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A Bumper Load of Summer Holiday Fun in The National Forest

Tuesday, 3rd July 2012

Families searching for new ideas on where to take the children during the long summer break should head to The National Forest at the heart of the Midlands.  This ‘forest in the making’ is bursting with things to see and do, ensuring young ones and their older companions alike are kept entertained - whatever the summer weather brings!

Every day from Saturday 14 July to Sunday 2 September, visitors to Conkers can enjoy Summer Adventures, included within the daily entry price.  The programme of entertainment includes ranger-led craft days, dray rides with the Shire horses, the Flip and Dippy Clown shows, Trevor Hill with his animal road show, Nick Spellman and his amazing animals, woodland crafts, pond dipping, falconry displays, Story Time and bush craft survival skills. To find out what activities are taking place on each day log on to the Conkers website

In time for the summer, Conkers has just launched its outdoor adventure and experience days.  Open to groups of six or more people, these combine water sports with forest ranger activities, including kayaking, mountain biking, archery, pedal go-karts, bell bottom boats, the assault course, bushcraft and orienteering.

Based upon life in a British woodland and set at the heart of The National Forest, there are over one hundred indoor and outdoor hands-on exhibits at Conkers, guaranteeing hours of family fun – rain or shine!

Hicks Lodge, National Forest Cycle Centre, will be holding special events for families throughout the summer including a sponsored dog walk on 15 July in aid of local animal charity - Impawtant Pups. The stunning eco-friendly centre, in Moira near Ashby de la Zouch, has a café, bike hire and repair shop, showers, a wood-burning stove for chilly days, and eight miles of graded off-road trails.  While youngsters will enjoy the twists and turns of the most technical route, there are wide surfaced trails for buggies and tagalong bikes. Non-cyclists can also enjoy the young woodland on the dual use trails for walkers and cyclists.

Children will love the huge indoor play barn at the National Forest Adventure Farm, which houses three levels of exciting adventure play equipment.  This year-round attraction also has tractor and trailer rides, pedal tractors, brilliant jumping pillow, mini assault course, friendly animals for children to meet and pet in supervised sessions as well as daily events such as sheep racing, milking and pony grooming. Its ever-popular maize maze, which is one of Europe’s largest, will be open from 14 July to 9 September. And on 4 August the Agri-lympics are back where teams compete for the coveted ‘Golden Welly’ in its annual crazy agricultural sports competition. 

Thomas the Tank Engine is back at Great Central Railway from 19 to 22 July. Voted 12 in the top 50 greatest railway journeys in the world, Great Central Railway is the UK's only double track, main line heritage railway where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other.  Children can meet Billy the Bear, have their face painted, take a ride on a steam train and enjoy a picnic with the Teddy Bears from 24 July to 9 August.

Swadlincote Ski and Snowboard Centre is open 364 days a year allowing visitors to ski even in the middle of summer!  Every school holiday the centre offers Fun Activity Days.  These run from Monday 23 July  to Friday 31 August. Taking place 11am – 5pm, this brilliant day out combines lessons in skiing (Monday, Wednesday and Fridays) or snowboarding (Tuesdays and Thursdays) with tobogganing and ‘Sno-Tubing’. A hot lunch is included and everyone receives a skill level card at the end of the day.  Adults are welcome to book onto these sessions with their kids to join in the fun.

There will also be a Bank Holiday Bonanza on 27 August at the centre where visitors can try a half-hour taster session in skiing or snowboarding for just £5, toboggan for just £1 per ride or try the new Viper Slide Sno-tube run for just £1.50 for 2 slides.

There will be amazing LEGO models and children can take part in the giant summer reading challenge at Snibston’s LEGO Day on 24 July. For an additional £6.50, visitors can join in LEGO workshops and get their own bag of LEGO to take away as a LEGO professional shares some top tricks for building cool LEGO models.

