On a rare mid-week day off (albeit in the school summer holidays so it was far from quiet) I decided to join my parents and Molly on an excursion to Washington Wetlands Centre. As I understand it, Molly and her grandparents are frequent visitors here as they enjoy watching and photographing the birds and Molly enjoys all the wide open space – something for everyone you might say. I’d only been once before but was impressed with how geared up they were towards families and how much there was for a child of Molly’s age to do.
We got there just in time to see the otters being fed and a new viewing platform provided just the right height for Molly to be able to see what was happening, which as it turned out was very little, but I think we need to put this down to the hazards of working with animals (and or children!) bored by the lack of ready entertainment, Molly and I set off on an adventure to create our own entertainment. We set off down a dirt track and soon came across a hide which allowed us to spy on some of the water birds as well as do some brass rubbing – an art that I thought had been long forgotten, it would seem not!
We then found a pine-cone much to Molly’s excitement, and soon after discovered a bench where we sat a while to properly examine the pine-cone and watch the world go by. The world went by very slowly and Molly was soon restless so off we went again.
This time we stumbled across the “Mingos” or Flamingos as they are more commonly referred to. They were actually really cool and so pretty. I overheard a conversation between a grandma and grandson the former answering the latter’s question as to whether flamingos could swim: “of course they can swim” she replied “they swim just like a duck”. I thought this sounded quite unlikely as they have such long legs so when I got home I looked it up and apparently they are strong but rare swimmers, so there you go – you learn something new everyday! I’m still not convinced that they swim JUST like a duck though.
I digress. By this time it was getting on for lunchtime and Molly was getting hungry. The cafe is situated within easy walking distance from anywhere on the site which is always useful when visiting anywhere with a toddler who lacks understanding of the concept of waiting. There was a fairly reasonable range of food to choose from, including child’s lunch boxes and smaller portions of most things. Molly rather enthusiastically chose spiced parsnip and carrot soup for her lunch and I, suspicious that she may not like it when it arrived and she realised it wasn’t tomato and basil like she has at home, opted for a baked potato and beans (her usual favorite) thinking I could do a crafty swap if necessary. I really enjoyed the spiced parsnip and carrot soup and Molly ate all of her baked potato and beans. The cafe overlooks a beautiful lake and there is a decking area so you can sit and watch the birds whilst eating.
There is a fantastic outdoor play area with amazing water play features as well as all the usual climbing frames etc… we didn’t visit this on this occasion but we did find some hula hoops to play with much to Molly’s delight.
Next we headed back indoors to check out the crafts room. I actually wasn’t expecting it to be quite as good as it was. As it was the school holidays they had organised crafts running from 1.00pm-3.30pm which you could pay to take part in. There were actually some really lovely ideas such as making a pen holder in the shape of a bird sitting on a branch; children could purchase the wooden kit for around £1.50 and then sit and make it there and then. This was obviously for older children, they’d thought of younger children as well and there were plenty of pipe cleaner related sticky, coloury in activities to participate in.
In the corner was a lovely little reading area with lots of books about nature and tables were set up with various toys and plastic animals. Molly honed in on a small plastic dinosaur and spent a good 10 minutes running around roaring. Then she spotted a giant dinosaur egg den and this happened…
There were also fish tanks full of fish to spot and the walls were covered in this amazing art work which I really want to have a go at making for Molly’s big girl bedroom….
In terms of other facilities, the gift shop stocked a lovely range of gifts from pocket money toys to really lovely children’s books (all nature and animal related of course!) Molly chose a plush frog which was actually very sweet and good quality. It was also reduced to £4.99 – bargain!
The baby changing facilities were excellent and the cafe had high chairs readily available. The staff were very friendly and were all happy to chat to Molly and answer people’s questions.
If you’re in the area, or even if you aren’t I would thoroughly recommend making the effort to visit the Washington Wetland Centre, there’s so much more than just birds on offer, although the birds were alright too!