30 summer days out

When the schools break up, the cries of 'I'm bored' start! But with a wealth of places to visit and summer activities in Hertfordshire you can stave off their cries and keep them busy instead...

The Grand Union Canal

The canal’s towpaths are ever popular with walkers and cyclists (see http://www.britishwaterways.co.uk/ for sections accessible to cyclists). Some stretches are linked to reservoirs which are great places for picnics or birdwatching, such as at Marsworth. To get a taste of life on board, try Glebe Canal Cruises at Pitstone Wharf, near Tring. Here you can hire a boat for the day, or join a regular canal trip travelling downstream to Marsworth, with a commentary pointing out all the points of interest along the way.

Willows Farm

Throughout the summer holidays Willows Farm Village will be holding fun-filled events for the kids to enjoy with both indoor and outdoor activities that include children’s shows, egg and spoon and space hopper races. Take a walk through the A-maize-ing Maze, grown from maize seeds, and look for the names of scarecrows hidden in the plants. Summer day camps are also available from July 27 to September 2. 0870 1299718, www.willowsfarmvillage.com

Royston Cave

Mystery surrounds this unique cave which was discovered by accident in 1742 and is believed to date from the 14th century. It is a man-made cavern in the shape of a beehive, with a small aperture at the top for ventilation and an extensive range of wall carvings representing the Crucifixion, the Holy Family and several saints, among them St Katherine, St Laurence and St Christopher. Other carvings are less easily identified and some have been interpreted as possible pagan symbols. http://www.roystoncave.co.uk/

Lee Valley Park

Lee Valley Regional Park offers an impressive variety of places to visit which have a wide range of habitats and wildlife throughout the year. Take time out to explore scenic countryside walks, rich nature reserves and urban oases. Covering 10,000 acres the Regional Park is a walkers and cyclists paradise, and if you don’t have you’re own bike, there is a hire centre at Lee Valley Country Park where you can hire rowing boats and pedalos. www.leevalleypark.org.uk

Celtic Harmony Camp

Enjoy the activity of a Celtic village or relax in the peace of the woodland at Celtic Harmony Camp, near Hertford, during special events this summer. For a fun-packed day out with longbow archery, crafts, games, treasure hunts and storytelling.

Watch the farm animals being fed in the morning, have a wander along the woodland trail, enjoy a picnic lunch and then in the afternoon watch a warrior demonstration, try your hand at archery, and listen to a story in one of the roundhouses. www.celticharmony.org, 01438 718543

Most Read

Knebworth House

Knebworth has a full calendar of events planned this summer with something for all ages. As well as events including the Classic Motor Show on August 28 and 29 and Knebworth Country Show on August 13 and 14, Knebworth House, Gardens and Park are open to visitors throughout the summer holidays. Visit the gardens and dinosaur trail or get rid of excess energy in the adventure playground. http://www.knebworthhouse.com/

Tring Natural History Museum

More than 4,000 animals from around the world are displayed in this bizarre but wonderful collection. Collected by Lionel Walter Rothschild, the weird and wonderful make fascinating viewing for all the family at this Victorian gem, which is part of the Natural History Museum. Organised activities for children throughout the holidays. 020 7942 6171, www.nhm.ac.uk/tring

Standalone Farm

A fun packed day for all the family as you roam the 170 acres in Letchworth Garden City and discover the pigs, free-range chickens and rarer breeds of poultry as well as sheep, cows, goats and horses. There are indoor and outdoor picnic areas, play areas plus displays, an exhibition barn and lots of areas to walk and wander. Open 11am to 5pm daily until September.  01462 686775, http://www.standalonefarm.com/

White Water Rafting

For older children – aged over 14 – how about riding the rapids at the new Lee Valley White Water Centre in Broxbourne? The centre, which will be used for the London 2012 Games is open to the public and offering thrillseekers the chance to give the white-knuckle rapids a go for themselves. Conditions apply. http://www.leevalleypark.org.uk/

