The February half term has always felt like the trickiest half term to know what to do with the kids. October half term often comes with some lingering warmth before winter sets in, as well as the upcoming excitement of Halloween and Christmas on the horizon while May half term feels like the official start of the summer and the first proper taste of all of the adventures to come, whereas February….unless you’re a big fan of pancakes there doesn’t seem to be much to get excited about. While it does at least signal the long trudge through January is at an end the pockets are often still feeling somewhat empty after the excesses of Christmas so the question is what sort of inexpensive options there might be to stop the week drifting by in a blur of the kids passing the days on YouTube and Xbox.
The usual go to options for a few days away in the van for us are usually the coasts of north Devon and cornwall or a trip to the mountains of Wales but they don’t seem quite so appealing this time of year, especially when the weather forecast confirmed there was plenty of rain on the cards. It’s one thing braving some dodgy weather for a night or two but if that isn’t balanced out with being able to warm up a bit in the daylight hours it seemed difficult to see the kids getting too excited by days spent on damp beaches or windswept mountains. It was therefore with the idea of thinking where we could head that would offer some indoor entertainment options that we started looking at what sort of camping there might be for the van that was a convenient distance from a city centre. After a bit of searching around some cities we wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of we came across a site at Pontcanna Fields right in the heart of Cardiff so we knocked up a quick homemade thermal wrap for the pop top, packed the kids thick onesies and decided to give it a go.
Driving into the city centre we were in sight of the Glamorgan County Cricket Club, Principality Stadium and actually took the entrance to Sofia Gardens, driving right past the cricket ground, to enter the campsite and found a surprisingly relaxed set up backing onto the expanse of rugby pitches on the edge of Bute Park and bordering right on to the Taff Trai cycle path.
The weather forecast for once was right on the money and a deluge did arrive overnight, however, the thermal wrap meant that temperature wise everyone was needing to shed some layers having wrapped up far too much for bed. The morning came with a not inconsiderable amount of drizzle but the awning provided shelter enough to cook up some bacon sandwiches on the slidepod while playing a few games of cards and getting a taste of the outdoors without being stuck in a hotel room or being forced out into the elements straight away.
Fully fuelled for the day ahead we popped into the incredibly friendly cycle and cafe run by Pedal Power (a disability cycle charity)l located right night to the campsite reception) to pick up a new inner tube for one of the bikes.
After loading on a healthy supply of Welsh cakes from the Pedal Power cafe, we were able to hop straight onto the Taff Trail and were in the city centre within 10 mins, passing the Principality Stadium in 15 and down to Cardiff Bay in a little over half an hour.
After a couple of days of Techniquest, the Museum, a wide range of restaurants and a blast on the Ninja Warrior course it was time to be heading home thinking we could really have done with giving ourselves longer, as rather than the kids needing to get back to dry out and warm up they were wanting to stay on to do more and were particular disappointed we didn’t manage to cram in a trip to the Cosy Cinema pods on sight before leaving!
There’s no getting away from the fact a city in the rain is still going to be wet but when the conditions aren’t necessarily at their best for exploring the great outdoors with a couple of young children we were delighted to have found a hidden gem that I had no idea existed, despite living in Cardiff for a number of years, and managed to explore a city without being cooped in a hotel room and still feeling like you’re getting some time outdoors. So while no doubt the old favourite locations will make a return once the weather starts to improve it was great to realise in the meantime there are options to explore different places in different ways and it will be something we will undoubtedly being doing again with the Bristol trip next half term!