"What's a Wetland?"
On letting the children know where we were going for the day their first question was "what's a wetland?" It's a fair question, and I had to think about it for a second because I had to make sure my answer didn't trigger any meltdowns. Parents, you know what I'm talking about, it's a necessary skill in getting children out of the house. I very vaguely started explaining something about birds and conservation, and then I realised I was approaching this all wrong.
"Kids, do you want to go in a canoe today?"
That did the trick, excited kids, shoes on, and out the house. Minimal fuss.
On arriving the children were presented with "Explorer passports". Whoever came up with the idea of giving kids stickers as a reward for doing fun stuff is a genius. My kids seem to have more fun collecting the stickers than doing the activities themselves! Which tends to infuriate and please me in equal measure.
The passports themselves have 8 different activities the children can do, some are at set times and others can be done at any time of the day. It made it really easy for us to plan our day and ensured we got the most out of our visit too. The kids managed to collect 7 out of 8 stickers, which meant they got a special gold sticker for the front of their passports. So often on completion of these things children receive a random toy or plastic medal which is pointless and winds up the minimalist in me, so I much preferred the sticker reward. And lets face it, my kids were just as excited about a gold sticker as any pointless plastic they've ever received.
The Wetlands itself is an impressive place, it's huge, and despite walking around a lot of the site for the various activities on our visit, when we looked on the map we realised there were still so many areas we'd left unexplored. It's located next to the Estuary and has a "middle of nowhere" feel to it. As you wonder around you discover so many plants, trees, and marshes, with views of the hills and the estuary off in the distance. You would never think you were a stones throw from Swansea and Llanelli. It's really wonderful to see all the work that they are doing to help conserve these vital Wetlands, and protect so many different species. At the same time providing a great place for people of all ages to connect with nature. I love this quote I found on their website which sums up the work they do really well;
"I want to do my little bit to save the world. And have fun doing it"
Obviously birds are a big part of the Wetlands and the kids really enjoyed seeing so many different types throughout the centre, and even got to feed the ducks for one of their stickers. Seeing the Flamingos and Cranes was great, and we learnt a lot about the work being done to help protect these birds. I can imagine for keen ornithologists the Wetlands is a dream place to visit, with so many different birds to see and lots of different hides set up throughout the site too. However, there is so much more to see and do at the Wetlands, and if you've ever thought it's just for bird watchers you'd be sorely mistaken.
As well as doing a bug hunt; where the children were able to look at the various bugs they found under a microscope, and pond dipping, we also got to go canoeing. You may remember in my Ultimate Summer Bucket List post I mentioned the Wetlands and said how excited I was about the canoeing. Well it didn't disappoint. It's suitable for over 5's, so myself, Oldest and Middle (8&6) went out whilst Husband looked after Youngest. We were given a quick lesson in basic paddling and sent off to explore. There is a lovely network of waterways to paddle through, with reeds and lilypads all around. Despite three other boats being out at the same time as us we didn't see another person the whole time. It was a lovely warm day so the kids and I pretended we were exploring in the jungle. Our 45 minutes were up in a flash and none of us wanted it to end. We saw Dragonflies dancing on the water and were even joined by a Swan for part of our journey. It will definitely go down as a highlight of the 6 week holiday for me.
There are also bikes available to borrow (this was the one sticker we didn't get) and they have trailers for little ones and bikes with stabilisers too. The great part about the Wetlands, is once you've paid to get in you can do all of the activities for free! Canoeing, biking, all of it is free. So many places would charge a lot extra for these things so it's amazing that it is all included, and you definitely get your moneys worth.
I would encourage you to browse the website and have a look at all the other things they do that I haven't had time to mention here, and with 2 weeks left of the School holidays you'd be remiss not to get a visit booked in. We've been very lucky this year to have received 3 different annual memberships to local places for Christmas, and after our visit this week Oldest and Middle have both said they want to go back and asked if we can get an annual pass to the Wetlands for Christmas this year. I'm going to have to seriously consider it as it is unheard of for my children to rave about a place that I actually enjoy going to as well!
So now we all know what a Wetlands is, don't waste any more time and get yourself along.
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