RSPB Rye Meads Stanstead Abbotts

Younger visitors can borrow an explorer’s backpack full of activities and information to carry with them as they meander through this 100 acre reserve and listen to birdsong, watch the birds and duck flocks, butterflies and other wildlife. This idyllic spot situated by the River Lee has areas of scrape, reedbed, open water, meadow and woodland. There is a programme of events throughout the year for everyone from beginners to experienced twitchers. 01992 708383, http://www.rspb.org.uk/

British Schools Museum

There’s no getting away from school this holiday if you visit the British School Museum in Hitchin but the harsh reality of school in the 1800s is nothing like school today. Set in a unique cluster of Grade I/II listed buildings, on an educational site dating from 1810. There is a family trail with activities and Victorian toys to play with, games, guided tours, exhibitions, museum room of Victorian school and home life, video presentation and volunteer restoration works also to view.  01462 420144, http://www.hitchinbritishschools.org.uk/

Fairlands Valley Park

This park, in the heart of Stevenage, has undergone some major renovations including environmental enhancements to its 11-acre lake. A variety of water sports is on offer with sailing dinghies, kayaks, canoes or paddle boats. Appreciate the 120 acres of beautiful parkland with a picnic and enjoy the trim track, children’s play area, orienteering and the band stand. 01438 353241, http://www.stevenage-leisure.co.uk/

Paradise Wildlife Park

Besides animals of the wild including tigers, lions, monkeys, zebras, giraffes, gorillas and more, which you can get up close to and in some cases actually feed, this family fun park in Broxbourne also has lots of other attractions from adventure golf to a wonderful splash pool. There’s an ancient woodland to wander through, Funland adventure playground and the Tumble Jungle soft play area. 01992 470490, http://www.pwpark.com/

Hatfield House

This house is a place of many wonders. Enjoy the splendid Jacobean architecture, the state rooms, decorated paintings, fine furniture, tapestries and historic armour before taking in the picturesque gardens, from the herb and knot gardens, the maze and lake to the wilderness garden. This year, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Hatfield House, see the beautiful Henry Moore sculptures on display. A huge number of events take place this summer but don’t miss Hatfield Country Show from August 19 to 21. 01707 287010, www.hatfield-house.co.uk

Verulamium Park

Set in over 100 acres of beautiful parkland and named after the Roman city of Verulamium on which it stands, Verulamium Park is St Albans’ largest and most visited park and is just a short walk from the town centre. Nearby, don’t miss Verulamium Museum with its huge array of Roman artefacts, the Hypocaust with its mosaic floor, and, across the road, the Roman amphitheatre. 01727 751810,  http://www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/

Dragonfly Sanctuary Waltham Abbey

Within the Lee Valley Park at Waltham Abbey is the Dragonfly Sanctuary where until September you can see up to 21 different types of dragonfly – that’s half of Britain’s native species. The slow-flowing rivers and luxuriant water plants provide an ideal home for these fascinating insects, who feed on large numbers of horseflies, midges and mosquitoes. A Tree Park, once the Greater London Council’s Arboretum is next to the Sanctuary and you can also walk along the Meridian Line during your visit. 01992 702200

College Lake Wildlife Centre

At this 250-acre nature reserve in Tring enjoy the marshland, woodland, grasslands and lake as you meander the three miles of nature trails. There are 14 bird hides to discover at this former quarry site now renowned for its birds and wildlife. During the summer five acres of the site offer a rare opportunity to see a wild cornflower field. 01296 662890

The Museum of St Albans

Founded as the Hertfordshire County Museum in 1898, the Museum of St Albans in Hatfield Road tells the story of St Albans from the departure of the Romans to the present day. In the medieval gallery you can find out about Alban, Britain’s first Christian martyr, and the Abbey that grew up around the site of his martyrdom.

See objects used by people in medieval St Albans and learn how they lived. 01727 819340, http://www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/

Berkhamsted Castle

Only fragments remain of this once large and important castle with 11th century origins, now owned by English Heritage. This is a great place to explore from the motte in the north-east corner, which stands 45 feet high, to the remains of a complicated arrangement of inner and outer moats, used as a defence mechanism, which can still be seen.

