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Top 10 Free days out with the kids

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Montgomeryshire Canal

The Montgomery Canal, also known as ‘The Monty’ runs from Llangollen to Newtown in Mid Wales.

Parts of the canal would be well suited to a day’s sightseeing with the family, taking in all the sights and sounds of the surrounding towns.  

The stretch running through Welshpool and its environs is a particularly interesting place to visit and would be a wonderful section to explore with the children.  The canal towpath (which is also the Severn Way footpath) goes directly into the centre of Welshpool and the town lock.  Here you’ll find the Powysland Museum which children can visit for free.  (There is a charge of £1 per adult.)  Close by you’ll find the wharf, perhaps a few boats passing by and almost certainly lots of ducks who will be happy to help you eat your sandwiches!

Close by, and available via a circular walk from the Montgomery Canal, you can visit the National Trust owned Powis Castle, continuing to Belan Locks before finishing your route.  Children will have fun spotting deer at the castle’s deer park, and you can always stop off for a rewarding ice cream or cream tea when you make it back to the town. 

 

Radnor Forest

 

In Medieval times the word ‘forest’ meant ‘hunting ground’.  Radnor Forest was so called as it was once an unenclosed area for hunting deer.  Long ago, this part of Mid Wales was used as a royal hunting ground.  Now though, it lives up to our understanding of a forest, and is largely covered in rich, diverse and beautiful woodland with plenty to explore and plenty of fun to be had.

The wooded part of the forest is now looked after by Natural Resources Wales (formerly the Forestry Commission Wales) and is available to enjoy on foot, horseback or mountain bike.  Some parts are trickier to navigate than others, while other parts can be enjoyed with children and families.

There is plenty to occupy the smaller adventurers in your party who will almost certainly enjoy letting off some steam and letting their imaginations run riot in this ancient woodland.

According to local legend Radnor Forest is home to the last dragon in Wales who sleeps undisturbed in the forest.  A ring of churches built around the forest, each dedicated to St Michael, the angel who defeated the dragon, are said to contain the sleeping dragon. Local folklore suggests that should any of the four churches be destroyed the dragon would be woken!  So you had better be careful and make sure that you are extra quiet so you don’t disturb the dragon.  Listen hard and you might hear him snoring!

A number of interlinking walks and numerous trails take you through the forest, giving you the opportunity to explore its valley bottoms, open plateaus, impressive trees and wildlife.  This enchanting forest is also home to the beautiful ‘Water breaks its neck’ waterfall which is very much worth a visit.

Keep your small nature detectives ready and alert to spot all the interesting wildlife that live here. You might even stumble upon a roe deer who enjoy the forest’s quiet hideaways.  Buzzards and goshawks take full advantage of the steep valley sides, while the crossbill and siskin also thrive in the woods.

The large spruce and larch trees offer cover and a woodland home to large populations of badgers, rabbits and foxes.  Keep your eyes open for signs of wildlife and you’ll be sure to see plenty of interesting creatures and their woodland homes.  Perhaps your little ones might be able to spot the odd Gruffalo or two?

There are plenty of opportunities to take part in an impromptu wildlife safari and quick game of wildlife detectives with the children, with places to explore and new animals and mini-beasts to discover. You might even find the Radnor Forest dragon if you look and listen hard enough!

Located on the A488 between Knighton and Presteigne but the forest can be accessed from a number of different locations.  Please visit: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/website/recreation.nsf/LUWebDocsByKey/WalesPowysNoForestRadnorForest for more details.

If you still want some more adventure you can travel back in time to 1805 at The Thomas Shop in nearby Penybont, with free entrance to one of the most delightful museums you’re likely to visit.  There is also a wool emporium, gift shop, craft exhibitions and a tea-room where you can fill up on delicious home-made cake.

 

 

Ynyslas Sand Dunes

For the adventurer in you the sand dunes of Ynyslas offer an exciting haven for wildlife, rare plants and sea birds.  As part of the Dyfi National Nature Reserve, Ynyslas boasts long sandy beaches and is a fantastic place for walking, kite flying and enjoying some sea air.  You will find waymarked boardwalks among the sand dunes which are home to wild flowers including rare orchids. This is the perfect place to explore, feast on your picnic or play on the beach.  

You’ll be treated with stunning views of the coastline of West Wales, taking in Aberdyfi on the other side of the Dyfi estuary.  You may also be fortunate enough to see some dolphins in the estuary which is home to incredibly diverse bird and marine-life.  Birds to look out for include; stonechats, larks and linnets in the dunes, while the estuary is home to many wading birds including the shelduck.  The children will love exploring the shore-line and discovering who lives in the sand-dunes.

At low tide, from the shores of Ynyslas, you can see an ancient submerged forest which includes tree stumps of oak, pine, birch, willow and hazel trees. The stumps have been preserved by conditions in the peat under which they lie.  Radiocarbon dating has provided evidence which suggests that these trees died in about 1500BC.  These trees are associated with the legend of Cantre’r Gwaelod, a mythical land whose bells can still be heard to be ringing out from their watery resting place under the Irish Sea.

Parking is pay and display and a nearby visitor centre houses a small shop and toilets. 

 

 

Knighton Skatepark

 

The popularity of skateparks has ramped up in recent years.  If your little adventurers like to have fun on two wheels, or more, then Knighton skatepark is one of the best places to visit in Mid Wales.  This brand new, and state-of-the-art skatepark is located at the rear of the Offa’s Dyke Centre, and only a stone’s throw from the Offa’s Dyke Path.  With excellent skating facilities for those of all abilities to enjoy, you’d be hard pushed to find somewhere more exciting for your little adrenaline junkies.

