On researching how to plan a long term travel itinerary I came across some advice which said to get some big white boards (I can’t remember the reference now as it was a while ago, so many apologies for the absence of a link to the advice). Being a visual person this idea really appealed to me so I’ve gone and set up a ‘travel wall’ in my kitchen. I sourced some big white boards from Rymans (about £10 each although they are probably available cheaper elsewhere to be honest). One of these is half pin board/half white board.
I’ve then attached these large maps of the places where I’m spending a good 3 months so I can visualise my route through and where the various attractions are that I want to visit. I wrote a post on the maps and where to find them previously so take a gander as they are a mega resource for anyone interested in travel or education etc and they’re available in very high resolution, meaning a large print can be done (also a fab teacher’s resource).
It’s also given Aria a great visualisation of these places I keep talking about and next week I’m going to get her her own little white board as she loves doodling on them. Since taking this picture I’ve filled up 2 of the boards with to-do lists and packing lists and no doubt the 3rd will fill up fast too. It’s really cemented in my head now as something ‘real’ that we’re actually going to do next year so a great idea that I fully recommend.
The larger maps shown here are A1 but could have been printed even larger, the smaller maps are A3
When finding maps to plan my 2 years travelling I came across a fabulous resource for travellers, anyone home educating or for anyone at all really: Please take a look at ‘On the World Map’ for incredibly detailed, very large, printable maps of any country in the world. You can also view train line maps, political maps, time-zone maps, and many more. I’ve just printed some really large scale maps of China and Japan with rail line maps of each country too. I can now plot my routes in great detail. Resolutions are about 4000 x 5000 so if you have the printer you can get some very large maps printed.
Magna Science Adventure Centre, Rotherham
I had a day in Sheffield last week visiting my mum and whilst we were there we discovered Magna. It’s a science centre set in an old steelworks and it also has a fantastic outdoor play and water park. You can buy a day ticket for both areas which you can turn into a free annual pass on the day, or alternatively it is possible to buy tickets for the outdoor park area only – these are pretty affordable. Prices are around £10.95 for an adult ticket and about £6.95 for a child’s but the outdoor area only is considerably less.
I’ll be very honest and say that the actual indoor area was not exactly the greatest science museum I’ve ever been to. It doesn’t use the enormous space to its full advantage for starters. Secondly, it looks as though it received a lot of funding a few years ago and not had much since. This results in a tired look about the place with a lot of the best exhibits not working (the tornado machine for example). But the premise is good: the museum is split into 4 areas named ‘air’, ‘earth’, ‘fire’, and ‘water’; the best was definitely water and had the most children in it. You could use wave power to light the light house, see how a canal lock works 1st hand (in miniature form) and fire water guns amongst other things.
I really think some money needs to be spent to be able call this a great science museum. However that said, the outdoor area is incredible. There is a fab water area with taps and buckets and all kinds of fountains that children (or grown ups) can run through. This was next to a huge play area with something for all age groups. You could easily just come to the outdoor area and have a fab day out on a budget. Or you can experience the whole thing for about £35 for a family of 4 and then come back for a year for free. Bring a picnic and this is great value on a sunny day.
Well, really it was a day out at Warwick Castle but I won’t quibble over a title; although we did have a little wander around the town afterwards to find a place to eat (as it happens the amazing ‘Aqua’ Lebanese restaurant had incredible food with really great service and can be found at 12-14 Jury St, Warwick CV34 4EW).
Warwick Castle is actually part of the Merlin Group so I’d decided to go due to the fact it’s free with our passes. I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, however the usual entrance fee is about £25 which is comparable to most of their attractions. I’ve got to say that I was very pleasantly surprised. I’ve been dragged to a lot of castles as a child, and Warwick was probably one of them but I don’t remember it so who knows. It’s definitely one of the best kept castles I’ve ever been to and the attractions were also well organised and well timed throughout the day and some of the best I’ve seen in that setting. I chose to go on a weekday outside of the holidays and the only people there were a few school visits, nothing was over crowded and the sun was shining – a perfect day in my opinion.
Activities at Warwick include an archery display, the Princess Tower (bit rubbish and dated in my opinion and solely centred on girls hanging around for a kiss for hundreds of years, these ‘princesses’ also have no autonomy or control in their own lives and Warwick Castle clearly haven’t realised it’s 2016 not 1816). However putting the terrible tower of slave princesses aside it’s a fabulous day out. For example, the falconry was one of the best I’ve seen; the birds seem extremely well looked after with lots of information about their lives at the castle. The falconry houses some of the largest eagles in the world alongside falcons and owls, who looked magnificent simply flying around and eating snacks. The archery display was good and interesting and then later on we got to see one of the largest trebuchet’s in the world in action – firing rocks across hundreds of feet at high speed.
The Castle is beautifully laid out and preserved inside with lots of information but also not too much information either. On a sunny day the grounds are really stunning and there was food available in several places along with toilets, the most accessible of which are right by the entrance so it might be an idea to do a good toilet break and baby change
before you head into the castle grounds. Food is typically expensive so bring a picnic if you can. Prams aren’t allowed inside the actual castle (they are however allowed in the grounds) so try and bring babies in a carrier if possible as it will allow you greater freedom of the whole place.
There’s a great play park which is big enough to accommodate a lot of children and there’s a Horrible Histories Maze which we had good fun completing in-between the various scheduled displays. The Maze is really aimed at the 7+ age group but Aria had fun running round and collecting the stamps even though there was a lot of educational info that went over her head. The falconry show was different each time and there were at least 2 slots to see each show, the princess tower has to be booked in advance but doesn’t cost anything extra. There is parking but be prepared to pay even if you’re in the disabled bay – a blue badge gets you next to the Castle but doesn’t give you free parking (it was £6 for a disabled badge and I think £8 all day otherwise).
Keep an eye out on the blog for more photos – I got so many great shots of the birds that I’ll do a whole separate post just for them.