Showing posts with label Nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nature. Show all posts

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Our Visit to Marwell Zoo, Hampshire - A Review

Over the past few years we have been very fortunate to visit several zoos in numerous destinations around Europe. Whilst providing visitors the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful animals in the world up close, I believe that zoos also educate and inspire people to consider the part that they can play in conservation and learn more about animals that may be facing extinction.

I have heard and read great things about Marwell Zoo in the past, so whilst visiting the area recently we paid the zoo a visit and enjoyed a fantastic family day out together, amongst the beautiful surroundings. Located in Hampshire, the zoo is situated within the grounds of a 140 acre park, which is home to hundreds of different animals and birds. I have seen it described as being one of Hampshire's top attractions and following our recent visit, it was clear for me to understand why.

We arrived at approximately 11am after an early start from our home in North Wales. I had been slightly concerned that we may have had an issue with parking, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a very large FREE car park, with numerous attendants who guided all guests into their spaces. It was then a short walk from our vehicle to the entrance, which had several tills and lines to welcome visitors in a friendly and quick manner.

The admission prices are really reasonable and there is also an annual membership option available if you would like to visit more regularly. An adult day pass including donation is £21, whilst a child admission is £17. As you can see from the image above, there are also discounted prices available for seniors, students and family entry.

As we entered the zoo, Riley was excited to see some advertisements for the Brickosaurs event. Lego and Dinosaurs are two of his favourite things, so he was delighted at the thought of seeing some huge dinosaurs made completely out of Lego bricks. He was provided with a map and competition entry form so that he could locate all of the different dinosaurs throughout the zoo. This also had the option to enter a competition by guessing how many bricks were involved in the making of the spectacular Tyrannosaurus Rex.

As we began to make our way around the zoo we came across some beautiful penguins. They had a huge enclosure and it was fantastic to be able to see them so close. You have two options of being able to view the penguins and this can either be from above, or alternatively you can also see them swimming in the water below. My children loved being able to see them both walking and swimming around.

One thing that soon became apparent, was how well laid out the zoo is. It felt really spacious and well maintained, which meant that despite being really busy, it never felt too crowded or enclosed. We also really liked how many picnic and seating areas there were located around the site, so that families had plenty of places to enjoy a refreshing drink or a bite to eat.

As we continued to make our way around the zoo, we came across the Giraffe House. The giraffes were all inside feeding as we arrived and I could have quite literally stood there for hours just watching them. They were so beautiful and graceful as they walked around and Riley was fascinated to see just how tall they were up close. The Giraffe House was a large area which provided plenty of space, but there was also a fantastic outdoor enclosure that gave them plenty of space to roam and enjoy themselves. I was really pleased to see how much room they had and they all looked very happy and healthy.

As we left the Giraffe House, we went to visit the Lemur Loop, however although it was open for guests the lemurs had decided to go inside following a heavy downpour of rain, so a staff member advised us to come back later in the day. It was a very strange day for weather as one minute it was glorious sunshine and the next minute torrential rain. We therefore continued to make our way around the zoo and searched for some more animals and dinosaurs.

Riley soon spotted several more dinosaurs and after also spending some time watching the playful meerkats, we found a picnic bench to stop for a drink and a snack. The picnic benches had lovely views over a field that contained some zebras and there were also plenty of wild birds around us that my youngest son enjoyed spotting in the trees.

The kids then decided that it was time for a park stop, so my husband and I sat down nearby whilst the children spent half an hour playing. There were several parks located around the zoo, which I felt really helped to break up the day. It meant that in between seeing the animals or searching for dinosaurs, my husband and I could have a sit down and chat, whilst the children could enjoy a play.

We also really enjoyed the educational element of our day out and my children really enjoyed reading all the facts about each animal. Marwell Zoo displayed plenty of factual information and there was also details about how endangered they were. My 12 year old daughter found some of these very surprising and I think it helped her to realise the importance of zoos in preventing extinction.

Our next stop was the incredible Tropical House which spans across two floors and is home to a large variety of animals, insects, birds and 2500 fish. I had no prior knowledge of this part of the zoo prior to our visit, so I was quite taken aback by just how special it is.

It was amazing walking amongst beautiful butterflies and tropical birds as they flew freely around the building. We also saw turtles, frogs and lizards as we followed the route around, but our favourite certainly came towards the end, as we stood and observed the fascinating team work of the leaf-cutter ants. Watching them work together was fantastic and my youngest son Riley was absolutely mesmerized. My children also really enjoyed the aviary and seeing such a wide variety of different birds.

As we came towards the end of our visit, we were very excited to see some pygmy hippos, an animal that I don't ever recall seeing previously. I loved watching them in their large Aquatic Mammal house and they really were absolutely beautiful.

