This February half term, time travel back to the age of the Victorians at Audley End House, near Saffron Walden. At this impressive setting, visitors are invited to join in a range of classic children’s games like skittles and quoits (a jolly lark involving metal hoops which are thrown over a pole), chess and croquet. Challenge the family and see who’s best at these games that time forgot. Takes place 16-20 February, 11am-4pm. Entry is £9.60 adults (£5.80 children under 15; English Heritage members go free).
The indoor Fun Barn at Bury Lane Farm Shop is the perfect place for kids to let off some steam. Let them hurl themselves into ball pits, whizz down slides and wobble along balance beams all in one squidgy, farmyard-themed indoor playground. There’s a dedicated toddler’s area too, plus a café. Meanwhile the farm shop itself is full of tempting local produce to stock up on afterwards. Bury Lane Farm Shop and Fun Barn is situated off the A10 near Melbourn and features a garden centre, shop, butchers, café and deli… It’s a whole day out in itself for kids and parents alike!
Would-be deep sea divers and polar explorers are invited to an immersive night-time event at the Polar Museum on Lensfield Road. On 18 February, join experts from the Polar Museum and Museum of Zoology to discover the creatures that live deep in the icy dark of the ocean. Play games and take a torchlit trail of the galleries, which will come alive with the strange, gurgling sounds of the ocean. Deep Sea Darkness is just one of the events taking place as part of Twilight at the Museums. For more information, see our feature on pages 26-27 or go online. 4.30-8.30pm. Bring your torch!
Thought dinosaurs were a thing of the past? Then think again! Australian puppeteer company Erth return with their incredible stage show, Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo, this month. Using beautiful (and fearsome) life- size puppets, against a magnificent set, the company recreates the sounds and movements of these prehistoric giants. Afterwards there’s a chance to meet the dinos, from cute, cuddly babies to towering meat-eaters (dare you put your head in the Australovenator’s mouth?). Time Out called it ‘a delight’, praising the puppets’ War Horse-like dexterity as well as the captivating host, Lindsey Chaplin. It’s suitable for ages 3+ and runs 14-15 February, Corn Exchange, various times. Tickets £15 (‘danger seats’ £17.50).
Parents! Do you have a teenager on your hands who can’t cook, won’t cook? This best-selling cookery course at Cambridge Cookery School is perfect for introducing young people – reluctant or otherwise – to basic kitchen skills to set them up for life. On 16 and 17 February, the Five Family Suppers class will teach students to create, from scratch, five healthy and exciting meals. It runs 10am-2.30pm and includes lunch, food to bring home and share plus an all-important recipe pack. The course costs £60 per person and is ideal for any uni-bound teen. Cambridge Cookery School are also running a half term cooking course for kids on 18 February, with a focus on curries, 10am-12.30pm.
Winter at Wicken Fen is a magical time, when frost clings to the reeds, the waterways crack with ice and creatures from watchful birds of prey to tiny mammals do their best to survive the cold. On 17 February, once you’ve taken a walk round this historic nature reserve (a perfect example of the Fenland habitat that once covered the county), have a go at creating your very own wild art, using materials found onsite. Takes place 10.30am and 2pm, 17 February, £5.25 for a child ticket. Then, on 19 February, there’ll be den building, geocaching and much more at Go Wild At Wicken, running 10.30am and 2pm (£5.25, child). Experts will also be revealing how some animals build their own shelters to survive the harsh winter months.
Some beautiful and brilliant beasties will be invading the Glasshouse at Cambridge University Botanic Garden for their Orchid Festival, getting underway on 7 February. Orchids are amongst the most exotic and alluring of flowers and have developed numerous weird and wonderful ways to attract the animals and insects which pollinate them. Petal shape, nectar reward, triggers, traps, scent and glowing colours are just a few of the tricks that orchids employ to attract a vast array of animal pollinators.
Meet a colourful cast of characters including iridescent bees, wasps, moths with mega-long tongues and jewel-coloured hummingbirds, which will be paying a visit to the Garden’s Orchid Festival – in oversize cardboard cut-out form. See how many you can spot. There will also be a display of Dendrobium orchids suspended from the ceiling in globes, plus floating pedestals of beautiful slipper orchids and much more to keep all your senses stimulated.
Alex Summers, glasshouse supervisor, says: “We’re really excited about the Orchid Festival – our most ambitious to date – and we’ll be using some new and fun ways to present the ingenious biology of orchids. I don’t want to give it all away, but watch out for Judge Dredd style giant hummingbirds and Thynnid wasps!” The Orchid Festival at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden runs from 7 February until 22 March. Go online for details of special related talks and events.
“A philosopher once said, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really. Do the stars gaze back? Now, that’s a question!”
Ok, so that’s actually from the film Stardust, but it’s a great thought. Strike out into the deep, dark grounds of Wimpole Hall, near Royston, this 17 February and spend an evening making sense of the stars overhead. You’ll be joined by Paul Fellows, chairman of the Cambridge Young Astronomers (he believes in aliens – we asked him), who will be pointing out all the fascinating stars and planets visible to the naked eye at night. Starts 5.30pm prompt and all tickets cost £6.
As part of its 25th birthday celebrations, the music, comedy and arts venue is inviting you over for a free lunch! Bring the family on 14 February and explore the venue (and go backstage), watch some performances and get a lesson in cooking and waiting tables with Hunt and Darton, before sitting down to a big team feed. It’s free, but a donation wouldn’t go amiss. Runs 11am-4pm. For younger theatregoers this month, there’s Whatever the Weather, a lovely little production centred around an Alpine weather house. The sunny girl and the rain man couldn’t be more different, but what happens if the wind blows their clockwork world into disarray? 22 February, 11.30am and 2.30pm; £6-£10.