For the smaller explorers with you there is a small children’s play-park in sight of the skatepark meaning that every member of the family is catered for.  You’ll be sure to see some smiling faces after an afternoon of fun here.

You can break up the day with a walk along part of the Offa’s Dyke Path with riverside picnic benches close by to enjoy your picnic.  Perhaps you’d like to indulge in a little retail therapy in the nearby town and re-charge your batteries at one of the town’s tea-rooms or pubs.  There are plenty of places to choose from and a number of charming shops to browse in.

 

Llanymynech Heritage Centre

If you have budding historians in your family, and even if you don’t, you’d be hard pushed to find a more interesting place to visit than Llanymynech Heritage Centre.

In the village of Llanymynech you’ll find signposts to the Heritage Centre off the main road.  Here there’s ample parking and a great base to start your adventure from.

Here, you’ll find one of only three remaining Hoffman Kilns in the country, making this site hugely significant in the industrial history of our country.  High above the village you’ll see the cliffs of Llanymynech Rocks which was the site of quarries where lime would be mined before being passed through the kilns and distributed further afield by the railway links and Montgomery Canal.

The Hoffman Kiln won’t be hard to spot.  Your little explorers will find this impressive landmark easy to find – it’s a bit of a giveaway with its chimney standing at over 42 metres high!

A series of walks, (ranging from a short 30 minutes to a couple of hours) will give you an insight into the history of this area and take in views from the Llanymynech Rocks Nature Reserve close by.

You can collect leaflets on different trails available, including a Geology Trail, from local shops and pubs as well as the village hall and Llanymynech Wharf Visitor Centre.

There are plenty of easy access trails suitable for buggies and little legs.  Should you be feeling more robust or energetic you can also enjoy part of the Offa’s Dyke Footpath which passes nearby.

 

The Lake at Llandrindod

Llandrindod Lake is a popular place for local families to spend an afternoon. Explore ruins, feed the ducks and have a go on the swings.

A legacy of the Victorian tourism boom in Llandrindod, the area provides an ideal location to spend some time in the fresh, clean Mid Wales air.

Take a walk around the lake to enjoy the haven for wildlife, with helpful information points placed along the perimeter of the lake, to help identify different species and breeds that occupy the habitat.

No visit is complete without taking the opportunity to feed the ducks! Food is available from the shop beneath the bistro which fronts on to the lake.

Budding little historians can visit the ruins of Capel Maelog, a church estimated to have been built in the late 12th century. 

Plenty of parking is available at the refurbished Lake Restaurant and is an ideal place for a bite to eat or to warm up with a hot chocolate, while enjoying panoramic views across the balcony and over the lake.

Finish your visit with a picnic on the adjacent common and then have the smaller members of the family burn off some energy at the well equipped play park.

 

Go soldier spotting and follow The Epynt Way

As well as being known as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Brecon Beacons are also famed for their military use.

The Epynt Way stretches across land controlled by the Ministry of Defence, from Sennybridge in the south, to Llangammarch Wells and Builth Wells in the north.

Access is restricted but a circular marked walk is possible around the boundary of the Sennybridge Training Area, on bicycle, horseback or on foot. The walk has also been broken down into smaller, more manageable sections.

The area provides some impressive views with the odd defunct sentry post and army trucks rumbling past. Noisy troop training is likely, although there is no danger from live ammunition. Overhead jets and helicopters also make a frequent appearance.

A ‘Walkers Way’ guide is available from Brecon Tourist Information Centre and more information (including firing times) can be found at www.epyntway.org. The website advises that dogs and horses should be kept under control (on a lead or tethered). 

Visitors should be aware of loud noises and weather conditions. With added instructions to carry emergency water and rations, as well as suitable clothes and footwear, this is an ideal opportunity for members of the family who want an adventure.

 

Feel your Artbeat

During October, Brecon hosts ‘Artbeat’, the annual arts festival. The festival aims to showcase a range of local talent and gives visitors the opportunity to ‘participate, create and enjoy’ through open studios, workshops and exhibitions. 

The Artbeat group originally formed to market the unique cultural and creative enterprises and galleries of Brecon, developed from an understanding of how the natural beauty of the area creates an ideal setting for the creative arts. 

Most events and exhibitions are free of charge and welcome families. The event also includes some dedicated children’s workshops. So from glassmaking to pottery, and poetry to theatre, let your imaginations run wild and get creative.

Some events require pre-booking or include a small charge, for further details visit www.artbeatbrecon.co.uk. 

 

Go underground at the Big Pit

Just outside the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park near Blaenavon , is the Pig Pit - a real coal mine and mining museum. 

Visitors can follow in the footsteps of generations of miners and even take a tour 300ft underground. 

Coal mining is integral to welsh history and the museum is geared towards engaging children to understand the life of a miner and their family, both at work and at home.

The museum is open daily 9:30am until 4:30pm (closing only 24th-26th December and the 1st January) with underground tours running from 10am until 3pm. Entry to the museum is free, however car parking is charged at £3.

To help you plan your visit further information can be found at www.museumwales.ac.uk. 

 

 

On your bike! And explore the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal

For families who like to saddle up and use pedal power, the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal is a great location for exploring as a group of mixed ages and abilities. 

A traffic free route (apart from the boats and the ducks!) means that the canal towpath creates a safe destination for a family day out by bike.

Cycling along the tow path from Brecon to nearby Tal y Bont will cover a distance of just over 5 miles, so this is one for a family who are used to spending time exploring on two wheels! 

The route includes plenty of options to stop for some refreshment at the cafes, pubs and hotels, or stop for a picnic at the dedicated site by the Brynich Lock.

Plenty of pay and display parking is available near to the Canal Basin in Brecon, and the towpath is reasonably flat and easily accessible along this stretch.