Muddy Bumper Summer Survival Guide
Why does the mind always go blank when you’re trying to plan a day out with the kids? Perhaps it’s all the gin we drink to survive… (Or, maybe that’s just me?) Anyhoo… what with August being the only month of the year when the Mini Muddies are off school every single day, we all need some ideas when it comes to entertaining the bratlets. And like your very own fairy godmother, I’ve put together the following itinerary… You can also check out the Muddy weekly guide to keep updated on what’s happening every seven days… No need to thank me, (just buy me a Jeroboam of sparkling rosé).
Summertime at Leeds Castle, 1 – 30 Aug
Leeds Castle throws everything at the summer holidays and this year they’ve got several great events on offer. Each week in August you can take up The Maze Challenge and discover the hidden objects as you hunt for clues in the spiralling Yew maze (included in admission price). Or for wildlife lovers there’s a day time or nocturnal adventure on offer. By day you can hunt for grasshoppers, slugs, beetles and butterflies to help the wildlife team count and identify the many insects living on the estate. Or for the brave of heart (and over 7s), there’s an evening nature activity – learning about the five species of bats that live at Leeds Castle and enjoy the Castle and grounds at night. Both need to be booked in advance (be quick to avoid disappointment!) Last, but not least, is my personal favourite a fun packed weekend of theatre with a difference – where children perform history for the grown-ups. Using costumes and a little bit of help from professional actors, the stories of legends of Kings and Queens and other historical heroes will be brought vividly and – without doubt often hilariously – to life by children (like the scene above – an everyday occurrence in my house…)
Summer Camps, Bewl Water, Mon 25 July to Fri 26 August
With rounders, cricket, cheerleading, mountain biking, pedalos and much more, these holiday camps look like a good option for keeping the nippers off their screens and out of your hair. Open to all children aged 5, a Full Day (9am-4pm) costs £39.99 and Half Day (9am-1.30pm) costs £24.99. Booking in advance essential.
Climbing courses, Chimera Climbing, High Brooms, throughout Aug
Bring your Little Monkeys and Rock Ninjas along to Chimera to stop them climbing the walls (boom, boom). One hour sessions and half day sessions on offer during the holidays, for kids of all ages, from 5 years. You can find the days and times on the website – spaces still available.
Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, dates throughout August
Alongside Den Building and Spot The Yeti! running throughout the summer there’s also extra family crafty fun going on in these stunning gardens throughout the holidays. Visit between Wed 10 – Sun 14 Aug to take part in the Wild Clay activiites and create your own sculptures using sticks and clay. Or visit between Wed 17 – Sun 21 Aug to turn egg boxes into treasure chests. There’s also face painting and Lavender Bag making on offer and best of all, most activities are included as part of the normal admission fee. This is a great affordable option, particularly for younger crafty kids.
Catch BFG in cinema, throughout August
I think I may be more excited about seeing this film than my kids. Roald Dahl’s BFG is on general release already, and if you haven’t yet seen it, it’s a corker. The story of the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children. Directed by Steven Spielberg, so bring your hankies. It’s showing in cinemas all over the county, but here’s some examples.
Gravity Trampoline Park, Lockmeadow Entertainment Centre, Maidstone
Another option that’s perfect for older and younger kids alike is the new Gravity Trampoline Park in Maidstone’s Lockmeadow complex. Muddies little and large can bounce on the wall-to-wall trampolines until they’re all tired out – while you enjoy your Latte as you watch from the balcony upstairs. Do book in advance as it gets very busy in the holidays.
Medieval Month, The Canterbury Tales Visitor Attraction, throughout August
This August The Canterbury Tales Visitor Attraction aims to bring medieval tradition and fun to life. The church yard will be transformed into a Medieval Garden with four zones, offering younger guests (no, not you Dad!) the chance to try Maypole Dancing, hone their dragon slaying skills at Knight School, observe Medieval Medicine demonstrations and be enthralled by a tale under the Storytelling tree. The Medieval Story Garden activities are included in your admission ticket and will run daily between 11am and 3pm.
Go Ape, Bedgebury Pinetum, Goudhurst, throughout the summer
Children 10 years-old and above (minimum height 4ft 7″) can attempt the zip slides, rope bridges and Tarzan swings on the Tree Top Adventure at Bedgebury Pinetum (if you have younger kids too there is an easier Junior trail). The course takes 2 to 3 hours and you’re required to have one adult for every two kids. Mine have tried the Junior Trail and loved it and – possibly the result of nervous energy – were totally pooped and early to bed afterwards.
LEGO Friends Amusement Park, 26 – 29 Aug or Football FEST, Bluewater, 15 Jul – 22 Aug
This is the closest your mini muddy will ever get to experiencing the beautiful world of Heartlake City – as well as building some stuff, trying out some games and snaffling a goodie bag. Or if footie is more their thing, then head over to the indoor football theme park. Five activity tokens cost £15 or ten for £25, book online in advance at www.footsportsuk.co.uk to receive a 25% discount using the code FSUK16BW. That should easily earn you enough brownie points for some Mummy retail time.
