Seeing dragons

“Where are we going today?” asks the three-year-old on Easter Monday.

“On an adventure,” I say. This is my stock answer when we are going somewhere I haven’t been before and I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep. That way leads to horrible shouting.

Thankfully, the promise of an adventure was enough to get her out of the house.

I’m glad I didn’t say, “We’re going on an Easter Egg trail,” which was the intention, because I’d have been wrong.

And I never even thought of saying, “We’re going to see dragons”, because that would have been insane. But it is what we ended up doing. That’s the good thing about adventures. You don’t know what’s going to happen – even when you’re just going to Rainham in Essex.

I planned to write a post earlier about outdoor days out we were planning for Spring, but that one is still a work in progress. In the meantime, we’ve already started on the days out – one of which was to Rainham Hall.

Rainham Hall is unusual amongst National Trust properties in that it’s only a minute’s walk from a station (Rainham). It is a historic house, but has no historic  contents or furnishings as it was owned by a succession of families, and used in a variety of ways – rather than being one family’s home, century after century. And it has a relatively small garden (well it’s about a thousand  times bigger than mine, but you might think it small if you’re used to visiting National Trust properties that have parkland). You can visit the garden free of charge (you need to buy a ticket to go in to the house).

You’ll remember we were there for the Easter Egg Hunt.

Except… they’d run out of eggs.

Thankfully, the three-year-old was taken with the idea of doing the trail in the garden anyway and having the egg at home.

And the garden is a really great place to be. It’s really beautifully planted, and you can see the love and care goes into its upkeep (largely by volunteers, I think). We explored every corner as we searched out the clues, then joined all the other children who were doing exactly what the National Trust would like them to do – rolling down a grassy bank, laughing and getting grass cuttings all over their clothes.

The grassy knoll at Rainham Hall

It was fun.

While we were there, we took a look round the house which has an exhibition relating to Rainham Hall’s time as a nursery during the war. The three-year-old was surprisingly up for this part of our day, although she went through the rooms at a fairly breakneck speed. Fine by me.

But our adventure wasn’t over. Oh no.

Just next to Rainham Hall is a shop that looks like this…

Rainham Reptile Centre ‘Cold-blooded’

Dragons? Yes, we’re up for that.

Stepping over the threshold, we discovered this intriguing frontage is a specialist shop and vivarium (some of the reptiles are not for sale, but part of the owner’s collection, including many unwanted pets). There are some quite remarkable creatures inside, including an enormous rhinoceros iguana, which was pretty much the size of a dragon.

It was a bit of a surprise, and turned our day out into the adventure I’d promised.

Rainham is pretty easy to get to (although less so on a Bank Holiday Monday when the tube is down). We’d be up for the Easter Egg hunt there next year, but the next time we head out that way we might check out Rainham marshes instead…


For more information about Rainham Hall, click here.


Author: Aline Reed

I am a freelance copywriter.

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