Our Real Family Holiday - The Woo Family
Our Real Family Holiday at Dale Fort from the Woo Family – Tim, Holly and Sakura (age 3), April 2016
After driving through the rainy Welsh countryside for three hours, I had hoped that upon arrival at Dale Fort, the clouds would suddenly part and we would be treated to some beautiful Pembrokeshire weather. Unfortunately this was not to be, but despite the rain, smiling FSC staff were outside to greet us and help us to find our room. We were taken on a tour of the Centre, given information about our stay and shown where the activity would shortly be taking place that afternoon.
The afternoon activity was orienteering around the Centre and despite the rain there were around 5 other families taking part. The quiz sheets quickly got wet but nearly everyone stayed outside for at least half an hour finding the objects in photographs and learning about the Centre. My three-year-old daughter Sakura loved splashing in the puddles and it was helpful to get oriented around the Centre and explore the site in an unstructured but fun way. Several families later gathered in the art room for colouring and drawing activities. Here tutors were on hand to discuss the local area and where to visit and answer questions about coastal animals, plants and ecology. It was also a great chance to get to know other families who were staying.
The dining room was busy and lively when we gathered for a hearty evening meal and we chatted to other families on our table and nearby. After dinner and Sakura’s bedtime we went to the bar and the family room to relax on the comfy sofas.
The next day we got advice in the morning from the tutors in the library about where to go during our free time. While it was low tide we decided to go to Marloes Sands, a sandy beach with spectacular rock formations and good rock pools. We left as it started to rain, passing another RFH family who were just arriving – we hope they didn’t get too wet! We then went to Deer Park and were able to go on a boat trip around Skomer, seeing porpoises, seals and seabirds. Another FSC customer staying at Dale Fort was also on the boat with us.
The afternoon activity on Sunday was ‘Wild Art’. We collected natural objects while walking to a small patch of woodland then the children made animal shapes out of what they had found. All the children were actively taking part and talked to their parents and the other children about their animals. A popular activity was then making hedgehogs out of pine cones (discussing their habitat) and making necklaces out of leaves. After a couple of hours when the children started to get tired we headed back to the Centre. Amy, the tutor, led the group really well, introducing a good range or activities for the age range (3-around 10 years old) and all the children were happy to approach her to discuss what they had made.
The highlight of the trip was the rock pooling activity on Monday. This started early to make the most of the low tide and most of the families staying at the Centre attended. All of the children were happily scrambling over the rocks and looking for sea anemones, crabs, molluscs and other sea creatures with their parents. Around five FSC staff were also on hand, showing the families what to look for and explaining interesting aspects of their ecology. Jake, one of the placement year tutors gave an excellent talk at the end of the session, discussing our finds and explaining things like how to tell a male from a female crab, how limpets feed on barnacles, identifying seaweeds and what comes out of a ‘mermaid’s purse’.
We were sad to head back after just a couple of days at Dale Fort, especially now the weather had improved. Even though Sakura had only just turned 3, she loved taking part in the activities, learning about the natural world, and seeing what all the older children were doing. We hope to return to explore more of the Pembrokeshire coast and take part in more Real Family Holidays activities like pond dipping, crabbing and looking for plankton next time!