It's Feature Friday again! Now who to feature this week...
Last week I wrote about a favourite eaterie of mine, Fat Ted's Streat Food. I almost feel I shouldn't write about somewhere to eat EVERY week, although I easily could.
So, I'll hold that thought and switch it up.
So I just thoughts, days out with the kids right? My mine leapt to BeWILDerwood and Pensthorpe - both absolutely awesome days out and brilliant places to visit but I want to feature somewhere smaller, a hidden gem as it were, and I know just the place...
I LOVE it here. My kids beg to go. I will explain it to you, as it's a pretty unique place.
It's in the middle of woodland and meadow, about a 15 minute drive from Bumblebarn just the other side of Holt. There's a free car park and then you walk down to the little shop & cafe. The shop sells bird food, seeds, nature and garden things, childrens nature toys and books and cards and gifts. The Cafe (I knew I'd end up talking about food!) sells cake, light bites and lunches. There's a fair selection for vegetarians, I like the red pepper and lentil soup that's sometimes on. There's indoor seating by the woodburner, and big windows you can see a wild bird feeding station from so there's always something to spot, even if it is just a fat & happy pigeon! Outside there's more seating, a small garden centre style selection of plants for sale, a pond dipping pond and a cool old chalet (more on that later), oh and toilets. You can visit all of the above for FREE and if you want to see more you can pay a small amount (it's about £3?) to go through the gates and explore the rest of the place. I have a yearly membership, we go so much!
The Pond Dipping Pond is raised up and has nets and trays for children to use, plus a sign with some of the critters you're likely to find on. My kids love it and will happily spend ages there, even breaking the ice in the winter to fish. We found sticklebacks last time, to their delight, and I've been told there are newts but we've not caught those yet. Always lots of big snails!
The Chalet is gorgeous, it has a veranda and chairs and inside there's loads of cool stuff to look at and touch, like owl pellets and skulls and feathers and mouse nests. Things that have been found about the place. There's a microscope for you to use and lots of old books on identification and nature and wildlife. We seem to find something new every visit, like jigsaws or a poster we never spotted before. They also have a Harvest Mouse breeding programme to help reintroduce these tiny animals to the wild and boost the wild numbers, so in the Chalet are 5 or so glass tanks and you can see the baby mice burrowing and climbing stalks and eating and generally being ADORABLE.
So, what's through the gates? Well, you wander through several 'gardens' which have been planned and planted and well thought out, but are very natural and wild too. There is information on the plants, name tags and little boards about interesting things. There's a big cage which once housed red squirrels but now houses dangerous and poisonous plants, so the kids love that, and then there's a woodland walk which runs down by the river Glaven where you can see fish and - if you're really lucky - eel, kingfishers & otters!
There's a big hide by the river which we've always found a good spot for a snack break, and a boardwalk across a marshy area. Then you'll find a nature pond, reptile area with big rocks to tempt lizards out to sun themselves, bug houses, sometimes there are a few Soay sheep, an adorable tiny little willow house with some wild toys like painted "noughts & crosses" stones, a walk through badger sett made of straw bales, a bee & butterfly garden, a herb garden, a wildflower meadow and an orchard. Phew! Then you'll realise you've walked a loop and you're back to the Chalet.
It's so great for small children because that whole loop walk really isn't that far, yet the place feels spacious and wild and just plain lovely. There's no "play park" which my kids hanker for elsewhere, but that doesn't matter at all because the whole place is like a wild, natural play park!
The people who run it are absolutely lovely and are always chatty, helpful and generally great. They're also incredibly knowledgeable, and run several events throughout the year like bat & moth evenings, wild flower walks and more.
In all, it's absolutely worth a visit and the money it costs to get into the "main" bit is well spent. There are also footpaths leading off the site and all around the Glaven valley area, if you'd like to walk further.
I'd recommend it to any of our guests in the warmer months, but it's also an excellent visit on a winter day out as they are open most of the year (check their website to be sure) and it's just lovely.
See you next time! Please feel free to email me if you'd like to recommend somewhere!