Days out, environment, nature, Parenting, Uncategorized

Arne nature reserve – RSPB Wareham

Wow! This place has completely thrown me when it comes to an incredible day out in Dorset. I thought I knew all the local hot spots when it came to Dorset and the great outdoors, but I was wrong. Hidden away amongst Poole harbour and Wareham, Arne nature reserve run by the RSPB sits like an unspoilt gem on the Purbeck coast line, ready for walkers and nature lovers (or just Jo Blogs looking for a day out) to explore and marvel at its sheer beauty.

Even the drive into the reserve has you waiting in anticipation, as you head down a long road that takes you to the main car park. A parking fee of £5 is required for those staying for more then two hours (trust me you will need over two hours to see what this place has to offer!), but of course this money contributes to the conservation of this incredible place. Alternatively you can become a member and park for free!

There is an information point at the start whereby you can choose several routes of various lengths that take you around the reserve. We had our 20 month old son in a backpack, and opted for the ‘Red route’, which was described as a 1 3/4 hour walk (one of the longer routes), allowing us to see various habitats, from woodland and heathland, to coastal areas and mudflats. I highly recommend bringing a camera, as there was plenty of opportunities to take pictures.

From the start the walk allowed us to see an incredible view of Corfe Castle, and took us through woodland whereby we saw Deer casually walking through the woodland! After approx 45 minutes of walking we came to a small enclosed beach area, where we decided to have a picnic. Lizards climbed the nearby rocks and cliffs, and apparently seals can sometimes be seen here. The view towards Brownsea Island was just incredible. During our walk we passed through mudflats, and we hid in the bird hide to see some of the birds nesting amongst the reeds! My little boy loved looking out of the windows, pointing at the birds and water.

The route finished at the main car park and visitor centre. We went for a coffee in the cafe there, which again is great, especially on a nice day whereby you can sit outside and absorb the surroundings. Everything about the place was so clean and welcoming. And to complete a perfect day out, whilst getting into the car, we saw a fox, sunbathing next to the car park! See what I mean – you just don’t get that sort of thing everyday!! Hats off to the RSPB for making this reserve such a fabulous and inspiring place to visit.



Days out, Family, london, Uncategorized

A day trip to London (with kids)

Has your child been pestering to visit London since covering ‘The Great Fire of London’ topic at school? My eight year old daughter had asked for a good year, on and off, to visit London, and finally I took it upon myself to take her there for the day.

It started badly. I had booked for us to travel by coach, and when we were ready to depart at 7.45 am, the coach door decided it didn’t want to close. An hour later (after an engineer had fixed the door) we were on our way.

The rest of the trip was truly brilliant. My daughter absolutely loved every moment. We visited the ‘Natural History Museum’, followed by the ‘Science Museum’, cherry picking the bits we wanted to see in each Museum. They are literally five minutes walk from one another, so it was easy to spend half of the day in one before heading to the other.

The dinosaur exhibit, and the Mammal display, was incredible, and I was definitely more excited then my daughter as we walked around (I couldn’t believe how big the blue whale actually was!). After coffee in the on-site café (good cappuccino’s), we headed to the ‘Science Museum’.

Any parent heading to the Science Museum with young children must take note of the fact there is a really good play area in the basement of the Museum. We didn’t find this until the end of the trip, but it was by far the best part for my eight year old daughter. They have water play and sensory toys to keep little people amused, and it was generally far more interactive then a lot of the other displays available. Although the museum was a great day out, we definitely preferred the History Museum, as it was far more interactive, and had more interesting displays, in comparison to the Science Museum. However, I would still recommend both to families looking to visit London.

After a busy day we headed back to our coach, picking up a few pasties on the way as an added bonus! Despite the fact our coach was delayed for two hours coming home, we still had big smiles on our faces when we arrived home. I loved every minute I had there with my daughter, and I will definitely return at a later date to see the parts of the museums that we missed!

Days out, Family, Parenting, Uncategorized, Wimborne

Dorset Top 5 Easter Holiday activities on a budget

I thought I would do a quick write up on Dorset attractions to consider for the half term. If you’re like me, it’s good to have a few ideas to call upon when at a loose end! Here are my top 5 ideas of places to go on a budget:

  1. Hengistbury Head – You can park up on one of the free roads towards Southbourne sea front and walk along the beach. This location is a great place to fly a kite or search for shells and stones on the beach. Bring a bucket and the children will be entertained for hours (you might even get to enjoy a book to yourself!). If you want to spend a bit of change, head towards the @Hungry Hiker café for an ice cream, or catch the train that takes you up to the top end of Hengistbury head spit. It’s £1.80 one way for an adult, and £0.60 for a child.More information:
  2. A day out to Lymington can also be enjoyable with children, we had the pleasure of going yesterday in fact. If you park near to the Harbour you can walk to the park that sits next to the estuary. It’s great fun for those that like boats (my little lad loved it!). Bring a picnic and sit in the park, or head into the shopping area where you can buy some delicious pasties from @thepastyshop there. We end up taking a walk around the Lymington-Keyhaven nature reserve, starting at the car park next to the Mayflower Inn. In the summer you can also bring your costumes and enjoy the seawater swimming pool on the seafront. Here is a map link for those of you who haven’t been before:
  3. Visit Stewarts garden centre at Holt, Wimborne. They have a play park hidden away around the side of the garden centre which is lovely for younger children. They even have a few animals there such as ducks and pigs, and it’s completely free to go in. We tend to bring a picnic, or grab a light bite to eat in the café inside the garden centre.
  4. Park for free at Pottern Park on the outskirts of Verwood, and take a 25 minute walk into Moors Valley. The walk itself is beautiful, taking you past the lake and river on the way in. There are a few benches too, so occasionally we’ll have a picnic before arriving at Moors Valley. Fabulously FREE!!!
  5. So many options, and I’m starting to think I should have done a top ten list, but my final suggestion is going to be Upton House in Poole. The grounds are great to walk around here, and they have a coffee shop and toilet facilities. During the warmer months they have a splash area in the walled garden so the little ones can cool off whilst the parents can get the picnic blankets out. We tend to feed the ducks, and take a walk along the pathway on the edge of the harbour. The play area is small, but kept natural with trees to climb through etc.IMG_0449
    The play area at Stewart’s Garden Centre – Holt
Days out, Family, Parenting

