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Ponderosa, Heckmondwike

This was one of the best surprises I’ve had in a long time. For a small zoo, there is loads to keep you entertained, and it’s got great facilities. It’s been miserable weather today and I almost caved to Jess’s pleas of soft play this morning, but I held strong and it was the best decision ever… even better there was a soft play there which we had to ourselves so Jess got her wish too!!

Website: http://ponderosa-centre.co.uk

Facilities: Excellent; lots of toilets and hand wash stations. Play areas indoor and out. Coffee shop and restaurant. Even a welly wash.

Pushchairs: Excellent for access, all entrances are level. So perfect for pushchairs. We only came across one set of steps all day, with ramp alternative!

The animals

It’s a small zoo, but it’s got great variety.

Indoors there’s a reptile house and small mammals. On a weekday there were two encounters. Despite Jess being happy in the past to stroke snakes, spiders, you name it, today she had the fear of stroking a tortoise shell πŸ˜‚. So no pictures, sorry. Interesting fact- they can feel the touch on their shell!! Mind. Blown.

Outdoors we struggled to spot some of the animals, I think the wet weather was forcing them inside, but those that we did were interesting and well kept. Jess liked seeing the ‘kitty’ aka the serval, and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t stroke it!

The Play Areas

On a dry day I think there would be enough here to keep you entertained for a full day. There are two fab play areas as well as a giant ‘beach’ that would be perfect for picnics. The play barn is an indoor soft play area, which I thought was great,but signs are up saying it’ll be closed from November so I’m excited to see what it’ll have in its place!

Food and Drink

There are picnic benches around all the outdoor play areas, as well as a covered area near the outdoor handling area, so plenty of space for you to bring your own. There is also a coffee shop on site (offering disposable cups for you so I could take my drink into the play barn) which sells a great variety of ice creams. The Lakeside restaurant is happily situated, see pics below, and although we didn’t go in looked to have a decent menu.

I think one of the best things about this place is that despite it being a really quiet day, everything was open and available. It’s one of my biggest frustrations when you head somewhere and half the facilities are closed off.

So try it, I’d really recommend a visit. I can’t wait to see what’s coming to replace the play barn and I’m looking forward to returning on a drier day to take full advantage of the play areas!

Exploring Sherwood Pines

Hugely accessible from Yorkshire, this great forest has plenty to keep you occupied for a day out. We seemed to be the only people there without a bike, but it has lots to offer families on foot! We’ve been to the area before; Sherwood Forest and NT Clumber Park are nearby but never stopped off… we’ll definitely be returning!

Website: https://www.forestryengland.uk/sherwood-pines

Parking: Β£6 all day, Β£4 if you squeeze it into two hours!

Pushchairs: Gritted paths mean routes we used were for pushchairs.

We’d promised Jess the Zog trail, and got her excited in the car by re-reading the story, so on arrival there was no question of doing anything else first! The activity pack was Β£3 and included a Zog face mask, stickers, activity booklet and animal reveal.

The trail itself was relatively short, so perfect for little walkers (but don’t expect it to take too long). Activities are a combination of Zog related questions (spot the dragons) and nature questions that get children to think and engage with their surroundings.

Certain activities are done to reward yourself with a star sticker from the activity pack. Jess is a massive fan of stickers so this went down a treat!

After the trail we found a picnic bench (there were plenty) for lunch. We sat next to a large field where families were playing ball games and running round, a great space.

Refuelled, we set off to do one of the two walking trails. The Dragonfly walk is just 1mile on gritted paths, and the Nightjar trail is 3miles, suitable for off-road pushchairs. They are super easy to follow (Jess was our leader) with marked coloured posts and plenty of benches dotted around the pretty woodland.

For Jess, walking without whinging is often for the bribe of a good play area at the end. Luckily we had a few to choose from, with a mixture of climbing, exploring, den building and sandpits!

Other activities that we didn’t try but that are available are;

  • The Gruffalo Orienteering Trail (Β£1.50 for the map) which is a really simple beginners orienteering course where you find 12 markers (although the link to the Gruffalo is only really by name)
  • Finding Gruffalo sculptures dotted about the woodland
  • Nets Adventure, which looked a bit ambitious for Jess, basically looked like huge trampolines with balls suspended in the air.
  • Go Ape
  • Mountain Biking

Next to the visitor centre there are good toilet facilities (changing area in male toilets too) as well as a cafe that we didn’t visit but seemed nice with indoor and outdoor seating.

