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Take the kids to … RSPB The Lodge nature reserve, Sandy, Bedfordshire

Its wildlife trails and play areas make this free attraction a fun and affordable day out in the countryside – with the odd woodpecker for company, too

The RSPB’s headquarters is in a nature reserve that’s free to visit year-round and has great outdoors activities for children. It covers more than 200 hectares (494 acres) of heathland, grassland and woodland. Three trails run through the scenery, each a manageable 11/2 miles, and kids can pick up a wildlife-challenge checklist from the information point at the start, then exchange it for a certificate at the end. The woodpecker and nuthatch trails loop past a hide where it’s possible to watch birds feeding and the buzzard trail passes through an area that was once an iron-age hill fort. We walked this route, and the change in the landscape was incredible: from flat, open heathland cloaked in purple heather, to deep, thick woodland so gloriously overgrown that my children thought we were on a jungle expedition.

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