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Days Out, Museums, Outdoors, Parks, Unusual

Fun and free kids days out in Essex!

Okay so we are now welcoming the kid’s summer holidays. Some of us with welcome arms while others are more likely burrowing their heads in their hands! It can be daunting, thinking ahead of 6 weeks of entertaining your offspring! It can also be super expensive so here is my list of my favourite fun and free kids days out in Essex!
So in no particular order:

Free kids days out in Essex

1. Priory Park, Southend

Priory Park is a particularly picturesque park, not only does it have a large children’s play area, it has a lake, a woodland walk, a cafe, beautiful walled formal gardens and it’s the home to Prittlewell Priory Museum. The Priory originally formed part of a Cluniac Monastery dating back to 1180. There are plenty of nice spots for picnicking and letting the kids run off some steam.
The museum is free to enter and if you particularly enjoyed your visit then donations are welcomed.
Free parking onsite (although not a huge car park).
Opening times – Summer opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10:10 – 17:00
Bank holidays 10:00 – 17:00
For more information visit their website.

2. Wind in the Willows Sculptures at Hanningfield Resevoir

Hanningfield Resevoir in Downham, Billericay is a great family day out. Stick on your wellies and take a wander through the woods to spot the well known characters from Wind in the Willows. A special map is available to purchase at the visitor centre. At each sculpture you can use the back of the map to make your very own brass rubbings of Badger, the Weasels, Ratty, Mole and Mr Toad.
You can visit for free but there is a suggested donation amount of £2 per adult, £1 per child or £5 per family.
They are also offering a range of children’s activities during the summer holidays for just a £3 donation.
The visitor centre has a refreshment area, gift shop and toilets with baby changing facilities. There is also a viewing area with views out across the Reservoir where you can relax and enjoy watching the wildlife.
There is free parking available onsite.
Open Daily: 9am – 5pm.
For more information visit their website.

3. Peter Rabbit Sculptures at Langdon Visitor Centre

Langdon Visitor Centre is in Lower Dunton Road in Basildon. It is a lovely nature reserve with a trail, meadows, woodlands and lakes. As you take a wander around the trail you will meet wonderful wooden characters from Peter Rabbit. They are also offering lots of children’s activities during the summer holidays from scavenger hunts to making arts and crafts for just a £3 donation. No booking required, check their website or Facebook page for details.
The visitor centre sells refreshments, has a gift shop and toilets with baby changing. To the rear of the visitor centre is a pretty wildlife garden.
There is free parking onsite.
Open Daily: 9am – 5pm.
For more information visit their website.

4. Hollytrees Museum and Colchester Castle Park

Hollytrees Museum is a great museum set in Colchester Castle Park overlooking the picturesque Colchester Castle. There is a cafe, formal gardens and children’s playground with large sand play area to explore.
The museum gives a glance into life in Colchester and how it has evolved over the years. It has some really interesting exhibits and interactive to kids interested and entertained.
Free entry.
Opening times of Hollytrees Museum:
Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm
Sunday 11am to 5pm
Parking is not available on site, you would need to use Colchester Town car parks.
You can visit the Castle Museum but there is a fee to enter.

5. Stick Man Trail at Weald Country Park

Weald Country Park is set within 500 acres of parkland in Brentwood and home to The Stickman Play Trail. A fun trail bringing to life the story by Julia Donaldson encouraging imaginative play. A gorgeous walk through the woodland and parkland with activities to explore at each stop. You can purchase a map at the visitor centre. There is also a deer to visit, cafe, play area, gift shop and toilets.
Free entry and parking is onsite, there is a charge for parking however.
For more information please visit their website.

6. Hylands House & Park

Hylands House is a personal favourite of mine since we got married here in 2010. Based in Chelmsford in Hylands Park, the Grade II listed house is set in gorgeous landscaped parkland, with pretty formal gardens to explore, cafe and adventure castle play area.
Free entry to the park and free onsite parking.
To enter the house is £3.80 for adults and free for under 16s.
Please check their website for opening dates and times of the house and cafe. Please also be aware that it will be closed for visiting during mid August for V Festival.
For more information please visit their website.

7. Canvey Island Transport Museum

The museum in Canvey Island is the home to a selection of vintage buses, coaches and classic cars. In addition to the museum there is a model railway and gift shop selling die-cast models and transport souvenirs.
Entry is free but donations are welcomed.
Open Sundays 2017: 16th July; Every Sunday in August; 3rd & 17th September; 1st & 15th October.
Opening times 10am to 5pm.
For more information visit their website.

