Tuesday 25 June 2019

Summer Fun at Moors Valley Country Park, Dorset

One of our favourite places to visit in Dorset is Moors Valley Country Park and it's always a fab day out with so much to do! With 1000 acres to explore there are plenty of beautiful walking/cycle trails, Go Ape Tree Top Adventure, cycle hire centre, a steam railway, picnic areas, Gruffalo sculptures and our favourite thing to do, the play trails. Here's a little look at what you can expect to see this Summer:

Play Trail

The play trail is perfect for families and is totally accessible for wheelchairs and buggies. (Although the adjoining Tree Top Trail is not suitable).  It's less than a mile around so ideal for little legs however you can expect to spend most of your day here because you won't be able to tear the kids away from the play equipment!

Featuring giant spiders to climb, a giant ants nest to explore, giant snakes to wriggle through and many more wooden play structures, Moors Valley really does have one of the best play areas I've ever seen.

This Summer, the play trail has been extended to include a brand new area called Bewildernest, one of the largest play areas across the park. Inspired by wild play and the magic of the forest, the Bewildernest area centres around a giant nest of native woodland shrubs with a mysterious maze of tunnels inside to navigate and explore, We can't wait to check this out on our next visit!

Zog Activity Trail

Another popular activity is the activity trail and this year, the trail is all about Zog. If you've not heard of Zog then he is a lovable dragon created by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. We adore Julia Donaldson stories and we've always had a soft spot for Zog, especially after seeing the book bought to life over Christmas on TV!

Visitors can follow the trail through Zog's forest classroom to learn more about the animals and habitats around them. There will be lots of dragons to spot along the way plus hidden images that children can reveal by using a special coloured lens from the activity pack. (Available to buy from the visitors centre for £3).

The Zog trail is buggy friendly and a fantastic way to see parts of the forest you wouldn't normally go to!

We were lucky enough to be invited to a very secret tea party recently with some other local bloggers and we got to meet Zog - Erin was a bit unsure but Elliot loved it. Especially when he got to take a selfie with him!

We even got to ride on the steam train with him - it's not every day you can say you shared a train with a bright orange dragon!

Gruffalo's 20th Birthday Celebrations - 6th & 7th July 2019

2019 marks the 20th anniversary of The Gruffalo book - I know, I can't believe it either! To celebrate his birthday, the Gruffalo will be back at Moors Valley for some special appearances over the weekend, plus free face painting and more. You'll also be able to download a very special activity pack featuring games, crafts and activities - keep an eye out on the Facebook event for this!

Moors Valley Railway - Open Weekend - 13th & 14th July 2019

Moors Valley Railway opens it's doors to the public next month and visitors can take a peek behind the scenes. For train enthusiasts, there is also a Model Railway Exhibition in the carriage shed.

You will also be able to drive a steam train in the "Driver for a Fiver" event which is always popular. We did this a few years ago and I'm not sure who enjoyed it more - Elliot or my husband!

For more information on all the events and play trails, plus parking charges, head over to:

Monday 17 June 2019

Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum - Dorchester - Review

One of Dorset's newest attractions is the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse in Dorchester. It opened in May 2018 however it's roots go way back to the 18th Century when it served as an actual courthouse.

Bringing over 200 years of justice and injustice to life, Shire Hall promises a fun and interactive experience for all ages.

We are always keen to visit new places with the children but I have to say, I wasn't sure how suitable the museum would be for my two, aged 6 and 2. More on that later but let's just say I was pleasantly surprised!

Shire Hall is located at the top of the High Street in Dorchester (nearest parking is Top 'O The Town) and is open daily from 10-5am.

On arrival at the museum, there is the option of doing an audio tour or for younger visitors, there is a hands-on iPad app which was a big hit with Elliot! If you do choose the iPad tour then you'll need to give your credit card to the staff as a deposit but it's literally locked in a box so is very safe.

As we made our way into the museum, Elliot began to explore the app and it was a fantastic resource. It was easy to use and really held his attention. There were maps of each room, mystery boxes to find, lots of information plus games!

It's easy to forget how old the building is when you are stood in the front entrance/shop as it's so bright and modern. But as you head further into the museum and towards the cells, the temperature seems to drop a little, everything gets a little darker and you really start to get a feel of the history of the place!

One of the rooms has a large screen and a film on loop which gives a bit more information about the history of the courthouse, including the Tolpuddle Martyrs, one of the most famous trials held here. Elliot said he found this room creepy so he was keen to move on!

We then moved onto the cells which were my favourite part of the museum - it was crazy to think who might have passed through here all those years ago and what their crimes might have been. It was quite eerie down there too!   The cells were a lot smaller than I thought they would be and it was fascinating to see all the graffiti that had been left on the walls.

One of the cells had a chalk wall so visitors can leave their own marks, this proved popular with Elliot and Erin!

 Just round the corner from the cells, there was a wall featuring many different mug shots and the crimes committed - these ranged from stealing bread to arson. We were amazed to see one of the prisoners was just 7 years old - Elliot is 6 and he couldn't quite get his head around the fact that someone his age could do something so bad and end up in court!

One of the most intriguing things we spotted was a cell that was a little different from the others. The original floor had been removed and there was a low pit that could be reached by stairs. There were lots of ideas as to what the cell was for but the museum still doesn't know!

The next cell was a lot larger than the others and it was where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were held before their trial. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of 6 farm labourers from Dorset who were convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of a friendly society - a forerunner to a trade union.

It was extremely interesting to read about this case - I had heard of the Tolpuddle Martyrs but didn't really know the story behind them. It's fascinating to think that their case paved the way for the creation of trade unions and the protection of employees rights - something that is as important as ever in 2019.

The final room to see was the courtroom and as we ascended the narrow staircase up from the cells, it was hard not to think about all those who had climbed those stairs to their fates. It gave me goosebumps thinking about it!

You might think the courtroom would be a bit boring for younger visitors but this is not the case at all.  Dotted all around the room are hats and dressing up props so children (and grown-up ones!) can immerse themselves into the characters. Elliot thoroughly enjoyed transforming into the judge with the coat and the wig!

After we had explored the courtroom (and tried on every hat several times over!) we took a look at the exhibition room. The museum has lots of events on throughout the year so it's worth checking the website but we were lucky enough to see the Tolpuddle Martyrs Remixed Exhibition.

Featuring art by Jason Wilsher Mills, the exhibition brings the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs to life using augmented reality elements which can be seen using smartphones or iPad. Elliot loved this part! It was a really unique exhibition by a very talented artist.

Our final stop was the cafe which is a lovely bright area serving a variety of sandwiches, daily-changing lunches and amazing looking cakes. My husband went for a stew which smelt delicious, I had a chicken and bacon toastie (very nice!) and the kids were very happy with their lunchboxes which included a choice of sandwiches, crisps, fruit, drink and a penguin.

We had a really fun day out at the museum and it was a real surprise to find somewhere so child-friendly! The iPad tour for children was a fantastic resource and really enhanced our visit.

The museum offers lots of activites in school holidays such as slime making and storytelling so I think we will definitely be making a return trip! (It's worth noting that ticket prices include an annual pass which is brilliant value)

For more information and ticket prices, visit the Shire Hall Courthouse Website

*Disclaimer - We were provided with complimentary entry and lunch for the purpose of this honest review.  
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