Schools Out for Summer: Our Top 10 Places to Visit Locally

We have A LOT planned in for the holidays and we are are very lucky to live in an amazing place so most of our adventures this Summer will be relatively close to home.

Leek is nestled on the edge of the Peak District which affords us some amazing days out set in beautiful scenery AND we are also on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent which is a vibrant city (made up of 6 towns – weird, I know! ) that boasts a proud industrial heritage.

We don’t need to travel far to find some great family days out and activities. From blow the budget days, to free activities, here are some of our tried and tested places we recommend visiting with the kids over the Summer break:

Trentham Estate and Monkey Forest

We love Trentham Estate and visit regularly. It’s made up of 3 main areas, the garden centre, shopping village and the gardens themselves.

Visit the garden centre, which is full of lovely homewares and gifts plus it has also two on-site restaurants and a cafe with small play area (coffee in peace hurrah!). You can wander around the shopping village at leisure, which offers a mix of both small independant retailers and some larger high street names. There are also a number of eateries situated within the shopping village itself and bigger restaurant chains nearby.

The wild flower meadow within Trentham Gardens

However, our favourite is the gardens. Now, in my opinion it does have a bit of a pricey entrance fee (children under 3 go free, and season passes are available) but my advice would be to get there reasonably early and make a full day of it, and you’ll easily feel like you’ve had your monies worth. We usually take a picnic to keep to budget and then treat ourselves to an ice-cream.

Whether you’re looking for a garden with peace and quiet, or fun and action you will find a great day out here at Trentham.

There’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained, from beautifully landscaped gardens, an adventure playground with sand pits, to a miniature train and a fairy trail.

James enjoying the sandpit

Be sure to check the website before your visit for a list of events this Summer, such as parent and baby yoga, boat trips and brass bands to name but a few.

Stanley at one of the 2016 Summer events

Trentham also host live music events during summer evenings taking advantage of the natural amphitheatre next to the lake. These are great fun with a fab atmosphere (children are welcome) and not to be missed.

Yours truly at the Totally 90’s music event recently

We love spotting the sculptures on our walks around the lake and playing in the sand. The barefoot walk is also a lot of squishy squelchy fun for big and little kids alike.

Squelch!!

Trentham Monkey Forest is just next door and you can get discounted entry if you are planning on visiting both in one trip.

Remember to look up!

To visit the monkeys you enter into a huge woodland enclosure where the barbary macaques roam freely. Read my review of Trentham Monkey Forest here *warning it does contain seriously cute baby monkeys*. We really do recommend a visit! Afterall, how many other cities can state they have 140 monkeys in residence?

James and the macaque

Be sure to keep a look out for off peak discount vouchers for Trentham Gardens via the Visit Stoke website.

Congleton Paddling Pool and Congleton Park

It really isn’t Summer until we’ve been here, and I’ll let you into a little secret…we’ve been twice this year already!

Congleton Paddling Pool

Congleton paddling pool is a hidden treasure, tucked away in a quiet street that backs onto the park. It’s free to enter but at busier times operates on a one in, one out basis. There is always a life guard on duty and there are toilet facilties on-site too.

Splish

The water is shallow so it’s a safe environment for tots upwards. During hot and sunny days in the holidays it does get busy so either arrive early or be prepared to wait a short while to enter. We suggest you pack a picnic if you plan to stay for more than an hour, however there is a snack bar which operates during peak times but choice is fairly limited.

Splash

We have had so many great days here over the years and hopefully will continue to do so. It really is the epitomy of Summer fun on a hot day. Our very own ‘Costa del Congleton’

The Paddling Pool is open seven days a week from 10am – 6pm (unless very wet or cold weather) from 25th May until 8th September. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

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Making friends poolside

Once we’ve finished splashing about we usually head into Congleton park for a little bit of peace and quiet. The park is immaculately kept and is beautiful at this time of year, we like to grab an ice-cream and sit in the shade to cool off after being in the sun at the paddling pool. The park is also home to Stock at the Pavillion which serves delious food and drinks, the quirky decor makes it a lovely place to visit for lunch out.

