The summer holidays are here and there are already many parents and grandparents wondering what to do with the kids in the six week break ahead of them! So I'm featuring a couple of gardens here that may appeal to families, with some tips for getting the best value out of them. Most of us are all too well aware that a day out with the kids is expensive, and by the time you've put the fuel in the car; the food in the kids and paid admission prices, a family of four is likely to get little change from £100 here in the UK!
One of my favourites is the Rare Species Conservation Centre near Sandwich, which has an amazing collection of animals including snow leopards (above) and sun bears; fantastic rare birds, including a very bad-tempered toucan; rope gangways to entertain the kids while they're viewing the animals and it's close enough to the coast to fit in a visit to the beach if you're so inclined! Open every day from now until the end of August (10.00-18.00), tickets cost £10 for adults and £8.00 for children, but you do feel the money's going to a good cause.
Hever Castle (above) is another good bet, because you've got a moated castle (above); marvellous gardens for the grown ups; plus water maze for the children; and if you're already a member of the Historic Houses Association, it's free for members. Otherwise the family ticket offers an inclusive price for either 2 adults and 2 children, or 1 adult and 3 children, which means you can go with a friend and pile six kids into the car and pay £36.00 per family for castle and grounds, or just £30.50 for the grounds - if it's a nice day, there'll be more than enough to keep them occupied in the grounds, with the maze, lake and masses of running about space!
Pensthorpe in Norfolk is my personal favourite because you've got great garden design (Piet Oudolf's Millenium Garden, above), combined with fascinating birds. This is home to an ambitious and successful crane breeding programme and I suspect that both adults and children alike will enjoy the wide variety of rare birds on offer here - including many different cranes. These birds are bigger than most children under 10 so have great appeal to kids! A family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is priced at £27.00 and under 4s go free.
Another lovely garden to visit is Hall Place just outside London at Bexley, where the topiary exhibits (below) will entertain the kids (albeit for a short while), and the show gardens and glasshouses will make mummy happy. The best news though is that this garden is free! There's plenty of open space to run around in and you can always take a picnic if you're planning to spend the day there.
We're incredibly lucky in the UK because there are so many parks and gardens in all our major cities and they're all free, so with the good weather, there's always a chance to take a picnic and sit out in the sun while the kids run around!