A Jurassic park at Knebworth

PUBLISHED: 11:41 15 August 2013 | UPDATED: 11:41 15 August 2013

Angie and Theo Anderson visit Knebworth House

Angie and Theo Anderson visit Knebworth House

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THEO has been a bit under the weather this week so I decided to head to Knebworth Gardens, Dinosaur Trail and Adventure Playground, hoping there might be enough there to cheer him up.

We travelled by car and I hadn’t realised that you needed to pay before parking so I was grateful I hadn’t slung my purse in the boot. After this, you drive up the road that leads towards the house and at this point you need to decide whether to start with the gardens or the playground as they are driving distance apart.

We headed straight to the gardens and, after decanting Theo into the buggy, found the main entrance between the café and gift shop. Rather handily, there are signs for the “scenic route” or direct path to the house. You can guess which we chose, and we didn’t have to go far before reaching the maze.

The hedges are tall enough to make it feel like a proper maze for children, but short enough for parents to spot their brood and also where the dead ends are! Buggies aren’t allowed inside but you can wheel them around the outside or park them at the entrance.

Theo loved toddling around the maze and squeals of delight could be heard when explorers reached the middle. It was a good size, not too intimidating but big enough to provide a temporary puzzle for younger ones.

With a large amount of guidance from me, for fear we might be there all week, Theo found the centre and I was unashamedly triumphant on his behalf.

After the maze, you can either take the woodland walk, which is glorious in the sunshine and not too long, or head straight to the Dinosaur Trail. Most parents get dragged to the Dinosaur Trail but I recommend the woodland walk as a nice way to calm down afterwards.

It’s not every day you expect to see life-size dinosaurs peeping out from behind the bushes, and from the description on the website I thought it might be slightly comical to see a T-Rex inspecting the roses, but in reality it was good fun. Wide paths lead you around bushes and all sizes of dinosaurs are there to greet you.

Each had an informative plaque, offering the kind of gritty information kids (and adults) want to know, like how big it was, how much it weighed and whether you would want to meet it at night in a dark alley.

The “dinosaur time-clock”, located half way round, is useful for those of us who need to brush up on our history. Theo, being too young to care about these sorts of details, was nonetheless delighted with the dinosaur statues which were big and colourful.

The 28 acres of gardens are littered with wood carvings and there is enough variety of gardens, spaces and foliage to keep it interesting. There are also plenty of shady spots for picnics.

The café has seating inside and out and, although we didn’t have a problem finding a high chair, there didn’t appear to be many available on a busy Saturday.

There is a kids’ packed lunch option for £4.75 as well as hot and cold meals, drinks and ice creams to buy. The food is home-made and there are plenty of healthy salad and sandwich options.

The gift shop feels a bit bare but they have a few trinkets for kids. The toilets are just around the corner with baby-changing facilities offered in both the male and female sections.

After we had fed and watered, we drove to the Adventure Playground and what a sight for little eyes! It is spread across a large area and full of different climbing frames, slides, swings, see-saws and, well, you name it, Knebworth has it. I love the wide space and the fact that there are things for all ages, such as little dragon slides for toddlers and more adventurous climbing frames, slides and even a zip wire for older children. Most are set on wood-chipping for softer landings.

As well as this fantastic spread of play equipment there is also a bouncy castle and a fort full of wooden climbing frames. There is a walkway around the top so it really feels castle-like. Toilets and baby-changing are offered in this section. There is an ice-cream and drinks hut outside the fort as well as sheltered picnic tables and ample parking around.

Entry to the gardens, including the Dinosaur Trail, Park and Adventure Playground costs £9 for anyone over the age of four, free for under fours, or £32 for a family of four. It is open from March to September and if you can pick a day when the weather is good, and spend as much time as you want there, then I think you get good value for your money.

Theo really enjoyed the play area and toddling around the gardens, and there will be plenty for him to enjoy when he is older too so we will definitely be returning.


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