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For more reasons than I can comprehend all in one go, my mum refuses to get a passport – which is absolutely fine, but means we always have to get creative when we decide to have a rare day out together.

When I was invited to visit Quex Park in Birchington, Kent last weekend, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to get some mother-and-daughter bonding time in the diary. Plus, Birchington-on-Sea is just 80 minutes away from Stratford on the train, so it really is perfect for a day trip.

What is Quex Park?

It’s pretty much a self-contained little town, complete with a museum, farm shop, boutique cafe, craft shops, maize maze, gardens, plus soft play centre and a paintballing arena.

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I know ‘something for the whole family’ is a phrase that’s so often overused – but there really is no other way to sum up Quex Park! I could imagine my nan feeling just as home here as my little cousin.

What did we get up to?

After a hot drink in the cafe within the farm shop, our first stop was the Powell-Cotton Museum. Despite the name, the museum is actually nothing to do with cotton. Named after the Powell-Cotton family who established the museum, it’s actually filled to the brim with natural history specimens and cultural objects collected on 19th century expeditions to Asia and Africa.

And when I say ‘filled to the brim’, I really do mean it. One of the most shocking things about the museum is its use of dioramas – huge floor-to-ceiling displays of stuffed animals with backdrops of their natural habitat. My mum (a real animal-lover who despises hunting in all forms) found these displays difficult to look at, as did I. But as hard as I found it to view the poor animals, it’s important to remember that this is what happened in the late 19th/early 20th century. Explorers, like Percy Powell-Cotton, were reliant on capturing animals in order to make scientific discoveries and educate the people back home, many of whom would never have the opportunity to see animals such as lions and giraffes in their natural habitat.

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Quex Park is also doing a lot for wildlife conservation. Researchers are a regular at the museum in a bid to discover ways in which we can help endangered animals in the future – so, despite its gruesome origins, it’s all being used towards good!

Of course, the museum holds a lot more than just animals, including instruments from the original expeditions, jewellery and pottery from African villagers, and an interactive section for kids of all ages to get up close and personal with some of the exhibits.

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…And the food’s pretty good, too!

Rumbling stomachs signalled that we were in dire need of snacks, so we found ourselves edging ever closer to the Mama Feelgoods boutique cafe. Small and intimate, the cafe is dressed up in white-washed wood, flowers sitting in jam jars and floral table covers. It’s absolutely adorable, and the perfect place to tuck into our three tiers of afternoon tea. This was particularly lovely because my mother has never actually had afternoon tea before (I know, I know), so watching her reaction as she bravely fought her way through sandwiches, cakes, scones and mini bruschetta was quite the picture!

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After lunch we took in more of the grounds, admiring the Victorian gardens so lovingly maintained. Adults will love the picturesque views, while kids will be kept entertained with the huge fish in the pond, plus a sheltered camp, perfect for hide and seek purposes. Picnic benches are scattered all around too, so the option of bringing some sandwiches along with you for the day is definitely an option.

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Despite it being a Sunday (and a Bank Holiday one at that), many of the craft shops were open, allowing us to have a quick wander round on our way to the Maize Maze. The adorable shops are more like little sheds, many of which feature their owners crafting out on show – sewing, carving wood figurines and creating glass statues.

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It was my first time in a Maize Maze (a maze literally made of maize) and I was convinced I would be lost to the elements for days. Fortunately it was much easier than I was expecting so I didn’t have to crack out any of the emergency snacks. While the maze is definitely something that would appeal to kids more than adults, I loved the interactive element which encourage maze participants to solve riddles and questions hidden along the inner paths. Shamefully there were a lot of insanely easy questions that left us stumped, but we managed to nick some questions off of a few passing kids on the way round…

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Our day rounded off with a mooch around the farm shop which sells local Kent produce. We picked up a few little pieces to take home (including some tomato chutney inspired by the sandwiches we had during our afternoon tea), and set off on our way home.

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Overall

My mum and I had an absolutely fab time wandering around Quex Park. It’s the kind of thing we’d love to have closer by so we could nip into the farm shop on a weekly basis, and take friends for a visit when they come round.

The potential for Quex Park is enormous, and I can see how it would appeal to so many people. Want to keep kids amused during the holidays? Want to take your parents somewhere serene? Fancy a day away from city pollution? Want to learn more about animals? Quex Park ticks all of these boxes and even more.

Many thanks to Quex Park for hosting us for the day. As always, all thoughts are my own.