This week sees the reopening of lots of tourist attractions . There are lots of fantastic days out both free and paying that you can do this week- please read on for more information –
Half term week in Somerset runs from today 15th Feb to next weekend. With the weather not looking the best I thought I would come up with some suggestions of great days out both inside and outdoor to keep the children busy and entertained!! My four are already planning the week!
An ancient castle and comfortable country home with dramatic vistas and subtropical gardens, Dunster Catle reopens its doors for this week .
Dramatically sited on a wooded hill, a castle has existed here since at least Norman times, with an impressive medieval gatehouse and ruined tower giving a reminder of its turbulent history.
The castle that you see today became a lavish country home during the 19th century for the Luttrell family, who lived here for 600 years.
The castle boasts spectacular views toward the Bristol channel, the Quantock hills and up to the moors of Exmoor. The castle provides a wonderfully family friendly day out- there are step slopes to climb to reach the castle so worth bearing in mind!
There are lots of fun things for families to do at Dunster Castle and Watermill this half-term. From keeping busy with our self-led family trails both inside and outdoors to exploring the outdoor rustic play area in the River Gardens and learning about how we produce flour at the Watermill, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
A Trail of Tales (outdoors)
Daily, 10am – 5pm, £3 per trail booklet (prize included)
Dunster castle has seen bloody battles, survived sieges, is full of treasures, memories, gory stories and 1,000 years of family history. Join us on an adventure and discover more about the castle.
Castle Explorers family guide (inside the castle)
Daily, 11am – 5pm*, donation per trail
Dunster Castle has been here for a very long time; knights have protected its walls and later soldiers held back armies whilst being bombarded with cannon fire. It has been a much loved family home. Like your home, it’s full of special objects which need to be looked after carefully. See if you can spot the items pictured in this family guide for each room and answer the questions.
* Last entry inside the castle is 4.15pm
STARLING MURUMERATINS SPECTACULAR- A FAB FREE DAY OUT
For information call the Starling hotline* – 07866 554142
*Operates from late October to early March
Autumn in the Avalon Marshes brings a change as summer greens give way to autumn and winter yellows and browns. The sky also changes as dark clouds begin to form above fields, woodlands and reedbeds. But these are no ordinary clouds, they are huge flocks of starlings on the move; the starling murmurations. They use the reedbeds of the Avalon Marshes as a safe and warm night time roost.
Before the birds settle they often come together in huge clouds, wheeling, turning and swooping in unison. This is known as a ‘murmuration’. Birds of prey try to pick off individual starlings often causing the murmuration to pack even tighter and form even more spectacular shapes.
Top tips for any visit are to come on a weekday and avoid the busiest times (which are generally weekends and the Christmas period), arrive early, wrap up well and bring a torch.
Where to see them
Over the last couple of years the starlings have mainly roosted on Natural England’s Shapwick Heath reserve or RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve. The way to find out where they roosted the night before is by calling the Starling Hotline on 07866 554142. But be warned! This is where they roosted the night before not where they are going to roost the night you go. The best thing to do is arrive early and ask the regular watchers.
Coming from a distance to see the roost? Why not see if there is a starling roost site closer to home? Check out the starling murmuration roost map on the Starlings in the UK website to find your closest roost
There are two car parks at Ashcott Corner giving access to Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath. Please note – parking charges apply. RSPB members can park for free at the Ham Wall car park, holders of a Natural England permit for free at the Shapwick Heath car park, and blue badge holders for free at both. There is also a free car park at the Avalon Marshes Centre but this is a considerable distance from where the starlings normally roost. At weekends and over Christmas parking can be at a premium so come during the week if you can. Whenever you come, please do not park on verges, block gateways or restrict access for emergency vehicles.
Time of year
As the weather starts getting colder, the starlings start to arrive. This is usually from early November and they stay until late February / early March, again the weather tends to hold the key to their departure.
Time of day
The time to see them is just before dusk. It is best to arrive at least an hour before so that you can park, ask around, walk out on to the reserve, watch to see them begin to arrive and hopefully work out where there final roost is going to be (they often pre-roost in the fields and trees around the reedbeds)! Dawn can also be a good time to see them as they “come to life” and start to leave.
Want to know what time sunrise and sunset is? Follow this link for times. Remember that dusk and dawn are around 30 minutes before sunset or sunrise and in the evening murmurations can start 1 hour before sunset so allow plenty of time to arrive and get to the roost site (at least 90 minutes) so that you do not miss the spectacle.
What not to forget!
• Your binoculars (but these are not essential)
• Warm clothing, it can get very cold out on the marshes as the winter sun sets.
• A torch to find your way back to your car.
• Come back to the Avalon Marshes again at other times of day and during other seasons, there is lots to see and do all year round.
• Look at the UK Starlings website to see if you have a roost more local to you.
A DAY OUT AT TAUNTON RACES – TUESDAY 18TH FEB
Taunton Racecourse in Somerset is England’s youngest jumps racecourse and one of the most beautifully located in the country, with outstanding views to the wooded slopes of the Blackdown Hills, yet only a few minutes drive from the M5 and the centre of Taunton.
The Racecourse is 30 mins from the cottages at Lavender Hill.. At Taunton you can sense the atmosphere of raceday and the excitement of the race – it’s this that makes Taunton Racecourse a unique venue. There can be no better way of entertaining your clients, family or friends than a day at the races – ‘The Sport of Kings
Snowdrop Valley is a privately owned remote valley in a hidden part of Exmoor close to Wheddon Cross
The Badgworthy Land Company kindly allow access to the valley while the beautiful carpet of snowdrops is in bloom throughout February each year
The Valley will be open from Saturday 25th January – Sunday 23rd February – 10.30am-4.30pm
The Park and Ride Buses will be running from Saturday 8th February to Sunday 23rd February inclusive