Brayton Barff, 2km circular

We were visiting family near Selby today, so stopped off to do this short walk on our way there. It’s been a scorcher, but the well-surfaced main path is through woodland and so we thoroughly enjoyed the shade! Even better news is that if you come in spring you’ll find bluebells 😍😍

Route: https://www.yorkshirewater.com/things-to-do/walks/brayton

Parking: A small free carpark, it can get busy.

Facilities: None, but I’m sure you’ll find a decent country pub nearby, right? There are benches dotted along the path.

Pushchairs: At a little over a mile I’d say why not try to let your toddler walk, it’s a good early one! Otherwise the main route is completely buggy friendly.

The basic premise of Brayton Barff is a circular path around a hill. Whilst the path undulates, there aren’t any significant uphills/downhills. You get some lovely views over to Selby and Drax. There are lots of little trails to take you up the hill and explore, but these are not suitable for buggies. Plenty of little legs do though, and there are loads of examples of den building!

With little explorers I’m sure you could spend hours on this beautiful hill, but equally if you’ve got just an hour to kill when you’re in the area this is a great choice!

Nostell Parkland Walk, 2.5 miles

We’ve been to Nostell lots of times, but have stuck to the gardens and house on our explorations. Today I thought a visit to the parkland was much overdue. I’m so pleased I tried it, it was so beautiful there and a great place if you only have an hour to spare!

Parking: Plenty in the NT carpark, free to members or Β£7 all day.

Facilities: Cafe and toilets at the house (do not need to pay to access). Within the gardens is a good play area, free entry to NT members.

Route: Available on property map https://nt.global.ssl.fastly.net/documents/maps/1431729758418-nostell.pdf

Pushchairs: Technically it’s not classed as buggy friendly but I’d be confident with a robust buggy on a dry day, some of the paths are grassy. Not suitable for scooters, small bikes etc.

Dogs: There were plenty of dog walkers about, but you might want to detour in places where cows are grazing.

The route takes you past the lake and through fields up to Obelisk lodge.

The route back includes a path through grazing land where you got close and personal with the livestock!

It’s a great little walk and I’ll definitely be back with my little one!

Pateley Bridge and Fishpond Wood (2 miles)

We were looking for a short walk suitable for my three year old, and came across a set of suggested walks by The Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership. This first route takes you through the pretty village of Bewerley into ancient woodland, round the fishpond (where we picnicked) and down the hillside back to Bewerley. At just 2 miles my daughter walked it without complaint.

Route: Walk one from this page by the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership

Parking: Pay and display carparks in Pateley Bridge

Facilities: Public toilets in Pateley Bridge. Lots of choices for cafes and tearooms. Play area.

Pushchairs: Route is not suitable for buggies.

The walk starts following the road between Pateley Bridge and Bewerley, the path was quite narrow but there were few cars. We passed the auction house where sheep were being loaded onto a transporter. Interesting conversation about where they were going!! There were some lovely views from the road!

The woodland was pretty with benches to rest when needed. Before you get to the pond you can pop up the steps to see the 18th century icehouse.

At the pond there are a few benches to enjoy a break, and we stopped for a picnic, where some very tame ducks came over hoping for some of our sandwiches!

The path follows the edge of the pond and over a ‘trolly trolly’ Bridge (according to our daughter).

Leaving the woods you climb the Monks steps and are rewarded with great views, before walking down the fields and back to Bewerley.

Coming back into Pateley Bridge you pass the great play area, a perfect reward for any little legs! We finished the day with a trip to the nearby Brimham Rocks.

We’re looking forward to trying some of the other suggested walks so will be back soon!

Other blog posts on Nidderdale:

Pugneys and Sandal Castle

This is a great walk to start little legs off on hills! It’s a lovely walk round the lake and the walk up to Sandal Castle gives fab views over the surrounding countryside.

Route: http://www.wakefield.gov.uk/Longer%20Walks/Walks_Leaflet_12_Sandal.pdf

Distance: 3-4 miles depending on the path you take.

Pushchairs: Whilst the path round the lake is perfect for buggies, the path up to the castle is not!

Parking: Pay and display car park

Facilities: The visitor centre has a cafe and toilets. There are lots of picnic benches and a great playground.

We did this route in an anti-clockwise direction. There is a signposted path away from the lake to take you onto a tree lined path.

You can’t really go too wrong on this walk- you can always see the castle or lake so know which direction you should be going in! Heading up the hill there are great views of the castle and lake.

At the top you’re rewarded with great views.

The walk back is lovely, and you rejoin the lake path.

For a shorter route, the lakeside path is extremely child- friendly, read this blog.

