In the quest of things to do in the half term holidays that don’t cost a fortune and will entertain all three of my children equally, this morning we made the most of the winter sunshine and headed to Bute Park.
Toddler Boy I, now 23 months, refuses to stay still at the moment. He just wants to run around and climb on everything, which makes a lot of our usual favourite free days out, to places such as the museum and Roath Park, quite stressful during the holidays when everywhere is super busy with children.
One of the things I love about Bute Park is that with 56 hectares (equivalent to 75 football pitches) to explore, no matter how busy it is, it never feels overcrowded. And although it’s been dry and sunny so far this week, it’s still pretty cold, so I figured it’d be nice and quiet today and perfect for the kids to run off some energy without worrying about losing them among the crowds.
We parked in the Civic Centre, directly across from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, meaning a walk of just a couple of minutes to get to the park via the entrance next to the college.
This made it easy to head straight to our favourite area – the trees and carved sculptures around the Secret Garden Café.
We arrived around 10am, suitably kitted out in winter coats, hats and gloves. My children thought the frost on the floor was brilliant – it certainly made these daffodils look extra beautiful. Luckily, we had our Wellington boots to change into because their shoes were soon getting wet.
We were shocked to see one of the trees in this area had fallen down. Talking to the park warden, he said it happened last Monday during Storm Imogen. Red and white tape cordoned off the area around the tree, as he told us it’s still half balancing on another tree and could come crashing down at any moment.
Still, my children thought it was impressive. Little Miss E, my six-year-old eldest child, and Little Man O, my four-year-old middle child, thought it was fascinating, especially seeing the roots unearthed.
We spent some time playing on the other trees in this area – they’ve all grown in such unusual ways, they are perfect for climbing on.
A short walk away is my favourite tree in Bute Park. Yes, I have become the kind of person who has a favourite tree! Please don’t laugh!
This tree is brilliant for climbing and balancing on. Miss E and Little Man decided to pretend they were squirrels and spent ages collecting little nuts and cones and anything else they could find ready for them to hibernate over the winter. I love how many lessons you can learn from simply playing in nature.
They also made Daddy Squirrel a special birthday tea for when he got home from work, a cake (which involved sticking twigs, or candles, into a circular patch of mud), and decorated their tree house with fallen branches, leaves and so on.
This kept them entertained for almost an hour, while Toddler laughed his head off playing peekaboo around the trees.
They then spotted this willow tree and remembered the fun they’d had playing dens inside it in the summer. They couldn’t believe how different it looked in the winter to the summer, but had good fun running in and out of it, nonetheless.
We treated ourselves to sandwiches in the Secret Garden Café for lunch – we hadn’t expected to stay as long as we did, and I didn’t want to drag them away when they were having so much fun.
We spent a good three and a half hours in the park, just in this one area. In fact, the only reason we left was because our parking was due to run out and I could sense Toddler was getting over tired and in need of his daily nap.
We left the park with hands, faces and wellies covered in mud, but full of fresh air and the joys of nature in winter.
For more ideas of family-friendly days out in and around Cardiff, visit the Cardiff section of Cardiff Mummy Says.