Collecting conkers in the autumn is a childhood experience everyone deserves to have at least once.
Picking up the spiky shells from the floor and wondering if there is anything hiding inside, seeing shiny red-brown conkers hiding among the leaves and twigs on that ground, and the thrill when you know it’s a keeper and not not that’s been nibbled by squirrels or starting to decay.
With his big brother and sister at school, today I took Toddler Boy I, my 2 1/2 year old youngest child, to Insole Court in Llandaff today for a nature hunt, making the most of a sunshiny autumn day.
I’d asked on Twitter for the best places in Cardiff to hunt for conkers and a couple of other local mums recommended the grounds around the Victorian manor. We’ve not been here for a while; in fact, I don’t think Toddler has ever been here, so I figured it would be a good place to explore.
The mansion was built by two generations of the Insole family, wealthy colliery owners, between 1856 and 1909. It’s now a community centre, with various classes and activities taking place in the newly renovated Stable area, and The Potting Shed cafe serving drinks and hot and cold snacks. The building is undergoing extensive restoration work thanks to Lottery funding and the efforts of the local people who fought to save the building, so is not currently open to visitors.
But that didn’t stop us enjoying the beautiful grounds. We found plenty of conkers underneath the horse chestnut trees on the grounds on the main drive in. As we walked down, we saw a couple of squirrels snacking on the conkers, and a lot of the ones on the ground were half eaten. But with careful searching we soon amassed a good little collection. Given the huge numbers of empty shells compared to actual conkers, I think the place has been popular with conker hunters already this year but we found enough to keep us happy.
We also had fun exploring the grounds, the stone buildings and wooded areas – as well as playing on the tree swing at the entrance on the opposite side.
Toddler loves collecting sticks, climbing steps, and generally running around in the outdoors, so we easily passed three hours here, including eating our picnic lunch in the autumn sunshine.
There’s parking available in the grounds, as well as toilet facilities and the aforementioned cafe.
There’s a free family fun day taking place on Saturday 15th October, 11am-4pm, with live music, street food, craft stalls and family activities. See their Twitter or Facebook for further information.
Insole Court, Fairwater Road, Cardiff CF5 2LN