Overall we had an absolutely wonderful day at Marwell Zoo. It may have been our first time visiting, but it certainly won't be our last, as we were left extremely impressed by just how lovely it was. We spent approximately 5 hours there, which was just the right amount of time for my family, but we noticed that they also had a hotel on site, so we would definitely be tempted to spend longer there in the future. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Marwell Zoo to others looking for an enjoyable day out in beautiful surroundings.

Attraction Details

Address- Marwell Zoo, Thompson's Lane, Colden Common, Winchester, SO21 1JH

Opening Times - Marwell Zoo is open all year round from 10am apart from on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Please check the website for closing times as this can vary throughout the year.

Entry prices - Information regarding entry prices can be found on the Marwell Zoo website here.

If you would like to find out more about Marwell Zoo, then you can visit their website or social media pages on the following channels:

Instagram: @MarwellZoo

*Disclaimer - We were provided with complimentary admission, for the purpose of writing an honest review of our visit. All opinions are my own unless stated otherwise. Any prices, times or dates are believed to be correct at the time of writing, but are subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the attraction's own website in order to obtain the most up to date information.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Mud & Bloom Subscription Box Review

Mud & Bloom are a fantastic subscription box company, that inspire children to get creative and develop their love for nature and the environment. Each month, subscribers can receive a box that is filled with fun activities and best of all, they can also fit through your letterbox, so there is no hassle of having to wait in for a delivery.

Each box contains everything that you need for some fun nature themed tasks, as well as providing very clear instruction sheets, nature news and educational games to help children learn to identify animals or objects in the world around them. When we were therefore offered the opportunity to review their February box, we jumped at the chance and Riley waited excitedly for his box to arrive in the post.

The boxes are aimed at 3-8 year olds, however my 11 year old son was also keen to take part, so my two boys aged 6 & 11 opened the box together. Inside our box was a whole host of activities, which have not only been created by qualified teachers, but they also support the National Curriculum with influence from Forest School, Steiner and Montessori education.

Our box contents included:
  • Make Ice Decorations Activity Sheet
  • Grow Your Own Aubergines Activity Sheet
  • Make Your Own Kite Activity Sheet
  • Grow Cosmos Flowers Activity Sheet
  • Flower Spotter Guide Sheet
  • February's Quiz Sheet
  • Compost Pellets
  • 2 x wooden sticks
  • Kite Material (Square Paper)
  • Twine
  • String
  • Paper Ribbons
  • Nature News Sheet
We also needed several other items for our activities which were not included, but are easily found around the home. These were an egg box for planting seeds, a cardboard toilet roll for the kite and a shallow dish for the ice decoration.

The Nature News sheet explained to us what was happening in February and highlighted what the first flowers were that we could expect to see growing at this time of year. It also advised that we might also start to notice leaf-buds on trees and this inspired my youngest son Riley to try and notice things on our walk to school. We didn't see any tree leaves starting to grow just yet, however we spotted plenty of daffodils and daisies.

There was also a Bird of the Month featured in the news section which for February was the Blue Tit. Riley enjoyed learning all about this beautiful bird and liked the blue and yellow colours of its feathers. We learnt a new fact that none of us had known, which was that the Blue Tit bird likes to drink milk, as well as eating insects, caterpillars, seeds and nuts.

Once we had read through the Nature News, we began our first activity. There was a bit of a debate between the boys as to which one we should attempt first, but in the end it was the Make Your Own Kite activity that won. 

I began reading through the instructions and made sure that we had everything that was required. The square paper, string and ribbons had already been provided, but we also needed scissors and a cardboard tube. Once we had found these additional items we began to make our way through the 6 step process of creating our very own kite.

We began by taking the paper and folding it along the pre-printed dotted lines as directed in the picture provided. We then made three holes in each of the folded triangles on the paper. These holes were for the string and ribbons. My eldest son was able to do this on his own with supervision, but younger children would definitely need assistance with this to do it safely. We then tied the string through the holes, winding the end of it around the cardboard tube. After this, we added the ribbons to the tail end through the remaining hole. 

It was really simple to create and something that we would have never thought about making ourselves before. We took the kite to a local field to get it flying and then experimented with the string to see how high we could get it to fly. It was lots of fun and great to have something that the children could play with once it had been made.

The next activity we chose to attempt was Grow Your Own Aubergine. Rather than simply telling us how to do this, the card also provided plenty of information all about aubergines. We learnt where they originally came from, how long they take to grow and how they are most often cooked and eaten. For this task we needed Organic Aubergine Seeds, Organic Compost Pellets and a plant label which were all provided. Additional items such as an egg carton or yoghurt pots were also required to plant the seeds.