Cooling down

Tittesworth Water

With the Roaches as a backdrop Tittesworth Water is hard to beat for it’s location. Just outside of Leek, it makes a quick and easy day out for us, that I’m guaranteed the boys will love.

At one time I used to enjoy walking all the way around the reservoir taking in the scenery and wildlife. Nowadays however, our time spent here is very much centred around the huge playground and visitors centre area.

The Waterview Restaurant backs on to a grassed area with stunning views of the water. We have enjoyed picnics, eaten ice-creams, rolled down the grassy bank and kicked a ball about on that field. We have also walked around the reservoir path as far as the wooded area and played pooh sticks at the bridge and paddled in the river churnet.

Me and my tribe post picnic at Tittesworth Water

There are also some large wooden chair and sofa sculptures which make for some fun photo opportunities.

The Chair

Back to the playground – it caters for ages 2-15 years having a sand pit, sheltered seating areas and a zip line amongst other things. My boys just love it. During peak times the ice-cream kiosk opens and it sells hot drinks (yes!). There is also a playground toilet block with baby changing facilities.

Weeeeeee!

Please note: Despite having a BBQ area, BBQ’s are NOT ALLOWED due to the devastating moorland fires last Summer.

Tittesworth water is free to enter, however parking is pay and display, so make sure you take some change.

Blaze Farm

Who loves ice-cream? Everyone that’s who…well, Blaze Farm has it by the bucket load!

Blaze Farm in Wildboarclough is an award winning farm set on the edge of the Peak District. Famous for it’s Hilly Billy Ice-Cream – all made on the farm using milk from the Peak District – and Tea Rooms that offer mouth-watering home baked cakes, it’s well worth a visit all year round!

One of the things I really enjoy about heading here is the drive up, which I know sounds daft but the route takes in some lovely scenery. The road is a bit of a twister though so please take care. Blaze Farm is in a stunning spot up on the tops, even on a sunny day it can be a bit breezy so pack an extra layer.

We scream for ice-cream!

There is a small selection of animals to see, a wildlife pond, and nature trails. We’ve yet to do one of the walks as we’ve always had either a buggy or a toddler to contend with, and some of the paths look to be a little steep.

Just a boy in triple chocolate heaven!

Blaze Farm is free to enter but there is a no picnic policy which is only fair as the tearooms provide a great choice of food. You can either eat indoors in the two main seating areas or out back on picnic benches and take in the view. We pretty much always end up outside because of one thing THE TUNNEL SLIDE.

The slide of dreams

This slide has legendary status amongst the under 10’s. It’s a homemade affair that is positioned to go down a steep incline. It is fast, and despite having a mat at the bottom you come out and land with some force. I may or may not be talking from personal experience ha ha! I would advise an adult at each end if you have preschoolers!

Great in any weather

Blaze farm make and sell their Hilly Billy ice-cream to eat there or to take home in an array of flavours, check out the specials board for seasonal/limited editions.

Taking Grandad for a ride

There is also a play tractor and at different times of the year the barn is opened up for events. You can check their Facebook page for details.

Making memories at Easter

One of our favourite times to visit is during the lambing season when for a small charge you can get up close and cuddle a lamb, plus witness live lambing so please do keep Blaze Farm in mind for the Easter holidays too.

Biddulph Grange Garden

This is a beautiful national trust property (free entry for NT members) that appeals to all ages. As the garden is on different levels there are A LOT of steps so I’d advise using a baby carrier rather than a buggy.

This amazing Victorian garden was created by James Bateman for his collection of plants from around the world. A visit takes you on a global journey from Italy to the pyramids of Egypt, a Victorian vision of China and a re-creation of a Himalayan glen.

The gardens are waiting for you to discover them, pass through tunnels and find hidden pathways…perfect for our little explorers.

You can visit China

Another activity we enjoy is buying some fish food (available from the shop) and feeding the koi carp in the pond.

Feeding the fish

Recent developments at Biddulph Grange Garden have included a woodland adventure playground and they are continuing to upgrade the tearooms.

Perfect for little explorers

Once again there are a number of events planned for the Summer break such as a 50 Things Play Day and Make your own Adventure Garden. Check the website for details.

