Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Lost in Manor Park

Another freezing day in Sevenoaks, but I was determined to get us some "fresh air" so we wrapped up warm and set out for Manor Park, just outside West Malling.

We arrived miserable, freezing and completely ready to go home. I think I had totally underestimated how cold it actually it was. It was muddy (again) and we had brought a pushchair to a park that is really not very pushchair friendly.

We hoisted the pushchair over a cattle gate and traipsed across a field. I spotted some highland cows in the next field, but even they had no appeal in what felt like sub-zero temperatures. Here's a good time to say I am completely nesh.

By chance I noticed a really smooth, dry path behind a hedge. So we lugged the pushchair over the next gate and found the path we should have been on right from the start.

Calum zoomed off round the lake on his bike and we finally started to enjoy our morning out.

We finished the walk with coffee and biscuits from the park's cafe. Calum and Orla had a great time in the playground (right by the entrance) which is full of play equipment for young and older children.

There's an old ruined tower that we didn't manage to look at, but we will when it's a bit warmer!

A word of warning - the path round the pond ends at a (quite quiet) road with no gates so watch out for little ones.

This week's no price tags lesson: always look at the map. It will show you where to go.

Manor Park Country Park
St Leonard's Street
West Malling
ME19 6PE

Parking: Monday - Friday £1.50 weekends and bank holidays £2.00

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Calling all freebie lovers

I'm looking for some guest bloggers for no price tags - there are only so many free things I can try out in a week, and I'd love to hear some of your favourite free things to do.

Have you found something in Kent that you can't keep to yourself?

Send your ideas, blogs and pictures to fee_hatton@yahoo.com and I'll be in touch very soon!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Mum & Co - a NICE toddler group

Can't beat dressing up
I'm no real fan of toddler and baby groups - in fact they can send me into a spiral of dispair. They're normally noisy and chaotic, with children fighting over toys and mums seemingly oblivious.

But Mum & Co at St Nicholas' Church in Sevenoaks is the exception. With sessions on Wednesday morning and afternoon, Mum & Co is a little oasis of calm in a sea of crazy baby mornings.

Ok - first things first. It is not actually free (gasp). A £1 entry fee gives you unlimited tea and biscuits, and drinks for little ones. Money that isn't used for refreshments goes to St Nick's chosen charity.

The session is downstairs in the undercroft (there's a lift for pushchairs), and there is a really nice selection of toys. Orla went straight for the dressing up box - but we had fun with the little kitchen, farm animals and train track too.

Although the group is for children over one, there is a little area set aside for smaller babies. And I can't stress enough how much more relaxed and un-crazy this session is.

Everyone helped to tidy up and we finished off with some songs. And I left feeling decidedly less frazzled than I arrived. Just what you need from a morning out!

St Nicholas Church
Rectory Lane
TN13 1JA

Mum & Co
Wednesday 9.45-11.30am and 1.45-3.30pm

Dad & Co
First Saturday of the month 9am - 10.30am

PS St Nick's has a great cafe that serves reasonably priced hot food and sandwiches in the undercroft too.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Duck attack at Bradbourne Lakes

On a sunny afternoon with half an hour to spare, we stocked up on bread and took ourselves off to Bradbourne Lakes.          
Famous among the parents of Sevenoaks, Bradbourne Lakes are actually a series of ponds and they are full - and I mean full - of ducks.

Over the five years I've lived here I've been chased by angry ducks and geese more times than I care to remember.

But if you time it right (when the ducks are well fed and don't rise up out of the water when you walk into the park), it can be quite a nice place to while away some time.

There are two parts to the park - each with its own network of ponds. The northern part is closer to Bradbourne Vale Road so it's a bit noisier, but the ducks there are slightly less crazy.

The southern part is much prettier and more fun to walk around. And once you've run out of bread the ducks tend to leave you alone.

Don't be put off by the ducks though. That is, of course, why my family goes in the first place!

Bradbourne Lakes
Betenson Avenue
Sevenoaks TN13 3EP

Parking is free.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Wet and muddy in Ashdown Forest

On new year's day we always go for a walk and this new year's day was no exception. So although it was pouring with rain, we ventured out into Ashdown Forest.

It wasn't raining when we set off so we didn't take anything remotely waterproof with us. Agh! But luckily we had wellies in the boot of the car, and a battered old umbrella.

The forest is enormous - 6500 acres if that means anything to you! Making it the biggest free public space in the south-east.

It was the inspiration for AA Milne's Hundred Acre Wood in the Winne the Pooh stories. It's made up of forest and heathland, and it might very well be my favourite place in this part of the UK.

I have to admit I am normally a bit disappointed when I go for 'country' walks around Sevenoaks because you still seem so close to civilisation. You can still hear traffic and it never feels completely peaceful.

But Ashdown Forest is totally different - the views are stunning and there is no traffic noise at all (until you get closer to the car parks).

There is a pushchair-friendly walk, but we took our baby carrier and went on one of the steeper climbs.

Although the path was very clear, we managed to take a wrong turn and got a bit lost. Panic.

We soon found our way back to the path and the circular walk we took from the Forest Centre took us about an hour and a half.

It was very, very, very muddy. Calum lost one of his wellies in a big puddle (twice) and there was lots of slipping and sliding. So if with very little ones I'd recommend waiting until it's a bit drier.

Five no price tag stars for Ashdown Forest though. Even in the pouring rain. I can't wait till the spring to try it again!

Ashdown Forest
Forest Centre
Colemans Hatch Road
RH18 5JP

Free parking

Walking maps


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