Review 2014: Dinton Pastures Country Park, Berkshire

Thank you very much to this week’s Secret Reviewer, Jo, for her fab review of Dinton Pastures!

Dinton Pastures 

Davis Street, Hurst, RG10 0TH

Dinton Pastures Country Park covers just over 335 acres and has 7 lakes, 2 rivers, 3 public bird hides and meadows.

It offers scenic walks, wildlife watching, fishing, golf, orienteering, water sports and a large play area for children.

I have to be honest and say I have been visiting Dinton year in and year out since I was the same age as my children so it holds a special place in my heart as I have so many memories here!

 

Walks

Dinton is a lovely place to go walking and given the large number of lakes and footpaths you can make these as long or as short as you like really.

The wildlife trails are colour coded and signposted so you can follow these or wander to your hearts content if you prefer.

There is a short route marked for wheelchair and buggy access however in my experience if you have a robust pram/pushchair you should be able to follow any paths.

I have certainly had no trouble pushing my Phil & Teds Sport for miles around some lesser trodden tracks in the park although I wouldn’t attempt a longer walk with my Maclaren stroller.

 

The lakes are beautiful to walk round and I love them equally in the brilliant sunshine of spring & summer, the autumnal colours and the winter crispness.

There are plenty of benches at various points around the lakes to sit down & rest or take in the scenery and there are lots of places where the Ducks, Swans & Geese gather where you can feed them.

One word of warning, if you feed them at the main deck by the far end of the play park then it can become a bit like a scene from the birds.

The Swans & Geese are in large numbers here and are not frightened to surround you which can be very intimidating even as an adult let alone for small children!

I prefer to take our bread to a quieter point round the lake to feed the ducks there.

Play Area

In May this year the new play area was finally opened at Dinton (after delays due to the flooding earlier in the year) and boy was it well worth the wait!

The play space that has been created is nothing short of amazing! It features giant nest towers, swinging hanging logs, zip wires, funnel net trap, willow maze, a storytelling area & woodland obstacle course.

There are swings & slides and lots of sandpit areas.

At the far end closer to the lake is a woodland picnic area & den building structures plus a ‘hobbit’ tunnel and small trampoline suitable for toddlers.

There are other features such as a giants chair and dinosaur eggs to enthral your youngsters and really help their imagines run wild.

The only criticism I can make of this area is that it is so large that it can be very difficult to keep track of your little ones if you have more than one and for toddlers not all the equipment is suitable so you do need to be careful to keep tabs on them.

All in all though this is probably the best play area we have yet visited and there is no concrete in sight. I think it will keep my children entertained for many years to come.

Water Sports

The Dinton Activity Centre part way round Black Swan Lake offers a multitude of water sports including Sailing, Kayaking, Paddleboarding & Windsurfing.

For younger children they also offer pond dipping.

Advance booking is generally required for these activities.

Lots more information can be found on their website via WBC: http://www.wokingham.gov.uk/parks/countryside/dac/

If you are solely visiting for the DAC there is a separate car park which is generally a lot less busy.

Other Activities

Orienteering is available and you can pick up a pack from the café for 50p.

There is a Pay & Play 9 hole golf course (par 70 standard scratch) and clubs, trolleys & buggies are all available to hire again from the café.

For any keen bird watchers there are 3 bird hides available at various points around the park – bring your own binoculars!

Refreshments

Refreshments are available at The Dragonfly café next to the main car park. The café is lovely and has a vast amount of outdoor seating and an outside covered area plus plenty of space indoors too for when the weather isn’t so good.

They are very accommodating towards children & babies.

Prices are very reasonable and I can highly recommend the homemade cakes they serve.

Picnic Areas

There are plenty of picnic benches both inside and outside of the play area and there is also an abundance of green spaces which are perfect for a picnic blanket if the weather is good.

Toilets & Baby Changing Facilities

There are toilet facilities at the café, the rangers office in the main car park and at the Activity centre.

The facilities at the café are the nicest as you would probably expect.

You can access them without having to go through the café. Baby changing facilities are available in the disabled toilets and these are clean and adequate.

Parking

There is a decent sized car park at the main entrance which also has an overflow section if it does get busy.

Alternative parking is available at the Water sports centre or at the aviation museum.

If you use the aviation museum car park you are at the very far end of the country park about as far as you can be from the main entrance and play area and I would allow a good 30-40 minute walk to get there, though on the plus side parking is free in this car park.

Charges for the main car park & the activity centre car park are as follows:

Up to 1 hour – £1.20

1-4 hours – £2.00

Over 4 hours – £2.50

Summary

Dinton is a great place to visit with children of all ages (or even without children). Weather dependent you could spend anything from an hour to a whole day here quite happily.

Rating

5 out of 5

The new play area is worth this alone.

Review 2014: Dinosaur Crazy Golf at the Oracle

Thank you very much to this week’s secret reviewer! Great review!

The Oracle, Riverside performance area (near Pizza Hut), Reading, RG1 2AG.

Jurassic Adventure Golf

Play

At the Oracle Shopping Centre in Reading they currently have “Jurassic Golf”.  It’s Dinosaur Crazy Golf for girls and boys.

It is by no means an afternoon or day out but it’s a novelty that keep my monkey entertained with something different for around half an hour.

We went on a Friday morning and had the circuit to ourselves.  I only had to pay entry for those wishing to play so we only paid £3 which is the price for under 4’s.

We paid our fee at the Kiosk, collected our golf ball and golf club and then made our way to the Riverside.

If you don’t have a buggy you can go straight down the steps.  We had a buggy so we walked along the riverside and behind Jamie’s Italian we accessed a walkway which slopped down and around to the riverside.

The plastic dinosaurs in the enclosure are fairly well done and have signs that identify which dinosaur they are along with facts and figures.  There are 9 holes on the circuit, the monkey and I attempted a few.

Some of the holes were a bit too advanced for a 3 year old and non-golfer put together but we did have fun on the ones we did try!  For those who like competition there is a high score board.

Tips

There is a large T-Rex in the middle of the circuit which moves and roars every 15 minutes.  My monkey wasn’t a fan but nothing a Mummy cuddle didn’t resolve.

Food

After our round of golf we came across a vintage Citroen van that had been converted into a ice cream van and was selling whippy New Forest ice cream.

The van was clean, ice cream was yummy and the seating area was clean and tidy.

Jurassic Golf fast facts

  • 1 moving dinosaur that roars
  • 10 life size dinosaur models
  • 9 artificial grass golf holes

Facilities

Opens 11am week days and 10am at the weekend.
Open from now until 30th September 2014.

Baby Facilities

Toilets/nappy changing
Available inside the mall toilets.

Parking

In the Oracle

Prices

£1 off your 2nd visit, voucher is in the leaflet available at the kiosk.

Rating out of 5

Our secret reviewer gave this 5 out of 5.

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Santa’s Grotto’s/Father Christmas Visits in North Hampshire 2013

I put out a request on NorthHants Mum in September, asking if anyone has any suggestions for future posts.

Wendy sent me a great message asking me if I could research a decent garden centre for Christmas where the children will find a good Santa.

I’ve also added a few more places where you can meet Father Christmas, that aren’t garden centres.

Please let me know if I’ve missed any!

Hopefully the below helps!

Santa Grotto’s and Father Christmas Visits

Wyevale Garden Centre

Wyevale Garden Centre in Sherfield on Loddon is doing either Breakfast or Tea with Father Christmas. It’s available from 18th November until 24th December. For more details please click HERE.

Conkers Garden Centre

Father Christmas will be with the team at Conkers from Saturday 7th December and every Saturday and Sunday up until 22nd December. For more details please click HERE.

Dobbie’s Garden Centre

Dobbie’s Garden Centre in Shinfield, Reading has a Santa Grotto that is available from the 17th Nov until 24th December. For more details please click HERE.

Henry Street Garden Centre

Henry Street Garden Centre is in Arborfield, on the way to Reading. You can find out more details about visiting Father Christmas at Henry Street HERE.

Miller’s Ark

Santa will be arriving at Miller’s Ark on Saturday 23rd November, Santa is only with us ONE day this year, so do not miss seeing him in his grotto. Click HERE for more details.