Canalside Farm PYO

This is a recent discovery of ours. My boys love fruit and I’ve wanted to give them a pick your own experience for a couple of years now, but it’s easier said than done when you’ve got a buggy in tow. Step up the fully accessible Canalside Farm.

Perfect pickers

There’s a sizeable carpark on site and the PYO area is accessed through the well stocked farm shop. There is a range of fruit available to harvest but we were set on strawberries. Now here’s the great part…all the strawberries are planted in raised troughs within huge polytunnels so there is no bending, you are protected from the elements (British summer time can NOT be trusted) and children can pick the juicy ripe fruit easily. There is also plenty of space between the ‘aisles’ of plants so it was buggy friendly too.

Accessible planting

There is a large café on-site with both indoor and outdoor seating areas plus toilet and baby changing facilities. We didn’t use the café on our visit instead we chose to purchase ice-creams (Snugburys, this time…there seems to be a theme running in our recommendations) from the farm shop.

A lovely spot on the canal junction

As an added bonus, and as the name suggests Canalside Farm is set on a canal junction. We had a little walk across and watched some of the canal barges turn under the bridge. If that isn’t enough to excite your little ones then the railway runs nearby and so you can do some train spotting while at Canalside Farm too.

Is there anything nicer?

Wimbledon might be over but strawberries and cream are always a winner all Summer long.

Visit Canalside Farm’s website here and follow on Facebook for PYO updates during the season.

Ninja Warrior Stoke

This is NOT our usual kind of place and that’s the reason why we absolutely loved it. It was just me and Stanley on our visit, as it was his birthday treat.

All set for an adventure

Ninja Warrior UK Adventure Parks are inspired by the ITV hit show Ninja Warrior UK and have obstacles suitable for children age 4 years and above. It does have separate jungle themed inflatable suitable for children under the age of 4.

Bringing fitness and fun together Ninja Warrior Adventure is a great place for the whole family to enjoy

Test out your ninja skills (or lack thereof in my case) by completing the obstacle course. Race each other across, or push each other into the foam pits!

Ninja style

I would however, recommend this for older children, I think in hindsight Stanley (5) was still a little on the young side as he couldn’t reach a lot of the equipment and needed help, but he still gave it his all.

Learning new skills with some guidance

There was a member of staff on hand though to give him some encouragement and guidance. Secretly, I think he enjoyed falling into the foam blocks more than completing the course.

Gaining in confidence

Ideally you want to wear trainers and sportswear/comfortable clothing and get ready to release your inner ninja!

To book your session click here.

Middleport Pottery

As we are talking Stoke-on-Trent then there had to be one clay based attraction listed really, didn’t there?

Middleport Pottery is home to the beautiful Burleigh pottery and is a great way to introduce children to the heritage of the local area while keeping them engaged and entertained. As a working museum there is lots to discover including the distinctive and iconic bottle kiln.

We’re celebrating 130 years of continuous manufacture at Middleport Pottery this year! What an achievement for Stoke-on-Trent’s heritage and pottery manufacturer, Burleigh Pottery. Such great news to share.

We have visited Middleport Pottery on several occasions attending events including ‘Hedgehog Day’ where we made our own clay hedgehog but also got the meet some lovely African Pygmy Hedgehogs too.

Meeting an African Pygmy Hedgehog

Play with clay days are a inexpensive (£3 per person) but fun activity for any age and allow you to release your creativity. All tools are supplied. No booking required.

Playing with clay

One to watch out for is 10th Aug when the visitors centre is hosting ‘Mini Potters Festival’ where you can use your feet to make a gloopy clay slip ready for casting. Weigh the clay, mould and make your creations then send them to the decorating department. £10 family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) or £3 single admission.

Middleport Pottery showcasing the iconic Weeping Window Poppies on it’s bottle kiln

There is a lovely on-site tearoom serving both hot and cold food and beverages, it can get quite busy though. There is also a working steam engine and a canal barge moored near to the café as the factory backs onto the Trent & Mersey canal.

For a full list of events follow the Facebook page.

