At the moment by daughter’s most favourite author in the whole wide world is Cressida Cowell largely because of the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series. She just simply cannot get enough. We have just finished book 4 ‘How to cheat a dragon’s curse’ and she is currently saving her pocket money to buy each book in turn. I have to admit that I love the books as much as she does and I am usually giggling out loud as I am reading the words on the page aloud (I might also have, on more than one occasion, read ahead without her knowing in order to find out what happens next! Sshh!). So, when on social media, I noticed that Hanningfield Reservoir and the Essex Wildlife Trust were hosting a ‘Dragon Discovery’ event, I knew that it would be right up our street.
For ages 4-6, this was an opportunity for us to spend a bit of mother/daughter time together over the Easter holidays. The event cost £6 per child, needed to have an adult accompanying. It is highly recommended that you book in advance as spaces are limited and get booked up fast.
We’ve visited the reservoir as a family a few times now, there is also a brilliant ‘Wind in the Willows’ themed trail (separate blog post planned in the near future!) and we have attended a few family activities but not one specifically for this age group, so we turned up not really sure what to expect.
On arrival, we were introduced to our guides for the morning and ushered into the education room. There, we were told that we couldn’t go on our journey without being prepared with a helmet and shield! The mini-viking explorers were given all the materials needed to fashion a viking helmet from card and tin foil. They then proceeded to decorate their viking shields with ingenious designs, conjured up, to terrify the most terrifying of dragons! Once fully kitted out, we set off on our journey.
The first task was a treasure hunt of sorts, but we were hunting for dragons. Pictures of dragons (my daughter was delighted when they were indeed the ones from the books), were hiding in various trees and greenery along the route. Pictures (attached to empty spray bottles) were collected and imaginations were sparked – ‘What are these for?’ There was bottle and dragon picture for each child and the guide read out facts about each dragon as we found them. In proud possession of a ‘Terrible Terror’ we awaited our next task.
A secluded bit of woodland was opened up for us and a nest of twigs was made. For our next activity, we needed to feed our dragon. In order to do this, we had to find and retrieve as many ‘dragon eggs’ as we could and place them in the nest as quickly as possible. Each egg contained dragon food (plastic fish) and once all the eggs were found, we could fuel our dragons.
The ‘fuelling’ consisted of filling our spray bottles with a water and food colouring mix (aprons were provided for any unwanted splashes!). As we trekked further into the wooded path, we came across our nemesis, a deadly dragon that needed to be defeated! Armed with their spray bottles (now we had finally discovered what they were for), the children squirted the gigantic paper drawing of the dragon until he was no more!
After defeating our foe, the children were seated in a clearing with log benches and each given a pair of binoculars and shown how to use them, for dragon spotting on the route back. My daughter didn’t spot anything but I thought I saw a fleeting flash of red and a shimmer of gold up high in the treetops.
Once our quest was over, we went back into the education room and the children were given a sword to decorate (in case of any further meetings with dragons.)
We had an utterly brilliant time. Aside from getting some much needed time outside with nature, after a very grey and wet holiday so far we were able to step inside the world of dragons for a morning. The whole event was extremely well co-ordinated, the guides had bundles of energy and the children’s imaginations were on dragon fire! It was great entertainment and value for money and we look forward to returning soon for another event.
For more information on the Essex Wildlife Trust, Hanningfield Reservoir and future events click here.