Fun-mum on a Budget

IMG_0364Recently I was on the verge of becoming a single parent (again), and I started to tighten the belt pretty rapidly. Whilst in my relationship the worries of money was never too apparent, not that I had much to spend, but I could at least indulge in a Costa Coffee once or twice a week without the price playing on my mind afterwards. Hell, I would even throw in the occasional cake just to go all out!

As soon as I started to contemplate ending life with my partner, I started to adjust my spending habits and look out for good deals and inexpensive ways to entertain myself and the children (especially during half term). Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much adjustment to get the same outcome, and even though me and my partner are still hanging on in there together, I have continued with being a bit more money aware. I actually get quite a kick out of spending less for more!!

Moors valley is a great place to go when the weather is nice, but the parking is ridiculously expensive if you are watching your spending. Instead I would park at Pottern Park on the outskirts of Verwood and walk in. The walk itself is beautiful and full of wildlife, taking you past the lakes and golf course on the way through. The route is footpath and buggy/bike friendly for those with pushchairs and young children. It takes about 25 minutes to walk in, but once we arrive we tend to pitch up at the play area, have a picnic, and then walk back. Not bad for a free day out!

Now I know most families are aware of Tesco clubcard points and how these can be transferred into days out, but I want to give it a mention for those that may not maximise what’s on offer. Basically you can exchange every £2.50 in vouchers for £10 worth of day out vouchers (I think this is the general rule, although places like Longleat are slightly different). My favourite one to do most half terms and school holidays is Adventure Wonderland, as both my eight year old and eighteen month old enjoy themselves here. Again bring a picnic (and a flask of tea/coffee), and it makes for a free day out.

For those of you with children aged 6 plus, I strolled across a gem of an offer last summer, and I have just heard it’ll be happening again this year. ‘Life’s an Adventure’ is a water-sports course offered through Dorset Council aimed at getting families to try different water-sports over a 5 week course (every Saturday or Sunday afternoon for 5 weeks). We had a great time trying out paddle boarding, Sailing, raft building, and other such things. Before each session began we would take a walk on Chesil beach and stop for lunch, before getting our wetsuits on and hitting the harbour for fun and games with other families. And get this – £10 each for the whole course! Bargain!

This blog could go on, I haven’t even gone into the traditional forest, beach and parks on offer, or the low cost toddler groups and entertainment events that arise over the year. So if you’re in a similar situation to where I found myself, just bear in mind the alternative low cost methods of entertainment out there, and enjoy spending time as a family without blowing a fortune.



Days out, Wimborne

Sunday afternoons in

Sunday afternoons, a time to relax and refresh right? Wrong! As I escape within this article, chaos is upon me. The 8 year old is singing non stop, the dog is chewing the babies toys, the baby is chewing the dog toys, and my partner sits slumped in the rocking chair, looking desperate and fed up, glancing exasperated in my direction occasionally, before leaving the room entirely to escape upstairs.

Its amusing to think that some people would describe Sundays as relaxing, but for the parents of this world I’m pretty sure surviving Sundays is all that matters. Funnily my partner has returned from upstairs wearing headphones, playing rock music. It’s all about survival.

So what else is there to do on dark Sunday afternoons in the middle of winter? Scrabble. No, the baby wouldn’t enjoy that, and neither would the intellect seeking other half. Another walk? Nope, the one this morning involving the baby screaming the woods down was more than enough to put anyone off achieving their 2000 step count! And nobody appears to be able to agree on a film to watch – fluffy puppies in Christmas hats is definitely not appealing to my sit on the couch nature (not that I get chance to ever sit and watch anything anyway!).

Pub?! Yes, the pub. Christmas drinks for the adults and dinner for the children (we can have the microwave curries later!). Wimborne has some great pubs, and a new one I recently came across is ‘The man in the wall’, which is a Weatherspoons (cheap then), and yet it seems a bit more classy then some of the others (depending on the time of day you visit). I ordered in the mulled cider, whilst the children had a Christmas dinner to share. The food was really good, the service was great, and they provide crayons (because it really isn’t that difficult for those that don’t!).

Topping it off, we had a quick stroll into Wimborne square afterwards, and were greeted with Christmas lights and chiming bells from the minster. For the first time during the month of December I finally felt festive and excited about Christmas! Will I go again the next time I’m climbing the walls on a Sunday afternoon – abso****inglutely!