Well, we made it through our first heatwave in the Garden City! It’s been a summer of extremes and unpredictable weather, which has meant I’ve had to get creative when planning days out and weekend activities. Now it’s the school holidays, I thought I’d share my Top 5 Summer Spots in and around Ebbsfleet, that will keep you and your family entertained no matter the weather.
Starting off close to home, Country Park (aka. The Sandpit Playground) is our go-to, walkable picnic location. Not only are there brilliant climbing frames, swings and sand play area, there are also picnic tables and a lovely expanse of grass for kids to run around on. For adults, it’s the perfect location to do some incline jogs or circuits, and I’ve frequently seen people playing cricket or doing bootcamp in the park. This was supposed to be the venue last week for one of the neighbourhood’s free community initiatives, Pimms in the Park, however the weekend storm unfortunately meant it was postponed. It will be held instead on Saturday 24th August, so pop that in your diary for the bank holiday weekend! The Coffee Morning I wrote about in last month’s blog will be Play in the Park here for the next few weeks, so wander over to this park on Friday between 10:45 and 12pm and look out for friendly faces!
Our closest playground is what my kids call ‘the Pirate Ship Playground’, in the Castle Hill Village Centre next to the tennis courts. It is a lovely, organic play space, with wooden huts for role-play, nest swing and a central castle with tube slide. While at the moment it is pretty quiet, this area is set to become a bustling hub, with the opening of local shops and eateries at the end of the year. There is also a Summer Fete being held on the 30th August from 1-6pm, with free food, arts & crafts and kids & adults sports taster sessions both outside and in Cherry Orchard Primary Academy/Community Centre. I talked a bit about how much Teddy loves gymnastics in last month’s blog, and so was really happy to see there will be a gymnastics taster at the fete!
This is my toddlers’ favourite special-treat destination, all year round. You pay for a day (adult tickets start from £26) and get a pass for the entire year, so it is such good value for money. It is an easy half hour drive from Ebbsfleet and in addition to the castle itself you can wander round the grounds, find your way through the amazing maze into the grotto beneath, play at two medieval-themed playgrounds, adventure golf, watch a birds of prey show – the list is endless and you can easily spend an entire day there. The highlight for my boys is getting Elsie the train down to the castle, then hopping on the ferry across the lake. Bring shoes suitable for walking and a picnic lunch – although the hot food in the restaurant is delicious! For adults wanting a fun, alternative night-out, there are various concerts and open-air cinema shows being held in the castle grounds over the summer.
Now (full disclaimer), I am slightly bias about this beautiful seaside town, as my entire extended family live here. Regardless, Whitstable is a wonderful place to visit, either for the day or for a weekend mini-break. It is a 35-40 minute drive from Ebbsfleet, and I strongly recommend driving during weekends and holidays, as it can get incredibly packed on the train with all the DFLs (down-from Londoners), and actually takes slightly longer. If you do take the train, it is the first seaside town you come to on the high-speed line, and once you are there the high street and harbour are only a 10 minute walk from the station. My favourite eatery is The Lobster Shack (although prices have sadly increased with its popularity), and you can get the most amazing donuts you’ll ever taste from The Forge. Head to The Bubble for a delicious coffee and incredibly child-friendly atmosphere (plenty of toys provided!). We escaped to Whitstable for the 38degree heatwave and it was noticeably a couple degrees cooler down by the sea, which was so warm that we took the plunge and went swimming – without wetsuits!
Only a ten minute drive away from Ebbsfleet, this is our favourite place to go cycling/scootering as a family. There are fishing lakes (which we haven’t yet ventured to try ourselves, but the kids are very keen!), a lovely restaurant/café, dog swimming pond, a great playground and 292 acres of woodlands to explore. Even if its raining, pop on your wellies and go for a refreshing walk – and don’t forget to look out for the dragon! You can also book amazing den-building and bushcraft parties here (starting at £230 for 15 kids). My 4 year old attended one of his friend’s last November and he still raves about it every time we visit the park. I am really excited about the plans outlined by the EDC to develop Blue Lake and the Eastern Quarry waterways into public areas with walking and cycle paths, as I am hopeful this will create a similar environment right on our doorstep.
This garden centre is a hidden all-season gem, that many people don’t realise is just around the corner. It’s located next to the Pepperhill Recycling Depot, a couple minutes away from Sainsburys. We usually head over in the morning to take advantage of the delicious and cheap cooked breakfast its restaurant, The Mill. My kids love running around and exploring all the plants outside, and when the weather is rotten will spend ages inside looking at the garden accessories (and toy section, sigh!). I’ve been trying to get them interested in gardening by encouraging them to choose their own plant to bring home and help plant. Next door is Swallow Aquatics, which stock small pets, reptiles and fish, and is always a source of much enjoyment for children (mine tend to run around for twenty minutes yelling ‘Nemo, where are yooou?!’). Millbrook also has a Butterfly Experience running till the 14th September, which is on our to-do list this week!
I hope I’ve given you some inspiration of where to go out and about in Ebbsfleet and surrounding areas over the summer. This is just a small selection of our favourite, family-focused, summer day trips and there is so much more to do in the area, I’d be wittering on for days if I tried to cover it all! If you have any further questions about what’s been covered in this blog, or something entirely different, please feel free to send me a message on my Instagram channel @lydias_layton_life – I love hearing from anyone who is thinking about moving to the area, as well as current neighbours! I hope you all have a wonderful August and enjoy everything the Garden City has to offer this month!