Thanks to the lovely Natalie who blogs at Mummyinahurry for this really useful guest post
Surrey Days Out
I currently live in North Surrey, where I grew up (there was about a 10 year hiatus while I moved away!!). We are now about to move to North West Surrey, so I know those two areas particularly well, and have to confess that this guide is a little skewed in favour of places that are close by.
FREE DAYS OUT
I love a bargain (dont we all?!!) and when you have little ones in tow, a day out can get extremely expensive. So I will start with my favourite days out that are free (or as good as free).
Richmond Park is one of Londons natural wonders. To come across such wild and rugged scenery, complete with deers, just a stones throw from the urban jungle, it feels like a day in the country, without the long drive. There are dedicated cycle paths, so you can hop on your bikes with the kids, and go on a mountain bike trail. Or you can park and walk. If you don’t own a bike, there are facilities to hire bikes near Roehampton gate. There are 2 kids playgrounds within the park, and of course it is the perfect environment to fly a kite on a windy day, so spend a rainy day making one with the kids, and the next windy day flying it. For more information on whats on offer, have a look at the website.
Bushy Park. This is another recent discovery, (and another Royal Park) introduced to me by my husband. In between Kingston and Hampton Court, this spectacular park is a great day out with the family. Take a picnic. There is a fantastic well kept childrens’ playground, a boating pond, sports pitches etc. There are nature trails too, and like Richmond Park it has its own deer in the park. And there is a fantastic open air pool at the park too (although this does have a fee). Perfect for cooling off on a hot summers day (we can dream of summer!!).
Hampton Court Palace
Almost across the road from bushy park, you will find Hampton Court Palace. It is expensive to do the whole tour, and on the whole I would save that for slightly older children. But the gardens are spectacular, and the Maze can keep you occupied for hours. There is only a small fee charge for the Gardens or the Maze, and on a lovely summers day, its the perfect spot to picnic by the river.
Another of our favourite (free) days out is a trip to Box Hill. We take a packed lunch (usually eaten in the car) then wander through the woodland looking for ‘The Gruffalo’ . The OH makes Gruffalo noises (!) and the children spend ages checking behind trees and bushes. We never find him, but the children don’t seem to mind!! There are also great bike trails there and you can hire bike nearby too.
National Trust Membership
Now I know that this is not cheap, but cost per use, for our family it offers excellent value. You get free parking and entry at National Trust Locations. We make the most of it and visit at every opportunity. But if you don’t want to pay out up front, many of them have fantastic gardens, and the cost of the ticket for those parts is minimal.
Our favourite National Trust Locations
Claremont Landscape Gardens
Aside from Box Hill, one place I can thoroughly recommend is Claremont Landscape Gardens. The location is stunning and there is plenty of space for the children to run around, aswell as a very well equipped playground that has kept my little ones busy for hours. During the summer they offer Children’s craft workshops, storytelling and trails.
Ham House, just down the road from Richmond is another great find. I have yet to take the children inside, but there is a lovely garden by the orangery where the children can run around in sight, while you grab a cuppa. They even offer a fairly healthy lunch pack for the kids at £2.95 if you are fed up with making your own!
Morden Hall Park
Morden Hall Park. This is a welcome surprise, nestled in the middle of surburbia, at the end of the tube line. It is an oasis of calm with a fabulous and fragrant rose garden, wetlands and waterways, and some historic buildings to explore. They even sell locally made honey there. IIt is very flat and great for cycling. It is adjacent to a lovely garden centre, and I often take the children there to have a look at the fish as there is a large aquatic centre. And just down the road is the small but lovely (and free!!) Deen City Farm. Its not somewhere you would go for the day, but its a great way to while away a couple of hours with the kids.
Bocketts Farm in Dorking, is a great mix of playspaces for the children, with all the usual farm animals you would expect. There are goats, sheep and cows that the children can feed, pony rides, and my personal favourite, the pig racing, which is hilarious and always draws a crowd. They also put on meet the animals talks, where the children can get to ask questions and pet the animals. There is a large outdoor picnicing area, complete with sandpit, slides and huge playground, and if the weather is dire, there are trampolines and an indoor playbarn too. The only trouble I have when dealing with 2 on my own (bear in mind my children are 4 and 2) is stopping them from running off in opposite directions, as the farm is quite large. Its not cheap (£22.25 for me plus 4yo and 2yo), but you can get a full day out of it, and take your own food, so on balance, I think its well worth the money.
This is an altogether different experience to Bocketts Farm. Its a working farm located in picturesque Esher where you can pick your own fruit and veg. Its free to go along, and a fantastic way to show the children where their fruit and vegetables come from. We visited last year in the height of summer. There is a lovely picnic area, with tables and a tractor for the children to play on. They really love to join in with the fruit picking, and you only pay for that which you pick, so you can keep it on budget. You can check in advance of your visit as to whats in season as they publish the information on their website.
And if none of that whets your appetite, my fallback is the Surrey Days Out with the Kids Guide, which is full of ideas and information.
Until a year ago, I worked in the West-End of London as a lawyer, and by night assumed the hat of wife/housewife and mum. There were never enough hours in the day, and so I took the plunge, gave up paid work for unpaid domestic bliss/drudge (depends which day you get me on!!), and found there are still not enough hours in the day. I love cooking, getting a good deal at the shops, and champagne!! I often involve the children with the meal preparation, and they love to join it. I prefer recipes that are simple, tasty and fast, leaving the fancy stuff to the restaurants. I have managed to pick up many tips and shortcuts from other mums along the way, and I like to share my recipes, activity ideas and domestic shortcuts with the world on my blog. Please pop by to say hello at http://mummyinahurry.wordpress.com I love comments, and questions, so fire away!