Whipsnade Zoo

I went to Whipsnade Zoo this summer with my sister and her family. It’s partnered with London Zoo I visited a few years ago. Whipsnade Zoo is huge so we started from one side and made our way round.

The animals are sectioned according to the continent they came from, so we started with Africa. The first animals we saw were chimpanzees. They were a bit far away but I liked that they had a lot of space to move around. We then moved onto the penguins which again I was pleased to see had a huge space and also a great view of the English landscape.

As we made our way along the path we suddenly spotted an animal that was outside like us! After a closer look we saw it was a wallaby hiding in the long grass. Did it escape?! Turns out no; there’s wallabies and Maras (like giant Guinea pigs) that are allowed to roams free. My 2 year old niece had fun chasing after the Maras, much to our amusement.

Getting over our surprise we next visited other animals typically found in Africa; rhinos, giraffes (my favourite), lions, ostriches, meerkats and zebras. Lions apparently sleep up to 20 hours a day so I didn’t hold much hope in seeing them running around. There was a cheetah too but they were hard to spot sleeping in the tall grass.

Walking along leaving the Africa section we turned a corner to see sudden bright pops of pink! Flamingoes!

Their pink feathers looked so lovely against the greeny water. There were flamingo chicks, their feathers stull grey, pelicans and herons all surrounding the same pond.

After stopping for lunch and a rest we made our way to the next section, the Asian continent. Here we saw elephants and tigers. The tigers were also pretty sleepy, making little movement. Nearby was an area dedicated to dinosaurs. There were various shaped and sizes, some growling and moving. My niece of 7 enjoyed making scared faces at them and digging for fossils.

Next we ventured into the aquarium and butterfly house. The kids enjoyed seeing the various fish and it was nice to go at a slower pace. By the time we reached the butterfly house my youngest niece was fast asleep and the older one didn’t like butterflies so didn’t stick around. I’m not fond of flying insects in closed spaces myself but I did manage to take some nice close up photos of some of the calmer butterflies.

Last stop was the farm, here they had a striking long haired Poitiven donkey, cows, ponies, alpacas, hens, rabbits and my little niece’s favourite baby goats! Feeling refreshed after her nap she spent her time petting, chasing after and hugging them.

I always feel conflicted when visiting zoos as I feel sad that animals are kept in smaller spaces than they would be in the wild. But the truth is that zoos can play an important part in conservation and survival of some animals. Seeing them in large, open spaces in nice and I’m glad that they seem to be well looked after at Whipsnade.

Camden Town

I visited Camden again not too long ago to show my niece around the markets and to look for some street art, which is always great. It was a rainy day but we didn’t let that dampen our enthusiasm. We first walked through Little Venice which holds canal boats, has pretty bridges and willow trees with drooping branches. There was a also a section where people had started to attach locks to the gates that was interesting.

Next we headed to the markets to get out of the rain for a while and to get something to eat. As well as food stalls there were lots of shops and stalls which had really cool and beautiful things. I especially liked the Moroccan style lamps and the retro cameras.

Having dried off a little we decided to head back out and see what street art we could find. It didn’t take us long to find some colourful, creative, amazing artwork. I love Dan Kitchener’s work and have seen it in several spot’s around London, and this rainy scene was very apt for the day. I also really liked the girl with flowers in her hair and the couple standing under a running tap, although it’s a shame that was spoiled a little with the black spray over it.

There was street art on huge walls as murals, in doorways and around almost every corner, so it took us a while to go around. I was familiar with some of the styles of some artists so it was great to see what new pieces they had done. I liked the coloured, squared doorway, something I can imagine having in my home, and the solemn looking girl I thought was really striking.

We eventually made it back to the station, having found dozens of new street art pieces and feeling quite satisfied, if not a bit wet. And my niece didn’t think Camden was quite as peculiar as I made it out to be. Street art is always changing, which is one of the great things about it, and Camden and other places in London really encourage street artist to be creative and bold, which I hope to see more of.

Sunflower and Lavender Fields

Yesterday I went to a sunflower field in Hertfordshire with my sister, my nieces and my brother in law who kindly drove us there. Last year I visited Mayfield lavender farm which was a lovely visit and I was keen to see other flower fields (I’d love to see tulips in Holland). Hitchin Lavender had a sunflower field and next to it a lavender field, which meant that we got to see both on this visit.

We started at the far end and walked up the rows, but more than the sunflowers and lavender, what really took my attention was an empty field with nothing but bales of hay scattered around. I’ve seen such bales on drives through the country on numerous occasions and always wanted to stop and take some photos. This one has a fence around it but part of it was broken so I took my chance and went through it to take some shots.

It was quite difficult to walk in this field as the corn stalk were short but quite sharp so I had to tread carefully or risk being poked in my ankles (which I did), but I worked my way across the field and to see the bales of hay that were spread out as well as get up close to a few.

After some time gazing across the field of the round bales I came back through to the main field which had the sunflowers. There were thousands of sunflowers but I think due to the very hot summer we’ve had and the heavy heads the sunflowers were quite droopy, which made it difficult to take photos. There were still some smaller ones though that looked fresh with all their petal intact which looked pretty.

After walking through the sunflowers we moved onto the lavender field which was right next to the sunflowers, but was much bigger.

The lavender smelled lovely and looked great, spread out ahead almost as far as the eye could see. We were given paper bags and scissors at the entrance and told we could take back any flowers we pleased, so we filled our bags with a few sunflowers and plenty of lavender.

Having wondered around for a couple of hours, taking photos, smelling the scent of the flowers and just taking in the pleasant, relaxing view on a sunny day we started heading back to the car and to get something to eat – it’s hard and hungry work walking through large fields but immensely rewarding, and I would definitely recommend a visit, especially as a small break from the city.

Rochester Castle

I visited Rochester in Kent recently with family on an afternoon out. On arrival we decided to have a look around and came across the grand looking Cathedral which is the second oldest in England.

Inside there were lots of pretty stain glass windows and statues as well as other historical artifacts and features.

After looking around we turned towards Rochester Castle, which was built in the 1080s and still looked like it was standing strong despite being a ruin.

The castle stands on large grounds where lots of families were having picnics, playing games and just enjoying the good view and weather. Inside the castle you could the large building blocks that made it, giving an indication of just how old it was. I can imagine it must have been cold and dark in the evenings and difficult to get around with its steep, narrow, spiral staircases, and long hallways.

As we carefully climbed the staircases we reached the roof and could see a lovely view of River Medway on one side and walking around to the other, Rochester Cathedral which sits across from the castle.

It didn’t take us too long to see the whole castle as there weren’t any rooms, mostly corridors and landings from one staircase to another but it let us imagine what it would have looked like when it was in use. It was a nice afternoon out and we enjoyed experiencing and learning about something new.

Kite festival

Last weekend I went to a kite festival in Dunstable Downs with the family for a day out. On arrival we could see it was quite busy and there were dozen of kites soaring in the air with the brisk breeze keeping them aloft. There was a great selection in varying shapes and sizes, and we brought some of our own along to join in. As well as the public flying kites there were professional kite flyers doing some great shows and making it look so easy.

We also brought along a picnic with some great food, with a passerby declaring that ours was the best one he’d seen, much to our amusement. After we’d eaten, my smaller nieces enjoyed pony rides whilst the adults wondered off to see what the craft stalls had to offer.

After our kite was flying on its own we all sat down to relax and enjoy cold ice creams and the wonderful view that Dunstable Downs is known for, until it was time to head home.

Dunstable Downs