How to enjoy the school holidays without breaking the bank

For those worried about keeping little ones entertained during the school holidays whilst keeping costs low, Bewl Water in Lamberhurst, Kent has eased the burden by launching festive activities that won’t cost you a penny. The Magical Christmas Elf Trail and Elf Colouring Competition are just two things you can enjoy for free at the reservoir which also includes a nature reserve and two playgrounds.

Adventure Play Area

According to the Bank of England, the average household spends £2,500 monthly, with that total rising more than £700 in December and whilst the news comes as no surprise, the expensive month presents new challenges as kids break up for their final half-term of the calendar year.

A recent YouGov poll revealed that 40% of parents have said goodbye to their usual festive outings whilst 60% have spent less on Christmas this year as a whole.

In the bid to keep the festive cheer alive, Bewl Water, the largest body of fresh water in the South East launched two festive activities earlier this month to add to their inventory of free things to do.

The Magical Christmas Elf Trail and the Elf Colouring Competition allow children to experience some festive fun without costing parents both worry and money.


The Magical Christmas Elf Trail

Due to popular demand, the free festive trail has had its open dates extended until January 3, 2023, giving parents the perfect excuse to get the family out into the fresh air during the Christmas break.

Maps can be collected from the Waterfront Café which will lead you to clues hidden throughout Bewl’s enchanted forest. Children will need to use the clues to unscramble the magical code and find the missing head elf.

For those who succeed, Bewl Water is giving away a seasonal treat back at the café which is also free for each child participating.

No bookings are required and for families looking to capture those priceless moments, festive selfie frames have been placed around the route.

Activities Manager Lani Fogarty said:

‘It’s been fantastic to see so many children enjoy The Magical Christmas Elf Trail’

‘We’ve had such great feedback, so it was only right to keep the trail open after Christmas too’. 


Magical Christmas Elf Trail Map

The Elf Colouring Competition

In the bid to design next year’s head elf, children can also enter the free colouring competition. Colouring sheets can be found in the Waterfront Café along with crayons where little ones can get to work showing off their best creative skills.

Designs should be entered by popping them through the Christmas post box in the café before December 28 when the winner will be announced on social media (@BewlWater).

Whilst parking at Bewl Water costs £6 for the day, other free activities include:

Drawings for participants of the Colouring Competition

Adventure Play

Designed for little adventurers with the most imaginative of minds, Bewl Water is home to two free outdoor playgrounds.

The largest of the two, the adventure pirate ship features sweeping timber structures and slides constructed around the Bewl Galleon – a washed-up pirate ship from the stormy seas.

With views of the natural landscape surrounding the ship, the playground enhances learning by boosting balance, agility, memory, and concentration through communication and teamwork.

The smaller play area is for children up to six years old and is also crammed with interactivity. Children can explore the climbing frame and navigate their way up the tower before enjoying the slide back down. Other fun features include a rocking boat and a basket swing.

The outdoor adventure play areas are open from 8 am – 5 pm every day.


Adventure Play Area

The Bird Hide and Nature Reserve

Just a short walk from Wards Lane, visiting Bewl Water’s bird hide and nature reserve with young children offers fantastic wildlife-watching opportunities that not only enrich their knowledge of the natural world but also offer a golden opportunity for family bonding.

Winter is a season of spectacle where trees are sparkling with frost and laced with frozen spider webs, making this activity popular all-round.

The bird hide, built by the Sussex Wildlife Trust is home to species such as Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe as well as Canada Goose, Mallard and Common Pochard.

The nature reserve, which has multiple roles including the conservation of species and biodiversity, can be found on the southern side of the reservoir. Here you’ll spot lots of wildlife on the water and around the shoreline where well over 200 bird species have been recorded.

Establishing these areas remains one of the most effective efforts for protecting Bewl Water’s endangered species and their natural environment, making the nature reserve out of bounds for water sports users and the bird hide out of bounds for dogs.

View of Bewl Water

Bike Riding

Whilst bikes are available to hire for 50% off until February 2023, families can bring their own and enjoy the wildlife-rich trails around the reservoir. Covering 12 and a half miles, the scenic bike riding paths are made up of woodlands and meadows where wildlife and picturesque views are at every corner. Take a picnic to enjoy a spot of lunch before stopping off at the free play area along the way.

Bicycles for hire with a bird sitting on a wheel

Winter Photography Competition

After the beautiful arrival of snow, Bewl Water kicked off its photography competition which encourages visitors to capture the beauty of winter at the reservoir.

Bewl Water said they want visitors of all ages to get involved and entries can be submitted via social media using the hashtag #BestOfBewl.

The winner will be announced on March 20, 2023, where the crowned photographer will have their work featured across all marketing platforms as well as receive an annual parking pass worth over £300.

Bewl Water with settled snow

For interviews, images, and more information, please email

Editor’s Notes: Bewl Water is the largest stretch of open water in the South East. Located in Lamberhurst Kent, the 800-acre site is open all year round where incredible landscapes, native wildlife and woodland adventures are just waiting to be discovered. With miles of scenic pathways to walk, cycle, run or ride, and hundreds of protected species to uncover, Bewl Water is packed full of healthy outdoor fun for all ages. Bewl Water is privately owned and is part of the Elite Leisure Collection group of companies.