Part of the Ilkeston Cam "Days Out" Series

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.


FishAcross The LakeIt 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.
Willow Swamp

Willow Swamp Information BoardWillow SwampWe 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.

Labyrinth Information BoardFrom 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!
Activity Trail

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 rushes.
From The Viewing Tower

LakePicnic AreaWe 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.
Playdale Adventure Playground

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 site.

More of the children had gathered under the spread of the Covered Amphitheatre and many of them were enjoying a picnic lunch.
Waterside Centre Walk

ConkachooBat CaveWhich 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).

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