My daughter was never a good sleeper as a baby, and often very unsettled and clingy due to having lactose intolerance. We were keen walkers and travelers before having her, so it seemed only natural to continue. Being outside was a welcome retreat from sleepless nights and fatigue, and as she found her feet it helped wear her out and develop her own love for the great outdoors. We relearned that adventure can be found anywhere, close or far from home. Here are some of our favourite daytrips:
1. Botany Bay: A beautiful sandy beach, with lovely cliff views and chalk stacks. It is a few minutes from Broadstairs, but much quieter, with free parking! This is a perfect place for little ones to run, play in the sand, explore rock pools and feel as if they are on a big adventure. Free unlimited parking on Marine Drive CT10 3LG adjacent to the Botany Bay Hotel. The hotel boasts a pub/restaurant which offers affordable and large portions, a children’s menu, highchairs and a baby change. https://mummysginfund.co.uk/botany-bay/
- Upnor Castle: We found this by accident one day while exploring areas around the River Medway. An Elizabethan artillery fort on the banks of the Medway, in the charming village of Upnor. The castle is great for little ones, with hands on items, a tower to climb, activities and a dressing up box. The grounds are perfect for a run around and a picnic, with a few benches on site. Upnor has the feel of a strategic fort and castle, but without the crowds and prices of other castles in Kent or Sussex. It is lovely to walk around the village and alongside the river to round off the day. There are just a couple of pubs in the village, or pack a picnic. Free unlimited parking for the castle and village ME2 4XG. Baby changing facilities available. English Heritage Members Free, Adult £6.40, Child (5-16 years) £4.00, Concession £4.00, Family (2 adults, 3 children) £16.80
- Knole Park: Medieval 1,000 acre deer park in Sevenoaks, you can easily spend the day here in any season wandering through the grounds, watching deer, having a picnic and making tree dens. We love to explore a different route every time and admire the majestic deer. A must see is the icehouse; a brick igloo which little ones will love to clamber over. There are guided walks and family arts and crafts events listed on their website. Dogs on leads are welcome, there is a cafe, baby change facilities and picnic area with benches near the car park.
Car parking is £4 for the whole day, free for National Trust members. There are separate charges for Knole House and the recently opened Gatehouse Tower. TN13 1HU
- Box Hill: Sweeping summit on the North Downs in Surrey. We really enjoyed visiting Box HIll over the winter months for a brisk walk, but it is stunning in the spring and summer. Little ones will love the vast open space, rolling down the hill, hunting for bugs in the woods and flying kites. Tracker packs, trail maps and kites can be borrowed from the information hut in the main entrance. There are a few self-guided trails of varying lengths, and some are pushchair friendly. The stepping stones over the River Mole are great fun for older children, and there is a bridge alongside it as well. Cafe and baby changing facilities available. Car parking is £3 for the whole day, free for National Trust members. KT20 7LB
- Thames Path/Thames Barrier: Often overlooked, this always exudes feelings of awe and history. Walking the Thames Path was the first trail we started as a family, it makes you slow down and appreciate the history and development on the great river. Little ones will love walking or cycling on the path, watching boats speed by and the changing architecture. Our favourite stretch on the path is from Greenwich (Cutty Sark) to Tower Bridge, you pass through (South) Docklands, Surrey Quays farm, Rotherhithe and onto the commanding sight of the bridge. The Thames Barrier makes for a great few hours, there is a small play area for children, grounds to picnic on, a cafe, baby changing facilities and a (charged) information centre. Our daughter loved running around here and surveying the barriers up close. You can access the barrier from Charlton Station, or via the Thames Path, you can walk back to the o2 (North Greenwich) or Cutty Sark. Unity Way, SE18 5NJ
You can read more of Summit’s writing at mylondonodyssey.wordpress.com.