Our Easter Days’ Out Round-up

day out with Thomas the tank engine

We love going on days out in and around Hampshire. We are lucky that we live close to other counties and can explore all they have to offer. We love discovering new areas, researching where is good with kids and getting to know new places. This Easter was no exception and we found so many fun activities to do with children, that I thought I’d document it for you all.

Dinton Pastures Country Park

Located just off the M4 between Reading and Wokingham

‘Dinton Pastures Country Park has just over 335 acres. The Park is open daily throughout the year. It offers a variety of habitats including 7 lakes, 2 rivers, and meadows.’

I have visited this park on several occasions and my son has loved it every time. The majority of the play area is beautifully crafted from wood and offers slides, sandpits (don’t forget your buckets and spades), climbing posts, a giant chair, giant dinosaur eggs and more. This area is fenced off from the paths and water and is also dog free, so is completely safe to let your children run about and explore.

The rest of the Country Park welcomes dogs on their leads and there are plenty of routes available to thoroughly wear your pet out. They park has many lakes, although I have only ever walked around the one that is directly near the play area, known as Black Swan Lake. A lovely walk for families with fantastic views. During our visit last year in the height of summer an ice cream van was located near the boating area which was highly welcomed.

The lake offers water activities, such as boating and paddleboarding, and many events take place here over the year. It also provides a home, food and water to much wildlife, including the ducks who are always grateful for bread. The trails can be walked or cycled and are pushchair friendly.

the pond at Dinton Pastures country park

The cafe offers a good variety of food and drink, both hot and cold and lunch boxes for children. The staff are always very friendly and the cafe is kept looking nice and clean. Toilets and baby changing are also located here. The outdoor area to the cafe is a lovely setting to sit in when the weather is nice, with grass areas to set up picnics and for children to play on.

I would say you would most probably need quite a few visits to explore, enjoy and discover all that Dinton has to offer.

*Please note that you do have to pay for the car park

Day out with Thomas

Alton, Ropley and Alresford stations (check website for dates throughout the year):

Day Out with Thomas

We booked our tickets online a few weeks in advance and they were delivered a few days later. Alternatively, you can choose to pay on the day and as the trains run regularly you have plenty of opportunities to jump on.

This was a first for all of us – My in-laws, sister in law, brother in law and their 1 and 3-year-old boys.

It was a rainy, sometimes hailing, occasionally sunny Easter Sunday but the one thing I noticed throughout the day was the fact that all of the staff remained happy, chirpy and ever so helpful, even when they had become soaked through! It made the day all that much better for us, helping to keep us upbeat and smiling on a day where we could have easily chosen to moan about our British weather.

We arrived at Alresford to catch the train. Outside the station we saw several characters including Diesel the train, George the steamroller and Bertie the bus. There were a few more dotted around but due to the weather, we didn’t get the chance to properly appreciate it. There was also an indoor activity room where the kids could watch Thomas on the TV, have transfers applied, play with train toys and do puzzles. We spent quite some time here once we returned from the train journey and all three boys really enjoyed themselves.

We travelled through Ropley and onto Alton as we decided to ride the train before exploring the stations further. It was lovely to watch the boys faces light up, take in the scenery and have the experience of going on a steam engine. Due to the weather, we didn’t get off at Alton, but if you wanted to visit the town you could easily hop off and have a stroll down the high street or go to the duck pond and then jump back on a train a bit later.

On the way back up we got off at Ropley as they had so much on offer – all included in the ticket price. There was a teacup ride and inflatable slide to be enjoyed as well as magic shows being shown at various times throughout the day. Thomas was also at this station taking small rides up and down the track. The gift shop offered plenty of Thomas toys, trains and tracks- take a lot of money as they aren’t the cheapest of items but they are all the real deal. It is worth it, Spencer has become Jake’s favourite toy and is already on its 3rd set of batteries! There was also an activity room full of paper bunting which could be coloured in and hung from pegs around the room plus dressing up clothes.

Food, drinks and snacks were available at all of the stations and also on some parts of the train.

A fun-filled day out for all the family which I would definitely do again.

Intech Science Centre

Winchester, just off the M3

Tip number one: park at St Catherine’s park and ride, pay £3 for the whole day and claim it back at the centre. We were told on arrival that it would be £7 to park at the centre during the school holidays and that the park and ride was another option. It was a nice trip on the bus for the youngsters which just added to the enjoyment of the day.

Having not been here before I was a little dubious as I had been told by friends it was more aimed at school-aged children. Due to this we had actually visited the ‘Look out’ at Bracknell a few weeks earlier (as recommended by somebody), but I found that the science activities there were too tricky for a 2-year-old and even though their construction area was fun for him to play in, it wasn’t worth paying to go in just for that section. So I thought I would take a chance and try the Intech Centre to compare.

I took my sister and the 4-year-old girl who she nannies along with us. There were no queues on arrival which was great and the prices were pretty reasonable with an extra £2.80 charge for myself to go into the planetarium – Jake was free due to his age.

