Disclosure: our family ticket to Conkers was gifted in order for us to write this review and share our experience. If you would like to win your own family ticket to Conkers, I am running a Giveaway at the end of this post.
I can’t remember when or how I found out about Conkers, but as soon as I did – I knew it would be a great place for us to visit. It appealed to me not just because a day spent exploring the National Forest sounds right up my street, but there’s also a Camping and Caravanning Club site very nearby, making it a perfect spot for a weekend getaway (it’s worth pointing out that Camping and Caravanning Club members do get a discount on admission to Conkers by showing your membership card).
We left it too late in the year to visit with our tent, so instead, we picked a gloriously sunny Autumn day during October half term and it was the perfect tonic to a pretty hectic few months at work.
What is Conkers?
Conkers is set in the National Forest in Derbyshire, near Swadlingcote which is about midway between Leicester and Derby, an area known to us as the home of Timber Festival. Conkers spans over 120 acres of woodland with lakes, adventure playgrounds, an activity trail, mazes, barefoot walks, a train and more.
Although it does also offer indoor activities (it boasts a 4D cinema, interactive talks and a small soft play), we were keen to spend as much time outside as possible, and boy did we make the most of what was on offer. The set up for a children’s talk that several times on the day we visited looked really impressive and we did spend ten minutes at a craft table decorating our own pumpkin – it’s still hanging up in our lounge even though it’s past Christmas now!
A Beautiful Conkers Day Out
Before I dive into some of the specifics of our trip out, here are a few photos to whet your appetite. After weeks (although it felt like months) of not using my camera properly, it felt so good to have the most beautiful day, scenery and of course my boys to capture.
Getting Around on the Conkers Conkachoo Train
With over a hundred acres to explore, there are plenty of pathways and trails to take around the park, but if you fancy a bit of railway excitement, the Conkachoo Train runs regularly around the site with some of the friendliest drivers you’re ever likely to meet.
You can ride as many times as you like, and I’ll be honest, I’m surprised Pickle didn’t demand we spend an hour just going back and forth! Using the train to get from one side of the park to the other is a great feature, and fun for all ages.
The Water Park
When first walking out of the visitor entrance building (after purchasing a cup of tea and a couple of soft drinks from the cafe, of course!), the first thing we set our sights on was a little water play area.
The water play area is relatively small, but offers lots of opportunities for children and adults to get involved in the fun – mainly due to the amount of effort required in getting the largest water pump to function! The sign behind it indicated it could take up to fifty pumps to build up enough pressure to make the water flow, but I’m sure we tried many more than that to no avail. We all had a good laugh and thankfully didn’t get too wet before we were off in search of the next playground to explore.
The Playdale Adventure Playground
We could have spent hours itself just playing on the Playdale Adventure playground with its swings, climbing frames, slides, zip wires and more. The photos kind of speak for themselves and show just how much fun we all had.
The Barefoot Trail
There’s something to try out at every twist and turn at Conkers – we had fun playing music on a sensory trail, climbing up to the top of a viewing tower, exploring mazes, playing in sand pits and checking out the barefoot trails too (there’s an actual barefoot trail and a trail suitable for shoes – although, the signage was a little confusing and I’m not sure whether we ended up on the right one).
The Warrens at Conkers
One of the newest attractions at Conkers is The Warrens, an underground playground of twisty tunnels. Naturally, Pickle loved it in here! He was just the right height that meant he could run around the tunnels without needing to stoop or crawl, whereas I was scrambling around on my hands and knees trying to keep up with him, including a very graceful (ahem) bum shuffle!
I love how this photos looks like it could be in the title sequence for a James Bond film!
My advice for the Warrens is not to wear any clothes you don’t mind getting covered in mud – between tots like Pickle running around and the likes of me having to scrabble around, mud gets everywhere! But that’s part of the fun, right? You can see the mud on my knees in this photo. My cheeks ached afterwards from laughing so much, and Pickle often asks to go back to the tunnels – I think he really enjoyed being the fastest one out of the two of us for a change.
Exploring the Grounds
We found plenty to keep us occupied all day long. Conkers is beautiful at every turn. Whether you’re wandering around the meandering footpaths or taking in the view on the Conkachoo Train, taking in the scenery is part of the experience.
We loved going over the bridges near the Adventure Playground, and I imagine this is a real hive of wildlife activity in the spring and summer months. There’s a lovely little bridge that’s good for Pooh Sticks too. I’ve always quite liked a boardwalk and really enjoyed our time in this area.
Memories that last
I can always tell how much a day out has meant to Pickle by how often he refers to it. And he talks about our day at Conkers a lot! Mainly in reference to our ‘symbols’ that we found in the Fairy Maze. As we walked around exploring the maze (which was so magically lit by the setting sun as it was the last thing we did before heading home), we each found the fairy relating to our birthday. Each sign gave a description of the fairy and shared the fairy symbol: star for Jim, flower for me and bubble for Pickle. He talks about these fairy symbols all the time. Every time he sees bubbles, he gets so excited because he thinks they’re all for him. It’s very cute, and a lovely way to keep remembering our day here.
Return Visit Guaranteed
We will 100% be back to visit Conkers again, probably with a weekend stay at the nearby campsite to really make the most of it. Next time, I will definitely book some of the Vertigo adventure activities – it’s an additional cost to the ticket booking, but fairly reasonably priced. I’ve got my sights set on the high ropes and climbing wall for definite!
Thank you very much Conkers, for being just the outdoors adventure we needed as a family. The fresh air, the play and the gorgeous scenery helped us tremendously, and I can’t begin to explain the difference it made to my general mood. When I talked about the outdoors being the perfect antidote to modern life in my Attention Economy blog post, this is exactly what I meant.
Win A Family Ticket to visit Conkers
It is my absolute pleasure to announce that Conkers have kindly offered a free Family ticket (covering up to two adults and two children or one adult and three children) to visit Conkers and experience it for themselves. If you’d like to enter, just use the giveaway form below. Good luck!Win General Admission Entry for 1 Family to Conkers