The Powell-Cotton Museum, Quex Park
Explore the savannah
There is loads to enjoy inside and out at Birchington’s QUEX PARK, an historic country house estate. The unique Powell-Cotton Museum gets star billing for its collections of wildlife gathered by the young Percy Powell-Cotton as he ventured deep into Africa and Asia. Children will wonder at the stunning dioramas of animals in their natural habitats. They will enjoy exploring galleries devoted to archaeology, textiles, weaponry and more from far flung shores.
The friendly stewards in adjoining Quex House can fill in some fascinating details about the life and times of the Powell-Cotton family, the house, paintings and collections. Jungle Jim’s family entertainment centre on site has a great indoor soft play area, while Build A Base next door is all action for the young and young-at-heart. Teams build their own “castles” out of giant Lego blocks and then defend their bases against attack by rivals, lurking in the tunnels, with foam dart guns. Special lighting and sound effects add to the excitement.
Grab a torch
This labyrinth of man-made tunnels, 30 metres below the woods above, can be explored at CHISLEHURST CAVES. The caves were dug for chalk during the building of London and were first opened to the public 100 years ago.
Since then they have been used as a munitions store for the Woolwich Arsenal during the First World War, for mushroom growing, as an air raid shelter during the Second World War protecting more than 15,000 people, and in the 1960s and 1970s as a concert venue.
Turn back time
Bad weather is a good time to head to DICKENS WORLD in Chatham for a spot of literary time travel. Learn about the Victorian England so graphically brought to life by Charles Dickens, probably the country’s best-known author. Here is a chance to feel, smell and see the same things experienced by the great man in his lifetime.
Dickens World is at Leviathan Way, Chatham Maritime, ME4 4LL. Call 0844 858 6656 or go to www.dickensworld.co.uk
The Shell Grotto is cool, but its origins are mysterious
Marvel at a mystery
Mystery surrounds the origins of the intriguing and breathtaking enigma that is the SHELL GROTTO, Margate. Why not pay a visit and wonder about the ‘What?’ and the ‘Why?’ of the 4.6 million shells embedded in intricate mosaic patterns along the 70ft of winding underground passages, and the chamber to which they lead.
Mega Blaster Arena, Hop Farm, Paddock Wood
In the likely event that your kids love nothing more than letting off steam with Nerf guns, then the MEGABLASTER ARENA, a brand new attraction at the Hop Farm, near Paddock Wood, is going to be a life-saver on glum days weather-wise. The indoor combat zone with inflatable barricades, obstacles and a target range allows them to play to their hearts’ contents in a safe environment with other kids who are up for the challenge.
The bear facts
Teddy bears are in the spotlight until Saturday, November 1 at MAIDSTONE MUSEUM. The Teddy Bear Story exhibition looks at well-known bears, from those in fairy stories and books to those on screen in films and television. The exhibition traces the history of the universally loved toy and investigates its production and success around the globe. Associated events include a Teddy Bears’ Picnic on Friday, August 22, author Jane Hissey with Old Bear and Friends on the same day between 10.30am to 3pm.
Behind the Furry Facade, a talk for families on the lives of real bears with role play activity, takes place on Friday, August 15 between 11am and 2pm. Other indoors events include craft and hands-on experiences, each week with a different theme; Amazing Animals, Britain At War, Toys Through Time, Discovering Dinosaurs and Getting Around.
Dover Castle. Picture English Heritage, Jim Holden
If you have not yet checked out the Secret Wartime Tunnels at DOVER CASTLE, why not get there this summer? With our wartime past very much in mind in 2014, this is an apt time to immerse yourself in the atmospheric and evocative experiences to be found deep in the white cliffs. Children will be captivated as they travel back in time through the history of the tunnels, learning how they have provided shelter, safety and secrecy to those defending our shores for more than 200 years. A recently opened permanent exhibition is brought to life with interactive displays, artefacts, real life stories, strking images and original wartime film footage. Life and death battles in the Underground Hospital built in 1941 are captured using sounds and smells. Audio-visual effects cover the drama of one injured pilot’s fight for his life.
Dover Castle is at Castle Hill Road, Dover, CT16 1HU. Call 01304 211067 or go to
Chatham Historic Dockyard
Head to the dockyard
Gripping experiences of life aboard three very different historic warships are among some of many fascinating experiences to be enjoyed, inside and out, on the 80-acre site of CHATHAM HISTORIC DOCKYARD. They include patrolling the Mediterranean aboard the Victorian naval sloop HMS Gannet, to serving in the Arctic on Second World War Destroyer HMS Cavalier, or diving beneath the waves in the Cold War era on HMS Submarine Ocelot.
New technology provides ‘digital theatre’ in the new Hearts of Oak Gallery, bringing the people, ships and operations of the dockyard vividly to life and retelling the story of the construction of wooden-hulled sail-powered warships at the site. Find out why the dockyard’s Victorian Ropery is half a mile long, and even have a go at making rope. Pirate Play Days and Doc Yard’s Techsplorers are the theme of family activities that are now running until Sunday, August 31.
Historic Dockyard Chatham is off Vanguard/Anthony’s Way ME4 4TE. Call 01634 823800 or go to www.thedockyard.co.uk
Hold the fort
It was built centuries ago as a vital defence to Chatham Dockyard, but now Fort Amherst has a wholly different aim – to help keep the kids entertained. Britain’s largest Napoleonic fortress will be turned into a hotbed of children’s games and activities, even when it’s raining. The fort’s series of ‘haunted’ underground tunnels are just waiting to be discovered at the 300-year-old site, offering protection from the wet if rain does start to fall. Kids can dress up in soldier uniforms, become adventurous bug-hunters, swashbuckling pirates, or even skilled archers.
Calling all detectives
Fancy a bit of detective work alongside your culture fix? Then try the Investigating Portraits Family Trail at Canterbury’s Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. Take part in the self-guided family trail which investigates portraits in the People and Places gallery, led by the Little Girl at the Door (a favourite character in one of the paintings). It includes a chance to create your own fun portrait, too. Available until Sunday, August 31.
Dover Museum: The Bronze Age Boat
A bronze masterpiece
Pride of place at DOVER MUSEUM goes to the Bronze Age Boat, uncovered in 1992 by construction workers working with archaeologists on the new A20 between Dover and Folkestone. The substantial section of the 3,500-year-old boat can be viewed. Other features in the museum tell the story of the area around the strategically important ‘gateway to England’, from the Stone Age to the Saxons.
Dover and the Great War and Channel Swimming in Focus run this summer. Dover Museum is at the Market Square,CT16 1PH. 01304 201066 or www.dovermuseum.co.uk