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A cheap, cheery day out!
Moors Valley Country Park & Forest (Dorset)
Member Name: alfiepeaches
Moors Valley Country Park & Forest (Dorset)
Advantages: no admission fee (unless you are parking), lots to do, dogs welcome, fun!, cheap, exercise
Disadvantages: parking is expensive, extremely busy on hot days
I live a 10 minute drive away from Moors Valley and have visited many times, usually walking which takes about 30 -45 minutes to get there. Having it so near and being so many times I never fully realized how popular it is or appreciately how lucky I am to live so close by as it really is a great place with a wide range of things to do and most for free! In my Year 11 Geography class we did a project on Moors Valley, an investigation of whether or not it was a tourist honeypot so I had to look at it from a customers and sellers point of view and I learnt a lot about it that I wasn't aware of at all! I think I decided it was in the end as we had to do a study of cars tax disks to tell where they were from and I was really surprised but how far some people had travelled. I came out with a better understanding and appreciation of having the park so close by, even though most activities are not aimed at my age anymore. I also managed to pass geography somehow...
Anyway! Probably the most popular feature at Moors Valley is the Nature Play Trail, which is small play areas made of wood, each with a different animal or insect theme. To access these you have to go on a trail through woods, the woods is not very thick though and it is easy to see if your kids running off, the trail is easy to follow as the footpath is slightly stony and there are signposts directing you to the next part. It can probably take a whole day to visit each one, especially on a warm day (as it's more popular), but there are many simple ones that I often skip from having visited soooo often! The best ones include the first one which is an 'ant hill' with wooden ants around, you can go in the hill and climb up, poke your head out and exit down a slide. The third is a giant play area which is usually the busiest but one of the best (we used to play great games of hide and seek here!). There are slides, walking things, ladders, tubes and a fire pole. Everything is made of wood and metal(slides and chains) and there is strong metal crossed wire (but stronger) on high parts for safety.
The other good parts of the trail include 'The snakes' which is too large snakes that you enter through the mouth and crawl along inside that have mini slides inside as the snakes overlap each other. Also the 'Tree Top Trail' in which you walk around a trail... in the trees! I love this as you have lovely views on the wood and there are many pond which you can often spot dragonflies at. The tree top trail isn't extremely high but I wouldn't recommend it if you have a fear of heights. There are wooden sides the entire way round that can hold onto if you wish and there is metal wire for added safety that in the all the years I have been has never looked unsafe and I've never heard of anyone having an accident. The other of my favourites is a little activity course which is about balancing, on chains, wood, rope and monkey bars, however this is usually quite busy. Other features of the playtrail include 'spiders web,' 'crocodile,' 'mini maze' and 'mushrooms.'
The playtrail leads you back to the main part of the Park, to the café and ice cream cabins. The Playtrail is very safe but adults should definitely accompany smaller kids round as they often need help climbing some of the steps, ladders and need help walking on some things. Don't expect this to be a relaxing or comfortable day for you parents though as many of the features require you to duck right down and crawl and some parts you will have to leave your child to do by themselves as they are just too small. If you child is older then there are many places to perch for a bit while they go off. I am about 5.2 and have to really crawl in some parts (I haven't been on these in a few years but I stopped growing at about 14!). Most parts of the trail are surrounded by bark too. The only downsides to the playtrail are there are no toilets around it, so make sure you go before but I have seen many parents helping their kids have a quick wee behind a tree which is fine haha! There is also no food stall but there is many seating and benches along the way to enjoy a packed lunch, there are also no bins and you must take your rubbish home. The park is extremely clean considering it has no bins though so you make sure you help keep this up!
The other main feature of Moors Valley are the two parks. One is sand and aimed at younger kids, this is made of colourful castles and things to explore, I don't know much about this one though as always been too old to investigate. The other park is a bark wood park, there is a giant slide, tire swings, basket swings, normal swings, a rope climbing frame, zip wire and a large climbing and tunnel thing that ends in a curly slide. I really enjoy this park (even at almost 20...) but it can be extremely busy on hot days, there is often a big queue for the slide and an even bigger queue for the zip wire.
Next to the two parks is a massive field where you can either eat (there are some benches provided but you can bring a blanket for the floor) or play ball games, there is shaded area too. The field is by a large lake where you can feed swans and ducks but obviously be careful as they can nip but I've never seen them come up and chase anyone for food thankfully! There are more icecream cabins and a warm food stand here too.
