Stuck for something to do with the children during the six week summer holiday, and don’t want to fork out a lot of cash?
The Gazette has compiled a list of free or low cost activities and events in the local area that will keep the kids, or whole family, entertained.
- Play in the fountains by Eastrop. Water is always an attraction for children, and this completely free activity could keep them amused for hours if the sun is shining.
2. Take your children on a mystery bus journey – go to the bus station and jump on the next bus to wherever you fancy. Kids will love the spontaneity and adventure. But just remember to find out the return times.
3. Visit the Silchester Roman Town. The complete circuit of the Roman Town Walls and amphitheatre of the Roman Town are open to visitors all year round. The mile-and-a-half walk will provide exercise and education!
The Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading also excavates part of the Roman Town for six weeks each summer, during which time visitors can visit every day, except Friday, between 9.30am and 5pm. For more information visit http://www.reading.ac.uk/silchester/visit-the-roman-town/sil-visit-silchester-roman-town.aspx.
4. Take the Basingstoke Town Trail. The town has a number of sculptures and interesting historical points within walking distance of each other. Destination Basingstoke has a free guide online which can be printed off, with information on different points of interest. You can find it here http://www.destinationbasingstoke.co.uk/_assets/client/images/collateral/9860TownTrailscreen.pdf
5. Have a picnic. It might sound obvious, but having a picnic is one of the simplest but most enjoyable ways to spend time with your family, and children will love the opportunity to be outside. There are a variety of beautiful locations nearby, including Basingstoke Canal, which has the added bonus of a refreshment kiosk.
Other areas in Basingstoke and Deane to enjoy a picnic:
- Crabtree plantation
- Eastrop Park, where there is also a free paddling pool
- Old Basing Common, where there is also a playground
- Beggarwood Park, where there is also an adventure playground with a zip-line
6. If the weather is rainy, visit The Willis Museum at the Top of The Town. The free attraction has a permanent display upstairs as well as changing exhibitions downstairs. For more information about what’s on visit http://www3.hants.gov.uk/willis-museum.htm
7. Manydown Maize Maze has become a hugely popular attraction for families, and this year’s design is in the shape of an owl.
The cost is £8.50 for adults and £8 for children, with a variety of family ticket options also available, but there is plenty to keep children entertained for hours, including an adventure play area, farmyard animals, tractor and trailer rides, go karts, woodland walks and animal handling.
The maze is open from July 19 to September 7. For more information visit http://www.manydownfamilyfun.co.uk/what-to-do/manydown-maize/
8. Culture on the Common will be held on the cricket green in Hartley Wintney, from 1pm to 5pm on Sunday, August 3. Local artists will exhibit their work on the green, and there’ll be classical music and cream teas served. Entry is free.
9. Open days at Miller’s Ark Animals, in Manor Farm, Blackstocks Lane, Hook, take place from 12noon until 4pm on Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4.
Visitors can go in every pen to handle animals including chicks, ducklings, rabbits and guinea pigs. Entrance costs £6 per person aged two years and over. Under-twos go free.
10. The annual jazz picnic, in Hunts Common, Hartley Wintney, will be held between 12noon and 5pm on Saturday, September 6, featuring live music from jazz bands, as well as a beer and barbecue tent, cream teas and ice-cream. Visitors can bring their own picnic. Free entry.
11. The summer reading challenge at Basingstoke Discovery Centre will run throughout the summer holidays for four to 11-year-olds.
This year’s theme is Mythical Maze and children are challenged to read six books, collecting stickers to mark their progress. For more information visit http://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/
12. Basingstoke Discovery Centre is also hosting a range of free Friday craft activities throughout the summer holidays.
On July 25 and August 8 children can make a mythical maze board game. On August 1 the activity is making a hobby-creature puppet and on August 15 the Discovery Centre will run a workshop to create a pair of mythical feet. On August 22 the activity is making a flying mythical creature and on August 29 children can make a mythical pencil topper. All activities run from 10am to 12noon and 2pm to 4pm.
13. The annual Oakley Village Show takes place on August 9 at Oakley Junior School. Attractions include The Knickerbocker Glory Morris Team, Punch and Judy, a steel band, raffle, Basingstoke Male Voice Choir, refreshments, Oakley Gardening Club plants, dog agility, crazy golf, beer tent and barbecue.
Show includes cookery, craft, photographic, flowers, vegetables and children's competitions.
14. CarFest takes place over the August bank holiday weekend, and although tickets for the event are sold out, you can watch the spectacular aerial show from Popham Airfield.
