Family activities for the autumn half-term holiday
The first leaves have fallen and the shops have started stocking their Christmas wares, indicating that it is now autumn.
Sometime between late October and early November, the schools will break up for half-term. Admittedly, this can be a time of year that parents dread, as the 'holiday season' has ended, the nights are drawing in and the thought of queuing for a top London attraction in the cold is not terribly appealing.
It might be raining outside, but, parents – take heart – there are still plenty of ways to amuse the children throughout the week. Here are a few suggestions for half-term activities that the whole family will love.
Stirling: a bracing walk in Glen Finglas wood
Listed as one of the Woodland Trust®'s 'best Autumn Colours woods', Glen Finglas offers many different walking routes, each winding through stunning, craggy scenery that is by now beautifully golden. There are routes of just half a mile in length, right up to a 15-mile circuit, so families should find something to suit everyone's abilities. A popular option is the one-and-a half-hour Brig o' Turk loop that passes through a site of special scientific interest, which is home to dragonflies and other wetland nature.
Yorkshire: the Enchanted Garden at Brodsworth Hall
Once it gets dark, the newly-restored Victorian gardens at Brodsworth Hall in Doncaster are wonderfully illuminated into a place of wonder, with promises of surprises around every corner. This gentle, enchanted garden walk is suitable for the whole family, with refreshments made available. Admire the fountains, pretty topiary and autumnal trees as they are bathed in blue, red and yellow lights for a truly magical evening.
The Midlands: 'Prehistoric Autopsy' at the Birmingham Science Museum
Not as macabre as it sounds, this exhibition coincides with the BBC® Two series of the same name. It recreates models of three of our earliest ancestors: Neanderthal, Homo-Erectus and Australopithecus, which were featured on the television show and rebuilt, based on bone fragments and incredible scientific technology. Perfect for families with children aged between 7 and 12 years.
Monmouthshire: Segway experience in Chepstow
An activity for older children, the Chepstow National Diving and Activity Centre runs Segway® experiences from £25. For the uninitiated, this is a motorised two-wheeled scooter, which is raced around an outdoor course on the side of a quarry. In this adrenalin-filled activity, riders use their weight to steer and stop the Segway, so they must be over 134 cm tall and weigh at least 7 stone for safety reasons. Protective clothing and helmets are provided, as is full training.
West Sussex: Petworth School of Witches and Wizardry
Let your children channel their inner Harry Potter® or Hermione Granger® at Petworth House with a Halloween potion-making class. Children are encouraged to arrive in a spooky costume for the classes, which run for an hour and a half. Afterwards, families can explore the impressive house and experience life below stairs, as a servant.
Hampshire: Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Ahoy there! Why not bring the family to this famous naval port, where they can climb aboard iconic ships, HMS Warrior and HMS Victory, before visiting the new Mary Rose Museum for a thoroughly enjoyable day? At the Dockyard's Action Stations attraction, children can command a helicopter or warship simulator, scale 'one of the largest climbing towers in Europe' or battle with the Royal Marines in Laser Quest® (six+ years).
Devon: the Mouse Hunt Trail at Saltram House
Children can follow the hallways of this 300-year-old mansion near Plymouth and hunt for mice hiding in the various rooms in the Mouse Hunt Trail. Allow a guide to take the family behind the scenes of this Georgian home and share some of its secrets or get transformed into a family of yesteryear by dressing in some Georgian clothes. Saltram, a National Trust® property, allows children to play in the parkland, flying kites or riding their bikes, while mum might be interested in the house's Jane Austen connections.
There are plenty of fantastic activities for families to do during half-term, whether it's being outdoors, exploring old houses, controlling a warship or learning about our ancestors.
Alternatively, you could take the kids out to experience the autumn leaves at your local park or woods and do some leaf and conker collecting.