Another feature at Moors Valley is the mini steam train which is open topped and you sit on a long piece of wood bench inside so everyone faces the same way, you might be a little squished up as an adult but it still an enjoyable ride. I can often hear the 'Toot toot' of the train sometimes from my house too! I think it costs about £2 to board and it takes you around the park for about half an hour, it's good chance to sit and relax after all the climbing and walking inbetween the park and playtrail. The little station has toilets and a tiny food stall too but I've only been on it once. There is a large golf course here too with a bar and hot food available but I have never visited this but have heard many good things about the gold course.
The newest addition to Moors Valley is Go Ape which is a tree wire adventure activity where you are harnessed in the air and zip wire, walk and climb amongst the trees. I think it costs about £20 but I have never tried it as I'm too afraid! Many of my friends have done it though and said they all loved it. You can see people completing the first few stages when walking towards the playtrail. This is an activity aimed at teenagers and adults, so if you have moody teenagers you could leave them here while you go the playtrail with kids. There is also a huge bike ride trail which I often see families doing and I would like to have done but never looked into and don't know how much it costs. You can take your own bikes to Moors Valley though like I used to do when I was younger but I don't think there are many places to lock your bike up safely.
I had a completely different experience of Moors Valley in year 6 which I didn't know was an activity that Moors Valley offered. Basically we had a week of team building and the first two days were spent at Moors Valley, the first day we did some orienteering and survival skills in which we had Moors Valley staff teach and demonstrate different wilderness skills like how to purify your water, build a fire (this wasn't demonstrated of course!) and build a roof to sleep under. We were put in groups and collected sticks and grass to create a little place to sleep then we all had to rate each others and chuck water on them (while the makers were inside!) to how waterproof it was. The next day we did a bit of orienteering and pond dipping, this was so much fun as the pond was huge and there lots of newts and dragonflies to see, we spend the rest of this day doing the playtrail. I didn't know Moors Valley offered these types of activities and they were very informative and fun, great for outdoors and bug loving kids. It was one of my favourite school trips and I'm sure there's more information available on the website if you are interested in finding more about this.
The only downside to Moors Valley, which everyone I know comments on, is the parking prices as they are quite expensive. You can buy season tickets though if you visit a lot. Although the parking prices are pretty high, pretty much everything else is free in the park, you don't even have to pay to use the playtrail and parks! I definitely suggest taking a packed meal though, the food prices vary and aren't overly priced but I imagine if you're a big family the cost would add up, it's much nicer to eat outside on the field anyway. Dogs are very welcome too, it's a popular dog walking place but obviously clear up their mess, the park is extremely clean. I'd recommend you think about what day you choose to go as it can be extremely busy on hot days and you have to queue to go on anything, the park is till just as fun on damp days though, some of the slides may give you a wet bum but it usually means you only have to share the park with a few people at a time!
The Park has an information desk and café. The staff are always helpful and friendly and the café offers things like sandwiches, crisps, hot meals and puddings. The cafe is quite dark and stuffy inside so I would avoid it personally as it's much nicer to eat outside on the field. There is also a gift shop which sells woodland themed toys, activities and jewellery and there are toilets around the other side. The toilets aren't the nicest but it is a wooded area and the majority or people using them are kids so expect pee covered seats (ew) and a slight smell, also take hand sanitizer to save you queueing for the sinks. There is no staff around the parks, only at the food and paid activitites so you don't feek like you are being watched or judges on your way around the park and feel free to do as you want.
Overall Moors Valley always has a great, cheery atmosphere and makes for a fun, cheap day out, everyone is always happy to talk to each other too. You often make new friends as you end up waiting or helping other people or kids to do parts of the playtrail or climbing frames. It's always amusing and cute to see parents going 'come on, you can climb that, it's not high... and people are waiting for you to hurry up!!' to their child and the kid has a bit of a hissy fit or cries but then eventually does do it and then is always so chuffed and pleased with themselves for accomplishing it! Overall it's a great, cheery and cheap (even with parking expenses) day out which will without a doubt tire your children out so they go to straight to sleep when they get home!
Summary: Great day out for all ages, never fully appreciated how lucky I am to leave nearby!