The antidote to soft play

Because I'm the sort of dad who'll do anything to avoid Kings Heath soft play hell-maze, Hickory Dickory's, I took my two to Compton Verney, just a 35-minute drive away, where they're hosting their absolutely bonza Summer of Colour programme. Set in over 120 acres of Grade II listed parkland, the historic former country house is a bona fide beaut and, until the end of March 2023, is the home to Morag Myerscough’s The Village (above). The techni-coloured, kid-friendly mini town is designed to disrupt and draw attention to the landscape, in which the original medieval village of Compton Murdak once stood. Six year olds, nine year olds and 42 year olds alike were drawn to it — though not all mastered navigating it with ease.

Elsewhere, Luke Jerram’s new interactive installation, Crossings, (above and on until Sept 4) invites groups of up to four people to take a brightly decorated rowing boat out onto Compton Verney’s iconic lake and listen to some incredible stories from around the world. As the water laps around you and the oars dip into the water, be transported into the lives and experiences of others from different parts of the world as you take a 30-minute audio journey to another life. It's got Cannon Hill Park's swan lake beat, all ends up. 

If you're looking for something a bit more indoorsy, you big coward, checkout the incredible retrospective exhibition Colour Is (until 2 October). This is the first large-scale survey exhibition of artist David Batchelor’s work, which spans three decades throughout which he has been preoccupied and fascinated by colour. His work reflects both a delight in the hues of the urban environment, and an inquiry into how we respond to this rapidly changing technological world. With great difficulty, if you're anything like me.

On top of all that they have playgrounds, sandpits, building blocks, 'Get Mucky, Get Making' sessions (every Thursday through the school hols), wooden structure building tomfoolery with the Woodland Tribe lot (until Aug 14), 3D artwork sessions and loads more. An absolutely spanking day out and, mercifully, not a slobber drizzled ball pit in sight. Check Compton Verney's website for dates, times and admission prices. Some events need to be booked in advance.