With holidays in full swing, The Chilterns is filled with parents on a mission to plan some exciting days out for the family. For help organising something a bit different, check out the ideas below. Fun-filled days guaranteed!
The Hell-Fire Caves, West Wycombe
For the thrill-seekers out there, a tour deep down these man-made chalk and flint caverns is a must. Excavated between 1748 and 1752, the caves were the meeting place for the Hell-Fire Club, an exclusive high society club formed in 18th century Britain. Situated on the southern edge of the Chiltern Hills, the caves have attracted tourists since 1951. The gothic-church entrance draws you immediately into the deep passages, which extend over a quarter of a mile underground. On navigating the windy paths, you come face to face with all sorts of historical features. Take a look at the tools used by 18th Century workers (picks, hammers, shovels and crowbars) in ‘The Steward’s Cave,’ risk an eerie encounter with the ghost of Paul Whitehead, the steward of the Hell-Fire Club, in his chamber and bravely explore ‘Franklin’s Cave,’ dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, the ‘founding father of the United States of America.’ With so much to do, no matter how gutsy you think you are, you’re in for a fright!
Why not pop along with younger children on a ‘Wicked Wednesday’ or a ‘Freaky Friday,’ for some fancy dress, competitions and courtyard games, or enrol at ‘The Hell-Fire School of Witchcraft’ where children can learn to cast spells, banish werewolves and even fly on a broomstick! For the over 18s, a ‘Double Dare’ will throw you into a real paranormal investigation, and a ‘Candlelit Ghost Tour’ will have you touring the caves in an even scarier way, with group psychic readings, as well as attempts to contact the other side! One of the most haunted sites in Britain, enter if you dare. (Please note opening days/times change throughout the year so check on the website for full details before making your visit: www.hellfirecaves.co.uk)
Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Quainton
For a step back in time, come along to one of the UK’s largest collections of locomotives, rolling stock and railway memorabilia. First appearing in Quainton in 1868, the railway centre is a historical journey into the fascinating era of steam. Rail enthusiasts are spoilt for choice with exhibits ranging from large express passenger locomotives to the humble shunting engine. And that’s not even mentioning a whole host of smaller items re-creating the golden age of steam. The ‘Travelling Post-office,’ alongside Platform 5, allows you to learn all about ‘Mail by Rail,’ ‘Night Mail,’ which shows how mail made its way up to Scotland overnight, and the ‘Great Train Robbery,’ which unravelled nearby. You also get to have a go at your very own mail sorting, whilst being guided by an expert in the field. Throughout the year, there are various events taking place. Many days are filled with ‘Static Viewing,’ an opportunity to view the exhibits on days where the rail does not run. ‘Steaming Days’ offer train rides on both a full size engine and on the miniature rail.
On extra special days, you can step into the world of Thomas and his Friends and take a ride behind his very own Tank Engine, with The Fat Controller right there for you to see! Other unique experiences on offer throughout the year include Steam Galas and all sorts of Rallies: Bus, Commercial Vehicle and Traction Engine rallies, to name just a few. Opening days/times vary during the year, as do the events on offer, so consult the website before planning your day: http://bucksrailcentre.org/.
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden
Situated in the quaint Buckinghamshire village of Great Missenden lives the award winning museum celebrating the life and works of the fantastic Roald Dahl. Cross the chocolatey threshold and you are immediately plunged into the swashboggling, phizz-whizzing world of one of the most important literary figures of our country. Whether you’re discovering the schoolboy pranks he got up to or rummaging through his family photo album in the ‘Boy Gallery,’ or stepping inside his very own unique writing hut or exploring an authentic Gladiator cockpit and learning about his RAF experiences in the ‘Solo Gallery,’ your visit is ensured to be fact-filled and fun simultaneously. Get your creative juices flowing in ‘The Story Centre and Crafts Room,’ where you can get dressed up as a Roald Dahl character, make a crodswoggling creature and even create your own gobblefunk words. At the end of your visit, you’re greeted by a range of delicious treats at ‘Café Twit’ and can enjoy the time to relax in the central courtyard. And if you’re not ready for the fun to end just yet, there’s always exploration of the village, which was home to Dahl for 36 years, to be done. Use the trails to discover Matilda’s library or follow the BFG footprints to Dahl’s grave. Both educational and exciting, the museum and story centre is an enjoyable day for all. For more information and details of half term activities visit www.roalddahl.com/museum.
Odds Farm Park, Wooburn Common
Undeniably a family favourite, Odds Farm continues to change, develop and introduce new features making it fit for all. Jam-packed with fun both inside and out, a whole day can be spent in this children’s paradise, whatever the weather.
The outdoor activities are astounding, with acres and acres of land housing the likes of tractors, go karts, animal paddocks, crazy golf, a sand and water play area, an adventure maze and much more. You’re in for stacks of fun. Separated into age-appropriate sections, ‘The Giant Indoor Playbarn’ is perfect for all: children enjoy the fun of slides, tunnels, ball pits and swinging ropes whilst the adults enjoy the comfort of a hot drink and cake. With seating for 300 in the heated playbarn, it’s both comfy and cosy. Good quality hot food is served in the new ‘Marmalade’s Tea Room,’ and there are picnic areas both indoor and out to house your very own picnics. And for the animal lovers of you, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get up close with the resident goats, cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits. Get your hands dirty and feed the animals or brush up on your knowledge with an animal demonstration. You can even hop on a trailer ride to go visit the animals in the fields. During holiday time, you’re also likely to come across your favourite characters or some crazy entertainers. With so much to do, you’ll easily spend the whole day there soaking up the fun. Visit http://www.oddsfarm.co.uk/ for more information.
Wendover Woods, Wendover
For a range of nature-themed activities, head on over to the wonderful Wendover Woods, in the heart of the Chilterns. With 700 hectares of unspoilt woodlands, there’s something for everyone. With a range of walking trails, ‘Hilltop,’ ‘Firecrest’ and, for the more active types, the ‘Fitness Trail,’ opportunities to explore the natural beauty of one of the country’s most famous woodlands are endless. Young children can even get involved with their very own personalised ‘Superworm’ trail, an educational opportunity to complete superworm-themed tasks whilst wiggling their way along. And if your passion lies way above the forest floor, have a go at the 3 hour long adventure that is the ‘Go! Ape’ experience. With both adult and junior versions, whole families can take on the zip wires, Tarzan swings and crossings. If you’re looking for a more relaxing day out, there’s plenty on offer in the woods for that too. With BBQ stands and picnic benches catering for up to 50 people and located within the large woodland glades, you can create your very own social event. Ball games are welcome in the larger spaces and children also have the fun and games of the adventure playground. The ‘Café in the Woods,’ which serves a variety of home produced and locally sourced food and drink, is also a great place to sit and relax.
With all that and even more, it’s a guaranteed fantastic day out. Further details can be found at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/wendoverwoods.
Written by Guest Blogger Natalie Timotheou