Alternative green days out

Gleaming white wind turbines scattered across grassy hillsides. Solar panels glinting in the sunshine. They might not sound as appealing as, say, a visit to one of the UK’s historic castles, but we reckon green energy sites can rival stately homes and gardens when it comes to family days out. What’s more, they’re great for showing the younger generation how moving to renewable energy sources can help protect and preserve the natural beauty of our countryside and urban green spaces. Here are some of the loveliest energy-centric days out.

Whitelee wind farm

Eaglesham Moor, near Glasgow

The UK’s largest onshore wind farm opened in 2009 and has embraced its status as a family attraction, with a visitor centre and regular kid-friendly activities.

Highlights: Grab a bite at the café and learn more about renewable energy in the exhibition space, which has a virtual reality experience that takes you to the top of a turbine. There’s also a range of free Whitelee Countryside Ranger events, including a weekly parent and baby stroller walk, guided walks and nature activities.

What they say: ‘If the sun is shining, bring a picnic and bike or walk some of the 90km of trails. Or join the Whitelee Countryside Rangers for bog stomps, beast hunts or bivvy building. You can relax and enjoy the stunning view from our café, take part in kids craft activities and find out more about Scottish Power’s clean energy story.’

Interesting fact: Whitelee has 215 turbines with the capacity to power nearly 300,000 homes. 

Alternative green days out; Whitlee

Westmill wind farm co-operative

Near Watchfield, Swindon

A community-owned wind and solar farm, with five turbines and over 20,000 solar panels, set on a working organic farm.

Highlights: Open days offer tours of the wind turbines and solar farm, with activities such as blacksmithing, kite making and plant spotting. You can also arrange to visit by appointment with larger groups by phoning ahead.

What they say: ‘It’s the only place in the UK where you can see and understand how renewable energy and biodiversity go really well together, led and explained by a knowledgeable guide.’

Interesting fact: The site hosts activities including light-painting photography and fashion film shoots, with costumes made from recycled materials.

Alternative green days out; Westmill

Green Britain Centre

Swaffham, Norfolk

Something of a trailblazer in the world of renewable energy, when the turbine at the Green Britain Centre was built in 1999 it was the UK’s first megawatt-class windmill and was more than twice the height and three times the capacity of the average windmill in the UK. If that isn’t impressive enough, it has a publicly accessible viewing platform, which is 67 metres up and offers 360-degree views of the Norfolk countryside.

Highlights: Those with a head for heights can climb the 300 steps to the top of the windmill. Alternatively, visitors can wander through the organic gardens and orchard, or enjoy a bite to eat at the on-site café.

What they say: ‘We’ve some unique displays and information focused on three of today’s big issues – energy, transport and food. Visitors can explore the world of renewable energy, which harnesses the power of the wind, sun and sea. They can take a closer look at the transport of the future to see how we might all get around in a world without oil, and learn with food that it’s our small choices that can make a big difference.’

Interesting fact: The viewing platform was designed by Sir Norman Foster, architect of the Gherkin and New Wembley Stadium in London.

Alternative green days out; Green Britain

Sandford Lock Hydro

Kennington, Oxfordshire

Surrounded by public footpaths in Lasher Weir and accessible all year round, this community-owned hydro generates electricity from the flow of the River Thames. The lock itself dates back to 1630, with the community project set to be completed in September 2017, so visitors will be able to see the work in progress.

Highlights: The public footpaths along the river are perfect for a family walk, stopping off to watch the three huge Archimedes screws that power the hydro.

What they say: ‘Sandford Hydro is the largest community-owned hydro on the Thames. It’s situated between two villages just south of Oxford and can be easily reached by public footpaths.’

Interesting fact: The hydro has a ‘fish pass’, which allows schools of fish to pass through safely – part of a commitment to ensure minimal impact on local wildlife.

Alternative green days out; Sandford Lock Hydro

Rheidol power station

Aberystwyth, Wales

Located above the beautiful valley of Rheidol in mid-Wales, the power station is made up of a complicated interconnected group of reservoirs, pipelines, dams and aqueducts, which help it pump out enough energy to power 12,350 homes annually.

Highlights: Take a walk along the nature trails or drive around the reservoirs for breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Entry into the visitor’s centre and tours of the station are free, and there are plenty of fun, educational models for younger children to play with.

What they say: ‘There’s plenty for all ages to do in the area. Whatever the weather, you’ll find something of interest and it won’t cost the earth – there are loads of free things to do.’

Interesting fact: Upstream of the power station, a fish ladder was cut into the rock to bypass the Rheidol Falls. The ‘ladder’ rises six metres and has 14 pools, and has opened up new spawning grounds to fish.

Alternative green days out; Rheidol power station

If green energy is important to you, make sure you check out the latest energy deals to find one that’s the right fit for you and your family. 

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