Dippy on Tour: Your guide to taking the family to see Rochdale’s diplodocus

It’s been a long time coming but Dippy on Tour has finally made its way to Rochdale and there is so much happening to celebrate.

The 70 foot-long diplodocus has been installed by a team of technicians and will be officially unveiled on Monday, February 10.

As part of its successful bid to host Dippy, which left its usual home at London’s Natural History Museum to embark on a UK tour in 2018, Rochdale council had to prove it would pull in the visitors with a host of events.

And there are plenty of them happening in the borough and further afield.

Here’s everything you need to know about taking the kids to see Dippy

Where is it?

Visitors can meet Dippy at Number One Riverside – the council’s customer service centre, office and library building.

He’s on the ground floor of the building and you can drop in during opening times to see him.

Groups of 10 or more are asked to booked in advance, as are school groups. You can visit the website here to book.

The accompanying Dippy Exhibition is a 10-minute walk away at Touchstones gallery.

How much is it?

Dippy is free to see and the Dippy Exhibition at Touchstones is free to visit too. Accompanying activities at external venues are mostly paid-for, including a Dino Dash at Rochdale Leisure Centre, but more details on those below.

What is there to do at Number One Riverside?

In addition to seeing the dinosaur skeleton in all its glory, Number One Riverside will be home to lots of accompanying activities, including a giant diplodocus lego build, a sensory storytelling room, a dino discovery lab and more.

The Lego brick build will take place over the weekend of March 21 and 22 and families are invited to drop in between 10am and 5pm.

Ranger Rob will be visiting on Easter Monday, when families can drop in between 10am and 3pm to see his reptiles, amphibians and creepy crawlies.

The sensory storytelling room is for all ages, but mainly aimed at developing younger children’s natural curiosity and imaginations. Children can learn all about seasonal change, the natural world and habitats through loose play, puppetry, storytelling, musical instruments and making dens.

This room will be open for visitors and school groups to explore on a drop-in basis in the mornings, while afternoon sessions, delivered by library staff and other providers, will be available for families to book on the website.

The dino discovery lab includes microscopes, mystery objects and multi-sensory exhibits and there’ll be scientific demonstrations taking place at random times.

Gettin around?

Touchstones is a 10-minute walk from Number One Riverside, possibly longer with little ones in tow.

But to make the trip part of the experience, a trail map has been created to connect both venues.

Using either a paper one, or downloading a mobile-friendly app online, it has been created to guide visitors through Rochdale town centre.

Families can learn interesting facts about the historic landmarks that they’ll pass along the route, children can complete a quiz to collect Dippy’s bones to complete their own Dippy dinosaur skeleton and learn some fun facts about the natural world and biodiversity linked to the exhibition.

What is at Touchstones?

There’s all sorts to keep children busy inside Touchstones.

The exhibition, which takes place across three galleries and is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, features interactives and hands-on displays to help visitors learn all about dinosaurs and the natural world.

Touchstones

In the dinosaur gallery, visitors can learn more about the diplodocus and other dinosaurs including the fearsome T.rex, get up close to items such as fossilised bones including teeth, eggs and even dinosaur poo and take a look at world class fossils are on loan from the Natural History Museum and Manchester Museum.

In the Swampland gallery, visitors can travel back to 300 million years ago to see what Rochdale would have been like, exploring an immersive atmospheric space where giant plants grow and strange creatures roam.

Here’s where you can also see the fossil of the famous Rochdale scorpion, who would have lived in a boggy swampy landscape, and watch as the scorpion ‘comes to life’ through augmented reality.

Finally the In Our Changing Planet gallery focuses on how small changes can make a big difference to the future of our planet.

Highlighting the importance of bees for biodiversity is a huge display of 1,400 knitted bees swarming above – all of them knitted by volunteers after a shout-out to the community and some sent from as far as Spain.

Touchstones is also home to Dippy’s original tail – from the original cast loaned from the Natural History Museum.

What else is there to do?

Elsewhere in Rochdale there’s a host of events taking place to accompany Dippy on Tour, as well as some across Greater Manchester.

February half term events include everything from a dinosaur treasure hunt around Hollingworth Lake, to dinosaur discos, a dino dash at Rochdale Leisure Centre and free dino science sessions at Touchstones.

On Friday, February 28, there’s a free showing of the Walking With Dinosaurs film at Heywood Civic Centre, from 1pm. Call 0300 303 8633 to book.

