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South "Central" - Dorset, Wiltshire & Hampshire

Please let me know of any free or good value outings you find...

In the meantime, here's the list so far, starting with Dorset...

  •     Beaches - Studland is everybody's favourite, usually clean & very unspoilt. Shrimping nets, a clear plastic jar & a book of things to look for at the seaside & all you'll have to do is guard the bags. There are rockpools at South Beach, shells at Shell Bay and miles of sand & a Nature Reserve at Knoll Beach. Hengistbury Head has an expensive car park but you can spend all day there, on the beach or flying kites, exploring the Head itself & watching the birdlife. Kimmeridge is cheap for us as they charge per vehicle; there are often guided fossil hunts & wildlife walks to join, but on ordinary days you can just walk on the beach & pick up fossils as you go. Other favourites of ours are Ringstead Bay - big pebbles, good shrimping, & Burton Bradstock - pretty small polished pebbles, lots of fossils, excellent cafe (not cheap, but worth it) - but a steep shelf & wicked undertow. Weymouth has lots to do like hiring canoes & pedalos; to avoid all this park up at Lodmoor bird reserve (past the Sea Life Centre, which itself is worth a visit if you can save some money-off coupons, often printed in local & national newspapers) & stroll across the Beach road to the pebbles halfway up the beach - this area is usually deserted, and is great for "skimming" etc.

  •     The Riverbank. At Eyebridge near Wimborne, children can paddle & swim in the Stour, closely supervised. We often meet up with other families here & take a picnic and a football for the bits when they're fed up with water. Again, a shrimping net & plastic jar come in useful. At Lower Bockhampton near Dorchester there are several places in the watermeadows of the River Frome which are suitable for the odd dip.

  •     Moors Valley Country Park. We invested in an annual parking pass for this, which is covered by just 6 visits in high season, though we prefer to go early or late in the day throughout the year as it tends to be less crowded. Great fun for all ages - take your bikes & ride for miles through the forest, climb the Treetop Trail, go round the Play Trail which still challenges my 11 & 12 year olds in places, or if you're feeling flush, take them all for a trip on the little steam train - funny how many people haven't quite grown out of that! There is a nice cafe, but we always take our own snacks & drinks.

  •     Badbury Rings. About half-way between Wimborne & Blandford on the B3082 - the kids can run for miles & pretend to be ancient Romans & Britons battling on the Rings. Wonderful views, flora & wildlife, excellent kite-flying, good for picnicking. Don't forget the camera to capture those wide Dorset skies!

  •     New Barn Field Centre. We had a lovely day out here last summer; the children loved hacking chalk out of a pit with antlers just as our ancestors must have done, then spent some time carving the chalk with flint. They enjoyed making mosaics, watching the Potter at work and talking to the animals, but the old shepherd's huts enchanted them, as did pond-dipping. Not a slick & polished theme park sort of day at all, but all the nicer for that.

  •     Poole's Waterfront Museum is free and great fun for a half-day visit - a mock-up street of Victorian shops entranced my seven-year old - there are quizzes to complete and all the usual facilities. Scaplen's Court next door is only open in August & for special events but is a fascinating "tenement" building giving a real flavour of how life really was for our ancestors from Tudor times onwards in this busy, lively port. Poole pottery is nearby, and there are good shops at the Dolphin Centre and a pleasant swimming pool if you're planning a whole day out.

  •     For NT members, there are Corfe Castle, (wonderfully romantic ruin, often things to do,) Kingston Lacey (lovely grounds, interesting house, lots of Craft Fayres, concerts etc.)

Click here to see some photos, if you have the time...

Hampshire...

  •     From Sam JP in the Gosport area: "Visit Fort Brockhurst on the A32. Huge area to explore full of dungeons, cannons passage ways. The Submarine Museum Haslar Road also takes you back to how life was like for sailors of old. Takes you on a tour of an old submarine (grandparents love this too!) Another must is the 17th Century Village, Howe Road. Kids love it as the actors/actresses act out their parts. You can go round the hamlets and ask questions but you don't always get the answers you expect! This is a good morning/afternoon activity. Ring the tourist office though as they don't meet every weekend. In the town there is a free museum which does activiity sessions in the summer holidays. On Tuesday & Saturday the market is there (one of the biggest in Hampshire) and you can finish up at the Falkland Gardens with a picnic or chips from 'Frydays' and watch the constantly changing water craft.

  •     Suggestions from Alli Maskell; Itchen Valley Country Park. Only pay for parking....1-4 hours is about 1.50. Lots of walks , play structures to climb on, play parks and grassy spaces.Toilets and a Cafe .Just off the M27 near Southampton.

  •     Holly Hill Country Park, Warsash near Southampton. Toilets, country walks, no parking charges, ducks to feed.

  •     100 Acre Wood , near Wickham ,Hampshire. Parking charges, country walks and a play area.

  •     Hilsea Lido nr Portsmouth. Small charge for large outdoor swimming pool, but right next door is a large paddling pool which is free. Parking can be limited. Opens at 11am fine days. Toilets and an ice cream shop.

  •     Alli has also recommended...Hollycombe Steam Collection in Liphook - "brilliant afternoon out... we (two adults) took 5 kids and it cost 35 . Once inside everything except ice creams is free. Loads of train rides, steam wagon ride, and fairground rides for all ages. I estimated the kids had had about 90 rides between them making the entry fee very worth while. Its near Liphook in Hampshire ( just off the A3) and it opens from 12pm til 5pm with soem open evenings. Brilliant day out!"

  •      From Caroline - Portsmouth - lots of ships to see, trip around the harbour, submarine museum at Gosport, D-Day museum at Southsea, Porchester Castle at Porchester, Southsea Castle. Canoe Lake (pedalos as far as i can see), Royal Marines museum, Portsmouth Museum, Havant Museum, beaches at Southsea/Eastney (stony), Clarence Pier (rides), Pirate Petes nr Clarence Pier (younger ones), Playzone nr Cosham (varying ages), Manor Farm country Park (costs but interesting), Lepe Country Park (parking only), QEliz Country Park on the way to Petersfield (parking only), Petersfield Lake (play area and lake) - teddy bear museum in Petersfield, also Taro Centre (swimming and a slide thing (!). Butser Hill - overlooks QE Country Park. Chichester close by, Hayling Island - beaches (stony) golf, amusements (money!), West Wittering beach (private) 3.50/day (Ithink) but cheaper after 2pm, closes at 8pm...special rates for minibuses/campers (more expensive than a car) - take your portable bbq and have dinner before you go home. Also East Wittering (more for surfers I think) This is just off the top of my head - more info possibly via Hantsweb if that sort of thing is on there. Bognor Regis, Littlehampton etc about 1/2hr away (Butlins does day passes 10-5 I think which absolutely exhaust the young ones) There are a few camp sites but I dont think they're cheap - there is one near Yapton which we have used which was about 3.50/night, tap and loo disposal, tussocky grass, few elec hooks (we dont anyway) - but can be windy and you need a car to get anywhere.

  •     From themselves...The Christmas Festival from HM Dockyard in Portsmouth - not a cheap day out but very good value, as entrance to the Dockyard's other attractions (HMS Victory, Warrior, & the Mary Rose etc.) are included.

Wiltshire...

  •     Nothing yet! But Salisbury & the NT's Stourhead are well worth a visit.

 

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Copyright: Angela Corbet, 2001.