Living so close to the National Memorial Arboretum, it's a bit remiss of me to not have reviewed it before now. It's a place we visited and enjoyed pre-child but I wasn't sure how my appropriate it would be for my pre-schooler.
The Arboretum opened in May 2001 and is the UK's centre for remembrance on a large site by the banks of the River Trent. It has a vast array of memorial gardens, many but not all of them are military. You may have seen some of them on the television including the Armed Forces Memorial and the recently unveiled memorial to the Falklands War. I find them fascinating, and if you have even the slightest interest in recent UK history you will find something to capture your imagination. The site is quite exposed and prone to flooding, so do dress appropriately!
My son enjoys the playground. The sign says it is for ages 6 and above, but even at nearly 4 he can monkey around the balance bars, stepping posts and wobbly bridges. No slides or swings though, so not really one for the littlest members of the family. The playground is surrounded by trees which are dedicated to children who have died - some of the plaques make very sad reading.
He also found some of the memorials really interesting, including the big train dedicated to workers from the rail industry and the RNLI memorial. As he gets bigger I think there will be more opportunities to explore and discuss what they mean.
I had 2 concerns - 1, that he would want to move the host of poppies and crosses that are placed on memorials around the site and 2, that he would have a tantrum that would upset visitors who have come to remember a loved one. To be fair, he was very good and the whole place is very welcoming for families, but I do keep this in mind when we visit.
The cafe is not fancy, and the coffee is no where near as good as the nearby Apple Tree cafe, but it does a good range of drinks, snacks and lunches including Sunday lunch. There was a good choice of cake too! The Arboretum attracts a lot of coach parties so it can get busy, but there is plenty of seating.
Cafe Latte price: £1.95 from a push button machine
Favourite cake: Ginger cake with lemon icing £1.90
Child friendly highlights: Small woodland playground, baby change, children's meals and drinks, children's activities. There is no fence between the path and the river.
Buggy friendly: The site is very flat and easy for buggies, some on paths some on grass.
Car parking: Plenty, small charge depending on time of year. £1.50 in winter, £3 rest of year
Overall this is a good place for a family visit and a place to go back to year after year as more memorials are added and the trees grow bigger.