It is said that William the Conqueror finally accepted the surrender of the Saxons at Berkhamsted, after his defeat of King Harold at Hastings.  http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/

Butterfly World

The �27million project that is Butterfly World, in Chiswell Green, is continuing its expansion. Phase 1, the main site and Future Gardens, opened in spring 2009, Phase 2, the butterfly breeding house, study centre and picnic areas, in spring 2010 and now Phase 3 has seen further expansion of the site just in time for summer 2011. Next year sees the final stage with the 100m diameter Biome due for completion in autumn 2012. Butterfly World will be the biggest butterfly experience in the world once completed. 01727 869203, http://www.butterflyworldproject.com/

De Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre

For a close-up view of the magic of wartime planes, The de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre, off M25 Jct 22 near St Albans, is a must. Its aviation heritage collection has Mosquitos, Moths and jetfighters as well as a Comet 1 fuselage. http://www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk/

Colne Valley Regional Park

The park has 50 miles of river and canal and more than 40 lakes and is renowned for giving access to wildlife, in a region stretching from Rickmansworth south to Staines. Local sailing, windsurfing and water skiing clubs sometimes have facilities for visitors to take to the water, and there are plenty of circular walks and cycling trails for all. http://www.colnevalleypark.org.uk/

Kingsbury Watermill Museum

The present building in St Albans was constructed in the 16th century on the site of a mill which was mentioned in the Doomsday Book. The water of the River Ver turns the beautifully restored wheel. There is free parking and light refreshments are available. 01727 853502

Miniature railways

Miniature steam railways run by model engineering societies have great appeal for young children. In Hertfordshire why not try East Herts Light Railway, Van Hage Garden Centre, Great Arnwell, near Ware; Knebworth Park Miniature Railway; Vanstone Woodland Railway, Vanstone Park Garden Centre, Codicote; or Cassiobury Park Miniature Railway, Watford.

Summer Fun Play Schemes

Art, sport and drama activities on offer throughout the borough in Bushey, Potters Bar, Radlett and Shenley and half day sessions available in Borehamwood from July 27 to September 1. Download a programme, more details and booking forms at www.hertsmere.gov.uk/play

Whipsnade Zoo

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, just over the border in Bedfordshire, is celebrating its 80th birthday with lots of fun events to keep the whole family entertained this summer. Set in 600 spectacular acres of rolling Chiltern hills, enjoy the freedom of exploration and the opportunity to see some of the world’s most exotic animals. 01582 872171, www.zsl.org/zsl-whipsnade-zoo/

Flamstead Scarecrow Festival

For a fascinating event the whole family will enjoy head for the village of Flamstead to see the artistic talents of its residents in full view. From August 19 to 21 the village will be awash with colourful characters for the Flamstead Scarecrow Festival.

A guided trail ensures you don’t miss any along the way and gives you a chance to vote for your favourite plus there are refreshments in the pubs and village hall. www.flamstead-herts.co.uk

Letchworth Theatre

Letchworth Arts Centre has a range of courses and workshops in art and drama for youngsters up to the age of 12 this summer. Workshops run throughout August and aim to give your child the freedom to express their artistic talents. 01462 670788, http://www.letchwortharts.org/

Radlett Theatre

A five day musical theatre workshop at The Radlett Centre will have your children singing, dancing and acting their way through the summer holidays. For this very popular event you do not need any previous experience, but as this is a performance course of a very high standard, you must be prepared to work hard and take direction. A truly memorable holiday activity for youngsters aged 8 to 16 years in two groups from August 1 to 5 and August 15 to 19. http://www.radlettcentre.co.uk/

Scott’s Grotto

Underneath the streets of Scotts Road in Ware is an 18th century grotto made up of underground passages and chambers extending 67ft into the chalk hillside and decorated with flints, shells, glass pieces and fossils. Above the tunnels visit the gardens and octagonal summerhouse. http://www.scotts-grotto.org/