Fun Free and Freedom With the Kids in Hampshire and the South East

Kids Free Adventure

The last two years were hard, even for the most mentally positive of us all. So as I stand in the playground waiting for my child to rush into my arms; big smile, messy hair and book bag thrust into my chest, it's hard not to feel so worn out. A peek around the playground at the other mask wearing parents, (trying to keep to themselves, lost in their own thoughts), I can't help but feel the weight of a worn out community. Bubbles within bubbles, each to their own and trying to claw out of the hole that 'Covid-19' put us all in. But as caring parents we smile warmly back at our children and hope that smiling, laughing and having fun becomes the new pandemic.

It's hard to be optimistic about another new year when fun with the kids over the course of 2020 and 2021 was so difficult, different and definitely not so care-free. So in light of the fact we have become conditioned to the pandemic and we are starting to see a way to live with it, this new year should be quite healing. For those who like to think of the new year as a fresh start, or even those who just want to know how they can make 2022 a little better, I have compiled below some fun activities you can do with the kids in Hampshire and the South East. The best part is that these activities are actually free! Fun doesn't have to have money thrown all over it, especially when you can't afford it and you really want to treat the kids. 

Don't we all deserve to finally start having fun again? Here are my favourite free fun activities with the kids in Hampshire and the South East.

N.B.: These locations are all free to access, but please bear in mind car parking, because ticket machines are never free!

       1. Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex - Sharks Teeth Fossil Hunting

When I first discovered this beach with the kids, I was really impressed and we haven't stopped going back. Bracklesham Bay has the whole package. For a start, its uncrowded, which is quite surprising as it's really easy to get to right from the A27. Many head for the tourist packed sandy West Wittering beach, which is to the West of Bracklesham, but sand can only entertain kids for so long. Actually, this beach does indeed have sand. It's mainly a shingle beach and when the tides goes out, there's lots of sand to build a sandcastle. The best time to visit is definitely when the tide goes out, because that's when it gets interesting and parents can trigger their backup entertainment - fossil hunting! I have so many fossilised sharks teeth at home, because if you clue yourself up before you go to this beach, (I urge you to visit: Discovering Fossils Bracklesham Bay ), you'll know exactly what to look for and they are quite a common find.
If you are a family with a dog, that's okay because this beach is dog friendly. I also like the fact that you can setup your picnic area on the stones and keep everything clean and weighted down, whilst the kids dig around in the sand in front. The sea is very calm and quite shallow and inflatables are no problem. Watersports is also permitted, so paddle boarding is a favourite and when the waves are slightly choppy, you'll see windsurfing, kitesurfing and body boarding. There are WW2 wrecks in the bay so it is also a great scuba diving spot. Just be aware there are no lifeguards on the beach. 

Hopefully whilst you are taking photos of the kids, you'll notice the amazing view West, as far as 'The Spinnaker Tower' in Portsmouth, especially if you are a budding photographer. I also shouldn't forget to mention that there are public toilets in the carpark and a restaurant called 'Billy's On the Beach'. Alternatively, there's a great kiosk that you have to pass on the last stretch of road to the beach, which you can't miss as they sell lots of beach toys and inflatables and you can pick up some sandwiches. Or as you get closer to the beach there's a fish n' chipshop if you fancy that.

A few shops along from the kiosk I mentioned, is a fishing and tackle shop. Bracklesham Bay is a great beach for fisherman, who you'll often see there. Here's a great page to read all about Bracklesham Bay fishing: Southern Angling Specialists Bracklesham Bay

As you can tell, I like this beach and I hope you will have lots of fun with your kids there to!

       2. Haslemere Museum, Surrey - A Natural History Diamond

I love this museum! The kids and I discovered this little gem when we signed up for a clay fossil making activity in the half term. I never expected the exhibit there to hold so many natural history specimens. Its like visiting the 'Natural History Museum' in London. Here is a great description I've taken straight off their website: "Haslemere Educational Museum is one of the largest Museums in central southern England with over 240,000 Natural History specimens, along with over 140,000 Human History artefacts from around the world. There are three large permanent galleries for Geology, Natural History and Human History artefacts, also with two temporary exhibition rooms, a library and a dedicated education room for people of all ages."

The museum is a great place to entertain the kids. It has a garden, where you can picnic or there is a seating area inside. There's also a little walk down to a pond, passing a bee hive, with a clear side so you can watch the bees at work. The museum regularly has activities for children and the exhibit itself is so fascinating. Beautifully presented from: Early Man, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, the Medieval times and the Victorians. There are lots of interesting artefacts and draws to open, full of natural curiosities such as: fossils, minerals and butterflies to name a few. In the Ancient Egyptian area there's even a real sarcophagus and mummy!  

