Cheap and free days out in Kent this half term
How do you plan on spending your half term?
It's the first school break of 2018 and can often be one of the most difficult in which to find things to do away from home with short wintery days to contend with and purse strings still recovering from Christmas.
Below, Our Kent Family share their top 10 suggestions for February half term that are weather forecast friendly and just as kind on the coffers:
Oscar, 6, calls this a 'proper woods'.
Which I think by definition means unlike many of the country parks we visit, there's no coffee shop or refreshments and no toilets (be warned on both fronts!).
That said it's full of gorgeous woodland walks, wooden sculptures to find and unrivalled views of the North Downs if you walk far enough. And as days out go, this is super kind on the purse strings as parking on the site is also free.
For further details visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
We fell into The Beaney by chance in December when someone recommended we visit it's pantomime exhibition on our way to The Marlowe pantomime.
Now alongside the hilarious wigs and panto props we found in Oh Yes It Is (running until February 18 and well worth a trip for this silliness alone) we also saw Bagpuss, The Clangers, some wonderful dolls houses and played in some brilliantly interactive children's displays.
The Beaney is free to enter and you can spend a good few hours here with your family wandering the displays.
Using Canterbury's park and ride will keep your travel costs down and is much more straightforward than trying to get into the city by car.
For the latest exhibitions and visitor information click here.
The sweeping parkland at Knole is worth a roam every winter. It's wild deer herd make this a fascinating place to walk and the kids love spotting the animals as they wander through the woodland.
Parking is only £4 for non National Trust members which gives you access to Knole's courtyards and all its parkland.
For more details click here.
The fantastic outdoor play area and dens they've happened across made of discarded tree branches in the wood is probably what the children remember most about previous visits to Bedgebury.
They may also recall the rather eager ducks who love to steal your picnic and the one that nibbled Liv's finger when she was clutching a cheese sandwich - but that's another story!
It's a great place to explore and is very family friendly. For an additional fee you can hire bikes or take on the Go Ape trail but for purely the cost of car parking (£12 at peak times, £10 off peak) Bedgebury provides a good day out.
It's worth noting that its car park gets extremely busy and can be prone to short-term closures until space becomes available so it is advisable to arrive early to guarantee a spot.
For more visitor information click here.
Movies for Juniors / Kids club
We all hope that February's half term, albeit probably not very warm, may perhaps be dry. But if rain halts play it is worth checking out the children's film screenings at Kent cinemas.
Odeon offers Kids Club showings most mornings of the school break while Cineworld has its own children's screenings called Movies for Juniors.
Admission is normally around £2.50 a ticket and seats can be selected and booked in advance. The films won't be the latest blockbusters but that rarely bothers my tribe and when four tickets can be bought for around £10 its a perfect way to spend a morning out of the rain.
It's our favourite place. Come rain or shine I think we're happiest at the slopes. Whether bare foot, in trainers or wellies the children love to walk out onto the flats picking up shells, crabs, seaweed or whatever else it is they can find. And if the tide is in, a good old fashioned stone skimming competition keeps them amused. We've also taken washable felt pens with us in the past and spent an hour sitting by the sea decorating pebbles.
There are toilets at the top of the slopes in the same building as the cafe, but failing that you can walk along to the tea rooms at Whitstable Castle where there is also a brilliant pirate-themed play area. The Castle very often holds a trail or other similiar school holiday event which children can take part in for little more than £1 each in return for a small prize.
If the weather is wet any Kent museum is worth seeking out - and there are a fair number to choose from - but Maidstone is packed full of things to keep youngsters busy and entertained.
School holidays will often see special events, craft activities or story telling in addition to the exhibits.
We love Jeskyns, in fact I challenge someone to find something not to love about this brilliant parkland created just off the A2 at Gravesend.
Parking is only £1.50, there is a cafe, lots of woodland for roaming off the beaten track, two brilliant play areas the children love, a little woonden sculptured fairy and elf village, wooden teepees to hide in and at the moment it also has the Forestry Commision's latest family trail based on The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson. (More on that here!)
And if it's been raining heavily the gravel paths mean you can still get out for a walk even if most of the grassy areas are a mud bath.
The only thing we have to sometimes negotiate is that it's extremely popular with dog walkers as there are areas (which are well signposted) in which dogs are allowed off their leads and while most of my crew are happy to be sniffed and investigated by a four-legged potential friend, Liv not so much. But it just means we tend to avoid those parts of the walk and we choose a table outside the cafe a little further away from everyone else.
Cobtree Manor Park
Formerly Maidstone's zoo this is a great park for both a play and a walk. It has a fantastic adventure playground built around a fort, but you can also wander out into the grounds and find plenty of interesting things to look out.
Some of the old animal houses still exist and the park has some decent signage and information points to tell you exactly what you are looking at.
You'll need change for the car park and there is a cafe should you require it but there's also plenty of picnic benches and places to sit so this is usually a bring your own snacks affair for us which helps keep the cost down.
Most school holidays are not complete without a visit to Teapot Island.
There's not many places where you can get a good cup of coffee and piece of cake (the cafe does everything from snacks and sandwiches to breakfast and Sunday dinner), study a vast collection of very unusual teapots (something like 8,000 to be exact), let the children play on the climbing frame and play area which you can see from the outdoor tables and take a walk along the river where there is of course lots to see and do from the wildlife to the passing boats and canoes.
Parking is straightforward in the neighbouring Lees car park and costs around £2.50.
And if the weather were to be really nice - or perhaps later in the year - a picnic by the River Medway a little further up the path where you can sit on the edge of the fields is a must.
For more details and finding Teapot Island, whiich is off Hampstead Lane near Maidstone, click here.