Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Free family fun at Sandwell Valley

I find it increasingly difficult to find free things to do with the children as many events although advertised as free, end up having additional costs for activities or parking etc.  We pay for our National Trust membership over the course of the year so although on the day money doesn't exchange hands, it isn't actually free and we often pay an additional £2 for their trails.

Sandwell Valley nature reserve have rebuilt their centre after a fire and Sunday was their re-opening day.  It was a free family fun day and was actually, totally free!
There was so much for us to do.  At the visitor centre there were RSPB workers giving out little rucksacks with an activity sheet on including a map, a pencil and crayon.  If the children completed the activities they received a stamp on their sheet and could collect a prize at the end when all were done.  The activities included bark rubbing, pond dipping, bird spotting, mini beast hunting, den building and toasting marshmallows over a camp fire.  With the exception of the last one, all of these activities can be done without helpers on stand by and our children are 2, 4 and 6 and there were two 8 year olds in our party and they all loved the activities all day.  There were also lots of crafts for them to do in the visitor centre including making masks, badges, dragon flies and peg butterflies.  We arrived at 11:30 and didn't leave until 4:30 and we still hadn't completed all that was on offer.

We managed to spot some lovely aspects of nature although I didn't get to snap that many pictures with monitoring children and pushing the buggy.  Another great feature of Sandwell Valley was that we could take the buggy everywhere and it wasn't an off-road buggy which makes the whole reserve more accessible and appealing for families.

We did take our own picnic but since the children were very well behaved with all the distractions on offer, we did buy them ice lollies but at £1 each, even the ice cream van was cheap.  We'll definitely be revisiting and I highly recommend it whether it's for an evening jaunt or full day adventure, there's lots to do either by foot or on bike and dogs are welcome.  A huge thankyou to all the staff on Sunday and massive congratulations of a successful opening.  We heard that well over 700 people passed through on Sunday which is encouraging to know more people are taking an interest in nature and wildlife.  If you're not in the Midlands, do try looking at the RSPB website for a reserve near to you and even consider becoming a member.  The children each receive a magazine every month and then there's a quarterly magazine for adults.  There are talks, walks and other events taking place regularly and not just bird related but all along the theme of helping to make nature a home for all wildlife.  We have always tried to be quite conservation conscious but these events and magazines help with additional ideas.

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