8. Chelmsford Museum at Oaklands Park

Chelmsford Museum is actually in Oaklands Park situated Moulsham Street, Chelmsford.
Set within gorgeous grounds with two fantastic playgrounds for the children, one for older children and one for younger.
Chelmsford Museum has some really interesting exhibits and also houses Essex Regiment Museum.
During the summer holidays they are hosting a number of Back in Time themed craft sessions for school aged children. Children are encouraged to get creative, using the museum’s collections and displays for inspiration. £3 per child.
Free entry and free parking is available onsite.
Opening times:
Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm
Sunday 1pm to 4pm
For more information please visit their website.

9. Join the Animal Agents Challenge at your local library.

Essex libraries are encouraging children to sign up to their Animal Agents challenge this summer. They need to read 6 books to earn their Animal Agents certificate and medal, collecting stickers along the way. Children can read library books of their choice.
Challenge runs Saturday 15 July to Saturday 2 September.
Pop by your local library to find out more.

10. Rayleigh Windmill

Rayleigh Windmill is a 200 year old Grade II listed building where you can learn how the Windmill worked, try the quiz in the museum, dress up in traditional costumes.
Entry is free of charge but a donation of £1 per person is suggested.
Opening times:
Wednesday 10:00am – 1:00pm
Saturday 1:00 – 4:00pm
Sunday 1:00 – 4:00pm
Parking is at Mill Hall Car Park which is a paid for car park but free after 1pm on Saturday and free all day Sunday.
For more information please visit their website.

11. Great Notley Discovery Park

Great Notley Discovery Park is situated in Braintree. A great place to explore with the kids with interactive play equipment and sensory trails.
There is a cafe onsite, toilets and car parking.
Free Entry.
Opening times: The park is open daily from 08.00 till dusk
The visitor centre and cafe is open daily from 10.00 till 16.00. (Except 25 December).

12. Thames Chase Nature Reserve.

Thames Chase Nature Reserve based in Pike Lane, Upminster has a great nature trail with activities as you go round. It also boasts a play area, very nice cafe, gift shop and bicycle hire. It’s a great place to take the kids bikes to cycle round.
There are some great wooden structures as you go around the trail for the kids to play and climb on.
They are organising a range of children’s activities through the summer holidays on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week from 25th July to 24th August between 10:30am and 12:30pm. £3 donation per child.
Free entry.
Opening times: 10am-5pm weekdays and weekend (10-4pm in the winter).
Includes café and shop with toilets and baby changing.
Parking is onsite for a small fee.
For more information please visit their website.

13. Wat Tyler Park

Wat Tyler Country Park in Pitsea, Basildon has 125 acres of country walks, wildlife spotting adventure play area for kids and a miniature railway. The park has a fascinating history and was originally an explosives factory. There are informative signs as you walk around the trail.
There is a cafe and gift shop onsite with toilets and baby changing.
Free entry and free parking onsite.
Railway runs in the school holidays, adults £2.50 and children £1.50.
Opening times:
Monday to Sunday 10:00 – 16:45.
For more information please visit their website.

14. Hadleigh Castle

Hadleigh Castle is situated in Castle Lane, Hadleigh. The ruins of the castle are set high upon a hill overlooking the Essex marshes and Thames estuary. A gorgeous spot for settling down for a picnic and letting the kids let off some steam exploring the castle ruins.
Free entry all year round at any reasonable time.
It is situated right next to the Salvation Army Tea Rooms and Rare Breeds Farm with car park. Please note there is a charge for car parking.
Entry to the Farm isn’t free but it is very reasonable and is well worth a visit if in the area. They have a Willow maze, play area and lots of rare breed friendly animals to see.

15. Gruffalo Trail – Thorndon Country Park North

The Gruffalo Trail is in Thorndon Country Park North in Brentwood. It’s a great walk through the forest spotting all your favourite characters from The Gruffalo books by Julia Donaldson.
There is a visitor centre where you can purchase a trail guide for 50p. There is also a gift shop, cafe and toilets with picnic area.
Free entry and parking onsite. There is a charge for parking.
Opens at 09:30am.
For more information please visit their website.

So this is about fun and free kids days out in Essex. The following day out is not free but is very cheap and definitely a worth mention.

Canvey Island

You can get an all day wrist band for £5 to go on the fairground rides! It’s brilliant value for money and lots of rides to keep the little one happy. They also have the beach right next door, soft play centre opposite just incase it rains and Movie Starr cinema where tickets are just £3.50.

Please note all information was incorrect at time of publishing, please check venue websites or Facebook pages before you visit for up to date information or changes.

Thank you for reading ‘Fun and free kids days out in Essex!’. If you can think of any other great free days out in Essex, let me know!

