The Bluebell Railway
1. BEAUTIFUL BLUEBELLS
The Bluebell Railway, Britain’s oldest preserved standard-gauge railway, is renowned for its historic carriages and enchanting stations, redolent of another age.
As the name suggests, the Sussex woodlands bordering the line are at their best in spring, a mass of deep blue among the trees.
Each station is restored to a different period: Sheffield Park to the 1880s; the country junction of Horsted Keynes to the 1920s; Kingscote to the 1950s.
Among the railway’s historic carriages are two 1920s Pullman cars, which form part of the Golden Arrow Pullman dining train on Saturday evenings and for Sunday lunches.
Board and alight at Sheffield Park, East Grinstead. Adult return/advance purchase All Day Rover £16 (bluebell-railway.com).
2. AL-PACA YOUR WALKING BOOTS
Cheeky and charming, alpacas are the perfect companions for a spring walk in Northumberland. Hemscott Hill Farm has eight fluffy friends to walk around the farm. £25pp, over 12s only.
Under 12s can enjoy Meet the Alpaca sessions at the farm. Afternoon tea available after the walk for £12.50pp (tractorsandtents.com).
Meanwhile at Ferny Rigg Alpacas, you can stroll with these gentle creatures in the Upper North Tyne Valley, in the Northumberland National Park. The beautiful countryside is within sight of the Kielder dam and all walks are at a slow “alpaca pace”. £22 per alpaca walked. Children 10 to 16 must be with an adult, children aged six to 10 must be closely supervised (fernyriggalpacas.co.uk).
Or go for an hour-long walk with an alpaca at Barnacre Alpacas, where you’ll also meet sheep, angora and pygmy goats, chickens and hares. £20pp. Minimum age seven (barnacre-alpacas.co.uk).
Walking with the alpacas at Ferny Rigg Alpacas
3. THE GRUFFALO & FRIENDS
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in south west London, will become home to author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s much-loved characters from April 4-19.
Visitors are invited to follow a specially curated trail to track down The Gruffalo, with springtime horticultural highlights along the way. Advance online tickets £16.50 (kew.org/kew-gardens).
Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, will also be hosting its own Gruffalo Easter programme. £14.50 adults, children free (kew.org/wakehurst).
Meanwhile a new 3D interactive trail starring Zog, the lovable dragon, is launching at Warwick Castle for Easter, featuring zogtastic tasks from testing the Roar-o-meter to capturing a princess.
Advance online tickets from £13 (warwick-castle.com).
Track down The Gruffalo at Kew Gardens
4. GARDEN GRANDEUR
Iford Manor Gardens in Wiltshire is set to star on the big screen in a new version of children’s classic The Secret Garden in April.
Discover for yourself the award-winning Grade 1 listed gardens, featuring steep terraces, pools, fountains, colonnades and statues tucked away at the bottom of a tranquil valley. Adults £7.50, concessions £6.50, under threes free (ifordmanor.co.uk).
Also, the RHS is joining forces with The Secret Garden to host garden-themed workshops, arts and crafts across the UK, and, at the four RHS gardens (Wisley, Surrey, Hyde Hall, Essex, Harlow Carr, North Yorkshire and Rosemoor, Devon) visitors can follow trails to find six hidden keys (rhs.org.uk).
Ilford Manor Gardens
5. DO THE ZIG-ZAG WALK
Nationwide celebrations will mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of the “world’s first ecologist”, the Rev Gilbert White.
Born in Hampshire in 1720, his pioneering work helped shape the modern scientific approach to natural history and inspired naturalists from Charles Darwin to Sir David Attenborough.
Follow in his footsteps on the Gilbert White Circular Walk, a six-mile, figure-of-eight route starting from Selborne.
The first circuit is through the village churchyard and Lythes meadow to Priory Farm and back through the beech trees of Dorton Wood; the second includes walking The Hanger, part of a 275-acre meadow, woodland and common overlooking the village, on a famous zig-zag path cut in 1753 by Gilbert and his brother (visit-hampshire.co.uk).
The north front of Dyffryn House
6. SOUTH WALES WONDERS
Dyffryn Gardens is the National Trust’s most visited property in Wales and its 55 acres of formal and informal gardens are particularly colourful in springtime.
For the children there’s a touring exhibition of Judith Kerr’s much-loved children’s book The Tiger Who Came To Tea until May.
See the illustrations in the house, make tea with the tiger in Sophie’s kitchen and explore the gardens on the Tiger Trail. Adults £12, children £6.50 (nationaltrust.org.uk).
Afterwards, if you fancy soaking up some sunshine at the seaside, visit Barry Island, home of hit TV show Gavin And Stacey and rent one of the 24 colourful beach huts. £10.50 half day (visitthevale.com).
View over the crocuses to Dyffryn house at Dyffryn Gardens
7. DOGGY DELIGHTS
You won’t have to ‘ruff’ it at Dogstival – it’s back for a second year, this time with dog-friendly camping and glamping. Taking place on May 16 and 17 at Pylewell Park, The New Forest, this is a weekend dedicated to all things doggy.
At the Happy Hound Den, TV’s Vet on the Hill Scott Miller will share his hound-care tips, dog-appropriate refreshments will be served at the on-site Dog Pub and four-legged friends can have a massage at the K9 Chill Out Zone.
In the Main Arena, there will be displays of working dogs, rare breeds and fire-leaping rescue dogs. Adults £13.90, children £8, children five and under free. Camping £20pppn, glamping in bell tent (sleeps four), £150 for two nights (dogstival.co.uk).
Dogstival is the perfect getaway for dedicated dog owners
8. BLOSSOM AND FLOURISH
The team of gardeners at Trentham Gardens, Stoke-on-Trent, have been busy throughout autumn adding 130,000 extra bulbs for this year’s Spring Bulbs Festival, with more than 1,000 added to Trentham’s famous Fairy Trail.
Other highlights include new displays in the Rose Border and Trellis Walk, sweetly scented narcissus and hyacinths in the balustrade borders and floral displays adding colour to the platforms of the Trentham Fern’s railway stations. Adults £12, concessions £10, children £9, (trentham.co.uk).
Meanwhile, in the short window between the end of April and the beginning of May, the 329 Taihaku cherry trees at Alnwick Garden, Northumberland, display their beautiful blooms and visitors can sit on the swinging benches to admire the fluttering white blossom. From £8.09 (alnwickgarden.com).
Bright colours at Trentham Gardens
9. ECO-FRIENDLY FUN
GreenWood Family Park in Felinheli, North Wales, was voted best family day out in Wales for seven years running – and all the attractions are eco-friendly.
Along with a ‘people-powered’ roller coaster, Solar Splash is the UK’s first solar-powered ride and visitors can pull themselves along a canal using ropes and a paddle on the Enchanted River Ride.
There is also the BareFoot Trail, a sensory experience of walking barefoot across different terrains including sand, bark, straw and timber, plus the Forest Theatre, woodland crafts and the chance to learn circus skills. Advance online peak season bookings from £16.20 (greenwoodfamilypark.co.uk).
The Moat Brae National Centre for Children
10. INTO THE FLYING PAN
Moat Brae House and Garden in Dumfries, Scotland, is where Peter Pan author JM Barrie found his inspiration for the wonders of Neverland as a child. The Georgian townhouse was saved from demolition, restored and opened as a tourist attraction last spring. Visitors can discover the heritage and secrets of the lovely house and gardens by the River Nith, then relax in the cafe.
Fittingly, it is the National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling.
Closed Mondays in term time. Adult £6.50, child £5. (peterpanmoatbrae.org).