On Monday, the kids school had (another) teacher training day and after our next door neighbour heard me screaming at the kids for the 100th time by 11am, he suggested Kingsbury Water Park. I'd never heard of it, so full of excitement me and Mark got the kids into the car and set off with a boot full of sarnies and crisps.
Kingsbury Water Park is situated in Bodymoor Heath (just down the road from the Villa training ground). It covers 600 acres and inside all those acres lie 15 lakes. It was opened in 1975 and currently attracts more than 280,000 visitors a year. It was originally a series of sand and gravel pits but in the early 70's Warwickshire County Council decided to transform it into a Water Park. Half of the used up gravel pits were filled with water and thousands of trees were planted in surrounding areas. Many of the lake beds were specially shaped to suit various forms of wildlife and water sports. Over the years, roads and footpaths have been built and each of these link to 9 large car parks.
We got there by car via A4097, but in the visitors centre it says that you can get there on the 115, 116 and 777 buses.
oOoOo OUR DAY oOoOo
I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived because the park is free to get in. However, there is a car parking charge of £2.20 per car which has to be paid before the barrier will rise to let you into the park. But this is brilliant, our last day out to Cadbury World cost nearly £25 in entrance fees so I wasn't going to moan at £2.20!
Being as it was the first time we'd been, we parked in the small car park next to the visitors centre so we could explore locally in the park. All you can see is green, interspersed with blue when you spot one of the lakes. And it's so peaceful. Even though you're only a couple of hundred yards away from the road there's no traffic noise.
We walked across a football sized piece of grass towards one of the many lakes. Once we got to the lake, we were innundated with geese and swans. There was a baby goose (chick?) and he was tiny and all fluffy. Awwwww Altogether there about 40 swans and double that amount of geese. The kids loved this because the birds were so used to people that they were coming up to them and taking bread out of their hands. The lake was huge. In the middle was an island and one of the park keepers who passed (always ready to stop and chat to us about the park) told the kids it was where all the geese lay their eggs and pointed out a few geese that were standing 'sentry' around the island. Then he spoilt the illusion by telling Mark he's never had a fried egg till he's had a goose egg! We walked around the lake a bit and explored some of the paths around the lake. There is so much wildlife it's unbelievable. Now, I'm not into animals or wildlife but this was really interesting. Charlotte's studying woodland life at school at the moment so we spent a bit of time picking up leaves and feathers for her to take to school. She proudly told us when she saw a swallow and another park keeper (they really are everywhere) was gobsmacked when she told him she saw a kingfisher cos there is one by the lake but he doesn't show himself too much. When she told him where she'd seen it he said it was right as his nest is in one of the big bushes where she saw him. I missed it, but Mark said he saw it too - can't make my mind up if he really did though or didn't want to be outdone by a 6 year old!
We saw a tiny percentage of the park because it's so massive and we arrived so late that we decided to eat our sarnies by this lake and then go and have a look at the next one. Uh-uhhhhhh! Bad idea. At the slightest rustle of a crisp bag the geese are racing towards us and it turns out to be impossible to eat with 3 dozen pairs of eyes watching your every movement! So a gaggle of very lucky geese dine on ham and cheese sarnies and squashed up sausage rolls courtesy of the kids. A quick game of football later and we arrive at the visitors centre.
Here you'll find an information point, a cafe, a picnic area (now they tell us!) , a kids play area, a gift shop and even a place to hire bikes. This is all set out like it's on a street with lanes between each shop. First port of call was the cafe and 2 hungry adults and 2 starving children sit down ready to eat. For a cafe it's quite posh. Brilliant clean surfaces sparkle everywhere and there are menu's standing up along with cutlery on each table - no go and grab a fork and hope it's clean here! The cafe is called The Old Barn and it's lovely. I had a cheese jacket spud, Mark had a bacon & egg sarnie and the kids had an Old Barn lunchbox each (sarnie, lollipop, Ribena, chocolate and yogurt). Add to that a delicious cappucino and it still only came to a tenner. **shhhh** Only one cappucino cos Marks sneaked a bottle of Stella in from the car! The sun was still shining so we ate outside at the picnic benches. While me and Mark had a rest with a fag, the kids went exploring. 2 minutes later we hear a scream and race round the corner expecting blood at least (Alice is very clumsy!) but they were screaming in glee. At the side of the cafe is a life sized man that has been made out of twigs all knotted up together and next to him is a life sized horse also made out of twigs. Excellent. Behind this is a little pool and a row of logs to walk along and a tunnel made out of branches for kids to walk through. Kids? I was the first one in there! lol This area is completely enclosed so you can sit by the cafe safe in the knowledge that the kids can't go ANYWHERE without passing you. Any mums and dads will understand this is a very important feature. Next to the cafe are ladies and mens toilets and both are spotlessly clean and are checked by staff hourly. There are baby changing facilities and also disabled toilets.