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Days Out, Farms, Indoor Play, Outdoors, Parks

Farm in Essex – White Elm Petting Farm

Farm in essex white elm petting farm

White Elm Petting Farm

I am always looking for new days out. As Eden is such an animal lover, we particularly love finding a new farm in Essex to visit. One of our favourite all rounders is White Elm Petting Farm in Bicknacre, Essex. The farm is still relatively new and they are continually improving and working on it.

Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm entrance
The farm is based within the grounds of White Elm Garden Centre. It’s not just a garden centre offering the usual plants and shrubs on sale. It’s more than that, there is also a selection of log cabin shops with a whole host of individual businesses selling Baby clothes to Soaps. There is also a Deli, Florist and antique furniture shop.

The Farm

White Elm Petting Farm is a family run farm with over a 100 animals including Pygmy Goats, Alpacas, Sheep, Rheas, Pigs, Goats, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Ducks, Minature Pony, Chickens, Geese & Wallabies. Our favourites are a Breed of sheep that are so sweet and their faces look just like teddy bears!

Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm teddy bear sheep
Entrance fees are reasonable £4.95 adults, £3.95 kids and under 2’s free. This also includes access to the Play Barn, Outdoor Playground, Digger Pit and Tractor Track..

You have the option of buying a bucket of feed when you enter. Eden absolutely loves getting hands on and feeding the animals. You can feed pretty much all the animals there, apart from a couple that have signs up to say otherwise. It’s a lovely relaxed farm and they encourage you to interact with the animals and pet them if you wish. There are plenty of hand washing stations as you walk round to clean up afterwards.

Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm animals

Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm feeding goats

Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm

Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm feeding animals Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm
Food

White Elm Garden centre has a lovely tearoom. There is always a huge selection of delicious handmade cakes on offer to tempt you. There is also an extensive menu, from panini’s to fully cooked meals. They also offer a great roast dinner on a Sunday! Be warned don’t get there too late as they have been known to sell out!

Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm tea room

There is also a snack bar in the Play Barn.

Play Barn

There is a great indoor Play Barn which is included in the cost of entry to the farm. A large spacious area with seating and a snack bar. It’s a great play area for the kids with a small separate area for younger ones.

Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm play Barn

Outdoors

Outside they have a children’s playground, tractor track and digger pit to keep the kids entertained. This area is gated off.

Farms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm playgroundFarms in Essex - White Elm Petting Farm outdoor play area
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Days Out, Eating Out, Farms, Food, Outdoors, Parks, Unusual

Strawberry Picking in Essex

Strawberry Picking In Essex

What a glorious sunny day spent strawberry picking in Essex. We visited Cammas Hall Farm. Set in the Essex countryside, just outside Bishops Stortford.

Strawberry picking in Essex Cammas Hall Farm
I haven’t been strawberry picking since I were a young girl. I can remember spending sunny days picking strawberries with my family. Crouched  in a field filling my basket with just as many strawberries as I ate! I’ve been meaning to take Eden for some time now and thought Cammas Hall Farm looked like fun.

The venue

There was plenty of parking, a well stocked farm shop, fruit picking, tea barn, play area and a nature trail onsite. It was free entry too which was brilliant and makes this a cheap day out!

We visited on a Saturday lunch time and although it was busy, it was big enough that it wasn’t a problem.

We enjoyed a ploughmans in the tea barn before setting off to pick our strawberries.

There were plenty of ripe strawberries for picking. A huge field full of rows and rows of raised planters full of strawberry plants. No back breaking bending over here, the plants are brought to you! They also have gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc throughout the year.  Just check their website first.

Strawberry picking in Essex rows strawberry plants

Strawberry picking in Essex strawberries

Strawberry picking in Essex Eden picking

Strawberry picking in Essex Eden picking
Eden loved searching through all the strawberries to find the bright red shiny ripe ones. We filled a punnet quite quickly and were very surprised it only cost around £3.50! We thought this was a bargain. The strawberries were delicious and so sweet.

Play Area

We popped to the play area afterwards so Eden could blow off some steam. There were plenty of picnic benches outside over looking the play area. They also had a separate gated play area for the little ones under 3.

Strawberry picking in Essex Cammas Hall Farm play area
Nature Trail

After Eden had made herself dizzy spinning on the tyre swing, we took a walk along the nature trail. It was a short walk that went through a small forest and along the edge of their crop fields. A nice walk that wasn’t too long. It was even fairly buggy friendly.

