Moira - Conkers (The Heart of the National Forest)
w/e 24 July 2011
All this week's pictures were taken
with a Kodak DX6490
It's been quite a while since we had a "Day
Out" but when the opportunity to visit Conkers arose, armed
with a picnic lunch we headed off to Moira near Ashby-De-La Zouch
and the heart of the National Forest. Arriving shortly after
opening time we found that several Primary Schools nearing the
end of term had also decided to visit Conkers and the dimly lit
Discovery Centre became rather noisy with excited under tens
who flitted between the hands-on educational exhibits and fun
activities with an energy that left me breathless.
It was a relief therefore to enter the
relative peace of the terrace at the water's edge outside where
the shallow water was teeming with fish (left). In the distance
across the lake (rigfht) the structure identified from the map
leaflet supplied at the entrance as the Tree Top Viewing Tower
was visible and was one of our objectives although to reach it
we took a circuitous route.
We set off
from the terrace along a path to the right and soon reached the
area shown on the map as the Willow Swamp. This area of wetland
negotiated by boardwalks and islands enabled us to cross without
getting our feet wet. The information board (left) indicates
that a number of water loving trees have been planted and that
willow supports a variety of wildlife including 266 insect species.
the Willow Swamp we headed for the Labyrinth where another information
board described the difference between a labyrinth and a maze.
A labyrinth is a spiral walking course, the object being to follow
the path to the centre and then turn to return to the start whereas
a maze is a complex puzzle with dead ends and choices of route.
The board also explained that in Greek mythology the Labyrinth
built by Daedalus for King Minos to house the legendary half-bull,
half-man Minotaur was so well built that Daedalus himself had
trouble getting out. On exploring this labyrinth we found neither
Greeks nor Minotaurs!
One of the main features of this part of the Conkers site is
an Activity Trail which turned out to be an eighteen stage assault
course for teenagers and adults. Although we walked most of the
course I have to admit that I resisted any inclination I may
have had to hurl myself over or climb on the obstacles.
We then followed a trail through the maturing woodland to a clearing
that contained what looked like another obstacle on the assault
course but this in fact turned out to be just a work of art.
Yet another information board described the clearing as Artscape,
where visitors could create their own works of art from materials
found around the area such as leaves, pine cones, teasels and
We eventually reached the Viewing Tower where
platforms at various levels provided views over the site such
as this one from about half way up looking across the lake to
the Discovery Centre, the building in the middle distance being
the Story Teller Stand. A group of schoolchildren had congregated
nearby but we followed the path around the other side of the
lake (left) past a picnic area (right).
No visit to Conkers would be complete without a ride on the Conkachoo
so we queued for our turn on the train at the Discovery Centre
station and took the short trip to the Waterside Centre.
Adjacent to the Waterside Centre station is the Playdale Adventure
Playground, the alternative entertainment to the assault course
for younger visitors and obviously very popular as it was swarming
with some of the fourteen bus loads of children that were on
More of the children had gathered under the spread of the Covered
Amphitheatre and many of them were enjoying a picnic lunch.
Which meant that the paths down to the Waterside
Centre lake were virtually deserted so after a quiet look around
we took the train back (left), had our own picnic and re-entered
the Discovery Centre for another look around this time taking
the simulated treetop walk in the Enchanted Forest and through
the bat cave, lit only by the flash of the camera and the glowing
red eyes of the bats (right).