After living for Ten years in London of which I now know inside out for things to do for free or on a budget, we relocated back home to the Midlands, to the wonderful Stafford, that we affectionately call ‘The Ford’.
Being the socialable, out-and-about mummy that I am, I knew I had to see what this delightful area had to offer.
Now I’m a bargain Queen when it comes to shopping, and finding places to go on a budget is no different! I love finding new things to do (at a bargain price) with my little girl Betsy (8 months) and regular visiting nephews and nieces who’s ages range from 10-20 years old!
Sadly, so many child friendly places, don’t come with a child friendly price!
Take Alton Towers for example, at almost £40 per adult for a days entry, you need a second mortgage to take the whole family! A family of five? You’re looking at almost £140 just to get in! (Week in Wales instead?)
Now I’m not tight, but I am careful with my pennies these days. After working full time on a pretty good wage since I was 18, I’m now a full time mummy with a budget. This doesn’t mean that days out need to be less fun or interesting- if you seek, you shall find, (and I did!) So, without further a do, here is my guide to freebie fun in the Ford’!
The Ancient High House, Hight Street, Stafford.
Open all Year, and with free admission, the Ancient High House is the perfect visit for any young historians wanting to see one of the finest Tudor buildings in the country. Once dominating the skyline of Stafford, it is the largest remaining timber framed town house in England.
To learn more about how the house was built the Castle Room has an interesting display showing and explaining the method of construction and the materials used!
An exciting programme of exhibitions by regional artists also takes place in two gallery spaces together with a changing history exhibition giving visitors’ the opportunity to view a range of artefacts not generally on public display.
An added bonus is that the Staff’s Yeomanry Regiment museum occupies the top floor!
Tel: 01785 619 131
Izaak Walton’s Cottage
Worston Lane, Shallowford, Nr Stone, Stafford. ST16 0PA.
Tel: 01785 760278 (May-August),
Admission is free except certain organised events, which leaves you pennies to spend treating yourself to an afternoon tea or ice cream!
Within the cottage the period rooms are furnished to reflect the rural trappings of the 17th Century. There are also rooms dedicated to Izaak the writer and biographer and to the history and evolution of angling.
The ground floor shop has a range of gifts, souvenirs and local arts and crafts. Nestled within the beautiful Staffordshire countryside, its tranquil environment is perfect for a calm and relaxing afternoon. There is a fragrant herb garden, perfect for littlies sensory development and a beautiful scented rose garden to enjoy.
The Shire Hall Gallery, Market Square, Stafford.
The Shire Hall Gallery is the largest venue in Staffordshire dedicated to providing access to, and promoting the visual arts and crafts.
Situated in a fascinating Grade II listed building formerly used as the Crown Court, the Shire Hall Gallery offers visitors a mixture of old and new with something for everyone!
I must admit, we are regular visitors to the sensory room situated at the back of the hall that was created especially for babies and children.
Betsy (pictured in the sensory room) and her little friend Matty, enjoy a regular free half hour sessions looking at the lights, smelling the smell boxes, and listening to the music. A truly brilliant free adventure!
The sensory room is equipped with:
*A fibre-optic wall carpet
*An interactive bubble tube
*A music creation hand wall
*A fibre optic stool
*A laser projector, pin-spot and mirror-ball
Fantabulous fun for the under fives!
To book a session call 01785 278345
Stafford castle & Visitors centre, Newport road, Stafford.
Originally built by Robert de Toeni, (later known as Robert of Stafford), in the Norman period, Stafford Castle has dominated the local skyline for over 900 years!
With free admission, it truly is a magical place to visit with all ages!
Grab yourself a picnic, bring your fancy dress, and add a bit of imagination and you can create your very own Knights and Princesses day out for your littlies to enjoy!
The Visitor Centre has an audio visual display which tells the history of the castle; hands on items including arms, armour and costumes; a timeline to put the history of the castle into a national context; a display area with a changing programme of exhibitions and exhibits; and the opportunity to try your hand at coin minting and brass rubbing! Great for older children!
Cannock Chase, Staffordshire
Cannock Chase is located between Stafford, Cannock and Rugeley, disected by several roads including the A460 and A513.
I spent most of my childhood weekends walking and playing ‘up the Chase’ as we say around here!
Cannock Forest sits on Cannock Chase, the smallest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on mainland Britain. It’s best known for its open heathland and pine forest and its mining and military history which stretches back several hundred years and still effects how the land is managed today.
The Forestry Commission started planting woodland on the Chase in the 1920s when World War 1 had resulted in a shortage of home grown timber. The Forestry Commission has come along way from the early days of intensive timber production and now manage the forest by balancing the needs of wildlife, recreation and the local timber markets.
With its miles of forest and open parkland, its the perfect place for a summers day out.
There are may different parts to the Chase, one of our favourites being ‘Seven Springs’ where your littlies can dip their toes in the springs!
Victoria Park is a Green Flag award winning park located on the Banks of the River Sow, adjacent to Stafford Railway Station.
The park was opened in 1908 and named the ‘Victoria Park Pleasure grounds’ and the layout has changed very little since this time.
With its Aviary, Bandstand, ?Bowling Green,Glass House, Junior Play Area, Paddling Pool, Refreshments Kiosk, River Walks, Sensory Garden &Toddlers Play Area its the perfect free day out!
Pack up a picnic and enjoy it by the river watching the Swans and Ducks go by!
Amerton is a delightful little farm just off the A518 in Stowe-by-Chartley and is open everyday (except Christmas day, boxing day and new years day) from 9.30am-5.30pm.
With animals from cows to horses it’s the perfect place to visit for a mornings play & picnic lunch, or lunch in the wonderful tea room!
We visited in the summer on a bright sunny day, and the sandpit (available summer only) was a huge hit with our toddlers!
For an extra cost there is a big ‘playbarn’ full of soft play for littlies, a wildlife centre and a pottery room where you can make a wide range of items such as plates and cups with your child’s handprints or own design on.
For entertaining older children in the holidays, there is the ‘play rangers’ scheme.
Following a successful bid to the Big Lottery fund, Stafford Borough Council is now providing Play Rangers in some of the borough’s main parks.
The Play Rangers will directly engage with children and young people to provide a safe environment to play at the same time as offering them challenges and risks with lots of fun outdoors come rain or shine.
View the latest Fun In The Parks activities on the Get Out! holiday activities page.
For more information call 01785 242 525 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Not so freeby (but fab!)
Lower Drayton Farm, Penkridge – Maize Maze
We visited Lower Drayton Farm on a showery August day and weren’t really sure what to expect as we hadn’t visited the farm before.
We were pleasantly surprised! Despite the weather our 2 two year olds really enjoyed their morning.
Open through the summer holidays and costing £4.75 for adults and £3.75 for children (under 3’s free.) I thought it was a little expensive for a morning’s adventure. However, on their website they had a 2 for 1 voucher which made it quite reasonable.
Included in the ticket price is a woodland walk with treasure hunt and a tour of the farm in a trailer pulled by a tractor which stops off to give you a chance to hand feed some emu’s!
The maize in the maze was not as tall as I expected it to be (due to the bad weather) but this was not an issue for our toddlers – they really enjoyed exploring the maze and it kept us busy for well over an hour trying to find our way out!
I think Overall Lower Drayton Farm was a big hit with our boys it had lots of space to run around freely and had animals, tractors and lots of muddy puddles to splash in!
Remember to take your wellies!