Strawberry picking in Essex Cammas Hall Farm

Strawberry picking in Essex nature trail

Strawberry picking in Essex field crops
The Tea Barn & Shop

After the nature trail, we treated ourselves to strawberries and cream in the Tea Barn. Eden had an ice cream! Perfect! The tea barn is quite small inside but has plenty of extra seating outside and in a covered marquee.

Strawberry picking in Essex Cammas Hall Farm shop

Strawberry picking in Essex strawberry latte

Strawberry picking in Essex strawberries and cream
Eden had one last play in the park and we bought some goodies in the farm shop before returning home. They had a really good selection of pickles and sauces, unusual flavour crisps, jams and other treats. The most important purchase was the ‘Extra Thick Jersey Double Cream’ for our strawberries.

We were there for about 4 hours and Eden had a fabulous time. From picking the strawberries to playing in the park and exploring the nature trail. Lots of fun was had.

Strawberry picking in Essex strawberry fields forever
I would definitely recommend a visit there. It’s best to check their website or Facebook page first before going to find out whether they have strawberries ready for picking.’

We will be trying other ‘pick your own’ venues for Strawberry Picking in Essex and will reporting our findings soon!

Strawberry picking in Essex Eden picking strawberries

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Strawberry picking in Essex

Real Mum Reviews
Days Out, Family Life, Home, Outdoors, Parks

The little things in life

little things in life

Planning the big day out

Sometimes we need to remember, it’s about enjoying the little things in life. Now, I’m sure we all love a good day out. I am often one to plan them so far in advance it’s verging on ridiculous. The thing is I absolutely love to have things to look forward to. I think I actually need it, I would go as far as to say I feel quite sad if I haven’t got anything booked in the diary. Quite often I have to wait months and months for an event I have booked. Every time it pops into my head, I actually get an excited little butterfly fluttering around in my stomach. I love it, I am constantly looking for ‘what next’! I even book tickets that I know will throw me into my overdraft, but hey ‘you can’t take it with you’ right?!
Not only do I spend months researching it and waiting for the event to take place… I also have to plan the ‘outfit’ for the event. I don’t know why but my daughter must be themed to that event whether it’s a full blown costume or just a complementary colour. I’m not entirely sure what compels me to do this, but months before I’ll be busy googling away, finding the perfect outfit to match our day out. I’m always thinking what would look like nice in the photos, always anxious to get that one perfect photo to sum up our day…. so if the outfits wrong then so too is the photo. Anyway you get the picture, I research, I book, I plan, I wait…. this is what I do, researching and planning the next fun thing to do.

The big day arrives…

Do you want to know something completely crazy?
Quite often, the morning of the event I won’t even feel like going?! I’d rather have an extra hour in bed, chill on the sofa or have a duvet day in my ‘Jim-Jams’. Even though the event has been booked months in advance, I’ve bought the tickets, I’ve felt the excited butterflies, I’ve compiled the cute outfit (even made it myself on occasion!)…
Unfortunately the rebel in me simply hates having to be somewhere at an actual time!!! Sometimes I feel like I can’t be bothered to physically go? What?! Ultimately I do go, I make the effort to get ready and make the journey there. I always have a lovely time once I arrive. It’s just the thought of it I can’t face, but once I’m there I love it. I have lots of fun, enjoy the time with my family and take lots of photos. One of my favourite parts of the day is the journey home and looking at the pictures I’ve captured. Wondering what ones I’ll get printed, upload to Instagram or add to a photo book!

The little things in life

The point I’m trying to make is actually, sometimes it’s the little things in life that are important. Just as much as the large flashy expensive big days out. The thought of having no plans at the weekend can be pure delight. A free floaty feeling with excitement and a glimmer of spontaneity. As much as I love a fun day out, the idea of no ties, no appointments, no-one expecting me to be somewhere at an allotted time excites me! Well, ‘I’m free’ and it’s a feeling I’ve grown to love. Maybe I’m growing up and learning that the little things in life are just as important as the big things. Often overlooked but in actual fact, those are the things that you and your children remember and love.
So here are some of our favourite little things that we don’t have to plan. We can rock up and do them whenever we like… we are masters of our own destiny!

Brunch at our favourite little coffee shop:

the little things in life coffee shopthe little things in life latte and spoonsthe little things in life coffee shop chairs

the little things in life eden reading
Play time at a local park:
the little things in life eden at the parkthe little things in life eden parkthe little things in life eden park
We browse some books at the library:

the little things in life library
We might even hunt for fairies:
the little things in life eden finding fairiesthe little things in life eden blowing fairies
Thank you for reading The Little Things in Life!
Eden’s wearing: Cream top and navy leggings – Next, Floral skirt – Little Bird by Jools & Denim jacket – Tu Clothing at Sainsbury’s.