15. Festival Place shopping centre is hosting a range of activities for families during the holidays, as follows:
- Wild about words (12pm-2pm, August 2) At Waterstones craft and story time sessions, children can create paper masterpieces such as origami butterflies and leaves for the enchanted forest at a special first-come first-served drop-in session.
- Story-time follows featuring popular books from Waterstones children’s collection. Giddy the Giraffe will be specially delivering smoothie treats from the staff of Giraffe as well!
- Chill out zone (12pm-2pm, August 16) The whole family can kick back and relax in the Summer Garden with staff from Lush offering hand and foot massages with their fragrant handmade products, while local radio station Breeze FM entertains with some lazy summer sounds.
- Flamenco fiesta (6pm-8pm, August 16) Enjoy dazzling flamenco demonstrations outside La Tasca along with free paella sampling for all.
- Take it to the streets (12pm-2pm, August 23-25) Popular Street Theatre Duo Jones and Barnard will be entertaining shoppers with their family-friendly performances.
- Pizza party! (12pm-2pm, August 25) Learn how to make pizza with staff from Pizza Express in the Summer Garden. Everyone is welcome to give it a whirl, but come early to ensure a limited space.
- We’re all on Common Ground (12pm-2pm, August 3, 10, 17 and 24) Live acoustic performances by popular local duo Common Ground every Sunday in August.
- Out of this world (All day, August 30 and 31) Wrapping up the Summer Garden’s activities will be an exciting parade of Star Wars Storm Troopers. After taking the centre by storm, shoppers can meet and greet the characters through the centre, and Burger King and Nandos will serve up treats for all hungry young Jedi’s.
16. Watch trains pass under the bridge at Old Basing. It’s a simple activity which costs nothing. The bridge near Old Basing Common is perfect for watching trains roar underneath, and children can enjoy playing in the park afterwards.
17. Children’s entertainer and actress Charlie Sanderson is running interactive 45-minute storytelling parties at Basingstoke Discovery Centre, which cost just £2 for children and are free for adults.
These run on July 24 (The Gruffalo), July 31 (Hugless Douglas), and August 7 (The Very Hungry Caterpillar). Each session, at 10am and 11.15am, includes singing, a giant parachute and bubbles.
18. The Vyne National Trust property at Sherborne St John is running a 50 things to do before you’re 13 and ¾ initiative, which is free to join. Many of the activities on the list are being offered at The Vyne, where an entry charge applies, but lots of them can be carried out anywhere.
For more information visit https://www.50things.org.uk/
19. Go pond dipping – buy some cheap nets, save a few large ice cream tubs and head off to a nearby pond. Local ponds include one in Old Basing, near the common, Black Dam ponds as well as Eastrop Park.
Fill the tubs with water and let your children dip their nets into the pond to see what they find.
20. Go geocaching – the real world treasure hunt in which participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
There are 2,446,765 hidden worldwide, including numerous in the Basingstoke and Deane area. For more information visit https://www.geocaching.com/.
21. Low cost play schemes are being run by RCSPlayServices from July 28 to August 22, offering arts, crafts, games and physical activities for just £1 per child. The morning sessions run from 10am to 11.55am and the afternoon sessions are from 2pm to 3.55pm. For more information visit rcsplayservices.org.uk.
22. Old Basing Royal British Legion is holding a 1914 themed fete on August 2, in Crown Lane, Old Basing. Entrance costs just 50p and attractions include stalls, a vintage tea room, ice creams, food and drinks, performances, fairground games, donkeys and a bouncy slide. The event runs from 12 noon until 4.30pm.
23. National Play Day is on August 6 this year, when free events will be held in various locations for children and their families. For more information visit playday.org.uk.
24. Visit Odiham Castle. The ruins, known as King John’s Castle, are just a short drive from Basingstoke, beside Basingstoke Canal, and are completely free to visit. For more information visit http://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/things-to-do/odiham-castle-p285561.
25. Whitchurch Silk Mill is a 19th century water mill that weaves English silk fabrics using 19 the century machinery. The mill is open to the public at a cost of £4.50 for adults and £2.50 for children. Located by the River Test, the facility also has a tearoom.
It also runs various activities aimed at families throughout the holidays, such as felt making. For more information visit http://whitchurchsilkmill.org.uk/mill/index.php.
26. Whitchurch also has a Mill Trail, with circular walks of 2, 3.5, 4.5 or 7 miles. The trail is a waymarked walk along the River Test which includes several river crossings and passes five different historic mills. For more information visit http://www.hants.gov.uk/rh/walking/mill-trail.pdf.
What have we missed from this list? Please add your ideas by using the comments facility below.