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Fancy a bear hug?

A super-sweet exhibition 'Bears!' from Henley's River & Rowing museum definitely has the cuddle factor for the under 10s. Grab a teddy and go!

What’s with the weather? Sunny, blowy, rainy –  make your mind up August! Tricky to plan days out in this weather, but if you have young kids I can recommend Bears! at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley as a lovely day out and whatever-the-weather option.

You have the museum itself, with the cafe onsite (and outdoor seating), plus you’re right next to the river for walking or feeding ducks, a huge park to loll about in, and then Henley itself if want to eat out (Muddy pick: Bull on Bell St, very relaxed for families with courtyard and gorgeous interiors).

So the exhibition. Its come from the National Centre for Children’s Books and runs both downstairs and up in the museum, and invites children to experience or revisit some of literature’s most famous bears, from Paddington and Winnie the Pooh to Rupert, and the bears children have spent years trying to avoid on Michael Rosen’s famous ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ (original annotated manuscripts adorn the walls, below, which makes fascinating reading for grown ups).

As always with the River & Rowing Museum a relatively small exhibition is brought to life with clever creative elements  – so there’s a bear in the downstairs closet…

… letters you can send to your favourite bear via the post box, a lovely trail for littlies…

… and bear costumes to put on (yes, I did, and I fully recommend it as a liberating experience!).


Upstairs is my favourite bit – aside from a large ‘glade’ where little ones can roll around and make believe or possibly just pick their noses while parents bust a gut trying to read to them, there’s also a bedroom where kids can go read their favourite books, tucked up under a granny knit blanket, or maybe just play. Look at the child (not mine) literally clambering under the bed. He was wearing a bear hat at the time, it was totally priceless.

This exhibition is absolutely aimed at littlies – don’t take your tweens for fear of the dreaded rolling eye and exasperated exhale (haven’t got there with your kids yet? you wait!). But certainly if they’re under 10 they will enjoy a romp around their childhood stories, and if they’re under 8 it will be a massive treat.

Make sure they take their own teddies, and also keep an eye out on the website as there are special Family Fridays with bear games and crafts with Bears Bears Everywhere! on the Friday of the Bank Holiday Friday 29 August – an excuse for an early calming gin and tonic if ever I heard one.

Bears! 3 Aug – 3 Nov, 2019. River & Rowing Museum, Mill Meadows, Henley, Oxfordshire, RG9 1BF. Tel: 01491 415600.

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