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A family day out for FREE (or nearly)
Moors Valley Country Park & Forest (Dorset)
Member Name: jopassmore
Moors Valley Country Park & Forest (Dorset)
Date: 23/08/01, updated on 23/08/01 (810 review reads)
Advantages: next to no cost, fun for all the family, beautiful surroundings
Disadvantages: none found
My husband and I decided to have a holiday at home this summer rather than going away. We realised that there were lots of places around where we live that we have not yet visited and we thought it would be nice to take our 21 month old daughter to some of them. The downside of this is that although you are not paying to stay anywhere, days out in the UK seem to cost more and more these days. I was shocked to find that outings to somewhere like Thorpe Park (which we had intended to do) cost around £19 per adult. If you add a couple of kids to this, you are talking about £70 for one day out, not including the cost of petrol and nice little extras like icecreams. We, like most people with young children, are on a tight budget and so it was on this basis that we started looking for cheaper places to visit that would suit all three of us. This is when we discovered Moors Valley Country Park.
Moors Valley is a massive wooded park (750 acres) situated in East Dorset (near Ringwood). It has been thoughtfully transformed into an ideal place for families and wildlife lovers by both East Dorset District Council and the Forestry Commission.
The best thing about Moors Valley (apart from it's obvious beauty) is that there is no entrance fee. You pay a fairly large charge for parking (£4 in high season) but compared to the cost of getting a family into other attractions this is nothing.
There is a lot to do there from a 4 miles cycle ride to a ride on the steam railway. I could spend all day explaining what you can do there to suit all kinds of people, but we concentrated on a toddler/young child friendly area of the park, so this is what I will describe in this opinion.
The park is divided into 10 different circuits for the visitor to either walk or cycle round (you can hire bikes there). We decided, for obvious reasons to follow 'The Play trail'. This trail is 3/4 mile long and every few hundred metres there is a climbing cons
truction of some kind for kids to play on. There are 8 of these in total ranging from an Indian's village to an ant's nest. This is a wonderful walk which children really enjoy. The only trouble is, it takes ages if you are not careful. We found that we had to keep tearing our daughter away from her fun, to move on to the next bit of fun, otherwise we would have been there all day. It is meant to take 45 mins, but it took us a good 2 hours. We did end up taking 10 children (not on our own thankfully) and it was quite difficult to gather them all up and keep them in one place, without one of them escaping, so maybe with one or two children it would be a bit quicker.
About halfway round the 'Play Trail' is a 'Tree Top Trail'. This is a 200 metre walkway high up in the trees. It is perfectly safe for children, as the walkway is protected on either side by a strong wire construction. It is not however suitable for pushchairs, so somebody has to be prepared to miss this part and meet the others at the end of the walkway.
Another favourite with our 10 children (there were 8 adults, so you need not feel too sorry for me) was the 'Castle and Sandworks' and 'Adventure Area' playgrounds. The former is a small child friendly playground with a wooden castle built in a huge sandpit. The Adventure Area is for older children and has more exciting (and dangerous) equipment such as massive slides and a zip wire.
The part my daughter really enjoyed was a trip on the narrow-gauge steam railway. This is a scaled down version of an authentic steam railway, complete with stations and waiting areas. You travel round the beautiful lake, going through tunnels and waving to people as you pass by (and they wave back thankfully). You do pay for this (£2.25 return for adults, £1.50 for children over 2) but it is well worth the money.
We picnicked by the lake and fed the ducks and finished off the day with a leisurel
y stroll around the lake. We got back to the car quite exhausted. We had a really lovely day and everybody ended the day happily. Although it was very busy, being the summer holidays, this didn't seem to matter. There is nothing you need to queue for (apart from the train and there was no queue for this), so the fact that there were a lot of children around was not a problem. We did have to do a quick sprint at the beginning to get away from the Brownies, but other than that it was fine!
I strongly recommend you visit this place if you live in the South of England, or are planning a holiday down here. It is a place that you will want to return to again and again. We certainly will.
See you there!
For an official description of the park, go to: