Easter events and things to do in Dorset - 2015

Get paddling with the Hengistbury Head Outdoor Education Centre

Get paddling with the Hengistbury Head Outdoor Education Centre - Credit: Archant

From Easter egg trails to fossil hunting, tree top adventures to seashore safaris, Sue Quinn has picked some of her favourite local days out which will keep youngsters and adults entertained, whatever the weather

Wild Child

School holidays should always involve a bit of back-to-nature and where better than in Dorset’s great outdoors. Fore Adventure are running activities on Middle Beach in Studland, from kayaking through to beach school, where children can learn skills like fire lighting, foraging, fishing and rock pooling.

If your children love den building, pop over to Brownsea Island (the inspiration for Enid Blyton’s Whispering Island in the Famous Five stories) where the National Trust will be running courses. Dorset Wildlife Trust also has an exciting schedule of family events running over Easter including Seaweed Safaris, Seashore Detective and eco-crabbing sessions.

Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, 10 miles north of Bournemouth on the county’s eastern border, is an outdoor adventure in itself and has a range of activities planned for Easter including Woodland Quests and Easter Treasure Hunts. Older children seeking a buzz of excitement can take to the tree tops with Go Ape, which is based here, and swing through the trees like Tarzan or whizz down a zip wire!

• Dorset Wildlife Trust: dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk; 01305 264620

• Fore Adventure: foreadventure.co.uk; 01929 450 430

• Brownsea Island: nationaltrust.org.uk; 01202 492161

• Moors Valley Country Park and Forest: moors-valley.co.uk; 01425 470721

• Go Ape: goape.co.uk; 0845 643 9215


Sporting Life

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Hengistbury Head Outdoor Education Centre is a great option for active outdoorsy families, with a great range of courses over Easter including their popular multi-activity and family days where you can try things like sailing, kayaking, canoeing, katakanu, windsurfing, climbing, raft-building or archery. The Weymouth Outdoor Education Centre is also offering Easter courses including kayaking, rock climbing and multi-activity days.

Land & Wave offers coasteering, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and other activities from various coastal locations.

If you fancy a zip wire experience with a difference head to the new RockReef Activity Centre at Bournemouth Pier and try the PierZip, the first pier to shore zip wire experience in the world, with a launch tower hovering over the sea. The Centre also has climbing walls and other adventure activities.

• Hengistbury Head Outdoor Education Centre: hengistburyoutdoorcentre.co.uk; 01202 425 173

• Weymouth Outdoor Education Centre: woec.co.uk; 01305 784927

• RockReef Activity Centre: rockreef.co.uk; 01202 983983


A World in Miniature

Younger family members as well as grandparents will love exploring the vintage miniature world at Wimborne Model Town. Their Easter events include magic, puppets and craft workshops for junior visitors.

Lighthouse Poole also has a schedule of events for little ones, including story telling, music workshops, and a number of productions including Chicken Licken.

• Wimborne Model Town: wimborne-modeltown.com; 01202 881924

• Lighthouse: lighthousepoole.co.uk; 0844 406 8666


Strike up the Band

Stuck for something that children and adults can enjoy together? The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Poole Lighthouse are opening their doors for the first ever Meet the Music Family Day on 12 April. The free event offers visitors a rare opportunity to help create a new piece of music with BSO musicians, have a go at playing orchestral instruments and watch the professionals rehearse for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Other events include a mini BSO, a song-making workshop for children and the famous Soundbeams installation that uses body movement to trigger sounds.

• Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra: bsolive.com; 01202 669925


Rainy Day Fun

Dorset boasts some fantastic museums that are well worth visiting, especially on days when the weather is a little grim. Bournemouth’s Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, a stunning historic villa perched on the cliff top near the pier, has scored a coup this Easter with an exhibition by Czech master of Art Nouveau, Alphonse Mucha. There are also lots of permanent exhibits to explore. Blandford Fashion Museum, located in a beautiful Georgian house, has a lovely new exhibition for 2015 called A Lady’s Story, featuring fashion from the 1930s. And in Dorchester, Dorset County Museum is running hands on family activities on Wednesdays during the holidays. Other local museums worth checking out include Red House Museum in Christchurch and Poole Museum.

• The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum: russellcotes.com; 01202 451858

• Blandford Fashion Museum: theblandfordfashionmuseum.com; 01258 453006

• Bridport Museum: bridportmuseum.co.uk; 01308 458703

• Red House Museum and Gardens: www3.hants.gov.uk/redhouse; 01202 482860


On the Battlefield

The Priest’s House Museum & Garden at Wimborne always makes a lovely day out but its Second World War Stories exhibition, running over Easter, is special. The exhibition marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war and features the personal stories, objects and uniforms of locals involved in the conflict.

For a more action-packed day out The Tank Museum at Bovington is holding their daily Tanks in Action displays, where visitors can feel how tanks shake and learn how they’re used in battle. The Royal Signals Museum at Blandford Camp is a fun place to learn about battlefield communications, from semaphore to electronic warfare.

The Keep Military Museum, on Bridport Road in Dorchester is a superb small museum with a striking castle-like keep to explore and tells the history of the Dorsetshire and Devonshire regiments. It also has a very realistic reconstruction of a First World War trench.

• Priest’s House Museum and Garden: priest-house.co.uk; 01202 882533

• Tank Museum: tankmuseum.org; 01929 462359

• Keep Military Museum: keepmilitarymuseum.org; 01305 264066

• Royal Signals Museum: royalsignalsmuseum.co.uk; 01258 482 248


Go on a Jurassic Adventure

Get the kids to ditch the technology this Easter and step back to the Jurassic era and engage with some local fossil and dinosaur action. The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre are running its hugely popular guided fossil walks on the beach every day throughout Easter, where children can hunt down and take home their own fossils. Lyme Regis Museum also offers guided fossil walks and has a terrific fossil display to marvel at.

On a similar theme, the Dinosaur Museum on Icen Way in Dorchester will be holding its annual Great Easter Dinosaur Egg Hunt during the holidays and is somewhere where you can get up close to life size reconstructions of dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Nearby, on High Street West, Dorset County Museum has some impressive real dinosaur skeletons, with lots of teeth, that are well worth a view and have been found locally on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

• Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre: charmouth.org; 01297 560772

• Lyme Regis Museum: lymeregismuseum.co.uk; 01297 443370

• The Dinosaur Museum: thedinosaurmuseum.com; 01305 269880

• Dorset County Museum: dorsetcountymuseum.org; 01305 262735


Festival Fever

At the Portland Fish & Ships, a two-day boat and food festival on 11 & 12 April, you can sample some of Dorset’s tastiest food as well as try water sports like paddle-boarding, sailing, kite and wind surfing.

In Poole, the RSPB will also be holdings its free Festival of Nature on 12 April at Upton Country Park, where you can learn about wildlife, meet some animals and enjoy craft activities and guided walks. And beautiful Lytchett Minster is hosting the first Dorset Food and Venison Festival on 4 April, which promises to be fun for adults and children, with stag racing, dog demonstrations and of course lots of yummy things to eat including local venison.

• Portland Fish & Ships: deanreddyhoff.co.uk; 01305 767 576

• Upton Country Park: uptoncountrypark.com; 01202 262 753

• Dorset Venison Festival: dorsetvenisonfestival.org


Easter Egg Trails

What would the Easter holidays be without chocolate? The National Trust is holding Easter Egg Hunts at a various properties around the county, including Kingston Lacy, Corfe Castle, Studland Beach, Brownsea Island and Golden Cap. The trails are a great opportunity to explore beautiful buildings, gardens and open spaces – and enjoy a chocolate fix at the same time. Kingston Maurward Gardens and Animal Park, Monkey World, the Dinosaur Museum and the Priest’s House Museum and Garden are also holding fun ‘eggtivities’.

• National Trust: nationaltrust.org.uk (check individual properties for details)

• Kingston Maurward Gardens and Animal Park: kmc.ac.uk/gardens; 01305 215003

• Monkey World: monkeyworld.org; 01929 462537


Cooking up a storm

Some of the UK’s finest cookery schools are in Dorset and the best of them offer fun classes for kids. Flavours School of Cookery in Bournemouth is holding a range of classes throughout the holidays, from baking Easter buns to Italian cookery. Award-winning White Pepper Cookery School at Lytchett Matravers is holding day-long ‘camps’ that teach kids essential cookery skills in a fun format. Booking essential for both.

• Flavours School of Cookery: flavoursschoolofcookery.co.uk; 01202 424445

• White Pepper Cookery School: white-pepper.co.uk; 01202 280050


Wild Treasure

The Great Kimmeridge Eggcase Hunt is the perfect opportunity for families to beachcomb for mermaid’s purses, the empty egg cases from some species of shark and skate. And as it’s Easter we’ve also got some eggs of the chocolate variety to find in the treasure hunt too!

• Where: The Fine Foundation Marine Centre, Kimmeridge BH20 5PF. Entry to the marine centre is free, although a toll road fee of £5 is charged by the Smedmore Estate.

• When: Friday 3 April from 2pm-3.30pm. For more information call 01929 581044.


Wild Work

Keeping fit forms a large part of our wild lives, and it has been proven that not only does voluntary work keep us happy mentally, but working outside on nature reserves can keep you physically in shape too. This Easter, why not try some volunteering work with The Great Heath Volunteer Work Party. Even if you can only spare a few hours it will makes a huge difference to our local wildlife and to your health and well being.

• Where: Various sites in east Dorset, such as Arrowsmith Coppice and Upton Heath.

• When: The group meets every Wednesday throughout the year from 10am – 4pm. Please call Sally Wright on 01202 692033 for more information.


Wild Walking

Dorset Wildlife Trust’s annual ‘Walk for Wildlife’ is a series of walks along the Coast Path, with views of the Jurassic Coast. Choose from a family-friendly 2 mile route, the middle distance 6 mile route, or the more challenging 13 mile route. All routes offer a stunning landscape as a backdrop to your walk. Why not make it a real challenge and get sponsored for doing it? All funds go to DWT conservation work.

• Where: Meet at the Leeson House Field Centre, Langton Matravers, Swanage, BH13 3EU. All three walks start from this point.

• When: Sunday 12 April from 8am onwards. Register online at dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/walkforwildlife for a special discounted rate of £12 per adult, £3 per child, and £25 for a family of four. Call 01305 264620 for more information.


Wild Exploring

Lorton Meadows Spring ‘Wildlife Wander’ offers families the chance to discover the sights and sounds of Lorton Meadows on a guided walk. You will be able to see, touch and smell all the wonderful wildlife along the way. Guided by our wardens, children can duck in and out of nature’s nooks and crannies, and learn lots of fascinating things.

• Where: Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve, Upwey, Weymouth, DT3 5QH. £1 per person.

• When: Saturday 4 April, 2pm-4pm. Cost £1 per person. Call 01305 816546 for more information.


Wild Discovery

The ‘Seashore Detectives’ event at Fleet Lagoon, near Chesil Beach invites families and children to explore the underwater world exposed during low tide. Discover anemones, sea squirts and crabs, to name just a few.

• Where: The Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre, halfway along the causeway between Weymouth & Portland on the A354 (Portland Beach Road DT4 9XE)

• When: Saturday 4 April 1-2.30pm & Wednesday 8 April 2.30 – 4pm. Call 01305 206191 for more information.


Wild Easter

Celebrate Easter in the wild with the Epic Easter Expedition at the Kingcombe Centre, this expedition should provide enough to keep even the most energetic of families occupied. There will be an epic egg hunt, with clues all over the reserve and a chocolate reward waiting at the end. You can get creative with crafts and activities using natural materials, and then enjoy all sorts of delicious Easter treats from the Kingcombe Café!

• Where: The Kingcombe Centre, Lower Kingcombe, Toller Porcorum, DT2 0EQ

• When: Sunday 5 April from 10am – 3pm. Cost £5 per child. Call 01300 320684 for more information.