Transpennine Trail, Woodlesford to Leeds City Centre, 10km

This great section of the trail takes you on a path between the canal and River Aire past Thwaite Mills. From here you can take a train back to the start. There is a bridge that has stairs up, so be prepared to carry your pram if you take it!

Route: Start at Woodlesford Lock and follow the marked path towards the city centre.

Parking: Free carpark at Woodlesford Lock.

Facilities: There are no services that you pass on route, so make sure you head to the loo before you leave! Otherwise it’s a fair way until you hit the Royal Armouries.

Pushchairs: The path is mostly grit or tarmac but there are muddy stretches in the middle, so maybe avoid after rainy periods! There is one set of steep stairs, so if you do take a pram you might need two people or some big muscles!!

Alternative: You could park atThwaite Mills and join the path there to walk to and back from the city centre. This part of the path is very easy.

Starting the walk at Woodlesford lock gives you plenty to look at with the canal boats. When you get to the next lock (Fishpond Lock) you need to cross to the other side.

You’ll be on this side for a while, the path passes under the M1 and through the woodland that sits between the canal and river.

Next up comes the difficult part of the walk if you have a pram (if not- crack on!).

You need to cross back across the canal via this bridge. The steep steps on the top picture below need climbing. At the other side of the bridge the path is the picture in the bottom left, but on the other side of the road (bottom right picture) there are no steps so an easier option with a pram.

The path passes Thwaites Mills here, before once again crossing the canal and joining the new path of the route.

From here you start to see the residences surrounding the city centre, and you can see the improvements that are being made to the area. Stick to the side of the canal and you can’t go wrong!

The trains from the city centre to Woodlesford usually run every half hour, but check before you go!

Other walks from Woodlesford;

Swinsty (3 miles) & Fewston (4 miles) Reservoirs

These gorgeous reservoirs North of Otley are perfect for pram walks and give fab views. I’d say Fewston is more picturesque, but Swinsty is shorter with better views over the valley… or you could do them both!

Route: Yorkshire water provide routes for both the Swinsty route (3 miles) and for Fewston (4 miles).

Pushchairs: Both fine for prams; Swinsty a little easier.

Facilities: Park at the middle car park (Swinsty and Fewston carpark) where there is a toilet block, picnic benches and often an ice cream van.

Both reservoirs are extremely easy to navigate- after all, you’re walking round two massive bodies of water so it should be fairly clear where to go!

Walking round Swinsty is mainly on wider tracks, it can be a little muddy approaching the car park from a clockwise direction. Fewston is on gritted paths.

A 6km walk around RSPB Fairburn Ings, Castleford

This is a perfect walk if you want to feel away from it all without actually getting away from it all! There are lovely views and there are good paths, so great for a pram and a pooch.

Route: I followed the green trail on this map before dropping down and following the blue trail back along the river. It’s about 6km in total.

Facilities: At the visitor centre there are toilets, refreshments and a nature play area (so no slides, more about exploring). Along the walk there are plenty of benches to stop and enjoy a snack or picnic along with the views!

Parking: Β£4 all day or free for RSPB members.

Accessibility: Grit paths, suitable for a pram. A little uphill at the start but then flat or downhill the rest of the way round.

We’ve previously walked through Fairburn Ings when we did a circular route from Fairburn to Ledsham, but we’d not ventured to the west side before. It was much prettier than I realised, with great views.

I started by walking up the coal tips path- I turned right at the top of the hill to walk round the ponds. These pictures really don’t do the views justice!

Rather than doing the full route I continued along the path south west towards the river, then turning round just before the old bridge to follow the river path back. Truly gorgeous!

If you have little ones, you could try some of the activities closer to the vistor centre, read our previous blog post here.

Walks nearby; RSPB St Aiden’s.

Harewood Estate Circular, 4.8 miles

This lovely walk is around the estate perimeter, with lovely views over the house, through the deer park and across to Almscliffe Crag.

Route: We followed this route from the Walking Englishman website.

Accessibility: Muddy in places but generally fine with a buggy. There is one set of steps in Harewood when you leave the path adjacent to the A61.

Parking: there’s free parking at the junction of Wike Lane and A61 (where the walk starts)

Facilities: None, and limited places to picnic other than the field you start in and the deer park. The route passes the Muddy Boots cafe which has a children’s menu, high chairs and changing facilities.

This is a relatively easy route, with a couple of hills but nothing too strenuous. It’s just enough to let you feel that you’ve done a decent walk! Great if you don’t want to travel too far out of Leeds.