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.