When we decided we would live in the UK for a short period one thing we were keen to do was explore.
We wanted to make the most of the time we had to go out and see things, get outside and just generally experience as much of the UK as we could.
Most weekends we did something, though some weekends we just wanted to recover from the previous weeks’.
However, I reckon we easily did more in a year than most families would squeeze into five.
So what did we do and how did we decide?
Firstly we wanted to explore locally, which for us was local to Bidford-on-Avon. This is a largish village (compared to when I lived here as a child) near to Stratford-upon-Avon.
We’ve walked country paths around the area, spent some time down by the river at the park and soaked in the air.
Easy stuff really, but there’s one well-trodden path near the house that I’d never been on until we came back.
We bought National Trust family membership and have been to around 20 properties – most of these are local to us but we’ve also visited others when we were already further afield.
National Trust properties are mostly stately homes, but within these homes are large grounds to explore. Most cases we’ve not been interested in the homes, though some, like Hanbury Hall, have been spectacular.
For these trips we’ve usually taken a picnic, one time we wished we’d had a frisbee too because Charlecote Park was massive and was an ideal place for chasing the frisbee.
Getting this membership has been a great way of exploring the countryside for us as we have looked in the book to see where else would be interesting and then gone for a drive.
We went to Brockhampton Estate in Herefordshire and had a fun, muddy time and the Weir Gardens near Hereford were well worth the visit (most places have something for the kids like a nature trail or adventure playground).
Choosing to go to the White Horse at Uffington, Oxfordshire, eventually led to us visiting the Chalk Kiwi at Bulford and the Cerne Abbas Giant.
My love for parkrun has also been a way of exploring. With more than 400 parkruns in the UK we’ve combined parkrun tourism with general tourism.
Here are a few places we’ve been to:
- Fountains Abbey parkrun, Yorkshire. We also visited Brimham Rocks (which were awe-inspiring, particularly for our 5-year-old).
- Yeovil Montacute parkrun, Somerset. This trip included Stonehenge and the Chalk Kiwi.
- Poole parkrun, Dorset. We turned this into a long weekend away during half-term holidays and visited the Broadchurch cliffs at West Bay, went fossil hunting on Charmouth Beach and drove through the New Forest.
- Upton House parkrun, Dorset. This was a weekend away which also included three beach visits and Corfe Castle.
- Wyre Forest parkrun, Worcestershire. Day trip from home, after parkrun we went to the West Midlands Safari Park.
We’ve climbed hills to see beautiful views (and sometimes get blown around on windy days) in the Brecon Beacons, Malverns and beyond. We’ve been to cities, such as Cambridge and Norwich (where my sister lives).
There were day trips to London to go to the Natural History Museum, Birmingham to the Science Museum and Tamworth to Twycross Zoo.
We’ve been to amusement parks – West Midlands Safari Park, Drayton Manor and Legoland (we went here twice, it was that good).
And we’ve been to playgrounds in Broadway, Leamington Spa and Bath (yep, we drove all the way to Bath and spent most of the time in the playground).
Then there was August Bank Holiday when we did the traditional British thing of driving to the nearest beach. We chose Barry Island, Wales. There were a lot of people but it wasn’t overly crowded.
In May we spent a week in Scotland so we could scatter my dad’s ashes (we did this at Culloden where the Fraser clan assembled).
This trip included Edinburgh – we went to my old workplace at Edinburgh Castle, Pitlochry, Culloden, Fort William and Loch Ness.
Some trips had advance planning for booking hotels (Premier Inns almost all the time) and train tickets, some trips we planned during the week and some trips we decided to do on the day itself.
All it took was a map, satnav in the car and a picnic.
As you can see these are all domestic adventures, but we also went to Copenhagen for four days in the summer and we’ve just returned from a wintry weekend in Iceland.
Probably not the international destinations most Kiwis would choose but we were curious and loved both choices.
We’re not beach people, as you can probably tell, we like to run around, feel the air on our faces and the satisfaction of accomplishing something.
We will be doing much more exploring when we go back to New Zealand, though it won’t be around historical sites and instead be more with nature.
Do you prefer beaches or mountains?