Firstly we filled a bowl with warm water and placed two pellets in it. You then leave them to grow for around 10 minutes until they have completely expanded. My boys found this part interesting in itself and couldn't understand how it became larger. Once they had finished growing, we tore the netting off each one and poured them into two compartments of the egg carton. We then placed one seed in each pot. Ben labelled them up and we moved them to somewhere warm with natural light. The seedlings have not started to appear on ours justyet, but it has been less than the guide time of two weeks, so I will update this post accordingly once that time has passed.

The instructions advise that once they have become to big for their pots, then they need to be moved to larger ones that are approximately 5 inches deep. Once they have filled these pots, then they can be moved to their final positions and add support sticks if required. We cannot wait to see and eat our aubergines once they are fully grown.

We then moved on to planting our Cosmos Seeds. The seeds, compost pellets and label were all provided, but we did need either an egg carton or yoghurt pot for planting. We chose to use the opposite end of the egg carton to where we had planted the Aubergine seeds in the previous activity. These flowers grow to be a beautiful mixture of white and pink flowers, which can be up to 60cm tall. As with the aubergine seeds, we followed a similar routine with preparing the compost and then planted our seeds approximately a quarter of an inch down. We labelled them and then placed them in a warm place. We are hoping to see the seedlings appear in the next couple of weeks and the boys have been taking it in turns to water our seeds regularly.

At this point we decided to take a little break from the activities and attempt the quiz instead. All of the quiz questions were based around what we had learnt from the Nature News and the boys really enjoyed trying to remember the right answers to the questions. I am proud to say that they both scored 5 out of 5.

Our final task was to Make Your Own Ice Decorations, it wasn't frosty on the day that we received the subscription box, so we waited for a couple of days to see if the weather changed. During this time we collected some small leaves to put in our decoration, as well as finding some shallow lids and bowls to help with the creating process.

The weather didn't quite get chilly enough, so we decided to make use of the freezer instead, so we placed the leaves and stems we had collected on our lids and poured water over them. We then placed half of the loop of twine into the water, with the remainder of the loop over the side. It was then left in the freezer overnight. When Riley woke up in the morning he was very excited to see his ice decoration and we hung these on some branches outside.

Overall we really enjoyed all of the activities that came in our February Mud & Bloom Subscription Box and think that it is a great way to get children learning more about nature. A single box costs £9.95 with no long term committment and this can simply run on a month to month basis, which I think is value for money. Alternatively there are a range of plans which helps to reduce the monthly cost even more and further details on these can be found here:

For further information on Mud & Bloom you can visit their website or social media pages on the following channels:

Twitter: @mudandbloom
Instagram: @mudnbloom

*Disclaimer - We were provided with a complimentary Mud & Bloom subscription box for the purpose of writing an honest review of the product. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Five Reasons Why I Love Autumn

The summer holidays now feel like a distant memory and as much as I love the sunshine, trips to the beach and al fresco dining, I can't help but feel happy when Autumn arrives. To some, Autumn can be a bore as the nights draw in and the weather gets colder, but personally I love it and here's why:

1) Colours - I love the bright sunshine and greenery that summer provides, but Autumn brings a whole host of different colours everywhere you turn. Leaves on the trees start to change and a simple walk down the street can bring such a wide selection of calming shades and tones to your eyes. Our walk to school consists of going past numerous trees, all of various sizes and shapes. Just before we reach school, there is a small grass area that is home to a beautiful large tree, which turns a stunning red and deep purple colour every October. Riley calls this his favourite tree as he just loves the colours it brings.

2) Weather - Whether it is cool and dry, or wet and windy, Autumn is great for puddle jumping, woodland walks and exploration. The heat of the summer has subsided and it makes for a much more relaxing and cool experience when venturing out of the house. My children love getting their wellies and waterproofs on and heading down to the local park, where you can be sure to find plenty of puddles, squelchy mud and woods to explore.

3) Events - October and November bring lots of events for us. Both my daughter and I have birthdays in October, my husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, we have October half term to look forward to spending together as a family, as well as getting dressed up for Halloween. Then of course, we have the enjoyment of bonfire night and fireworks displays, as well as it being the time of year that we start to also prepare for Christmas.

4) Cosy Nights at Home - As much as I love to travel and get out and about, there literally is no place like home. I absolutely love it when it gets dark early and you can enjoy the sunset, put the fire on and cosy up in your pyjamas with a nice glass of wine or hot chocolate. I love the feeling of being warm and comfortable at home, whilst it is cold or raining outside.

5) Clothing - I love to shop, so Autumn gives me a great excuse to hit the retail park and purchase some new clothing from the Autumn/Winter ranges. I love being able to throw on a cardigan or oversized jumper and wave goodbye to the figure hugging tops of summer. I always love the Autumn kids ranges that come out in Next and Primark, so it is nice to be able to splash out on some new clothes for the kids and purchase the compulsory Autumn/Winter coat for each of them.