Sheldon Country Park – #CountryKids

At the moment, Daddy is commuting to work every day on the train from Coventry to Birmingham. This means that he goes right past Birmingham Airport. He noticed a few months ago when he first started the commute that there was a sign for a place called Sheldon Country Park near the exit of Marston Green station (a suburb of Birmingham) which is at the far end of the runway, past the station for the airport itself. So he googled it and found that it’s a lovely big open space, right at the end of the runway where you can stand quite freely and watch planes come over your head just before they touch down on the tarmac. There is also a kids playground and a city farm at the other end of the park. Given all this, we thought it would be right up the boys’ street to go and visit. We’ve actually been twice in the space of a coupe of weeks – once in the car just after Easter, and once on the train on the early May bank holiday.

Sheldon 1

The first time we went, we parked in the car park which is at the end of the park furthest from the runway but nearest to the playground. There were hardly any other people around when we got there, so the boys had the park to themselves. After about half an hour on there, we decided it would be a good idea to try and drag them away so we could walk up to the other end of the park by the runway. We’d been seeing planes coming in at the distance of the park, which was pretty amazing in itself, but we knew we could get closer.

Sheldon 2

So we got Andrew’s ball out and encouraged him to run after it. There were football pitches on the way, so we scored a few goals between us as we went – he loves scoring goals! He was a little reluctant to walk all the way to the runway, not that it was that far, but we kept having to entice him with the thought that he was going to see some planes REALLY close up.

Eventually we got there, having seen a few more planes come in ahead of us as we walked. Andrew was not disappointed! We stood right at the end of the runway (behind the fence, obviously, still in the country park so there was grass and a good path as well as benches where one could sit (clearly with 2 toddlers we never get to sit). Soon enough we saw a plane in the distance, and watched it, head on, come towards us and then fly right over the top of us. We could see the wheels and the flashing lights and lots of detail underneath the plane, it was amazing. Andrew was in his element and didn’t mind the roaring noise at all. Joel was happy to stay in the sling, and was a little more cautious about the noise, but still seemed to be enjoying it. By this time it was about 11am, and there was a steady stream of planes landing and taking off. The noise standing behind jet aircraft as they took off was loud, but they soon whizzed along the runway away from us.

Sheldon 3

That day we had planned to go to the boys’ Great Grandma for lunch, so we knew we’d have to drag them away at some point, and eventually Andrew walked back with the promise that we’d come again. And he didn’t have to wait too long, because we decided only a couple of weeks later to take advantage of a £1 day ticket on the train (because Daddy has a season ticket) and head back there on the bank holiday. We approached the runway from the other side this time, which is just a short walk from the exit of Marston Green station. There weren’t quite so many planes to see on the bank holiday, but still plenty enough, and the weather was nicer so we just played in the park for longer too. Joel was more confident this time and was signing ‘plane’ all over the place as well as running around on the grass in front of the fence.

Sheldon 5

We also had a visit to the city farm on both days, which is a lovely idea, set up to educate local children in a big city about where their food comes from and how animals live in the countryside. We saw cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, horses and more. It’s not huge, but it was lovely to have a quick wander around with the boys. Andrew caught sight of a bouncy castle there on the bank holiday, and as it wasn’t very expensive, we let him have a go, which he loved. We’ll definitely be going back again and again, especially when we live in Birmingham, though it’s probably a similar distance there from where we’re currently living.

Sheldon 4

Linking up with the excellent #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog

Duxford Air Museum – #CountryKids

“Happy Christmas!” is what we said to the boys’ four grandparents as we stood queuing to get in to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford on the late May bank holiday last weekend. A day out at Duxford with the boys, the toddler among them being very into planes, was our Christmas present to all of them. We never know what to get them, so these days this kind of present is one of the easiest to do because we know everyone will enjoy it.Duxford 5 Collage

We just needed to find a day when all of use were free and the grandparents were available to come to Cambridge, and we’re glad that we waited until now because the weather was amazing – beautiful blue skies, even if there was quite a blustery wind that was particularly acute on the big open airfield that is Duxford Air Museum.

The fairly substantial queue to enter moved very quickly, so we were soon in and faced with the tough decision of what to look at first – there was so much to choose from, with several hangars full of planes and other exhibitions and war-time memorabilia as well as static planes outside and of course plenty of planes taking off and landing on the runway. As it was such a nice day and Andrew was very excitable seeing all the planes outside, we decided to walk outside with the runway on our left. Of course Andrew ran rather than walked, but he had four grandparents happy to chase after him and keep an eye on him.

Duxford 3 Collage

One of the first planes we came across positioned on the ‘parking’ strip parallel to the runway, was being prepared for taking off later. It was a plane that had been used in the second World War, and the sign in front of it explained that it would be taking off in about half an hour with several other little planes (Spitfires and Mustangs) to do a fly by over Duxford and continue over other parts of Cambridgeshire before coming back and landing at Duxford. We knew that this would be spectacular and a real treat for Andrew, and we weren’t disappointed when the display happened.

Further along the airfield were some old planes that were set up to allow visitors to look inside. Unfortunately only one of these was open due to a lack of volunteers to man them, but Andrew (and we) were fascinated by the interior, especially the cockpit where the ‘driver’ sits. It was a Monarch passenger plane from the 1960s. I had to laugh at the baby crib hanging from the overhead storage above the seats – don’t think health and safety would allow that these days!

Near the end of the airfield, once we’d walked most of it’s length outside, we entered an indoor display of American fighter planes including a B-52 bomber. There was a ramp that went up  and down around the edge of the hangar, which Andrew used for a game of ‘make the grandparent chase me’ – it wasn’t very busy. This ramp with a see-through barrier was perfect for allowing little people (and big people) to get very close up to the top of the planes and see inside the cockpits from the outside, as well as seeing the planes from underneath by walking on the ground floor. In fact I would say that the set up of the museum in general is fantastic – you can get so close to the planes, walk right underneath them and almost (but of course not) touch them, and for many of them you get higher up views or even interior views.

Duxford 6 Collage

Then it was time for a lovely picnic lunch. We sat on one of the many picnic benches that are there and had brilliant views of the planes that were taking off and landing – most were little bi-planes that were flying around locally, some with visitors that had paid to have a short flight in one, and we also saw the planes lands that had taken part in the fly-by. All this while we were eating our sandwiches was pretty impressive.

After lunch we headed back along the airfield and stopped to look at a few planes on the way. Of course we couldn’t miss one of Andrew’s favourite planes – the playground in the shape of a plane – this had to be the icing on the cake for him! He loved climbing in and out and running through it, and sitting on the plane shaped bouncers.

Duxford 1 Collage

Duxford 2 Collage

We were aware that he was getting tired, so suggested that we saw one last building with planes in before heading home. I really wanted to see it because that building housed a real Concorde plane and I felt like that was a bit of aviation history that I can personally remember. After I’d translated for a group of French school pupils who were visiting and trying to fill in activity sheets with facts about Concorde, we all took a look inside it – a very long narrow metal tube really, but fascinating nonetheless.

That concluded our plane-filled day out and we all went home tired but happy, especially our little plane spotter!

Thanks to Grandad for the photos of the fly by and to Granny for a couple of photos on the playground

Linking up with #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall