27 Jun 2011

Queen's Park, Bolton

Queen's Park has always had a bit of a dodgy reputation, especially at night-time, so I haven't been in ages to the park.

However, one sunny day we decided to take the kids to the park and I have to say I absolutely loved it.


Car parking                                 *****
Toilet facilities                              *****
Entertainment value for kids         *****
Entertainment value for adults      *****
Possible extras (£s)                     *****
Overall rating                               *****

Car Parking (5 out of 5)
Perhaps it's because I live close to the park that I know where to park but there are endless places to park and they're free.  We always park on Chorley Old Road right outside the main entrance.  If you go at the weekends there should be loads of space.  I believe there is an actual carpark into the park but I don't know if they charge.  The park is in a residential and business area so during the weekends all the business traffic isn't there and the residential areas tend to have driveways to park on so no problems here.

Toilet facilities (1 out of 5)
I gave 1 out of 5 because they actually had loos but the fact that they were padlocked obviously meant we couldn't use them, so half out of 5 would've been better.  The park is in the middle of being done up so I assume their toilet facilities will improve.

Entertainment value for kids (4 out of 5)
There are hills after glorious hills on this park and they're great for rolling down.  They're also great for sledging in the winter, though maybe some are too steep, there's a river at the bottom of some hills! There's lots of places to play hide and seek, loads of places to picnic, which is what we did, a pond that's full of ducks and birds, and a great play area for kids, but young kids.  It's got sand pits, sand diggers, slides, climbing frames (a very big one too, which looks pretty scary), play equipment in the sand pits, swings, balancing beams and a mini assault course and a death rope slide, though that wasn't working when we went. Your kids may get bored though if they're over 8 years.  

They are still renovating the park and the old play area, but I'm not sure what they're putting on there, perhaps I'll have to pay another visit.

Entertainment value for adults (3 out of 5)
Who doesn't like rolling down hills!  We love it and the park is pretty clean so hopefully not much dog poo on the grass (urgh).  There's loads of space so you can have a picnic without hearing the next person's conversation or smelling their sandwiches!  The pond is nice and I always like feeding the ducks.  There are tennis courts and bowling greens too though not sure if you have to pay or how much, or actually how to get a court, sorry.

Possible extras (5 out of 5)
When we went there was nothing else you could spend your money on.  It was great!  I'm sure in the height of summer there will be an ice-cream van but there wasn't on this day and it was a scorcher.  So nothing that could make the kids jump up and down crying 'I want one'.  Just as I like it.

Overall rating (4 out of 5)
OK, perhaps the weather made this a much better experience than normal.  The only way of knowing would be to go on a miserable day, though this may make it even better as we'll have the park to ourselves.

I believe the park got a grant of approximately £7,000,000 just before the new government got in so they can keep the money and they're really making it all new and shiny.  As long as they do the essential amenities, i.e. the toilets, then I'll be happy.

Is it FREE - yes absolutely.

Is it EASY -  another yes.

3 Jun 2011

Moss Bank Park, Bolton

I'm lucky enough to live near Moss Bank Park so we go quite regularly, though I do tend to avoid it at the weekends and during school holidays.

It's such a good park and gets quite busy but the other day I braved it during half-term.  Thankfully I bumped into a friend whilst I was there and good company always improves a day out.  But I really do like this park.

It's very easy to get to either on public transport (501 from the town centre, then a very short walk) or by car.  There are two carparks which can get busy during summer holidays, especially if it's a sunny day, but there's still plenty of parking in the streets surrounding the area so nothing to worry about.


Car parking                                 *****
Toilet facilities                              *****
Entertainment value for kids         *****
Entertainment value for adults      *****
Possible extras (£s)                     *****
Overall rating                              *****

Car Parking (4 out of 5)
I think the car parking facilities are great but it would've got 5 if there was more spaces.  Though admittedly it only really gets busy on a hot holiday.  There's a car park as soon as you get to the front of Moss Bank Park and if that's full just follow the road.  It veers left and you'll soon see a second car park which allows you to enter the park from the back.  All parking is free.  If it's really busy then this is a residential area and while the residents might hate me for this, you can always park outside their houses.

Toilet facilities (2 out of 5)
The toilet facilities are basic.  I don't know if there is a disabled toilet and I've never seen a baby changing area, but that's simply because I haven't looked (sorry, never normally need them as I live close).  The toilets aren't very big so if you have a pram you can't take it into the cubicle but you can take it into the toilets.  I've changed nappies on the grass and there are lots of bins around so never had a problem with changing the baby.  There's no feeding facilities but there are lots of benches and little nook and crannies if you want some privacy.

Entertainment value for kids (4 out of 5)
There are huge fields all over that you can take a ball and have a kick about or do what ever you like.  Loads of spaces for picnics, but I did visit one morning for a run after a particularly hot day and it was full of litter so please take your rubbish home with you.  People had even left old picnic blankets.
There are two play areas.  One for younger children (not really for toddlers except for 4 toddler swings) and another for older children, perhaps 7+ depending on size.  There's a huge sandpit so take your bucket and spade. 

There is the Animal World with lots of rabbits, llamas, goats, birds, deer and I also think the 2 red squirrels are still there.  Animal World has recently lost it's zoo status so some animals had to go.  This was due to the council budget cuts.  It was due to be axed altogether but members of the public put up a huge fight and managed to save it.  Though now you have to pay 50p per person to go in, under 2s are free.  Not too bad a price if you don't normally get to visit places like this.  When I was there this week you had to buy a wristbank from the fun fair to get into animal world.  You couldn't buy them from animal world.

There is a small fun fair there but you have to pay.  The kids do love these rides but I personally think they should be banned from parks.  It would save an endless amount of tears and tantrums!  There is also a minature railway that both children and adults can go on (not as good as Haigh Hall though).

Entertainment for adults (3 out of 5)
The fields are great for a picnic then playing games with the kids, and they are spread out all over the place so you could even avoid the play area if you came in from the back entrance.  There's a lovely flower garden that you can have a nice peaceful stroll through and even some benches if you fancy eating there (not too many benches though).  Animal world is also nice for adults. 

There are tennis courts there which I've used in the past (always taken my own equipment, not sure if you can hire it).  There are bowling greens too and I've seen loads of people using some of the fields to practise their golf swings (they definitely took their own equipment).

There used to be a rockery which I loved as a kid but this has been closed.  I'm not too sure what they are doing with it as some of their previous plans were axed due to the cuts.

There have been free concerts in the park too, and I think Mel C (sporty spice) once played there!!!  I have no idea if there will be more but if you're interested you could always check with Bolton Council.

Possible extras (2 out of 5)
This is where the park falls down.  There is the fun fair with each ride costing £1 per person, a small train for kids and adults costing 50p per person, Animal World costing 50p per person (under 2s free) and an ice-cream stall selling drinks, ice creams and even hotdogs and burgers.  This is particularly expensive - £1.50 for a single cone and £2 with a flake!  Lollies were £1.  There's also a crazy golf section but the only crazy thing about it is the price.  Even if I was a millionaire I wouldn't pay to go on there.

We always have tears when it comes to whether or not the kids can go on the fun fair but we make a deal with them, either an ice-cream/lolly or 1 ride, it's up to them.  If you go during the week not all of the rides are available and the ice-cream stall isn't always open.  There isn't really a shop within quick walking distance that you could get the things from cheaper too so unless you're going to take some money, make sure you take provisions with you.

Sometimes they also have a travelling fairground which obviously costs a lot extra.

Overall rating (4 out of 5)
I like Moss Bank Park.  There's lots to do and not all of them cost money.  It has enough space for you to make your own fun and the park is big enough for the kids to play on for a good hour.  I've never spent the whole day there but even just a quick visit is generally 2 hours long and that doesn't always involve a picnic so if you've got a spare morning or afternoon then it's great.

As for it being FREE - Yes definitely, but you may have tears if they see the fun fair, just a small price to pay for saving money.

And as for it being EASY - Yes definitely.

29 May 2011

Haigh Hall & Country Park

Haigh Hall and Country Park is absolutely massive!

I'm sure it has loads of history about the hall and who owns it but I never did like history so I won't go into that.  I'll rate it on it's 'free and easy' values for family days out.


Car parking                                   *****
Toilet facilities                              *****
Entertainment value for kids         *****
Entertainment value for adults      *****
Possible extras (£s)                       *****
Overall rating                               *****

Car parking (4 out of 5)
There is a large carpark at Haigh Hall which is right next to where you want to be so there isn't very far to walk.  Huge bonus.

However, the downside is there is a charge.  This is approximately £3 for the whole day so not too bad but free would be even better.

Toilet Facilities (2 out of 5)
The toilet facilities aren't too great.  They have everything you need, baby changing, disabled toilets etc but they always need a really good clean.  You can fit a pram into the ladies but you'd have to leave it near the sinks as it won't fit into any of the cubicles.

Entertainment value for kids (2 out of 5)
There's ponds, woods and large grassy areas all over the country park which the kids can entertain themselves in.  There is a playground but considering the size of the country park it's really disappointing.  There's so much space to make a huge, fantastic playground but that hasn't been done yet.

However, there is a great little train that everyone can go on and I personally love it.

Entertainment value for adults (2 out of 5)
This depends on the age of your child.  Mine are 3 and 1 so we're limited in what we can do and we have to entertain our kids.

