centre, shop and cafe near the monument.
Ashridge Estate is a 2,000 hectare (5,000 acres) area of the Chiltern Hills with beech and oak woodlands, commons and chalk downlands.
Today we visited Stockwood Park in Luton which is just off Junction 10 of the M1 and is very well signed. The park itself is lovely with lots of different areas to explore and it has its own cafe and shop and play areas.
At the moment there is a Lego "Brick Kingdom" exhibition on until the 4th September with castle/medieval themed creations.
When you arrive you are given a quest booklet to complete as you go round and you are sent to see a short video of a princess explaining how her castle has been taken and how she needs your help.
After this you head around the exhibition, filling in clues as you go. There was even a Lego film quiz for the adults which was good fun.
There were dressing up things for children to be knights or princesses and a massive castle which children were free to add their own touches to.
The professional models were very impressive and the sheer scale of some of them was unbelievable, especially a massive griffin and a roaring dragon.
I would highly recommend the exhibition for all children up to about age 13.
We also took part in a Lego workshop before we went to the exhibition. This is a separate event but again we'd recommend it. We started by making bricks for a castle wall in a timed challenge and then went on to build catapults before finally making a Lego dragon that the boys were allowed to bring home.
The exhibition is on until the 4th September and when I asked today there was still some availability on the workshops too.
Yesterday we visited Greys Court which is a National Trust Property just outside of Henley Upon Thames. It comprises a medieval castle tower and a Tudor style house and gardens.
The first thing the boys wanted to discover though was the donkey wheel. This was basically a massive donkey sized hamster wheel that the donkey would walk around in order to raise water from a well.
We then headed to the meadows near the house as the boys wanted to see the many Guernsey cows and their calves that were grazing there.
The gardens at Greys Court were split into different areas and there was lots for the boys to explore including tunnels around a wisteria that was over 100 years old and a brick maze.
The house itself was interesting and the boys Grandad played the grand piano that was in the main room. They did have a childrens guide to the house which the boys looked at but the staff were not overly child friendly so I would probably advise sticking to the gardens if you are visiting with younger children.
There is a small shop on site and a cafe in the former cow sheds which was nicely refurbished
Last Sunday we headed back to Woburn Abbey Gardens, in Bedfordshire which is well signed from both the A5 and the M1.
The gardens are really great for exploring as there are lots of different areas including a pond, grotto, aviary, green house, maze and Chinese temple among other things.
The gardens are lovely themselves but what makes them even better is that to get to them you have to take a drive through Woburn's deer park which is home to over 3000 deer which can be easily seen as you pass through.
This time when we visited they had a special trail on which is apparently on for the whole summer holidays. It was themed on the Olympics and you had to find different trophy signs with the names of Olympic sports dotted around the ground and if you found them all you got a gold chocolate medal.
There were also little challenges as you went round like how long you could hula hoop or skip for etc. In the centre of the gardens they had set up a big gazebo set up with giant jenga and connect four, skittles, cricket, bean bags, croquet and bowls which you could try.
Woburn is well worth a visit at any time but this made it even more fun !
Today we went with family to Grove Farm in Ivinghoe, Hertfordshire which is a pick your own farm.
This was a great activity for the children. They enjoyed the novelty of riding in a wheelbarrow !
We picked green beans and raspberries but they have a real variety of produce growing here and David was impressed and interested by the field of solar panels that they now have and James was more drawn to the sheep !
The staff were really friendly and helpful. A lovely morning out.
Today we visited Aylesbury to see the Buckinghamshire County Museum. Its centrally located and quite well signed from the town centre where there are lots of places to park.
The museum is divided into the main Buckinghamshire County Museum, which is free and a separate Roald Dahl Children's Gallery for which there is a small charge.
We headed to this first, and as you enter you are taken into the world of Roald Dahl's imagination. It really is a good museum for children, as everything is hands on and there is lots to experiment with and experience. The staff were fantastic in showing all the features to the children and getting them engaged.
As we entered we saw a giant peach, complete with James and the other characters on top which you could go inside. There were microscopes with various bugs and things to examine, fossils and corals to feel, butterflies to look at and puzzles to do etc.
There was a great dress up area, where you could be like Roald Dahl or a character from one of his stories.
A real hit with all the kids seemed to be Mr Fox's tunnel which you could crawl through and discover different things and your face came up on a tv screen which the kids loved.
There was a lot in this area to promote curiosity, including an area to experiment with sounds and then a separate quiet reading room. This had copies of all Dahl's books and you could sit and read for as long as you wanted.
There was also a second floor to the gallery which you accessed via a great glass elevator!!
On the second floor you experimented with mirrors and perception, Illusions and shadows. The boys loved standing against a green screen and using an "invisibility cape to disappear. There was also a shadow room where you could pose and a flash would freeze your shadows so you could look at them.
It really was a lot of fun and we spent a good chunk of time here. After we had seen everything in the Roald Dahl galleries we headed back to the main Buckinghamshire County Museum.
The museum has a small cafe and shop as you enter and they lead on to the exhibition rooms.
There are some permanent features to the museum which include a tudor house area which had interactive bits for the children to do and the rooms had been stripped so you could see the tudor features.
They also have temporary exhibitions which change each season. At the moment they had a further feature on Roald Dahl to commemorate 100 years since his birth. Again this had books to read, animals to look at and information about his life, inspirations and books.
There was also a gallery with a mammoth tusk, fossils, and other objects that had been found locally. There were lots of things in this area for toddlers and younger children to do and I believe during the summer holidays they also do craft activities all day for which there is a small charge.
The museum also had a small garden at the back of it which would be suitable for picnics on a sunny day.
I would say you'd need about 2 to 3 hours to see both parts of the museum and we'd highly recommend it for both variety and for being a lot of fun.