Throughout the school holidays, children who join the libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge can get free entry into Snibston and Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre with a full paying adult (one free child per adult). They will need to show their membership ‘Lab Tab’.  For more information visit

Snibston and Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre are also offering 20.12% discount on family entry tickets for four or more people when they present the discount voucher, available from

The magic and mystery of Bosworth Battlefield will be uncovered in a fascinating walk led by costumed guides in full character on 25 July. Pre-booking is advisable on this popular event. Then on 18 and 19 August families can relive history at the exciting Battlefield of Bosworth Anniversary weekend.

Donington le Heath Manor House is hosting a Roman School Holiday Activity from 2-4pm on 19 July where children can find out about life in Roman Britain, have a go at Roman crafts, join the Roman Army and handle real objects from 2000 years ago! Then on 26 July, 2-4pm, the Dark Ages will return to Donington with games, crafts and dressing up. The following Sunday (29 July) will see a bigger Anglo-Saxon and Viking gathering at ‘Dark Age Donington’ 11-4pm. On the next three Thursday afternoons Donington’s holiday activities explore Knights, Castles and Fairy Tales (2 August), The Tudors (9 August), and Pirates! (16 August). Admission is free but there is a small charge for craft activities.

From 23 July through to 31 August, Rosliston Forestry Centre will hold drop-in activity sessions for just £2.50 per person including archery from 2-4pm every Monday and Friday; mountain biking from 10am-12pm and Wildlife Watch at 2-4pm on Tuesdays; Kraftiz have-a-go craft sessions will take place every Wednesday from 10am-12pm and woodland laser combat at 2-4pm every Wednesday and Thursday. On 27 July and 24 August there will be a Forest Frenzy afternoon where visitors can choose as many activities as they want for just £10 per person. Activities include archery, woodland combat, climbing, hawk walk and crazy golf to name but a few. No booking is required for either the drop-in sessions or Forest Frenzy.

There are a number of activities taking place where booking is essential.  From Monday 30 July to Friday 3 August and then Monday 13 August to Friday 17 August, children aged 8 – 14 can join the Out & Active Holiday Kids club. This will run from 9am – 5pm each day and may include archery, laser games and climbing wall activities. Youngsters aged eight and over can also hone their survival skills on a Bush Craft Day taking place on 7 and 21 August with activities such as shelter building, friction fire lighting and furniture making.

But if all those activities sound a bit too much like hard work – how about an afternoon Cream Tea in The Hub Cafe?  Rosliston Forestry Centre also hires bikes, offers fishing and has woodland trails, log cabins and play areas.  Younger visitors can slide down from the Sparrowhawk, climb through the crocodile’s mouth or have fun in the soft play area (for under 7s). 

Heather Scarecrow Festival is back from 29 July when the village of Heather is transformed by scarecrow creations made by its local residents. Visitors can follow the scarecrow trail and vote for their favourite.  This culminates in a Family Fun Day on the last day of the festival, 5 August, with children's rides, bouncy castle, face painting, crafts and tea room at Heather St. John's Football Club.

There will be loads of children’s activities from creative craft to story-telling, coracle paddling to eco art at the National Forest Wood Fair over the Bank Holiday weekend Sunday 26 and Monday 27 August.  

Children can learn all about the animals, play games, make crafts and meet some of the friendlier animals on a Summer Safari at Twycross Zoo from 30 July to 3 August. For ages 8 - 12 years this five day experience allows kids to get really immersed in the zoo finding out about all the animals and how they are kept.  Places must be booked in advance.

Within the tall, redbrick walls of Calke Abbey’s large kitchen garden lies a world of imagination, with activities held every day from 14 July until 31 August.  These will run 11am - 5pm and include a wild grass maze that explorers will love.

The 2012 visitor guide to The National Forest & Beyond is bursting with great ideas on fun ways to spend summer days.  These are available from Tourist Information Centres or from the Visit section of our website, along with a complete listing of all the events going on in the Forest throughout the summer.  For more information on opening times and admission prices on the individual summer activities contact the venues.