After spending half an hour exploring this part of the park the kids decide they want to spend some money and off we trek to the gift shop. This is a brilliant example of packing as much into a small space as possible and still making it look good. The entrance to the shop is the information point, which basically consists of a map on the wall with basic 'you are here' directions and a rack of leaflets about attractions in and near to Kingsbury Water Park.
The shop itself has got anything and everything you want to buy. From disposable cameras to kids books. I brought the kids a teddy bear embroidered with Kingsbury Water Park, a pen and a rubber each and I got another magnet for my fridge. You can buy old fashioned humbugs and marzipan slices in bars or in glass jars for a couple of quid and there's a 'pocket money corner' that's full of pencils, rubbers, magnifying glass, model birds and all those sort of bits and bobs and most of the things there are under 40p so perfect for the kids to spend their money. Some of the gift items are a bit cheesy (sugar almonds in a filigree bowl, for example! lol) but for a few souvenirs of a nice day out it's a great little shop. Add to our shopping basket 4 of the biggest candy lollie's I've ever seen and we go out munching. Inside this shop you can also hire a mobility scooter free of charge if you don't think you could manage the walk. You have to book scooters in advance and possibly they'd want to see some sort of proof that you've got a problem that prevents you walking.
Next to the shop is a place to hire a bike. I didn't go in here and don't know how much the bikes are to hire, but it seemed a brilliant idea to me. Last summer me and Mark went through a phase of going to Sutton Park with our bikes but we got fed up of having to squeeze them into the car and back out once we got to the park. How much easier to be able to phone up and book one and know it's there waiting for you. You can also hire helmets and childrens safety gear here.
Around the corner from this miniature shopping centre is a childrens play area. One of those 'I can climb till I fall and break a bone' play areas. The kids loved it here - climbing up things, sliding down, climbing up the bits you're supposed to slide down, jumping off the bits you're not supposed to be on at all - that sort of fun! The floor is covered in that soft woodchip stuff so even if they fall they're not likely to do a lot of damage. All around here you've got picnic benches with umbrellas and there's not a scrap of rubbish on the floor.
There's a lake especially for jet bikes and you can hire these out by calling a number from the website. I don't know how much it would be to hire one but me and Mark are going back in the summer to find out! There's a website for information. www.jet-bike.com Another lake is reserved for fishing and you can buy a day ticket for £1.90 adult or £1.40 kids or you can buy an annual pass for £30.00 adult or £15 kids. These are general prices as there are different permits for different lakes, but again there's a website you can look at for more detailed information. http://www.fisheries.co.uk/kingsbury/
Broomey Croft Children's Farm is inside Kingsbury Water Park too and although we didn't go this time, we'll be visiting next time we go. The entrance fee is £3.00 for adults and £2.50 for kids and there are all sorts of animals there such as pigs, donkeys and goats. As an added bonus, if you go in the school holidays or at weekends and get to the farm between 12noon and 3pm, there's free tractor rides - for adults too! Have a look at their cute website. http://www.childrens-farm.com/
Like I said, we only covered a very small part of the park, but I'll update each time we go and let you know what else we discovered. Ideal if you live in or around Birmingham and Tamworth (it's just down the road from Drayton Manor too) but if you're further away there's a campsite very near to the Water Park - it might even be inside the park, the woman I asked wasn't sure.
We had a really good day. The park opening hours are 8am - 6.30pm so next time we go we're going to go earlier and have an exploring day. It's brilliant for the kids because they can have a bit of freedom and because the place is so flat you need never lose sight of them. You find youself being dragged along by the kids and doing what they want to do and seeing what they want to see. And they always want to see the best things! Alice found a pool that we'd have missed cos she was just the right level to see under the trees and dotted all through the woods are carvings of animals and other stuff to make the whole experience child friendly.
I've got to give Kingsbury Water Park full marks and recommend it to everyone (especially those of you with little ones). And roll on summer so I can have a go at jet biking!
Visit the Kingsbury Water Park website at: http://tinyurl.com/bvip
Thanks for reading.