Thursday 11 August 2016

Awesome Archaeology at Wrest Park

School summer holidays - it can be difficult to find enough exciting things to do with the children that are also within your budget. Well, we have definitely found an amazing place which we loved so much that we will be returning again this summer holidays for another event. We were invited to review Wrest Park which is an English Heritage property in Bedfordshire, they've got some summer activities for children on weekdays and the event that we went to was absolutely fantastic.

Upon arrival we needed a toilet trip and whilst in there I knew I needed to mention this... you know when you're on a family day out and you need to take a little person to the toilet with you? There's hardly any space in some of them and you're really cramped, well not here! English Heritage must understand the need for a good sized toilet haha.. can't believe I've started this post talking about toilets. It had to be said though! Toilet trips can be stressful. I'll also mention it has a great baby change area - no bad smell at all!

Before you enter through admissions there is a play area and also a maize, the café too is outside the entrance. You enter through the gift shop - you exit here too, we had a look around the gift shop on the way out and Oliver was eyeing up a wooden shield and sword to which I said no - not because it was too expensive but it's his birthday on Sunday so he doesn't get gifts randomly before as a rule. The gift shop was really reasonably priced actually and have a section which I'll call pocket money toys meaning you didn't have to spend a small fortune and it was nice cute bits too.

We went to Awesome Archaeology at Wrest Park, on the English Heritage website it says "Get your hands dirty as you become a daring archaeologist on our mini dig for the day. Discover hidden treasures and fantastic finds as you excavate the secrets of Wrest Park." From that, I thought we would be doing some digging in sand for a bit learning about the history of Wrest Park which as a family thought sounded really fun but there was so much more than that.

Had we of arrived earlier at the area for Awesome Archaeology (we decided to walk around for a bit first as it was so pretty there and we also needed to get some lunch... I will talk about lunch soon!) - we would of been in time to do some digging in one of two sand tables they had but unfortunately I didn't realise this finished at about 1:30pm. What was after was great fun too so if you do miss the digging - don't worry! There is other things to keep children entertained and learning too.

There were two really enthusiastic guys at Awesome Archaeology, with a queue of children waiting to see what it was all about.... my children however were not in the line *argh* You know when they just don't want to wait for something? So we left poor Grandma in the line and we went to explore inside the bowling green house which is very pretty... they can use some foam blocks in here to build their own versions of buildings they've seen around Wrest Park which we thought was a lovely little touch, children learn through playing and it was great to see them trying to create a building like the ones they've seen.
Soon enough it was our turn [thanks grandma!] and Oliver went first... he had no idea what to expect.

I discovered that the two men didn't actually work for English Heritage but were professionals at what they do, touring the country offering their expertise in certain things and English Heritage had got them in to run the sessions - wow (Time Capsule Productions). Usually things we have been to similar to this in the past, it'll be people who usually work at the venue just playing a different role for a few hours. We thought it was fantastic that English Heritage have actually gone to the effort to find someone to hold this work shops at their venue! It kinda makes you feel like you're getting more for your entrance money too - as you don't pay any extra to take part in Awesome Archaeology!

There were two options
1) metal detector
2) geofizz kit

Oliver went with the geofizz kit first and he was pretty amazed.
Each child gets a 5 minute slot with the machine and when the time has run out, the screen on the machine will 'lock' until it's reset for the next person. Oliver had no idea how to use it to begin with but picked it up so quickly when it was perfectly explained to him... I took a while to understand what it was all about.

Meanwhile Isabelle got distracted by these lovelies...
Oliver says "Geofizz kit, it will help you to discover ruins under the ground that have been there for a long long time". Basically, it's a really cool game because it has a tablet connected to it [children love technology don't they?!], the game itself is looking for remains of a building and by moving around more of it appears on the screen as you discover it. He absolutely loved this but the first attempt didn't get as much as he wanted to so he was desperate for another go. Remember I said that little boy wouldn't wait in a line to have a go at this? Well he did, twice more! Very patiently.

He loved this so much and on his second turn he got to have a go with the metal detector! Ahh. My Dad was big metal detector fan and would loved this day out. It kinda made me think about time team too - anyone remember time team? Can't of been the only one that was made to watch it when they were younger?!

The metal detector also had a tablet connected to it, meaning yes another game! This time the aim of the game was to find the lost treasure, it will beep when it gets close to something and then make a loud noise when you've found it - both children got excited at the Eiffel tower keyring.
Isabelle wanted to get involved and she done really well actually, finding 11 things in 5 minutes and getting very excited each discovery.
I love how she stood here really proud of herself with her arms crossed saying thank you to the man for letting her have a go. He was great with her, asked her how old she was to which she replied "I two". He told her that she was the youngest to do it this week and that she did really well - obviously she walked away with a big smile on her face like she had made a huge achievement. English Heritage have employed people who have very good people skills and are good at interacting with children - every single child got talked through what they had found, each time the men got down to the child's level to talk to them.
Oliver's favourite was the geofizz kit so he lined up to have another go! Couldn't believe it as this boy really doesn't like waiting for anything but he really desperately wanted to stay there all day.

It was time to move on and see what the other activity offered was all about... Facial reconstruction with play doh! As an allergy mum, I always notice is when there's signs about allergies and I was very impressed to see this dotted around the café, the shop and also on the back of this sign at the facial reconstruction, it's lovely to see allergies being taken seriously and allowing us allergy parents to be a little more relaxed.

The children both absolutely loved creating a face with play dough and spent a fair amount of time doing it. Oliver wanted to get back to the geofizz but Isabelle was very happy slowly creating a face.

Lunch wise, there is only one café here which is at the entrance.... I guess it could be a little annoying if you're at the other side of the park and wanted a cup of tea. They don't offer chips or jacket potato - I felt this was a shame as it's something simple that would cater for people who are gluten free. The menu is very good though and the sausage roll was absolutely delicious. I was pleasantly surprised at the prices, often it's a lot more for certain things in cafes on days out which can add the cost up and up... These prices are reasonable meaning you could visit again and again without spending a small fortune. They have an offer of a childrens lunch box for £4.95 and with it the child gets to chose a small toy out of a tub.... Oliver picked a bouncy ball and Isabelle got a cute bracelet (which she went on to purchase the matching necklace for it before we left - obviously). The selection of cakes were fab, coffee and walnut cake, lemon cake, brownie, millionaire shortbread, pastries just to name a few. They do have some Dairy Free and Gluten Free cakes. The crisps were allergen free too. The tea was reasonably priced and tasted good. The sausage rolls - have one! Absolutely delicious. I'll return for one of those!

There's so much there we weren't able to see it all with children but if you were alone without the children it would also be a wonderful place to go.

There was so much open space to let the children run around in or pretend to be a tree in.
We love how this day out has catered for both aged children as well as myself and grandma too - it's an ideal family day out as it's somewhere every generation will love! There's plenty of space to put a picnic blanket down and have a relaxing visit. If you go inside the house, you can learn even more about the history and it's very beautiful inside. The Wrest Park guidebook is a perfect buy if you want to learn more about it's history.

As a family, we love days outdoors exploring and learning about new places - this now automatically is in my top 5 that we've been to.

Thank you English Heritage for a fantastic day out - please hold awesome archaeology again next summer! You can find out more about what other events they've got planned this summer by going to their website - 
You can also find their entry prices online too which we thought were reasonable.

Mary-Kate, x

*I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. [I have received a voucher in return for writing this post]*

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