A morning at Hall Place & Gardens

A few months ago, on a dreary Saturday, Decima and I attended a training session about Experiencing the World through the children’s eyes. We sat there a whole day and the most important thing I came away with, was called active participatory learning- is all about the process of learning rather than the final product.

It is proven that children learn best from having real experiences “We learn 10% of what we read, 15% of what we hear, but 80% of what we experience” Daryden & Voss (1994) The Learning Revolution.  It is for this reason that we at Dee’s Childcare are committed to providing our children with as many “real experience” opportunities to support and extend their learning.

We visited Hall Place and Gardens some time ago on a sunny but very cold day. Nevertheless, the children enjoyed the visit very much and we are planning to go back.

Hall Place and Gardens is located in Bexley, Kent and is a Tudor House surrounded by magnificent gardens. We did not visit the house, we were more focused on visiting the gardens and the Butterfly Jungle.

So we started off in the gardens, first stop was the maze where the children warmed up by chasing each other around

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The children led the way and our next stop was the Wildlife Corner

River Cray runs through the garden so it was a huge attraction for us. Lots of ducks and geese were on the banks so the children were able to observe the birds close up.

The topiaries planted at the time of the Queen’s coronation are striking, but the children were more interested in playing hide and seek around them

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A quick stop in the Botanical Gardens. Amazing plants, flowers, pond with fishes, even a banana tree which was the highlight of the trip.

And finally the Butterfly Jungle. Before entering the gallery we stopped in the shop and the children were shown different species of cocoons. Beautiful I might say, never thought I’ll use this word to describe cocoons but look:

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We were given safety instructions and then entered the gallery. Inside is very hot as they recreate the natural habitat of the butterflies and some may find it a bit frightening with all the butterflies flying around but I assure you, there’s nothing to be afraid of, they are so delicate and beautiful. The ones resting on the leaves, give you the opportunity to observe their detailed features, the ones flying around might land on you if you’re lucky…

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The children loved it, they were so excited to spot the butterflies around them and when some landed on their little hands, they showed no fear, only curiosity and fascination.

Even now, months later they remember this experience which shows us how important it is for the children to explore and understand the world in their own way.

This further benefited the children as in the setting we have three groups,  Caterpillars (under 5’s) Cocoons (5 – 8) Butterflies (Over 8’s). So the visit to the Butterfly Jungle and witnessing the process has helped to reinforce our room names and the older Caterpillars look forward to moving up to becoming Cocoons, as do the Cocoons to Butterflies.

A few useful things if you want to visit: there’s free parking, the gardens, cafe and visitor’s centre are free to visit, there is a small fee for the Butterfly Jungle. It is open every day and there are other exhibitions -one that we are definitely going to visit is All About Owls. You can always visit their website for more information should you want to visit.

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The Bluewater Nature Trail

Today we visited the Bluewater Nature Trail in Kent. We are always on the lookout for new places, to offer interesting experiences to the children we care for. If it’s outdoors it’s even better.

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The nature trail is in the grounds of the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, near London. You can find more information on their website  but I want to share our experience and some of the pictures we took as the Autumn scenery is so beautiful.

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The shopping centre is built inside a quarry so it’s surrounded by white cliffs all around. There are lakes, bike paths, walkways and playgrounds.

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The Nature Trail is highlighted by animal paws on the ground and signs, accompanied by Sidney the Squirrel who shows the way and gives detailed information about the flora and fauna around the area.

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The children loved the walk as much as we did, stopping very often to admire the view, the lakes, the ducks, swans, to look for minibeasts under the logs, to look at the map and finally to play.

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The playground we stopped in is very challenging so maybe children aged over 5 would appreciate it more, but our little ones gave it a try nonetheless. They are fearless and willing to tackle any new challenges that come their way.

They were also responsible to lead the way, so they looked for the paw prints on the path and consulted the maps on the way. We also came across Sidney, the squirrel who pointed arrows towards the way so we couldn’t stray from the path.

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The wildlife is rich, we saw lots of ducks, swans, black headed gulls, minibeasts but the information on the plaques advised to look out for bats, herons, lizards and even grass snakes.

Flora was as amazing as the wildlife. The path is surrounded by trees and being Autumn, the colours offer an amazing view, backed by the white cliffs.

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There is a picnic area in the playground but today was too cold to have lunch outside so we headed to the food court inside the shopping centre.

We promised the children a return visit, maybe in Spring and then in Summer so that we can compare it to the Autumn experience and hopefully see more of the animals that reside there.

The Nature Trail is surreal…a lovely place to visit, nature at its best especially after the hustle and bustle of the shopping centre.