At the weekend the sun shone and we took the chance to visit Conkers discovery centre in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. It is an outdoor play and indoor discovery centre set in the national forest with so many activities to suit all ages. It’s somewhere we have been a fair few times before and I vividly remember going when Roma was just a week or so old. You know those days of second time paternity leave that you just want to soak up and also appreciate the older one too. To make sure Eva knew we wouldn’t stop doing fun things and that we hadn’t forgotten her with her sisters arrival, the times of overcompensation! It was one of those times. I remember it being so emotional, not only because I had a week old baby but also because as I sat there feeding her in the cafe as Eva did some drawing and Eddy queued up for drinks I looked on and couldn’t quite believe this was my whole world. Not quite grasping that this was real and how after a long, long journey I was lucky enough to be here with two children, two of them! I might blame some of the emotions on hormones but also because these were the precious moments I had with Eva before she started school in just 6 short months. All the emotions.
It’s hard to believe that was 3 years ago now and the stark contrast struck me as we walked into Conkers this time. We walked past that very table and I glanced wistfully. Yet there was no stopping, no feeding, just two little girls eager to explore in the sunshine so off we went and the fleeting emotional moment captured just for me.
It has always been a great place with outdoor and indoor adventures alike but in the last few years it has changed a lot and there was so much to do. Now they have activity trails, hi & lo ropes, a climbing wall and zipwire, and that is just outside. Inside they have a new 4D cinema experience, softplay zone, tree top walk and the simplest but most favourite of the children…the interactive forest floor in the entrance! Sometimes it really is the simple things that are the best. The girls would stay there for ages chasing the butterflies and stamping through leaves. I am thinking we need one of those at home!
As it was such a lovely day to start with we wandered around, did the barefoot walk, barefoot! We have never been able to fully immerse ourselves into this before on our winter visits, usually keeping our shoes firmly on but today we went all in. We waded through freezing cold water (I literally thought my toes would fall off), navigated sticks and stones and rocks and lastly of course deep sticky mud! The girls thought it was so fun. It was great to see Eva especially because due to her allergies she isn’t usually allowed to take her shoes off outside (she has severe hayfever and grass allergy) but with most of it stones and just one hay section to bypass she felt free and that is amazing. Thankfully they have a foot bath and foot dryer too so we cleaned up in there and had a wonderful relaxed picnic in the sunshine.
We told stories in the story teller hut, an absolute favourite, I love to hear their stories and imagination. Eva is much more literal and all her tales are about things she can physically see or has done and Roma? Well hers are nonsensical at best! She certainly has a vivid imagination that one and mixed in nursery rhymes with fairies and dinosaurs. A perfect mix if you ask me. The girls and Eddy climbed the viewing tower, I saved my legs and stayed in the ground, before heading on the train, the ‘Conker Choo’.
Now the train, which takes you the short distance to the other side of the centre and the park area, is quite possibly the most exciting thing for the girls. Roma adores trains anyway and there is just something exciting about sitting there together and watching the world go by. We had a quick play on the park, Eddy and I enjoyed the little zip wire but the children not so much, and then got an ice cream from the little hut they have. Roma is fascinated with getting ice creams from vans and little huts because she thinks them passing it through the window is the best thing ever!
We got our ice creams just as the heavens opened so quickly ducked into the amphitheater to eat them with the sound of the rain falling around us. The girls ran around up and down the steps as I had a rest on them. Sometimes it is nice to find a quiet spot on a day out isn’t it? We were practically the only people in there so appreciated every moment of that.
The discovery centre inside is full of information and interactive boards to learn about nature and the world and a little bit like the Think Tank museum in Birmingham Eva absolutely loves it. Again Eddy and I took to sitting down after a long day and letting them explore and learn, I love that they have each other to do that with and so you have to take advantage whilst you can don’t you? They will follow each other to their hearts content at the moment and I can’t help but smile at another flashback moment of never thinking we would get here. Days out are sometimes full on and rushing from one moment to the next to make the most of it but sometimes you actually have to realise that to really appreciate it, you have to stop and look around you, because I know that when we come back (and that’s a definite when), today will be the day we look back on with fondness and comparison and we realise not just how far we have come but how far we have to go together too.
There is so much more to explore than we had both anticipated and got around to doing this day and like I said we would definitely love to come back, it was a fabulous day fit for the whole family and the perfect way to enjoy some sunshine…and laugh in the rain of course. After all what is a British day out without a bit of rain!
Conkers Costs £36 for a family ticket and under 2s are free (some activities incur further costs)
I also filmed a little Day in the life on the day we went which shows some more especially of the barefoot walk area.