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What can I do with the kids during lockdown?

We’ve been locked down during a dark, dank month and we still have children who need fresh air and exercise. Luckily, there are more options out there than you might think!

“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” cried every parent of children a certain age as Boris announced Lockdown No.2. “WHAT IN HELL’S NAME AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THEM NOW?” Contrary to popular belief, children don’t simply sit quietly at home assisting with chores and reading enriching literature.

Much like dogs, they require regular outings and a certain amount of rolling around on the floor. Fear not! We’ve rounded up a host of places they can do just that. Just don’t forget the dog – sorry – kid blanket for the car seats on the way home.


Denmans Garden, Fontwell

This gorgeous, Grade II listed hidden gem is still open (outside only, natch) and is compact enough to navigate with smaller ones. It’s also a great place to go for your daily constitutional with one other – a walk with a friend or parent around the tranquil gardens at Denmans will soothe all lockdown woes. Book your timeslot on 01243 278950 or email

Wakehurst Place, East Grinstead

The lovely gardens of Kew’s sister site Wakehurst are still open, and tickets are available on a time slot basis. Buildings are all closed, but there’s more than 500 acres of gardens, woodlands and nature reserve to enjoy – we challenge you to get round ’em all in your allotted time.

Leonardslee Lakes & Garden, Lower Beeding

Another listed garden, Grade I this time, Leonardslee is particularly breathtaking at this time of year. Park the whining with stunning shades of yellow, orange, red and bronze, and free-roaming wildlife including the famed herd of albino wallabies. Non-members need to pre-book online.

Nymans, near Haywards Heath

A knockout in the autumn, this National Trust-owned hotspot has gardens and woodlands galore to explore, and they’re open on a ticketed basis. Book online – we all know the drill by now. Pack a picnic. Christ, aren’t you just sick of picnics?

Sheffield Park, Uckfield

Another National Trust property with the most lovely autumnal gardens – get ’em running around and get some roses in those cheeks! It’s perfectly OK to plonk them in front of the TV after all that fresh air too.

Petworth Park, Petworth

To Muddy, Petworth Park will always be first and foremost the site of several unsuccessful Brownie and Guide camps in which I spectacularly failed to make any friends or impress anybody with my outdoorsy skills. That rose-tinted trip down memory lane aside, Petworth Park is so beautiful, especially in the autumn, with herds of deer moving across the glorious landscape, that you don’t need friends to enjoy it anyway. Which is just as well. Kids will adore the slopes of the landscape, perfect for hurtling up and rolling down. It’s National Trust owned but you don’t need book, just hope for a space in the car park.


Bramber Castle, Bramber

If you feel like perusing a crumbling ruin, step away from the headshot of Muddy and instead head across to Bramber to view what little remains of the castle. Spoiler alert, not much, but it’s a worthwhile trip, the views are fab and you can bore the kids senseless by exclaiming over the fact that when it was built in 1066, the castle overlooked the sea. Plenty of good walking around and about, so pack a picnic and make a day of it, which in November, is only about three hours.

Bodiam Castle, Bodiam

How do you take your castles, ma’am? Moated? OMG us too! The grounds of Bodiam are still open so you can admire the glorious 14th century behemoth from afar. It’s another National Trust special, so book online before you head out.

Bedham Church, near Petworth

This one’s next on Muddy’s to-visit list – a ruined Victorian school that doubled up as a church on Sundays, tucked away in this tiniest of West Sussex hamlets. Built in 1880, it’s been abandoned for 60 years and the ghostly shell deep in ancient woodland is all that remains. Some say it’s enchanted, others that it’s haunted. The jury’s out but it’ll definitely occupy the kids for ooooh, three minutes. Find it off Bedham Lane, a few miles west of Pulborough off the A283.

Long Man of Wilmington, near Alfriston

Ooooh, look at that! Head up Wilmington Hill to admire the Long Man, pack a picnic and scoff it while you theorise who he is, how he got there, what happened to his, er, manhood (apparently it was once depicted) and other vital questions. BTW, he’s Europe’s largest portrayal of the human form – one to drop in oh-so-casually while you speculate.


Arundel WWT, Arundel

Still open for exploring and wildlife spotting, the WWT at Arundel has plenty of space for socially distanced days out. For obvious reasons the bird hides and buildings are closed but with 65 acres of wetlands teeming with autumn and winter wildlife activity, you should find enough to keep the kids happy.

Knepp Estate, Dial Post

Knepp Wildland

Brilliantly served with footpaths and bridleways, Knepp kept many a Sussex wanderer sane over Lockdown 1 and it’s set to do the same this time. Kids will adore the space and there’s wildlife galore including rare and wonderful sights like wild white storks and herds of free-roaming pigs, cows, deer and ponies.

RSPB Pulborough Brooks, Pulborough

The trails, car parks and toilets at this lovely wetland nature reserve are open through lockdown so it’s a great one to visit if you want a bit of predictability – ie a parking space – and don’t fancy making like a bear and going in the woods. The Fungi Trail is a treat at the moment, and keep your eyes peeled for migrating birds.


Well, this is Sussex by the sea, after all. Head to any of Sussex’s fab beaches for a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, because even when the sky is as gunmetal grey as the broiling sea, everybody still loves the seaside. If parking and amenities are important, head for Brighton, Worthing, Littlehampton, book ahead for West Wittering or try Lancing. For a more remote experience, Climping is highly recommended and Elmer is lovely but there are no facilities at all – including toilets.

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