The school holidays are upon us, and there’s no better time to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day or two. Here are a few ideas for days out in and around London that will entertain and educate the whole family, while being kind to the planet too.
Get out in Nature
Spring is a beautiful time of year to be out and about in nature, as the trees spring to life with blossom and colourful flowers come into bloom. But don’t just take our word for it, head out for a walk and explore one of London’s many parks, or take a short train ride out of the city and into the countryside to get a bit of (really) fresh air.
If you’re staying close to London, Epping Forest’s wonderfully natural landscape is rich in wildlife and history. More than two thirds of Epping Forest’s 2,500 hectares, which stretches from Manor Park to just north of Epping, is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. Take a bike ride or walk through the trees, keeping your eyes peeled for the local wildlife including the renowned Fallow and Muntjac deer and grazing cattle.
Combine your walk with a spot of bird watching. Just 15 minutes from central London, and free to visit, is London’s newest and biggest wetlands area – Walthamstow Wetlands. A fully operational 211 hectare Thames Water reservoir site which is the main source of water supply for 3.5 million people, Walthamstow Wetlands opened to the wider public for the first time in 150 years in October 2017. It provides home and shelter to a wide range of wildlife, from rare waterfowl to majestic birds of prey and is a great place to spend a couple of hours, with regular and seasonal activities available for children too (there’s a cafe and learning centre on site).
Alternatively, head to Rainham Marshes – part of the Thames Estuary not far from the bustling streets of London. Rainham Marshes’ medieval landscape is a haven for all kinds of wildlife – birds, water voles, dragonflies and more. In spring and summer you can expect to see breeding wading birds and a variety of invertebrates. Also look out for lapwings, redshanks, wheatears, stonechats, kingfishers, hobbies, curlews, swifts, sand martins, house martins, warblers, marsh harriers, reed buntings, water voles, damselflies, butterflies, bees and grass snakes.
Head to the Coast
A short train ride from London and you could be enjoying England’s sunny spring weather by the coast. Head south to Brighton for the quintessential seaside experience (armed with our sustainable travel guide to Brighton of course).
Alternatively, take the train from Waterloo to Bournemouth and enjoy the 11 miles of golden sands of Bournemouth Beach just a 2 hour train journey away.
A 1 hour-ish train from London to Rye will take you to Camber Sands in East Sussex, a beautiful five-mile stretch of sand backed by rolling sand dunes. Or take a day trip to explore Kent’s cliff-lined coastline. In under 2 hours you could be enjoying Margate’s retro seafront amusements, golden beach and old town vintage shops; or sampling the famed local seafood in Whitstable.
You could even combine your trip with a beach clean-up to collect plastic waste from the coastline. Check Surfers Against Sewage for upcoming organised cleans, or simply spend an hour or two collecting rubbish on your own impromptu beach clean.
See Conservation in Action
While in Kent, stop by Howletts Wild Animal Park and get up close to over 400 animals living in 90-acres of beautiful ancient parkland. Howletts Wild Animal Park is committed to the conservation, breeding and reintroduction of rare and endangered animals. As a conservation charity, your entry fee helps to protect wildlife here in the UK, which then enables The Aspinall Foundation to send animals back to the wild.
Enjoy free animal talks, watch the animals being fed and visit the education centre to learn more about their work.
Discover Spring Blooms
If the colourful spring flowers cropping up in gardens and parks have awoken the botanist in you, learn more about our planet’s incredible flora and fauna with a trip to a Botanical Garden.
Head out of the city for the day and explore Wakehurst’s wild botanic garden – home to the Millennium Seed Bank and over 500 acres of the world’s plants in the heart of Sussex.
If you’re in the South West, Cornwall’s The Eden Project is home to world’s largest indoor rainforest, where you can walk the treetop canopy and discover over 1,000 varieties of plant.
In London, head to Kew Gardens and find over 50,000 living plants across the UNESCO World Heritage site and discover the world of science behind Kew’s botanical collections.
For more ideas for things to do in London, see our sustainable travel guide to the city.
Heading to the seaside? Read our travel guide to Brighton.
If you’re getting away this weekend, read our tips for travelling plastic free.