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Kirsty McCabe has a really wild family day out at Marwell Zoo

During a trip to Blackwood Forest our weekly columnist Kirsty McCabe enjoyed a family day out with the dinosaurs at Marwell Zoo




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Marwell Zoo Ethan makes friends with the locals at Marwell

If you go down to the woods today you're in for a big surprise... We certainly couldn't believe our eyes when we reached our destination for the weekend: a luxury timber cabin in the middle of Blackwood Forest in Hampshire, just over an hour from London down the M3.

As we entered our Golden Oak cabin, my eldest son Ethan looked around in wonder and asked optimistically “Is this our new home?” Sadly not, but we certainly enjoyed our few days away from the city in our holiday hideaway exploring Gruffalo territory.

Blackwood Forest is the newest Forest Holidays location and our cabin was perfect for a family break: clean, modern and fully equipped – I do love a dishwasher! The highlight has to be the massive hot tub on the cabin deck. Both the kids loved it, though we didn't let them stay in too long. I sensibly brought swim nappies and costumes for both boys but by the end of the weekend Ethan was skipping in and out of the tub European style (i.e in his birthday suit).

Once the children were fast asleep in bed, my sister-in-law and I grabbed a bottle of champagne from the fridge, and fluffy robes and slippers on, we headed back to the hot tub for a more relaxing soak without my youngest Logan splashing water everywhere. My husband drew the short straw of listening out for the little ones while catching up on his work – thankfully there was Wi-Fi, as the signal in the forest is rather lacking!

When not in the hot tub we explored the forest, both on foot and on bike, with the boys in a special trailer. As well as bicycle hire there are lots of things to do, such as archery and a selection of forest ranger activities, from young explorers to bush craft. You can even book some in-cabin spa treatments, perhaps more suited to a young couple or group of ladies than my motley crew.

Talking of which, I did feel guilty when a friend emailed to ask how my weekend was going as she was busy dealing with a new baby and a chickenpox-ridden toddler. Drinking champagne in a hot tub was probably not the best reply. I have promised her we will go away on a 'yummy mummy' break once she's convinced her husband to look after the kids.

On our final morning we ate the fresh bread we'd ordered the night before, packed up the car and headed to nearby Marwell Zoo. As well as the more typical Zoo animals such as monkeys, giraffes, rhinos, penguins and zebras, Marwell has a special dinosaur adventure trail this summer. There are noisy animatronic dinosaurs dotted around the zoo, plus visitors during the school holidays will be able to see a Velociraptor roaming around (no need to panic, it's a person in a special realistic costume).

All of which should be heaven to Ethan who is dinosaur obsessed, to the point that he can name dinosaurs I've never heard of and loves singing along to Andy's dinosaur raps on YouTube. The only problem was that he hates people dressed up in giant costumes or moving dinosaurs (as we found out at London's Natural History Museum when he freaked out at the Tyrannosaurus Rex).

On sighting the first dinosaur at Marwell he wavered between excitement and fear and clamped his hands over his ears when it roared. But after passing the Triceratops family a few times, as we went to and from the loos, he eventually got quite keen on the whole idea. And once he got his hands on the controls to the dinosaur robot - he was sold. He still wasn't keen on getting near the real life big animals, such as rhinos, but that's a sensible reaction in my opinion.

As we headed back home Ethan declared, “That was really good, please can we come back again?” - which summed up exactly what we were all thinking.

Have you taken your family to the Zoo? Do you have any top tips for introducing your children to the wonderful world of wildlife? Let us know by commenting below...

Kirsty McCabe writes her weekly column here on www.juniormagazine.co.uk every Friday. Follow us on Twitter: @juniormagazine and watch out for the hashtag #somethingfortheweekend to join in with the conversation

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