Longdown Activity Farm (28/2/2016)

This is the fourth and final episode of our mini break to the South Coast. The other reviews can be found here:

  • Flying with a toddler – Part 1 – (here)
  • Oceanarium and Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)

I found out about this attraction via Twitter (@NewForestBreak) and with it being 10 minutes drive from Paultons Park, we headed down there on a sunny, but cold Sunday February morning, whilst not knowing what to expect really.  Finding the farm is quite easy and there is decent (free) parking the other side of the road, which is fully signposted.

Heidi does like her animals and so it felt like a safe option to spend a couple of hours, and so we went in to see what it was all about. As you go in, there are some toy tractors for the kids to play on, as well as a couple of table tennis tables which were clearly meant for warmer (and less windy days!). However, with our trusty map in hand, we made our way to the animals.

The farm is a traditional farm, in terms of the animals that it has – goats, ducks, cows, horses – pretty much everything Old MacDonald had, except you were allowed to feed them! There are set times to feed set animals so it does help to plan ahead a little and plot your way around the small farm so that you take advantage of these experiences. It would only take 10 minutes to walk from one end to another, so while the farm isn’t huge, it is big enough, especially for little legs!

 

As a result, we began by bottle feeding the baby goats, which was fascinating for Heidi as she has never seen an animal take a bottle and she was able to feed it herself, which was lovely! After that, we went to the animal petting attraction, where tiny baby chicks to hold, as well as able to stroke a rabbit as well as a goat. To finish off, we fed the adult goats, albeit food from a plate as they are clearly past the bottle phase!!

It was lovely to have the opportunity to let Heidi feed and get really close to the animals as it is all well and good seeing them at the other side of the fence, but it was something else letting her feed them. Interspersed with the activities, there are lots of other animal enclosures to look at including ducks, rabbits, horses and calves.

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On a weekend, the little ones are able to ride (for an additional charge) on a Shetland pony, which we took advantage of, especially as Heidi loves to go on the donkeys at the seaside, or use me as a horse in an evening!

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Lovely Shetland pony

There are a number of enclosed (free) trampolines which is a good way to do something a little different and there is also a small, but perfectly adequate (free) play gym, which will keep the little ones busy for half an hour or so, while the adults relax. Even though it was freezing cold outside, it was relatively warm in there, even though the front was completely open! Here (on weekends), there was a facepainter and for an extra charge, children could have their face painted, so the farm got a tiger for an hour or so! Facepainting done by Incredible Faces (http://www.incrediblefaces.co.uk/)

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There’s a Tiger!

In terms of taking a toddler, it is important to be aware that it is a working farm and so expect to be a bit muddy and cold (in winter!) so clothe appropriately. There are toilets, baby change and feeding rooms, which we didn’t go to, but they looked quite good. There is also a cafe and farm shop, but we had spent all our money on facepainting and horse rides!! One thing to note is that you obviously have to wash your hands after finishing stroking an animal so it might be a good idea to wear short sleeves, or take a spare top for the way home. The water is nice and warm, but after a while, the sleeves get all wet and unpleasant.

After all that, we spent 2 hours at Longwood although we did miss a couple of bits out because of a tired toddler. We would definitely go back, and would perhaps go at a slightly different time so we could do some of the other activities that we missed out on as that is the main part of going here.

For more information about Longwood Activity Farm go to http://www.longdownfarm.co.uk/


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Paultons Park – 27/2/2016

This is part of our series of posts detailing our mini-break to the South Coast. There have previously been posts on:

  • Flying with a Toddler – Part 1 – (here)
  • A Day in Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – Part 4 – (here)

and this is the next instalment.

Without being rude to the rest of the Southampton/Bournemouth area, Paultons Park (www.paultonspark.co.uk), or more specifically, Peppa Pig World, was the main reason for us to make the trip, and it certainly didn’t disappoint!

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Entrance into Peppa Pig World

In the planning phase, I contacted Paultons Park as they do certain deals on hotel/tickets and their customer service was brilliant in terms of tailoring their offers to us. The prices didn’t quite match up compared to buying the hotel and tickets separately, but it is worth asking to see what they can do.

To the surprise of some, Peppa Pig World is only one part of a larger theme park (Paultons Park) although it does seem to be the most popular. There are 7 toddler friendly rides in the area, which will entertain the little ones for as long as they can stay awake, as well as a number of “static attractions” including a wonderful, large indoor play area.

My own personal favourite was going into Peppa House and Madame Gazelle’s classroom, although Heidi loved the Dinosaur ride and the cars! There are a couple of rides which are slow, Ferris wheel type rides and so if your child isn’t good with these, then I would give them a miss.

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Peppa’s House!

In terms of waiting times, we went on a cold, cloudy Saturday at the end of February and we had to wait 20 minutes or so for each ride. However, after lunch, it was only about 5 minutes. We returned on the Monday and the waits were about 10 minutes long before lunch and after lunch, there were no queues at all. If we were to do it again, I would possibly have the morning in the hotel before going after lunch. However, I dread to think what the queues would be like in the summer holidays!!