There’s more planned over the Easter holidays too, including the return of the dino lab at Touchstones and multi-sensory theatre for under fives and their families.

Accessibility?

There’s wheelchair access and accessible toilets at both Touchstones and Number One Riverside.

At Touchstones an area has been turned into a cloakroom to give space for people to park their pushchairs while they visit the exhibition.

Special relaxed teatime sessions have also been planned for children with sensory needs.

Quiet Time with Dippy takes place between 5.30pm and 7.30pm on February 27, March 19, April 23, May 14 and 28 and finally on June 18.

A quiet, less crowded space will be offered at both venues during these times.

Opening times

Both Number One Riverside and Touchstones are staying open seven days a week while Dippy is here.

They’re open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm at weekends and 10am to 4pm on bank holidays.

Dippy is at the site until June 28, but the exhibition at Touchstones will continue until September 5 so that families can visit over the school summer holidays.

Food and drink

There are cafes at Riverside and Touchstones – both selling hot and cold drinks, as well as sandwiches, cakes and snacks.

Special dino lunch boxes will be on sale for little ones. Costing £4.95 they include a sandwich, a drink, a packet of crisps, a piece of fruit and a dino gift. You will be able to heat up baby food and milk too.

There are plenty of other restaurants and cafes nearby, or once it’s warm enough for a picnic, you can head to Rochdale Memorial Gardens or Broadfield Park, both of which lie between the two venues. There’s no indoor space for picnics though.

Toilets / baby change

At the council offices there are two blocks of unisex toilets on the ground floor.

Baby changing facilities are available in the block located towards the centre of the building facing the library.

Touchstones

The toilet block located at the rear of the coffee shop includes a Changing Places toilet and is key operated.

At Touchstones, toilets and baby changing facilities are on the ground floor.

Gift shop

No day out is complete without a trip to the gift shop – not if the children get their way that is.

Both venues have a gift shop selling the same Dippy on Tour souvenirs and pocket money gifts.

The range includes dinosaur teddies, books, travel mugs, jigsaws, mugs and more.

Addresses

The address for Number One Riverside is Smith Street, Rochdale, OL16 1XU.

Touchstones address is The Esplanade, Rochdale, OL16 1AQ.

Getting there

The Metrolink stops just outside Number One Riverside and you can get a family travel card from £3.60 to get to the Rochdale Town Centre tram stop. You might even be lucky enough to catch the special dinosaur tram.

Produced in partnership with Transport for Greater Manchester, the tram has hit the Metrolink network to promote Dippy’s visit far and wide and will be travelling across the network for 16 weeks.

If you’re driving then there’s a choice of places to park. If you don’t mind paying then the closest car park is at Mecca bingo, (OL16 1YH), next to the council offices.

This costs £2.50 for up to three hours, or £6 for up to 12 hours.

If you’ve not got cash on you though, there’s no option to pay with a card so you have to either get the paybyphone app or text REG and your number plate to 65565, so you may as well register before you get there to save time.

Alternatively there are other car parks at the Rochdale Exchange Shopping Centre (OL16 1YL), Town Hall Square (OL16 1NJ) which is free for up to three hours, or Hopwood Hall College Rochdale campus (OL12 6RY).

So is it worth the trip?

These people certainly hope so. Dippy’s arrival has been years in the planning, Rochdale is the only place in the north west to see him and it’s hoped he’ll bring thousands of new visitors to the borough from miles around.

Darren Grice, deputy CEO of Link4Life, said: “Dippy is one of the most iconic and gigantic exhibits we can think of, so we wanted to make sure the exhibition at Touchstones is one of our most ambitious and exciting ones yet.

“The team, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Natural History Museum, have worked really hard to produce an experience that includes exhibits, digital innovations, events and education. We think it’s going to be really special and we can’t wait to welcome visitors from across the region and beyond.”

Touchstones gallery

Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, community and culture at Rochdale Borough Council, added: “We certainly do things differently in Rochdale and our approach to Dippy’s visit is no different. That’s why we’ve got two fantastic experiences across two venues to create a full morning or afternoon out, which is all free of charge.

“With loads of interactive and hands on elements for children to get involved with, this exhibition is sure to fuel their imaginations. It will get them excited about our planet’s fascinating past and help them understand how to protect it in the future.”

For more information visit the website here.

Article source: Manchester Evening News https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/whats-on/family-kids-news/dippy-tour-rochdale-opening-times-17700922