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stuff that kids love
"Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better."
We've marched into march wearing wellies and raincoats, challenging Mother Nature to just try and stop us from enjoying a romp outdoors. It's March, romp we shall!
British garden attractions lure more visitors than many non-horticultural ones, according to Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) figures. But, we need to nurture our nature. Here are a few child-friendly guidelines.
Oh, and Happy International Women's Day To All the Mums, Grandmas, Aunties, Godmothers!
Huge mecca for nature fans (1.8 million visitors a year), recommended twice on the app, has the largest, most diverse botanical collection in the world. Plus lakes, treetop walkways, fancy cafes and until Sunday, the Orchids festival celebrating Columbia – the world's most biodiverse country. Kids will be entertained by replica forest and river scenes, a life-sized jaguar, cacti in hats and of course, beautiful smelling blooms.
Numerous paths weave around one of the largest ancient woodlands in England, recommended by a dad for the "lovely long walks". The surroundings are managed by RSBP and conservation teams dedicated to maintaining the rich wildlife. Reachable by train (Canterbury East or West) or there's a car park (open 8am-8pm).
One of the most striking lawns in the city, the Heath's neighbour is a contained oasis of flowers, ducks and the odd deer. A tended walled garden area is indeed pretty, the sandpit is adored by younger kids and the mini zoo exhibits such delights as ring-tailed lemurs and kookaburras. Our mum of 3 rates the butterfly house and hidden paths. Perfect spot for a picnic.
Projects like these remind you that there are good humans in the world. A not-for-profit, community garden off the Gray's Inn Road offers weekend drop off activities that are "wonderful," says a mum of 2. (The bee keeping session tomorrow looks good). There are toddler sessions during the week and a community cafe that grows and cooks its own produce.
Residential 3 or 5 day camping breaks that you can pack your cherubs off to safe in the knowledge that they will enjoy fresh air, fields and forests, making friends in the process. "Very friendly and enthusiastic staff," says this mum. Activities include archery, cookery, craft, a "Tribes Got Talent" contest and more. Can we come?
A step back in time to the magical, mystical world of early-20th Century garden parties that regaled London's elite. It feels like a secret garden from a children's story... it even feels like being in Tuscany, declares this mum of 2. Access to the lily pond and Edwardian pergola walkway hugged with plants and flora opens from 8.30am (check website for closing times).
Mandrill, a polar bear, lion, elephant, insects, Antartica birds… aside from all of this taxidermy, visitors get to see highlights of the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year show, fresh from the Kensington mothership (which is currently exhibiting 2019 competition entries). Enjoy a day trip that's less than an hour from London, this parent recommends.
A "healing" botanical garden – the oldest in London – next to the Thames was originally used to grow medicinal plants, now it's more famous for the annual Chelsea Flower Show. "An amazing find, not what you'd expect – magical!" says this parent. School holidays feature occasional children's events such as this lotion and potion herbal play. More family fun here.
Similar to Camp Wilderness, with more in-depth crafts (how to knit, weave, mould, sculpt, paint and build using natural materials) and bell tented accommodation on a family farm near Canterbury. They focus on "nature based activities through food, art, nature and song," writes this mum. "Perfect for the school holidays away from the screens." Download a brochure here.