Journalist Jenny Woolf visited Cardiff with seven-year-old Arthur. Jenny wanted to give Arthur a taste of Cardiff and to make sure he had a fun time without packing too much in to their two-night stay. Here’s how it went.
TAFF VALLEY QUAD BIKES
Jenny, husband Tony and young Arthur headed out of the city to see what Taff Valley Quad Bikes had to offer. There, farmer Hopkin Smith was on hand to give Arthur a safety induction, then to take him out to tackle the nursery course in a suitable mini-quad.Arthur started off with a safety cord attached to the quad so that Hopkin could cut the engine and bring him safely to a halt if necessary. But it wasn’t necessary – and Arthur spent the next two hours rapidly becoming expert at tackling the figure of eight course. An extra bonus for an adventurous seven-year old was the mud smattering he acquired.
- Arthur’s verdict: I really liked learning how to control the quad bike and I’d like to continue learning quad biking, because actually everything about going to this place was good.
- Jenny’s verdict: A real country experience with the dogs and sheep. It seemed laid back and casual but was also inclusive and highly professional. I was surprised at how much Arthur learned. After a shower to clean off the mud, it was back to the Parc Thistle hotel for a good night’s sleep.
THE DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE, Cardiff Bay
No need for time travel to get there; the number 6 Bendybus does the job in 15 minutes, door to door. You have to be careful when you tackle the Doctor Who Experience. After all, there are no couches to hide behind and the Daleks would get you anyway. The crack in time opens to let you in to an adventure with The Doctor, Matt Smith. Cybermen, Daleks and Weeping Angels all come at you as you pass through the Experience. Cybermen charging and firing in 3D is pretty scary even for 40-year veterans of Doctor Who but you are guaranteed safe passage. On the way, you can drive the TARDIS for a short while, too.
- Arthur’s verdict: I loved it. I’m a Doctor Who fan.
- Jenny’s verdict: A lot to see in the surrounding area, too, and a good playground just outside.
Lunch in the Norwegian Church offered a mix of home cooked Welsh and Scandinavian dishes.
Then a short stroll around the bay, through the family friendly restaurants and shops at Mermaid Quay and the next challenge.
This could be the most fun anyone has had with science since Archimedes last had a bath. You don’t even have to get wet – but you can if you want. That’s what is great about Techniquest. It is one of those (very few) places that say to children: ‘Please touch – and play – and
mess about all you want.’
And while the smaller human beings are playing and learning, the larger ones will pick up a thing or two about magnetism, friction, the principles of flight and how leafcutter ants organise themselves.
At Techniquest, they have found a perfect blend that allows the fluid lives of children to latch on to the laws of science. Almost makes you want to slide into the bath and shout Eureka!
- Arthur’s verdict: I totally loved all of Techniquest. It was such a friendly place. My favourite thing was playing with the water but there were lots of other things to do as well.
- Jenny’s verdict: The best children’s museum I’ve visited. All the exhibits were well kept and well labelled, and appealed to grown ups too – or at least, to this grown up.
BOULDERS CLIMBING CENTRE
A bus ride to Boulders Climbing Centre, where climbs range from Easy (barely climbing at all) to Very Severe (barely climbable).For Arthur, though, it was a session with Pebbles and the Pumas. Pebbles is for children up to seven. It’s a bit like a Wacky Warehouse but more adventurous. Cargo nets and mini climbing walls give a gentle – and safe – introduction to climbing. For 7 to 18-year-olds, the Pumas climbing Club gives youngsters a go at climbing with full supervision. This is what Arthur went for; a two-hour session with all the gear, a personal coach and a climbing wall to suit your ability.
- Arthur’s verdict: This was the first time I have done climbing, and it was comfortable climbing up, although not so comfortable climbing down!
- Jenny’s verdict: I was impressed by the positive, friendly atmosphere and the staff were obviously passionate about climbing. This huge place must turn so many people on to the sport.
A good lunch in the café at Cardiff Castle before tackling the 134 steps up the Motte to the top of the Norman keep.Cardiff Castle looks like something that any child might draw. Turretted walls, corner towers, a dominating Keep in the middle of the Bailey ring. What singles Cardiff Castle out is the fact that though there has been a fortress on the site since the Romans built their fort there. But what you see now is largely the invention of the third Marquess of Bute and his imaginative architect, William Burges, in the middle of the 19th Century. No time for shopping on this trip but the city’s main shopping area is just across the road.
- Arthur’s verdict: My favourite bit of the castle was all the colours and decoration inside it. And I liked playing with the model castle in the shop.
- Jenny’s verdict: A truly astonishing building, with a most remarkable High Victorian interior. I’m so pleased I got the chance to see this.