Savouring Stockwood Discovery Centre

Theo and the spider web at the adventure playground, Stockwood Discovery Centre

Theo and the spider web at the adventure playground, Stockwood Discovery Centre - Credit: Archant

SQUEEZING the last out of the summer weather, we headed to Stockwood Discovery Centre and Park in Luton. Situated close to Luton Airport means that planes frequently fly very low overhead and for Theo, that proved to be an enormous thrill. We could have spent the entire afternoon in the car park watching the planes but, with an article in mind, we ploughed on.

Admission is free which is pretty marvellous when you consider what’s on offer; galleries, exhibitions, gardens, crafts and a playground.

Theo took a nose dive towards the Adventure Playground which was thoughtfully split into two, with equipment more suited to toddlers separated from that more suited to over sixes.

Of course Theo wanted to go on everything and was particularly fond of the large spider web which was a bit advanced for him, but I have a feeling we will be there again.

After the playground, the gardens lay ahead and we had great fun exploring the Sensory Garden, World Garden, Medicinal Garden, Healthy Eating Garden and Natural Wildlife Garden, to name a few! They are beautifully laid out and offer hours of hide and seek as well as little treasures such as a Bee Gallery where you could dress up as a beekeeper and admire your reflection in a large mirror.

There is also a selection of Period Gardens planted in various styles including Elizabethan, Italian, Victorian and a Dig for Victory Garden.

The gardens had Theo squeaking with delight, and the planes passing overhead served to raise his joyous pitch. His particular favourites included the World Garden which was full of colourful flowers and the Sensory Garden which was full of bees and butterflies on the day we went. The Sensory Garden also had a seating area with tables and benches for picnicking.

Most Read

The Dig for Victory Garden contained chickens in a coop which was like a flame to a moth for a certain someone.

After exhausting ourselves exploring all of the gardens, we made our way to the Discovery Galleries housed in the stable block of the demolished Stockwood House. In the courtyard there is a tractor and exhibition of various engines.

After a quick go on the tractor we went inside, and although the galleries were not aimed at a toddler of Theo’s age, they are fantastic for older children, with models of gypsy caravans, a Blacksmith’s forge, educational films on crafts like coopering, a large model of a windmill and a Roman chariot in the archway.

Feeling tired and thirsty we turned back to the café which is located near the entrance. It did mean going back through the gardens but Theo didn’t mind that! The café serves various homemade cakes and savoury snacks, with a children’s menu, all reasonably priced. There is plenty of seating inside and out and a few highchairs available. There are two sets of clean toilets and baby changing, one by the café and one in the Discovery Galleries.

By this time it was getting late but we managed to see the Mossman Collection, housed in the Discovery Hall, which is the largest collection of carriages in the UK.

It is very impressive and Theo had a great time shouting and hearing his echo as I went into teacher mode and tried to point out various interesting vehicles, such as a Town Coach circa 1860 and Postman Pat’s van.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit The Monster Creepy Crawly exhibition which is on until November so we will be returning to see it.

At the gift shop the staff were very friendly and it stocked plenty of things to appeal to children. I can’t quite believe that admission to Stockwood Discovery Centre is free, although you are welcome to make a donation, and it is well worth donating to because it is a fantastic resource for families. They run lots of activities throughout the year like craft workshops and they also have special exhibitions running. I can’t wait to return with Theo.