I love Spring and, despite the recent dismal weather, there are signs it’s only just round the corner. The daffodils are out, the magnolia is in bloom, there are crocuses pushing their way through the grass…
… If only it wasn’t so bloomin’ freezin’.
To cheer myself up, I’ve been putting together a list of places to go with my toddler as soon as the glorious Spring of my imagination starts (and is quickly followed by a sweltering Summer).
If you’ve got a list of your own or have already visited some of the places below, please share your thoughts in the comments section.
- The Gruffalo trail
I visited Thorndon Country Park a few years ago, pre-baby, and I recently discovered that there’s a Gruffalo trail there. So I’m planning a walk in the deep, dark wood. Apparently, it’s a 45-minute self-guided walk, during which you must keep your eyes peeled at all times for some familiar creatures – a mouse, perhaps? A snake? An owl? Something with terrible teeth in its terrible jaws?
Details are there, and you pick up a map at the visitor centre at Thordon North.
Thorndon Country Park is near Brentwood.
2. Another go on the steam train
My toddler continues to be entertained by all forms of transport. I think the happiest I’ve ever seen her was on a miniature steam train last summer, and since then we’ve sought out all opportunities to get back aboard.
Did you know there’s a steam train that runs through Epping Forest? We went last year, and I’m planning to go again when the service starts again (Easter onwards).
On the day we went, the passengers were either a. dedicated steam train enthusiasts or b. Thomas the tank engine enthusiasts (with accompanying adults).
I would say the website was firmly written with group a. in mind. I found it fairly incomprehensible, but you may have more luck/more functioning brain cells than me. If not, here’s a short cut to understanding how it works.
- You take the tube to Epping.
- You wait outside the tube for a vintage bus to come (unless you want a long wait, consult the timetable).
- Buy all-day rover tickets on the bus (or pre-book online). You’ll be taken to North Weald station, where you can choose from a number of journeys, including a combination of vintage bus and steam train trips (if you are able to think in 12 dimensions). If you’re me, you just get your kid on the first train – that could be the round trip in Epping Forest, or up to Ongar where you can get out and go to the pub.
There’s a cafe in a train carriage at North Weald, so you can have a cuppa while you wait/plan your journey.
All the details are here. (Good luck)
3. Weald Country Park
We visited Weald Country Park a couple of times last year. It’s great for kids because you can buy food and feed the deer and ducks. After that, there’s a good chance of persuading them into a little walk.
There’s an enclosure with deer close to the car park and visitor centre, but there are also areas where they run free and there’s the thrill of seeing a whole herd grazing.
There’s also a large pond, full of friendly ducks that are used to being fed, so they’re happy to come right up to toddlers who have food in their hands.
If that weren’t reason enough to visit, I discovered there’s a new attraction when researching this post. Since October 2015, there’s been a Stickman trail which – by the look of the photos – includes a nice playground.
Weald Country Park is also near Brentwood.
Details of the park and trail are here. You need to pay for parking but proceeds go back into maintaining the park.
Unfortunately, both Weald Country Park and Thordon Country Park are most easily visited in the car. To make amends, a post about parks and other green open spaces is on its way which is more public transport friendly.