Glebe Farm

I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve visited here over the years and it’s still a favourite now. Glebe Farm is free to enter and has ample parking, toilets and baby changing facilities so that’s the practicalities ticked off straight away.

Fun with friends

So what can you expect to find here? There are animals to feed and pet (food is available to buy at the farm shop) including goats, alpacas, donkeys, and guinea pigs to name but a few. There is also an outdoor playground area that has a selection of ride on toys, a play tunnel and has recently had a sand pit added.

One of Stanley’s favourite things to do is play on the (new) excavator ride, digging, scooping and piling up the chippings.

There is a lovely café that offers a good choice of snacks, meals and monster shakes. They also do a (pre bookable) prosecco afternoon tea – perfect for a mummy meet up, chin chin! And, this is yet another place that sells yummy ice-cream!

Within Glebe Farm there is also a range of small independant businesses to visit too. Ranging from a shoe shop to a hairdressers via a pottery painting workshop, you can easily spend a full day here.

At weekends and during holidays kids can also go on a tractor ride and bump around the fields in the tractor trailer which is great fun.

Glebe Farm is a bit of a hub within the local community and often holds special events so it’s worth following the Facebook page.

Three boys and a whole load of track

One of our favourite events is when Jane from Cheshire Toy Shop holds a Brio pop up shop. Think of a big playmat, a job lot of brio track, trains and tunnels and a whole world of imagination and before you know it lots of little hands have created and built their own landscape. There is also a range of Brio available to purchase on the day or order and Jane usually carries a small range of ‘pocket money’ toys too. There’s usually one planned during the holidays, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Find the Cheshire Toy Shop on Facebook.

Peak Wildlife Park

Again, this fab place is practically on our doorstep situated in Winkhill on the outskirts of Leek.

Our large walkthroughs allow you to come face to face with exotic and endangered animals from across three continents. Whether you love lemurs, have a passion for penguins or want to wander with the wallabies (and feed them with your hand!) our park has something for you. Our regular keeper talks and on site facilities provide everything you need for an entertaining, exciting and educational day out

Peak Wildlife Park is a zoo experience with a difference. Instead of viewing animals in their enclosures and cages, at Peak Wildlife Park you enter the enclosures to interact with them. Watch as wallabies hop around you or lounge about with the lemurs.

Walking through the enclosures

A favourite with my boys is the penguin viewing area where you can watch them swimming under the water and diving for fish at feeding time. Tip – take some tinfoil with you and scrunch it up into a ball, if you move it around infront of the glass the penguins come over to investigate thinking it’s a fish!

James loved the penguins

The animals are obviously outside so wear clothing suitable for the weather. However, if you get caught in a shower fear not – you can head in to the new indoor softplay area with its own Asian Short-clawed Otter viewing station.

Back outside and you will find the Jungle Bounce bouncy castle which is the largest bouncy castle in Staffordshire. This, coupled with the large sand pit, jungle gym and space hoppers means that there will always be something to entertain your little ones here.

There is a large on-site café offering a wide range of hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and stone-baked pizzas to tempt you. There are vegan friendly and gluten free options available too.

Lounging Lemurs

You are welcome to take a picnic though if that suits your budget better and there are plenty of picnic tables available for you to use.

The whole of the park is wheelchair and buggy accessible. Baby changing facilities are readily available.

The entrance fee is a bit on the expensive side compared with other places (under 2’s go free and a season pass works out much better value in the long run) BUT the experience is something really special and it’s definitely a full day destination. So I am already planning another visit with my boys this Summer. And, although I’m permanently on a budget (having 3 kids will do that to a person!) I am happy to pay a bit more knowing the welfare of the animals is second to none, which is the case here at Peak Wildlife Park who also work closely with the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust.

At Peak Wildlife Park we are passionate about conservation; our mission is ‘to take and inspire action to secure wildlife and wild places’.

There are some great events planned for the hols including a bubble walkabout which is running every Wednesday during Aug which we’re hoping to get along to. Check the Facebook page for more event details.

So there you have it, our top 10! I think you’ll agree that our local area has a lot to offer!

What’s your favourite place to visit?

I will continue to shout about our local area and events, so if you are organising something special please get in touch.

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