National Botanic Garden of Wales – family friendly and lots to do!
It is hard to tell how big somewhere is until you physically visit it. The National Botanic Garden of Wales was much larger than I expected – especially if you take into account the parts we didn’t go into but could see – the fields and areas around it was also part of the plot.
We were told about the kid friendly areas of the site by a lovely member of staff and decided to head to the bees first. On the way we found the Japanese garden which I loved – it was so serene and perfect – I wish I had the patience to make my messy garden more ‘zen’ ! The water flowed and plants grew effortlessly. Even the kids sat still for a second for a photo!
The Apiery (where the bees have their hives) was great – we stood in a building, so thankfully couldn’t get stung, and watched them pollinate and buzz around. There was lots to learn – including the differences between the different bees and wasps, and how they pollinate. I didn’t see much about why it’s so important to help save the bees – but maybe I wasn’t bee-ing that observant!
I love butterflies – my husband isn’t so keen. But he went in the butterfly house anyway (so he should – I’d been going up high things lots!). It was so hot in there but we saw loads of butterflies – including some lovely larger blue ones plus of course lots of caterpillars and lovely plants. I love watching them flutter around – I find it mesmerising.
We ate some lovely sandwiches and jaffa orange cake (I’m still thinking about it now!). One minor criticism is they are generally pretty eco-friendly but don’t advertsie that you can refill water bottles in the cafe – we had bought a bottle before I thought to ask and got ours refilled.
Our 6 year old is owl mad – he has mountains of cuddly owls on his bed and one usually goes everywhere with him. So of course we had to visit the British Bird of Prey Centre. We saw a few owls fly and one decided to hide which everyone found amusing. Every time I see an owl show I find out more about them & loved seeing them in their homes – we were very impressed with the amount of space that they all had compared to other places we’ve been, and how new and clean it was there. All the birds fly daily except those who are injured or old – a lot are rescues. My favourite was Lily the little owl – she was hugely cute and fluffy!
The boys loved running around the wild gardens. The Gardens have been involved in some ‘saving pollinators research’ which includes finding out whether commercially bought seed mixes really work and which of the four seed mixes grown works the best. From what we could see some of the seeds grow better together than others and some the bees were definitely happier with.
The highlight of the day if not the whole trip for the boys was the zorbing balls on water. They’d never been on them before and we were pleasantly surprised at how cheap they were – £3 for 7 (exhausting) minutes! it was so nice to see that and other activities on for the kids there – mine do get a bit bored of flowers so interspersing it with things like that really made it more fun.
We, were by this time, on to our 4th big greenhouse of the trip! I hadn’t realised how many gardens I’d planned to visit – I suppose they are generally eco-friendly! The Mediterranean Great Glasshouse houses some of the world’s most endangered plants which come from six hot areas of the world which are all represented.
The kids enjoyed the higher up walkway, pond and waterfall with fish in. It was lovely and quiet when we were there – a nice change from the packed Eden Project.
The other part of the garden which kept the lads entertained for ages was the stream running down the Broadwalk – they played pooh sticks all the way down and I enjoyed reading about the different rocks on the way which were next to it as part of a Rock of Ages exhibition.
The shop wasn’t as large as others but mood rings were bought and we were lucky enough to be given some gifts including some pencils with seeds in – you use the pencil then plant the end of it in some soil and watch the plants grow – basil and tomatoes for instance! The boys can’t wait to plant them. There was a fabulous plant shop on the way out – unfortunately, although the boys were desperate for some venus fly traps, we were unable to transport them home so we have since bought some for them. I do plan on getting my act together and planting more bee-friendly plants too.