Doc Yard’s Time Travelling Techsplorers, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, 1 Aug – 4 Sept
By popular demand the Doc is back! He returns from exploring the North and South poles and, with slightly eccentric assistants Bunsen and Branston, attempt the ultimate scientific challenge – time travel! Having undergone a massive redevelopment and only an hour from Tunbridge Wells or London this makes a family day out option well worth considering. Especially since kids go free (one child with every full paying adult) throughout the summer.
Secret Life of Pets, Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Fri 22nd July
A comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day. For one bustling Manhattan apartment building, the real day starts after the folks on two legs leave for work and school. That’s when the pets of every stripe, fur and feather begin their own nine-to-five routine: hanging out with each other, trading humiliating stories about their owners, or auditioning adorable looks to get better snacks – until, of course, a major turn of events leads to a crazy adventure unravelling…
Jousting Tournaments, Hever Castle, Edenbridge, weekends throughout Aug, including Bank Holiday
Let the action commence as the Knights of Royal England return to Hever Castle to battle it out in jousting tournaments. Knights compete to become the season champion – Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn will join spectators as the knights display an array of stunts, fights and falls (Oh, my days. My mini muddies would be in their element). Bring a blanket or pay a small price for a seat. Visors down, let’s go!
Spy Mission Trail in Canterbury, Treasure Trails, available any time
I’ve written a whole post about these self-guided themed Treasure Trails dotted all over the UK, including several in our county, which to me scream ‘holiday saviour’ and a good one to keep up your sleeve for when you need to get out but don’t want to spend a bundle. In Kent there’s a Murder Mystery Trail in Royal Tunbridge Wells, a Treasure Hunt Trail in Maidstone and a Spy Mission Trail in Canterbury, above, to name but a few. Costs just £6.99 a pop for a Treasure Trail and you can download one right this minute (disorganised, moi?) and use your little map of joy this hols.
Adventures with Winnie-The-Pooh at National Trust
As I’m sure know, Kent’s got some fantastic National Trust properties dotted around. From the glorious gardens of Sissinghurst Castle, Victorian fun days at Ightham Mote, or the deer galloping through Knole Park, there’s loads to do. Particularly cute this summer is the series of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends trails taking place around Kent properties from July to September. Help Pooh get ready for Eeyore’s birthday at Emmetts Garden, or join him on an adventure trail at Sir Winston Churchill’s former home Chartwell!
Kent Life Ice Cream Festival, Maidstone, Bank Holiday Monday, 29 August
Cool off the old-fashioned way down at Kent Life this summer, as the attraction hosts its first ever Ice Cream Festival on 29thAugust, with ice cream vendors, chocolatiers and sweet stalls galore! The family-friendly farming attraction near Maidstone is the perfect place for a family day out and has a packed programme of activities this summer.
Finding the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter Studios, Fri 22 July – Mon 5 Sept
The Harry Potter Studios manage to come up with new ideas every year to hoik Harry fans into its attraction, and this summer they’ve managed it again. For the first time, there’s a moving display of the Devil’s Snare that the trio encountered in their hunt for the Philosopher’s Stone in Creature Effects, plus the chance to touch the giant tentacles that have been specially created as they were in the films. Kids can learn how one of Ron Weasley’s favourite games, Wizard’s Chess, was brought to life on a large scale with the giant chess pieces moving across a chequered board, as if by magic, on the HP backlot.
Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey
There’s plenty going on all summer at the the former home of King Henry VIII. From 6-21 August there’s the Summer Garden Adventure, where you pick up a trail map from the information centre and go off in search of Henry and Mary’s ambitious ideas, big spending and exotic wonders. This is recommended for families with children aged 5-14 years. The cost is included in the palace admission price, and it’s from 11am-4pm. If you can’t prize your kids away from their screens, you could download the Time Explorers app and go on an interactive adventure at the palace. Download the app before you visit – there are three options: The Clerk’s Fantastic Feast, The Ambassador’s Secret Assignment, and The Architect’s Design Dilemma. It sounds like a lot of fun.
Colour and Vision Exhibition, Natural History Museum, now until 6 Nov
If you’re all tuckered out from soft play or theme parks then I think kids will really enjoy this exhibition. Go behind the eyes of dogs (they can’t see red) and snakes (they have heat vision) with a stellar light installation created by British artist Liz West to illustrate how colour has shaped 565 million years of evolution. There’s lots more to see and do – I was (unsurprisingly) drawn to the special event on 29 July trying three colourful botanical cocktails as you learn about the natural world’s vibrant spectrum of colours. Ok, if you insist. Tickets: Adults £10.80; Children £5.40.