When it comes to days out locally with the family we always seem to radiate towards Moors Valley as it is packed full of fun things for the kids to do, but this weekend we wanted to try somewhere different. My first thought was Bolderwood in the New Forest as we wanted to try the Superworm trail, but that is only open on certain weekends throughout the year, so my friend Joanne from Charliemoos suggested Avon Heath Country Park.
I have been to Avon Heath before, but many years ago and have vivid memories of there being not much to do, getting a bit lost and then stuck trying to negotiate tree roots and mud with Kian in a buggy. Thankfully it has changed a lot with the addition of a large play area, the Heathland Discovery Centre and a wildlife area with a viewing hide as well as miles of tracks offering the opportunity to explore some of Dorset’s internationally important heathland and its rare wildlife. Of course the kids wanted to start with the play area first!
We stayed in the park for about half an hour before we persuaded them that there was plenty more to see. We headed over to the wildlife area and were very lucky to see a Sand Lizard basking in the sunshine. In the hide there was lots of activity going on around the pond with birds feeding from the bird feeders, bees buzzing around the bee hives and even a large rabbit that hopped past. In the hide itself there were pictures of lots of birds to help up identify what we could see and we saw a Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Wood Pigeon and a Coal Tit.
The park is dominated by lowland and wet heath, acid grassland and heather, which is broken only by clumps of birch and pine which makes it easy to let the children roam safely as you can see them easily. Charlie, Megan and Olive come here regularly and were keen to show Isaac and Eliza all their favourite places to explore, in particular the “Climbing Tree”.
The track we followed was around a mile and a half and the scenery changed as we progressed. We found ponds perfect for stone throwing and testing to see if pine cones floated or sank, off-road paths that needed careful negotiation and puddles to splosh through.
We even found lots of places where fairies live, a tree you could see right through to the other side, which is great for a game of peek-a-boo, and the kids adored climbing Rapunzel’s Hair – Honeysuckle Vine which is thick and winds round itself making it feel like rope.
We even found a den that someone had made previously. As we came to the end of the trail we spotted lots of children gathered around the wildlife area so headed over to see what was going on. The keeper was feeding the Sand Lizards live crickets and there were lots to see. He even picked one up and showed each child the lizard up close and he explained she was very fat because she was carrying eggs.
After seeing the lizards we headed inside the discovery centre which has lots of interactive displays for the kids to enjoy. Isaac and Charlie enjoyed doing a wildlife quiz and they did brilliantly answering all the questions, whilst Sebby loved pressing the buttons to hear what different birds sound like.
Of course we had to finish off with another visit to the park.
Avon Heath runs lots of activities for the kids including animal detectives and mini-beast trails. We will certainly be back soon!
Avon Heath is just off the A31 between Ringwood and Ferndown. It is free to visit although there is a small charge for car parking of £3.50 for a full day.