Bouncing Tots

Bouncing Tots will be hosting Christmas parties on 20th December. Father Christmas will be in attendance. They are also fundraising for Naomi House on the day, asking parents to bring in unwanted/outgrown toys to donate. For more details please click HERE.

JJ’s

Santa’s Grotto at JJ’s will be open for the whole of December. Click HERE for more details.

The Studio at Dummer

Friday 20th December. Come and visit santa at the studio. You will receive a small gift and will have the opportunity to join in with arts and crafts throughout.

A Movin Monkeez Xmas session will also run from 11:00am – 11:30am so bring your dancing shoes!

A disco will follow and there will be snacks and drinks. Duration is from 10:30am – 12:30pm but you do not have to stay for the duration.

£6 per child which includes a gift, snacks and crafts. Dress to impress 🙂

For more details please click on the facebook page or the website.

Festival Place

Santa and his helpers are back for another magical Christmas at Festival Place!

Bring the kids along to enjoy some festive fun at our enchanting Santa’s grotto. Watch their faces light up as they experience the grotto for the first time, complete with fir trees, train ride and snow!

Your visit will cost £4.50 per child and includes a train ride, a visit to Santa to tell him those Christmas wishes, an early Christmas gift, a letter from Santa and a photo opportunity!

Book your visit online here.

The Vyne

Follow the Baubles and find Father Christmas, stay for Christmas lunch and then make some Christmas Crackers. For more details please click HERE.

Have I missed any?

Related Posts

2012 Santa’s Grotto’s in North Hampshire, Stocking Filler Ideas & Posting Dates

Review 2013: Wellington Country Park

Wellington Country park

I’ve been meaning to go to Wellington Country park for ages but we never seemed to get around to it. Until one Sunday last month! The weather wasn’t great but we had a lovely morning there. I went there years and years ago, so I was intrigued to see if it had changed much.

Play

There is lots to do and see. We walked left from the entrance building as everyone else seemed to be going right. This worked really well for us as most of the park on the left was empty and by the time we got around to the right side, this had emptied out too. There are lots of little parks dotted around. We walked through the dinosaur section which was good, especially because my little one got to practice the word “dinosaur” lots. On an side note, I remember the big dinosaur from when I went to the park about 22 years ago! Yes, he and I are that old! Lol.

We didn’t get around to the farm this time, but we did spend time in the sandpit area, the tractor area and the toddler village. We also trekked out to see the deer (and it seemed we were the only ones who did!) so my little one learnt the word “deer”. My little one loved the toddler play area near the entrance. She spent a lot of time playing in the Wooden and plastic houses and on the little bikes. There is also a very cool looking bouncy “pillow”. This was packed the whole time we were there, so we didn’t get a chance to have a proper look.

083

You need to be careful with your toddlers as there is lots of open water. We spent a lot of time fielding our toddler away from the water as she couldn’t help but gravitate towards it.

My little one absolutely loved it the whole place. She was exhausted by the time we left.

Food

Was good, but expensive for what it was. We had actually packed a picnic, but someone forgot it, so we ended up eating in the restaurant. It was a bit chaotic, children everywhere, but I suppose it’s to be expected. There weren’t many healthy options, just the usual sausage, fish fingers with chips. They had a picnic lunchbox, but this was £5, which I felt was quite steep.

Baby Facilities

Were good. There were several all over the park. I liked the fact that all of the toilets had toddler steps, so they could reach the sinks and toilets.

Parking

is Free!

The shop

Is full of tat. You can’t avoid it either as you have to walk through it to pay. We saw several older children acting up because they wanted something that their parents weren’t prepared to pay a fortune for. I felt for the parents and the children.

Entry Cost

Is expensive. There is no getting around this. £9 per person. But under three’s are free. But you don’t have to pay for parking (I should think not for that price!) A much better way would be to get the annual pass which is £56 per adult and gives a year’s entry, plus lots of extras. We are thinking of getting this pass just for me, so I can take out little one there when my husband is working.

There is lots to do, but still, I felt there was something missing. I felt that it was very commercialised, the whole place didn’t seem to have much of a personality. I can’t really describe it. Everything was a little too “perfect”.

Rating 4/5

Because the food was expensive, entry was expensive and it felt too commercialised and as if it was just there to make money.