The star attraction is Peppa and George and they have meet and greets (the times are on the back of the classroom building…) and these were really good, informal and you didn’t feel rushed at all, even though they are very popular. The staff looking after the characters are really good with the little children, making sure that they are not overwhelmed by it all, as I imagine that it can be quite a scary proposition!

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Meeting Peppa and George

There is also a beautiful playground of the children to run around in and while not specifically in the Peppa Pig theme, it is a really good way for kids to run around and play, as opposed to being in a queue!

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Part of the playground

The park is littered with models of the characters of the show throughout and the little ones loved seeing them and recalling who they saw. The models are absolutely wonderful and I’m sure one would look good in my back garden!!

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Zoe Zebra – at a Zebra Crossing!

In terms of food, there is a kiosk in the area serving good quality food and drinks, and quite a few picnic tables.  The prices were quite good, although you are allowed to bring food/drinks into the park and so that might be an option. The area has an amazingly good gift shop as well, stocking all things Peppa, and it can be difficult to take a child in! There is a bigger, more generic, shop at the entrance/exit, which has a massive selection of a wide range of toys and gifts.

In terms of baby change facilities, there is limited ones in the toilets in the area, but there are plenty back towards the centre of the park. They also have toilet seats for those who are potty training, which I was really impressed with! (How sad am I?!). The toilet facilities, as well as the park as a whole was really clean and tidy.

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Never seen these before!

You have to remember that there is an entire theme park to enjoy as well, and I think that we were guilty of not spending enough time there due to a tiring toddler (you can get your hand stamped and return to the park). There are quite a number of rides that the little ones can go on, including a gorgeous carrousel and tea cups, as well as play areas, a 4D cinema, and crazy golf.

A word of warning is that the park is quite big, especially for little legs and so I would make sure comfortable shoes are worn, and I would recommend taking a pushchair, if your child is in one. You can hire pushchairs (or similar) at the park as well.

Perhaps a hidden attraction is the number of animals/wildlife that the park has as they are somewhat hidden away. We saw pelicans and flamingos and there is a lovely garden with smaller birds around the edge as well. We came across this as we were leaving and the big open spaces nearby would be perfect for picnics etc. Another hidden attraction was the free Wifi in the park – although it will never be as good as what you have at home, given the huge space the park covers, it worked really well.

For those with older children or able to split off for a couple of hours, there are a number of white knuckle rides, with a new area opening in May 2016. These are certainly not my cup of tea, but will obviously appeal to some and mean that even if you didn’t set foot into Peppa Pig World, you could still have a full day out.

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The Peppa Pig World skyline

It says something that we would go back to Paultons Park again, even though we spent 2 days there already, but that is how good it is.  Upon our return, Heidi has been telling people about her time at Peppa Pig World with such enthusiasm, which means that she has definitely had a good time and I’m sure that we will be contacting Miss Rabbit again at some point to enquire about prices and availability!


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Oceanarium – 26/2/2016

This is part 2 of my write up of the mini break we had on the South Coast.

The other reviews can be found here:

  • Flying with a toddler – Part 1 -(here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – (here)

So after landing in Southampton mid morning, the plan was to drive to Bournemouth and basically explore a bit and have a bit of a seaside day. So after driving 45 minutes, we arrived in Bournemouth. The drive was a lovely, relaxing drive through the New Forest, but due to roadworks, took a bit longer than anticipated. I hear that in summer, this journey is a bit of a nightmare due to traffic, but certainly not a problem in late February!

So after approaching Bournemouth, we followed the painted  (and sometimes worn!) sandcastles on the road down to the beach and picked up signs for an “Oceanarium”. Having not done any research previously, I was putting two and two together as to what it was and we decided to go for it.

Located right on the beach, the view is perfect out to sea, but I imagine that the location also means when it is busy, it is difficult to get to. However, we found a car park very close by and made our way in.

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It turns out the Oceanarium is a marine animal attraction, similar to The Deep in Hull, with penguins, fish, sharks, turtles and a crocodile, as well as a walking tunnel so you feel as though the animals are all around. Our favourites were the lovely large turtles and due to their swimming style, you can tell the little ones that they are waving!

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We stayed for about 90 minutes and caught most of the penguin feeding show which was quite intimate as well, and not in a bad way. Unfortunately with a toddler, you never quite manage to see all of the show, but they are something to plan the visit around.

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In terms of child friendly facilities, there is a very small soft play area, which will give the adults 10 minutes rest as there is only 1 climbing frame so there isn’t much to explore. We didn’t check out the changing facilities, and with most of these kinds of places, navigating with a pushchair would be difficult as it is on a number of levels and the lighting isn’t brilliant as it needs to be dark-ish for the animals. However, navigating carrying a 2 year old toddler isn’t that easy either!!

A couple of things that stand out for the Oceanarium are the beautiful views from within the venue. There is a balcony with seating and an ice cream kiosk at the back of the penguin viewing area which is beautiful and would be fantastic in summer, although a bit nippy in winter!

