*paid collaboration with St Fagans National Museum of History
Let’s face it; the weather hasn’t been great so far this year. We’ve still been donning our waterproofs and wellies and getting out and about when we can but the cold, rain, wind, ice and even fog of the last few weeks has meant we’ve certainly not had our usual quota of ‘proper’ days out.
There was, however, one morning of glorious sunshine a week or so ago… which I made the most of by taking Littlest on an impromptu trip to St Fagans National Museum of History.
We’re blogger ambassadors for the museum but even before that, it was one of our favourite local places to visit. The open air museum is home to more than 50 buildings from across Wales including farm houses, miners’ cottages, shops, a chapel and a school. The majority of them have been carefully deconstructed from their original location and then reconstructed on the museum’s site and furnished as they would have been during their heyday. Being able to walk around the buildings and see how things would have looked really helps to bring history to life.
St Fagans has been going through a period of renovation recently with the new entrance building opening just before Christmas, complete with new restaurant serving snacks, hearty meals and traditional Welsh food and great toilet facilities (because these things are vital when you have young children!).
More importantly as far as my children are concerned though is the new playground which has recently opened after several months of construction.
Called Yr Iard or The Yard, it’s handily situated next to the new entrance building.
The playground was designed especially for St Fagans by artist Nils Norman who was assisted by fellow artists Fern Thomas and Imogen Higgins. It was funded by the Arts Council of Wales and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The artists worked with children from Woodland High School and Hywel Dda Primary School as well as researching the museum’s collections and archives to come up with the design. Much of the equipment is based on historic buildings at the museum and it has a lovey traditional and natural feel about it.
Although the signs say the playground is suitable for children age 4-12, on the day we visited during school hours it was mostly toddlers and pre-schoolers playing – and they seemed to be having great fun.
Littlest spent ages walking across the wooden balance benches, the collection of big rocks, and the tree trunk. The sandy area with the smaller roof-shaped climbing structures was a big success, and he did a good job of scaling the rope-netted climbing frame.
He also loved walking along the wooden posts between the two areas of the playground – he loves balancing and the different sized posts of wood made this a huge adventure for him. He honestly would have been happy to have done this all day.
He got a bit confused with the swings because they didn’t have the toddler safety seats on them… but I know my eldest two will love the fact that they all swing into the middle.
No doubt the playground will get busier at weekends and school holidays so it was lovely to visit when it was quieter.
After almost 45 minutes of playing we headed off to explore the rest of the museum… well as much as you can explore in a couple of hours before you need to dash off to afternoon pre-school!
Littlest was keen to see the Gwalia Stores – he particularly likes the displays of food inside and the metal weighing scales – and the Rhyd-y-Car mining cottages. He’s nearly four now and beginning to understand about life “in the olden days”. Each of the Merthyr cottages is furnished according to a different period in their history so it’s a good way for him to see for himself how times have changed.
We also spent some time watching the blacksmith making large nails to be used around the museum grounds – heating up the metal and using various hammers and tools to shape it. we both found it fascinating.
We ate our packed lunches on one of the many picnic tables dotted around St Fagans before another quick play at the playground on our way out.
St Fagans National Museum of History is free to visit (although you will need to pay £5 to park all day – coins only – or invest in an annual parking pass for £25). We always leave a donation when we visit St Fagans in order to help support the work the museum does in preserving Wales’s history and to ensure entry stays free.
You can see more of our local adventures on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram feed.
For all our days out posts see the Cardiff section of Cardiff Mummy Says.