Petra Cracknell Photography

Petra sent me a lovely email a while back, but unfortunately I never received her email with her guest post attached (don’t you love technology when it doesn’t work!). So, this is a few weeks late, but better late than never. I love the idea of one year special package and the collage’s below are gorgeous. I wish someone had told me about these packages when I was pregnant!

Petra Cracknell Photography, based in Pamber Heath (between Newbury, Reading and Basingstoke)

My name is Petra Cracknell and I have always had a passion for photography.

I believe it came from my granddad, a very keen photographer, and the hours I have spent with him developing films in a dark room.

The times have moved on and I embraced my passion even more with the arrival of a first digital camera. I was a keen travel and documentary photographer before my children arrived and my passion has moved to portrait.

Last year, I decided to take it up professionally and set up Petra Cracknell Photography for studio and lifestyle portraits.

I am very lucky to have the space to have a studio attached to my house, so the precious little time I have with my boys is not compromised by me being away a lot.

I have a fun approach to photography and I like my clients to feel relaxed and at ease in their sessions.

Sessions, packages and price list:

NEWBORN STUDIO SESSION                                        £60

There is nothing more special than capturing those memories of your baby’s tiny features. This time passes by so quickly.

The ideal time for newborn shoot is between 5-15 days when your baby is still very sleepy. Newborn babies are unpredictable, so allow between 1.5-2.5 hours for a photo shoot (think of all the feeding, burping, nappy changing you will have to do in that time).

Newborn shoots can take place in my studio where I can offer you a selection of backdrops, backgrounds and newborn photo props (baskets, crates, newborn hats etc) or at your home using natural light (a space for backdrop stand needs to be provided near a well-lit window). I use an extra heater in my studio for newborn sessions, so your baby feels cozy and warm.

INCLUDED IN PRICE:

  • ALL IMAGES FROM THE DAY ON A CD (HIGH RESOLUTION)
  • 1-2.5 HOURS OF STUDIO TIME
  • CHOICE OF BLACK OR WHITE BACKGROUND OR 4 DIFFERENT BACKDROPS
  • GREAT CHOICE OF NEWBORN PROPS PROVIDED (WELCOME TO BRING YOUR OWN SPECIAL THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO USE IN PHOTOS)
  • 1X A4 SIZE PRINT OF YOUR CHOICE

CHILDERN/FAMILY/COUPLE STUDIO SESSION            £50

The Studio shoot is ideal for toddles, children, families, maternity or couples.

INCLUDED IN PRICE:

  • ALL IMAGES FROM THE DAY ON A CD (HIGH RESOLUTION)
  • 1-1.5 HOUR OF STUDIO TIME
  • CHOICE OF BLACK OR WHITE BACKGROUND OR 4 DIFFERENT BACKDROPS
  • CHOICE OF TODDLER PROPS PROVIDED (WELCOME TO BRING YOUR OWN SPECIAL THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO USE IN PHOTOS)
  • 1X A4 SIZE PRINT OF YOUR CHOICE

Studio shoots using black or white background

Studio shoot using different backdrops

OUTDOORS/LOCATION SESSION                                  £50

The Lifestyle location shoot is ideal for families, children, toddlers, babies, maternity or couples.

Those photo shoots are generally a bit longer than studio sessions. I will meet you in a location of your choice which can be your back garden, local park, woods or place of interest near by etc.)

One of the lenses I use for an outdoor shoot is a 70-200mm lens, which means I can stand back a bit and let your children play and get used to me in their own time whilst still getting lovely close up photos.

INCLUDED IN PRICE:

  • ALL IMAGES FROM THE DAY ON CD (HIGH RESOLUTION)
  • 1-2 HOUR SHOOT AT THE LOCATION OF YOUR CHOICE (WOODS, LOCAL PARK, PLACE OF INTEREST ETC)
  • 1X A4 SIZE PRINT OF YOUR CHOICE

Packages:

Bump to Baby                                                                       £80

  • Savings of £30
  • 1 hour pregnancy shoot (around 30 weeks)
  • 1.5-2.5 hours newborn shoot (5-15 days)
  • All images from the day on a CD
  • 3x A4 prints of your choice

Watch me grow                                                                     £80