There are some lovely places to walk but if you're dragging your kids behind you moaning that they're bored and tired then you will quickly tire of nice views and lovely gardens.

Adults can ride on the train too - yeah!

I told you I love the train.

I've never personally done all the walks available in the country park but it is huge so it can keep you entertained for ages.  You could also take your bikes and have a cycle around the country park which would keep you occupied.

Possible Extras £s (4 out of 5)
Luckily Haigh Hall doesn't have too much to spend your money on so it rates highly for saving money.  There's the obligatory ice-cream van, and the last time we went it served Mr Whippy ice cream so it was lovely, plus it was dipped in sherbert. Mmmm

Not too cheap though and it's right by the train station and the main path from Haigh Hall so not too sure how you avoid it if you're really saving money.
The train is only a couple of quid and I think under 5s are free.  If the train isn't running I'm always disappointed so I think it's worth the money.
Apart from the train, ice-cream and carpark you really don't need any money.

Overall free and easy rating (3 out of 5)
I believe Haigh Hall and Country Park is a place where you make your own entertainment.  It's a great place for picnics and perhaps meeting up with friends to play some good friendly sports and it has lovely areas to go for long walks, but it can also be a little boring if you're not well equipped before you go.

We took a frisbee and made it more exciting by throwing it in the trees and undergrowth.  Then we pretended that we were Stig of the Dump living amongst the trees!

As for it being FREE - pretty much so, apart from the car-parking.  If you're really skint you could always park away from the Hall and walk in but then that isn't too easy!

And as for it being EASY - Yes definitely.

24 May 2011

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to my blog.

A bit about myself and this blog
I have two small children, a one year old and a three year old, and I'm a stay at home mum.  Fortunately my wonderful husband works so we're still able to pay our bills and buy food!

But with only one income coming in days out can be rather limited. Plus having two young children often make days out a bit of a struggle.

There's the excess baggage to think of (Easy Jet would love us!), prams, nappy bags, change of clothes depending on the weather, toys for all eventualities, food and probably extra stuff that I can't think of but once we've set off I'd remember and I'd have to buy it once we're out.

Then the decision of where to travel.  Do we walk somewhere local, drive somewhere exciting, base it mainly on entertainment value for the children or acknowledge our own thirst for excitement, albeit in a child-friendly way?

I think over the past three years since our eldest was born we've learnt a few things.

  • Money isn't the source of our greatest fun.  
    • A simple woodland often transforms into a zoo with lions, tigers and even scary monsters hiding all over the place.  Children have to run very quickly to avoid being eaten and screaming is essential, the louder the better.
  • Picnics are essential.  
    • Eating out can be so expensive.  We recently returned from a holiday in Wales and stopped off for some lunch at Llandudno.  It was blowing a gale so we went to the closest place we could find, a little chippy/restaurant.  Veggie burger and chips, sausage and chips, one plate of chips and two cokes cost £20 and it wasn't that good!  If the weather had been better we would have walked further and got a pasty from Greggs.  If we had had some food in the car we would've parked up along the sea front admiring the view, eating the food that we enjoyed and playing silly games and singing songs to entertain the kids.  Plus a picnic means that you're going to eat the food you enjoy so no disappointed children when your food arrives and it's not that good!
  • Go when it's quiet.  
    • Ok, admittedly this is so that my husband and I don't pull our hair out with children overload, but it also means that your own kids get to play on things for longer, rather than spending ages in a queue. 
    • If it's too busy you risk your kids running off somewhere and you spending the next five minutes panicking because you can't distinguish your child from all the other children wearing bright pink Peppa Pig outfits and shouting at the top of their voice.
    • Your children spend ages queuing and, if you're a reasonable person, after two minutes you are conscious of the long queue behind your child so you quickly remove them from the source of their fun just so everyone else can have a go.
    • And finally you can park close to where you want to be, which when laden down with your excess baggage is very handy.
  • Take family and friends as support.
    • Going as a group with friends and similar aged children has great advantages.  Children often amuse themselves, which is both great fun for them but also generally free for us, leaving the adults with a bit of time to chat and enjoy themselves too.
    • Taking Grandparents is extra special.  They get to spend quality time with their grandchildren and (if you're really lucky) they'll treat them so you don't have to!
  • Keep travel short and simple.
    • For smaller children, a journey time of 90 minutes each way is probably the maximum you will all be comfortable with.  I've found that the children get quite excited on their outward journey but within approximately 30 minutes they're asleep.  We always try to set off at a similar time when the children would have their naps.  On the return journey we either set off when the one year old will be having her afternoon nap, or have our tea out and set off when they'd normally be going to bed.  Entertaining children in a car can be done but personally I'd rather they sleep and get some time to chat with my husband. 
So with these things in mind let's find places to entertain our kids that are FREE AND EASY.