The planetarium also offers a child-friendly session at dedicated times where it is ok if they make a noise or need to leave. They showed us a story about what an astronaut has to go through to become one and some of the dangers of space. It was very informative for a school-aged child, but it would have been nice to have seen more about the stars and planets for the younger ages. I would still recommend going in as it is such a new experience for everyone and is fun to watch above your head.

The centre is full of so many activities, attractions, challenges and even soft play that you could easily spend all day here. We arrived approx. 10:30am and left around 4:00pm and still didn’t see all they had to offer. The children especially enjoyed the activity station where they could release little men attached to parachutes, into a wind tube and watch them fly up and float back down to be caught – I must say that the sharing going on between the children was lovely to see as so many wanted a turn. There were gadgets you could turn, buttons to be pressed, a crane to load up, a wheelchair to try your hand at basketball in, a running track to time yourself on and so much more, I could spend all day listing!

There is also an outdoor area with a playground and a nature trail to look for moths and butterflies. We went on a nice day and it was so lovely to get out and watch all the kids joining in together and running about.

The only downside were the prices in the cafe, it cost me £10.50 to feed just myself and Jake and these were only sandwiches and bits! I would recommend taking a picnic and snacks with you. Also, watching the young girl text on her phone at the till of the cafe was a bit frustrating!

All in all, if you want somewhere to go that will teach your kids whilst they have fun, this is most definitely the place to go and if a 2-year-old can enjoy it anyone can.

Wellington Country Park

Off the A33 between Reading and Basingstoke

I love it here and have an annual pass for Wellington so I don’t wanna come across biased and I will be honest, but the reason I do go here is because it does have so much to offer and is only a 20-minute drive for me.

These are their normal everyday Prices  (car park is free).

Jake loves the park for a few reasons:

  1. Dinosaurs
  2. A train
  3. A farm
  4. Play areas
  5. Sandpits

What more could a boy ask for?!

They have a newly refurbished cafe and entrance and are currently building a new water feature ready for the summer. It is nice to see the money going back into an attraction and that they care about how it looks to their customers.

They have events during every school holidays such as prince and princess weekends, the circus, birds of prey, horse and cart rides, Halloween events, nature and bug activities and much more.

Staff here have always been friendly and helpful towards us. My top tips would be to take a picnic at the busier times of year, take wellies if it has been wet the day before as it can get quite muddy in places, take a change of clothes and leave them in your car (especially for the lil ones!), arrive early on the busier days to park a little closer and most definitely make a full day of it if you aren’t a regular visitor.

Each time I visit I make sure I let Jake see the Dinosaur statues, knock on the fairy doors, go in the playground and go to the farm, then if we have time we can hop on the train. If we go all day we make the most of the open space and find a nice picnic area and walk around the lake as well as getting around most of the attractions. It really does have it all for everybody.

Manydown Farm

Basingstoke, Worting Road

This farm is literally a 2-minute drive up the road from my house and yet I had never been here in the 5 years I have lived in Basingstoke. Having a farm right on our doorstep I felt it was about time that I checked it out. On arrival, everything looks lovely with a farm shop and a cafe at the front. Parking was free and easy to get a space as we went on a drizzly day. However, I was a little surprised at their prices: £9.45 per adult and then £8.45 for each child 2 and over seemed pretty steep. If you book online you save an incredible 20p!! Not sure that’s much of an incentive to pre-book. I had a look at their annual pass prices and was also surprised to see that the adult price was the same as a child price at £37.50. It may be worth weighing up what would be the cheapest option for your family before you visit, as buying a year ticket, if you think you would return a few times, may actually work out cheaper.

It’s a nice time to visit a farm as the lambs have been born and they are always cute to watch. They had a very nice petting area with lovely staff making sure all animals were handled well and checking the children were sat correctly etc. We held rabbits, guinea pigs, chicks and chickens. There is a small walk around the rest of the animal section which includes ducks, chickens, sheep, cows and pigs. For the children, however, the highlights were the play areas which had a bouncy castle, jumping pillow, inflatable slide, climbing frame, sandpit, swings, hay bails, giant tyres and ride-on tractors. We spent most of our time here and not actually seeing the animals (but that is prob due to their ages). As it was wet they had cancelled the tractor ride around the fields and it was out of season for the maize maze.

It was great fun and the kids loved it- we went with 2 friends who have 4 and 3-year-old girls. For me, I would visit again on a nicer day and do all day, not just the afternoon, but for those prices, I would not make it a usual place to go to as I can do much more at Wellington with my annual pass and Jake’s entry is free until he is three.

I will definitely take my hubby in the summer and try out the maze… maybe see if I can lose him!

**Updated 2019- Unfortunately Manydown Farm has since closed its doors.

All in all, we have visited some varied and fab places over the Easter holidays and Jake always enjoys himself being out and about rather than stuck at home.

Have you visited anywhere great recently? If you are looking for days out in and around Hampshire why not check out some of these?

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