  • Save £30
  • 1.5-2.5 hour newborn shoot (5-15 days)
  • 1-2 hours studio or location shoot (6m – 12m)
  • All images from all sessions on a CD
  • 3x A4 prints of your choice

One special year                                                                  £150

  • Save £60
  • 1 hour pregnancy shoot (around 30 weeks)
  • 1.5-2.5 hour newborn shoot (5-15 days)
  • 1-2 hours studio or location shoot (6 months)
  • 1-2 hours studio or location shoot (1 year milestone)
  • All images from all sessions on a CD
  • 5x A4 prints of your choice

Please note: Additional petrol cost will be added for locations more than 20 miles away.

To book a session:

Call: 07738 727170

Emal: p.cracknell-photography@hotmail.co.uk

Or visit our facebook page: Petra Cracknell Photography

Don’t miss out on future posts like this – you can receive updates directly to your inbox by email by adding your email address to the box on the top right of this page and hitting subscribe. You can also follow NorthHantsMum onTwitterFacebook ProfileLinkedIn and Feedly. I hope to see you there! 

Review 2013: Kids ‘n’ Action, Soft Play Centre, Winersh Triangle nr Reading

Kids ‘n’ Action, 680 Eksdale Road, Winnersh Triangle Berkshire RG41 5TS (does anyone know if they have a website because I can’t find one?) 

We went to a new (it opened in August last year) Soft Play centre recently which is over near Reading. A friend of a friend recommended it to us so we checked it out on my little one’s birthday last week.

As you walk in, there are a lot of tables and seating, so you can grab a table and start to explore. There’s lots to do. Along one side of the main room is the soft play for smaller children and they have a small area specifically for babies. Then there is the car wash, which we really loved! Next to that is a football pitch with hoops. The husband was most annoyed that I scored more hoops than him, and it’s made me seriously think about taking up netball again! lol. Then there is the Activity centre which is HUGE. My little one loved clambering through this and it’s big enough that adults can go on too. She also really loved the slides, the big one and the small ones. The big slide is very big though!

Just off the main room is a long corridor with lots of little rooms in. There is a technology room, a dressing up room with lots of different costumes, a shop, a vets, a hospital area, a construction zone and I’m sure there is another zone I just can’t remember! My little one loved the technology room and the construction zone. I could have spent several hours in the shop room, sorting out all of the food toys! It was a bit demoralising to go into every room and see everything all over the place, but I guess it’s to be expected.  Such a brilliant idea having different rooms with different themes.

You can buy food on site. The food was ok but it’s quite expensive for what it is and there aren’t too many healthy options. I guess that they have to cater to demand though.

There was also only one baby changing room which we didn’t get to check out as it was always being used. However, the ladies had another baby changing table in. All seemed clean and tidy but it had one of those nappy dispensers and I could not work out how to get it to work! Parking can also be a challenge.

When you go in, you can request a card which allows you one free entry once you’ve been five or six times (can’t remember how many, sorry).

We were there for a good 3 hours, which included food. It was a lot busier in the morning when we were there and seemed to empty out at around 11.45am.

We had a good time, but I don’t think we will be going there regularly as it’s a good half hour drive from Basingstoke. It was a nice day trip out to go somewhere different.

We give it a 4/5. It would have had more had we not spent ages trying to find a car parking space and if the food options were healthier.

Previous Reviews

Review: The Living Rainforest, nr Newbury, Berkshire

Bookstart

Bookstart is a national programme that encourages parents and carers to enjoy books with children from as early an age as possible.

Bookstart gives the gift of free books to children at three stages in their early life, along with guidance materials for parents and carers.

The scheme enjoys sponsorship from around 25 children’s publishers, Red House Books and government funding via the Sure Start Unit.

Bookstart Book Crawls

For children aged 0 – 4 years old.
You will be given a collector’s card when you join the Book Crawl and a sticker for the card each time your child visits the library.
When your card is full your child will qualify for a Bookstart Book Crawl certificate, which may be presented at a special event.

Rhymetimes

Fun and free Rhymetimes for babies, toddlers and their parents or carers are organised in many libraries around the county.  They aim to encourage parents and carers to share action songs and rhymes with babies from birth onwards.