The second is the fact that you can come and go as much as you want during the day. We didn’t take advantage of this due to having a tired toddler, but given that it is about 10 yards from the beach and pier, you could easily spend all day in the same location, rotating between the Oceanarium, the beach, the pier and the other seafront attractions.

We did briefly venture onto the gorgeous beach, which looked clean, but more importantly, it didn’t look like good sandcastle-making sand as well as the pier, which had amusements and a cafe, which we didn’t go in, instead favouring fish and chips eaten in the car (classy!)

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All in all, a very pleasant couple of hours spent in Bournemouth, which set us up nicely for the rest of our break, but also left us wanting to spend a few days (when warmer!) to explore Bournemouth more.


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Flying with a toddler (26/2/2016)

This is the first of a series of posts telling the story of Heidi’s first “proper” holiday, hopefully giving some hints and tips to those planning on taking a toddler away, as well as making you smile along the way.

The other parts of my mini-break review can be found here:

  • Oceanarium & Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – Part 4 – (here)

So the idea was to go on a short haul flight as a test for a longer trip (think Florida!) in the near future and after hearing about Peppa Pig World down near Southampton, the destination was set. It sounded quite simple, but it never is!

Flying Manchester to Southampton at 8.30am on a Friday meant that we decided to stay close to the airport the night before and we chose Premier Inn South, which is a mile from the airport and relatively handy. You can never go too far wrong with a Premier Inn and the room was everything we really needed, however, the adjoining restaurant wasn’t….

I completely understand that some places are not meant to be child appropriate, and we made a wrong decision to go to that restaurant! The food took an age to come and when you’re finishing at 9pm, that isn’t the best start to a holiday! To be fair, the staff were great (our waitress had a slight scouse accent and a hairband /bandana and was brilliant!) and the food was good, but it was all a bit drawn out. This meant that we had quite a late night…

So an early start took us to Manchester Airport, Terminal 3 to check in and get through security with a tired toddler – great! It took us 40 minutes to get from going through to doors to get past all security so something to bear in mind.

The security staff were brilliantly understanding  (given the job that they have to do)  We were ushered to the priority security lane, probably because we looked a little stressed out and this definitely helped. At T3, there are lots of shops to pass the time with and there is also a small, basic childrens area, but is was a quiet part of the airport and allows children to be children for a bit!

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Given that Manchester Airport is one of the biggest in the country, the changing facilities were good, as you can imagine, and they seemed to be cleaned at regular intervals, which is a must!!! If you have some time to kill, I would try and find a quiet part of the terminal so you don’t feel rushed and everyone can relax a bit.

As Heidi is a good walker and aged 2 3/4, we decided not to take a pushchair as it would have taken an extra pair of hands and made getting through security a bit more difficult. I imagine if you have a small child who is happy to be in a pushchair, it would help to have one going through security etc, but it would have been a nightmare for us!

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So, now to the “exciting” bit – the flight! Having done my research (aircraft geek!) I knew the plane wouldn’t be the biggest and we would have to walk on the tarmac and with it being late February, we wore an extra layer of clothes! I also informed Flybe (our airline) that Heidi was a first time flyer, just so the flight crew were aware in case Heidi got freaked out!

This proved to be a masterstroke as the flight attendants were brilliant (Alex and Alice) as every time they walked past and the opportunity arose, they talked to Heidi, making sure that she was ok and keeping her entertained and engaged with the flight. This additional interaction really helped break up the flight (even though it was only 50 minutes!) and made sure we had trouble free flight.

Flybe do an excellent “Flying with Children” guide here and this helped, but I would give the following advice as well:
– talk about the journey beforehand with your child (if possible) so they understand what is going to happen

– plan your hand luggage very carefully. Know exactly where your wipes, nappies, changing pads, change of clothes etc are so in case of an emergency change, you know without thinking

– pack quiet entertainment. I packed thin paperback books to read to Heidi and that worked well, as did a teddy and other small toys

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– plan for a delay. Carrying an extra pack of wipes or trousers isn’t going to cause any issues, but a 2 hour delay might

– don’t forget the liquids! Unfortunately, security procedures mean that you can’t take more than 100mls of liquid past security, so make sure your hand luggage is packed accordingly and buy a bottle of water for your child after security (and no chocolates, sweets or fizzy pop!)

I did try and take Heidi to the toilets on the plane, to see how she would react, and she didn’t like them to say the least! They are particularly small and I am not sure how you would go on changing a nappy – this is one to ask for the help of the flight attendants, as there might be some spare seats that you could use.

The flight was so smooth, that Heidi was asleep for the last 10 minutes of it, including the landing!

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As a special treat, we were also granted access to the cockpit after taxiing to the terminal, although the conversation was very limited with a groggy toddler!!

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And that was it. Heidi’s first flight and it went remarkably smoothly. Onto the car hire and then Bournemouth for a day at the seaside, which will be the next blog post!


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