Now that we can venture a bit further afield, we made a trip to Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre. Somewhere that had been on my list for a while to visit. Located just outside of Newbury and close to Reading, Thatcham is a small historic market town in Berkshire.
The centre itself is signposted and easily accessible from the M4.
Upon arrival in to the car park, the kids play area is the first thing you spot. It’s split in to two areas – one for more younger children, toddler to about 7 years and the other is for slightly older kids (however this didn’t deter my 3 year old exploring it).
The youngest park offers a fantastic simple yet creative play time with toddler swings, tunnels, climbing apparatus as well as a very cute outdoor chimes.
The adventure playground for the older kids has two climbing apparatus – one which seemed to appeal to many of the children with its variety of climbing methods to get to the tunnelled slide. There was also a mini balancing obstacle course and large roundabout. Outside of this area there was a separate zip line.
Both play areas (excluding the zip line) are fenced off so secure from the nearby car park and pond area.
From here there is the information point, gift shop, café and toilets. The gift shop did have some nature check sheets which I spotted from the doorway that you could purchase. I thought was a fabulous idea as a way of getting children discovering nature and their surroundings. The café is positioned well as it means you can pick up a takeaway drink at the start of your walk.
To the right of the gift shop door we spotted the large map of the lake with its various walking routes and decided to choose a simple family friendly route round since it was close to lunchtime. We headed off in an anti clockwise direction around the lake following the set gravel sandy paths. These were buggy and wheelchair friendly.
We loved the beautifully constructed benches all around the path meaning we could take a break at any point to have a quick drink or just to admire the stunning view.
One thing I also really liked was the educational boards. We spotted one half way round that featured the different ducks you could try and spot on the pond and their names. This was a great way to keep little feet walking, encouraging them to spot a particular coloured one. We caught sight of a few and made sure we had some bread to throw in to feed them and the swans.
One part of the pond is quite low and mimics an almost beach scene. My little one loved the fact that he could safely get close to feed the ducks without having to worry about falling in off the river bank.
We picked up some lunch from their takeaway café which was reasonably priced with the normal sandwich, crisps and drink options. The ice-cream option was a hit with my 3 year old. They do have a number of picnic benches if you do opt to bring a picnic with you.
The whole experience at Thatcham Discovery Centre is free. They politely ask for donations for the car park (starting from £3) which is for the entire day. We spent about 3 hours exploring here and quite easily could have spent longer. We will definitely be heading back to see what the other trail paths have to offer and to see what a different season means to the wildlife and views on show.