January 15

A great day out at Drusillas Park

_dsc4257We recently spent a long weekend exploring East Sussex and began at Drusillas Park in Alfriston, East Sussex. It’s somewhere I’d driven past many times over the years before I had children, but now with two of them, it seemed a perfect time to visit – and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

penguin-bayDrusillas Park was one of the earliest zoos to open in the UK. It was founded in 1925 when Douglas Ann bought an old farm and 20 acres of land and opened the cottage to sell refreshments to motorists, naming it after his wife Drusilla.

Over the next few years animals, including a kangaroos and a chimpanzee, were added to boost trade and it now has more than 130 types of animals and it is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in Sussex.

squirrel-monkey-11It is also considered to be one of the most progressive zoos in the country and many of the animals are involved in breeding programmes to ensure the survival of their species.

There’s clearly a great deal of care and attention to detail at Drusillas which is evident by the fact that considerable effort has clearly been put in to educating visitors about the animals they are seeing, including a lot of detail in the petting zoo relating to where meat and milk comes from.

We were all very impressed by the free colour booklets which the children were able to collect the ink stamps from beside a number of different animals as we made our way round the exhibits and various exhibits where children could test, for example, how high they could climb and how loud they could shout.

lory-landing-2We’re lucky enough to live near a zoo back home in Hampshire (Marwell) and although smaller in acreage, Drusillas Park has ample attractions to keep you occupied during the day.

Most popular for my children were the Meerkats (everyone loves meerkats!), Lemurland – in which we could see ring-tail and black lemurs up close and personal and, my favourites, the Rainbow Lorikeets – one of which landed on my hand within seconds of entering their compound.

go-wild-5-copyAway from the animals, Drusillas has ample attractions to keep you occupied during the day including an extensive play area, a Thomas and Friends train ride, an Egyptian themed maze, which my son loved, and for small people, a Hello Kitty Secret Garden.

All in all, an excellent place to spend a day out, which I can’t recommend highly enough.

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June 12

A Museum Road Trip

11057979_10154031840355842_3122813534213886112_oMy Small Son recently went on a road trip of an educational kind – to Dorset and Somerset on the trail of two military museums we’ve been wanting to visit for some time.

On a Friday afternoon we headed along the coast to Dorchester in Dorset where we stayed as guests of Premier Inn in the chain’s new hotel in the Brewery Square development. Last time I visited Dorchester, a few years back, the brewery site was a run-down yet majestic bit of Victorian industrial legacy. I feared it might be bulldozed, but was delighted to find that it has been kept intact and used wisely, as a site for leisure and housing. The old buildings now sit next to modern flats and restaurants and fortunately their scale means the modern buildings don’t overshadow then.

eat-kitchenrestaurant_2We’ve only stayed at a Premier Inn once before and had been very pleasantly surprised. Owners Whitbread really seem to have nailed the budget hotel end of the market. Very speedy check-in (with machines that give you your room key) and clean, crisp and quiet rooms – basically all you need for a quick stopover. The in-house restaurant has a simple menu which will suit most (with plenty of options for children) and the breakfast is both reasonably priced and the quality high (even down to same organic yoghurts we have at home). The staff at the hotel couldn’t have been friendlier and with a car park underneath the building, it couldn’t have been more convenient. We’ll definitely be back – in fact we’ve already booked!

20160402_125112 (Medium)After a hearty breakfast on the Saturday morning we packed up and headed off to our first museum – the Tank Museum at Bovington, which neither of us had been to before – and it didn’t disappoint. The vast museum is home to more than 300 vehicles ranging from Little Willie, the first ever tank to the dreaded German Second War War Tiger tank to the powerful modern Challenger 2.

The museum has six large halls including one with a superb recreation of First World War trenches in 1916, which felt really evocative and poignant. Obviously there are a lot of tanks at Bovington but the museum does a fine job of telling the stories and sharing the experiences of the men who fought and died in these claustrophobic metal boxes. There’s also a clever recreation of a tank factory and the story of tanks in warfare is brought right up to date with a large recreation of a base in Helmand Province in Afghanistan.20160402_130820 (Medium)

There is lots to see so its worth allowing the best part of a day for your visit and we were at the museum until near to closing time – but before we left we went outside and went for a spin around the arena on a modern tracked vehicle which was bouncy, noisy and great fun. Afterwards we headed off on a 40 minute drive to the next stop on our Museum Road Trip – Yeovil in Somerset (and a stay at another Premier Inn).20160402_164108 (Medium)

Every time we go to the West Country via the infamous A303 I make a mental note to visit the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton – and today, finally, was that day. And wow – what a great museum. I was born in Portsmouth and still live quite close so I’ve been to the other National Museums of the Royal Navy (NMRN Portsmouth and Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, Royal Navy Submarine Museum and the Royal Marines Museum). The Fleet Air Arm Museum is the fourth and final – and was well worth the trip.

20160403_102156 (Medium)Like the tank museum, it’s a vast site with four large exhibition halls, more than ninety aircraft and thousands of artefacts. It is Europe’s largest naval aviation museum and tells the story of naval aviation from its origins at the beginning of the 20 century to the modern day. The highlight for us was a superb recreation of an aircraft carrier which enthralled my son and me. In fact. I thought was one of the best museum exhibitions I’d ever seen, and it certainty deserves its award-winning status.20160403_124125 (Medium)

To reach it you board a helicopter and are then “flown” out to the flight desk where you are able to walk amongst aircraft and then watch jets take off and land. You then go on a highly realistic tour below decks and see how the ship operates. Other particular favourite exhibits for us were going on the first British built Concorde, sitting inside a jet and watching a film about the helicopter rescues during a huge flood in Boscastle in Cornwall, where we had stayed recently.20160403_132913 (Medium)

Like the Tank Museum, the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton is well worth a visit. It’s innovative, interesting and well thought out. Both museums are highly recommended.


Notes: Our stay at Premier Inn, Dorchester was courtesy of the hotel and our entrance to the Fleet Air Arm Museum was courtesy of the museum







June 10

A World In One Day at the Eden Project

20160217_123518 (Medium)I’d been to the Eden Project in Cornwall before but it was well worth a second visit. We went on a rainy day and although it was very busy (everyone must have had a the same idea!), it’s such a big site that it coped well with the numbers.20160217_150857 (Medium)

It was a visionary idea to put a centre dedicated to collecting plants from many diverse climates and environments and house them in giant biomes, the Rainforest Biome for tropical plants and one for Mediterranean temperatures.

Built inside a disused clay pit the before and after imagery is quite amazing. You can see how it was done on this time-lapse film below.

In the steamy tropical temperatures (18–35°C ) of the Rainforest Biome you can experience four of the world’s rainforest environments: Tropical Islands, Southeast Asia, West Africa and Tropical South America and see a range of plants including bananas, cocoa and rubber trees.

The Mediterranean biome takes you through the landscapes of the Mediterranean, South Africa and California and you can see more than 1,000 varieties of plants growing from all over the world including tulips, olive trees and cork trees.

20160217_133549 (Medium)A visit to the Eden Project is a great way to introduce children to the impact man has on the ecology of the planet and serves as a beacon for how we can live more sustainable lives.

      I’d highly recommend it a visit.

My tips:

    • Get there early.
    • Take a packed lunch as the restaurants and cafes get busy.
    • Make sure you remember which parking zone you’re in and which is your nearest bus stop (as we didn’t and we spent ages trying to locate our car!)
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