We are very lucky to have this gem in the South and an amazing hardworking team of people, to keep this museum running just on kind donations. Please do visit their website to learn more and hopefully make it a day out: Haslemere Museum

       3. Emsworth Aquaria and Reptiles, Drayton - Awesome Diverse Collection

You might think I'm cheating, because this isn't a whole day out with the kids, but it is totally worth a visit. I'm hoping that if you visit this amazing reptile and aquatics shop first, you can then also add my next day out to supplement it. I had to put this shop on my list because it's been such a treat for the kids and they are happy to go back anytime. The shop isn't huge, but its beautifully presented reptiles, amphibians, creepy crawlies and aquatics are very cool! The owner is quite cool to, he looks a little bit like Vin Diesel with a great snake tattoo...what a dude!

My kids refer to this shop as the "free zoo", because to them they are seeing creatures so close up, they probably wouldn't get to see in a real zoo. The staff are really friendly and this lovely lady let my son stroke an Iguana. 

Children are so fascinated by reptiles, because unless they own one, they rarely get to interact with them. We now own a snake, which we bought from this shop, along with different fresh water fish.

I have seen many times how nervous my children's friends are when they first hold our snake, (his name is "Voldermort", why not), they soon become very confident and completely fascinated. This shop is such a joy, as we are able to expose our children to these amazing creatures and dispel any preconceived fears. Our snake is so docile and friendly, his name "Voldermort" actually helps to unravel the fear that the Harry Potter movie associated with snakes.

Emsworth Aquaria and Reptiles don't have a website, but they do have a Facebook page with over 200 great reviews. I should mention that there is a KFC and a Heidi's Patisserie on the same street, (if you decide to treat the kids to that). To see some great pics and learn a little more about this store, please visit: Emsworth Aquaria and Reptiles Facebook

       4. Butser Hill, Petersfield and the Queen Elizabeth Country Park - Kids Who Like to Roam

If you want to feel elevated and far from bricks and mortar, with views across the South Downs that stretch all the way down to the sea, you should spend an afternoon having a picnic at the top of Butser Hill. 

Butser Hill is a biological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest south-west of Petersfield in Hampshire. It is a national nature reserve and a Special Area of Conservation. This hill is 271 metres (889 ft) high and its the highest point on the chalk ridge of the South Downs. It is of course the best place to fly a kite with the kids. It's also quite fun watching the para-gliders, who have been using the site since the 1970's. 

The hill is within the boundaries of the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. The park's visitor center is literally on the other side of the dual carriage-way, which cuts between. Depending on how energetic your family are, you could either have a lazy picnic flying kites at the top of the beautiful Butser Hill, or just spend the day at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, which will be more energetic, or even combine the two. The fact these sites are in the same area, means you definitely have options. 

The Queen Elizabeth Country Park is well known locally for trekking through the forest on foot or on your bikes. There are two bike trails and three walking trails, which are clearly waymarked on the ground. There are areas to picnic and a children's outdoor play area. The visitor centre sells souvenirs and there is a nice cafe. The real appeal is to take the kids on a hike through the forest and just feel the freedom, or "FREEdom" that nature provides. Here is a link to plan your visit to this park: Queen Elizabeth Country Park

       5.  Portsmouth Natural History Museum, Butterfly House and Park - A Complete Package

I know I have listed a museum above, but it is what is immediately in the vicinity of this museum, creating a whole package of fun that's made this list. The 'Portsmouth Natural History Museum' is free to enter and has a nice collection of artefacts. Not as impressive as the 'Haslemere Museum', but this one has a life-sized Iguanadon dinosaur at it's center. Any child would be pretty impressed with that. The live bee-hive is great, but if you have really young kids, you'll zoom round quite quickly and then head straight to the 'Butterfly House'. The butterfly season is from May to September and when the butterflies are all out, the kids just love it, as there are lots to see very close up. The 'Butterfly House' is definitely the jewel of this museum and it's magnificent dinosaur.

After a short morning doing those activities, you can simply walk out to the rear of the museum past the 'Butterfly House' and to the end of the path, which is the edge of their garden. You'll then be standing looking out over a huge children's play area and the 'Canoe Lake'.

But if you want to stick to the theme of "free", you'll let the kids burn loads of energy playing on all the park equipment, which caters to a wide age group. You can also enjoy a picnic right there on the green and there are even BBQ disposal bins. If that's not enough, you can simply walk from the park area, cross over the road and straight onto the beach! Let the kids look for shells, dip their feet and skip stones.

This beach is called "Southsea Beach" and this section of the beach, nearest to the park, is also close to South Parade Pier.

But as I said above, if you want to stick to "free", be careful about the kids twisting your arm, as Southsea has tons of entertainment, including a funfair. Southsea is pretty fantastic. 

Here is a link to the museum as your starting point for this day out: Portsmouth Natural History Museum

Make 2022 A Healing Year

We've all been so impressed with our children's resilience over the past two years. They encouraged us with their positive attitude and distracted us from sorrow with all their demands. I am sure you join me with much love and gratitude to our children, for helping us parents get through Covid-19. I wish families everywhere, to have a fun packed 2022 with your children and not spend loads doing it!

There are a few more places that you could visit that are not listed in this blog. I would have loved to share them with you, but then this blog would be way too long, so please message me for more ideas.      


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