Garden centres, the go-to destination for OAPs, green-fingered types and parents with little ones. Oh yes, pre-baby (and with no garden) I was only vaguely aware of garden centres, mostly as a place to stop for tea and cake, or, in the case of Webbs of Wychbold, as the home of our local Hobbycraft store.
I actually scoffed when our NCT instructor suggested a garden centre as a good day out and a practical place to meet up with friends once you have little ones. And yet now I find garden centres and, in particular, Webbs one of my ‘go-to’ destinations when I need a cheap day out.
In the past year I have been to Webbs of Wychbold and its sister site in Hagley more times than I ever did pre-baby and it is, in fact, a good cheap day out.
Now, I say it’s a good cheap day out. It’s only cheap if you don’t actually buy anything, which with it’s array of kitchen utensils; indoor and outdoor plants; aquatics; pets; bird feeders; garden furniture; gifts; books; greeting cards; clothing; well-stocked foodhall; Hobbycraft; Lakeland; restaurant with delicious coffee, cakes and ice-cream…. can be troublesome. This is made doubly difficult at Christmas with the added lure of multi-coloured lights (perfect sensory toys), ornaments, gifts and seasonal food stuffs. Webbs, alas, is not cheap. So, best to keep your blinkers on if you want a truly cheap day out!
Temptation aside. It does make a great ‘go-to’ for families with toddlers. Located just off the M5 and A38 it’s super-easy to get to and there’s ample parking. It could do with better footpaths from the car park to store, but that’s just a minor gripe. There are even a few parent and child spaces, although I rarely bother with these and simply park further back in the car park.
Facilities are also decent with baby changing available and an area to warm bottles and baby food in the main restaurant. There are also loads of high chairs available in the restaurant and, thankfully, none of them are of the ‘you’ll need a PhD to operate this’ ilk. There’s even a small free indoor play area for littlies (again located in the restaurant) – although I think Elliott is still a little too little for this at the moment.
The store itself is a treasure trove of ‘I don’t know why I need this, but I really feel that I do’ and ‘this would make a good gift for someone, I’m just not sure who…’. Like I say, if you’re not feeling spendy browse with caution and head instead for the kid and purse friendly areas. Namely the pet shop and aquatic centre and the riverside gardens.
Taking the lift down to the pet centre is an experience in itself, but I’ll leave you to discover that one for yourselves. The pet area itself is light, clean and spacious. Ideal for manoeuvring a buggy or errant toddler around. And the pets themselves are super-cute – bunnies, guinea pigs, rats, mice – lots of fluff and all things nice. The fish tanks provide a sensory experience for even the smallest of babies, with lots of tropical varieties swimming around. It’s not quite the Sea Life Centre, but it’s not far off.
Had your fill of animals and the weather’s good? Great! Head out to the Riverside Gardens located next to the car park. Do be careful with mobile youngsters as, as the name would suggest, there is open water. The gardens are designed to provide inspiration for your own garden, with different areas devoted to different types of plants, or soil, or garden furniture (think the room-set section of Ikea, but outdoors). The gardens in themselves are beautiful. Any outdoorsy child will love exploring them, but the real treat lays just over the river… A Hobbit house! Most little ones will liken it more to the abode of the Teletubbies, but whatevs. It’s a gorgeous miniature-sized wooden house with grass on the roof, tiny doors and windows and tunnels built to either side. It’s so blinking cute and the perfect place for energetic toddlers to burn off some Fruit Shoot calories! We took Elliott there a while ago and he adored scrabbling around on the floor inside the house and throwing clumps of grass up in the air. I think he would have moved in if he could have done. You can take a look at the vlog from that day here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXp_i1SwZ1k
Of course, no matter how hard you try not to spend, it is difficult to resist a delicious ice-cream, or a yummy Barista-style coffee. But, hey, I said it was a cheap day out, not a free day out.
Webbs also hosts a number of seasonal events for kiddies (and adults), from story times, through Santa’s Grotto and even a beach during the summer holidays!
To find out more about Webbs, visit: http://info.webbsdirect.co.uk
Do you frequent the garden centre?