Great walks for Christmas with a country pub!

Amidst all the craziness of shopping, nativities, wrapping and parties it’s easy to lose sight of what we should be treasuring over Christmas; families! What better way to enjoy time with families than with a festive walk… finishing with a mulled wine at a country pub.

We love a good Christmas Day walk, it’s a great way to spend time after breakfast and presents… and helps you build up an appetite for Christmas Dinner!! And if you want to avoid the chaos of Boxing Day shopping, take the opportunity to get out and into the fresh air- and walk off all the stodge!

Here’s some suggestions of good walks around Leeds with a pub (although mulled wine is not guaranteed 🤣)! Most pubs are open Boxing Day, Christmas Day hours are given below.

A walk around a park The superb Roundhay Park has surfaced paths (perfect for pushchairs), two lakes, play grounds and woodland! For a quieter stroll, head up the Secret Gorge for a picturesque path along a stream. Finish for a drink at the atmospheric Roundhay Fox, open on Christmas Day 11.30am- 6pm.

Along a canal The beautiful canal stretch between Woodlesford and Methley has a path both sides for a circular walk. There are no stiles, but it can be really muddy on the stretch between Lemonroyd Marina and Methley, so make sure if you take a buggy it’s suitable for off-road paths! The Boundary House in Methley is just a little walk off the canal, and is one of my favourite pubs, open for drinks 12-7pm on Christmas Day.

Around a lake Newmillerdam Country Park is absolutely beautiful anytime of year, but in winter if you’re lucky the frosty views are spectacular! The paths through the woodland and around the lake are mostly buggy friendly, and the cosy Fox & Hounds is a great way to warm up after (open 11am-2/2.30pm on Christmas Day).

Exploring woodland Hackfall Woods in Nidderdale are a great place to explore with little ones, be careful if it’s icy because paths are narrow and could be slippy! Warm up with a drink at the nearby Crown Inn at Grewelthorpe- there’s a path next to the pub that leads straight to the pub.

Away from it all One of Yorkshire’s favourite walks has got to be the Burnsall to Grassington route, about 3.5 miles each way. Maybe a little far for little legs, but it could be a good choice if you’re lucky enough to have a baby in a carrier! The Red Lion at Burnsall is famous for its warm welcome, great food and good atmosphere.

Something longer For a full day walk, there is a great moor from Ilkley across Ilkley Moor and over to Addingham. You can take the return leg along the River Wharfe, it’s about 11km in total so not a one for little walkers! We did this a few years ago on New Years Day- the perfect way to walk of those festive drinks and a great way to start the New Year! The Fleece in Addingham has just been given a new lease of life, and perfect for a mid-way lunch!

This year we’re spending Christmas up in Newcastle, and are planning to head to the truly fabulous Cragside for our Boxing Day outing! What are your plans? Do you have a favourite walk at Christmas time?

The Muddy Boots 2020 Family Challenge

As the time to make some New Year resolutions nears, let me introduce you to a family challenge that gets you out walking at least once a month… as well as showing you some of the best family walks Yorkshire has to offer.

The concept is simple. 12 of my favourite Yorkshire family walks to complete in 12 months. I’ll be suggesting the months to do each walk on my social media, but feel free to mix them up if needed! Whilst some of these routes are buggy friendly, encourage your little ones to walk as much of the routes as possible (read this blog post for help).

You might be able to identify some of the walks from the pictures… but if not here we go!!

The Gnome Roam at Newmillerdam. At just under two miles with loads of activities on the route, this is a great starting walk to get little ones enthused about getting out and about. A pub at the end can get you warmed up from the cold.

Nature Trail at Oakwell Hall. This two mile route has two loops, so half way round you can stop off at the cafe to refuel… and the pull of the play area gets your little ones to restart!

Golden Acre and Paul’s Pond is 5.5km… and is suitable for buggies that don’t mind mud! Refuel and warm join the scrummy cafe.

Ilkley and Middleton woods is best done April/May to see the glorious bluebells. With views over Ilkley and a walk along the river, this has a little bit of everything…

Up in Nidderdale lies the fantastic Hackfall woods. You might catch the bluebells here in May, but if not take a picnic and allow yourself to explore this gorgeous woodland.

Aaaahhh Heath. A summer visit means picnics on Heath common or drinks in the lovely King’s Arms beer garden. So summer is the perfect time to try this short circular walk.

One of Wakefield’s most popular family walks is the Room on the Broom Trail at Angler’s Country Park. Pack a picnic and some bird seed and enjoy following the trail round the lake.

Bolton Abbey is just picture perfect all year round. But on a sunny day you can enjoy a leisurely picnic as well as the views!

May Beck and Falling Foss. Walk away those September blues with a trip to the coast. Combine a visit to Whitby with this amazing and magical walk. Waterfalls, woodland and probably the best tea garden on the planet.

Damflask Reservoir is a great circular route with a great cafe stop on the way round!

Stanley Ferry and Southern Washlands Nature Reserve combines a canal walk with woodland.The Stanley Ferry Pub is well placed for a family friendly meal afterwards, so you might want to keep this as a winter walk.

The National Trust always does Christmas well, so why not leave a walk in the beautiful Nostell parkland until then, before enjoying the Christmas spirit at the house and gardens.

So there you go! At the start of each month I’ll be sharing a bit more about these walks for you. Make sure to share any walks with #muddybootsfamilychallenge. Good luck!

Eccup Reservoir, North Leeds (4.5 miles)

If you’re living in North Leeds, you’ve no doubt tried this walk before… it’s perfect if you want to feel that you’ve escaped from the bustle but don’t want to travel too far. It’s not pushchair friendly and might be a tad long for little legs, but is good for older children and is fairly flat.

Route: A good description on this site.

Distance: 4.5 miles

Accessibility: Not suitable for pushchairs. Fairly flat, but can get muddy and a few stiles.

Facilities: None. The Dexter is a decent pub a short drive away if you’re looking for food and drinks afterwards.

Parking: Park on Lakeland Drive or Alwoodley Lane.

I recently walked this with the baby walking group, and enjoyed some gorgeous Autumn sunshine.

After walking down Lakeland Drive, take the path on the left to walk round the reservoir in a clockwise direction. Whilst this walk doesn’t provide access to the waterfront itself, you are provided with lovely views through the trees during the first part of the walk.

The route should be fairly clear through the fields on this well walked route, watch out for lots of mud after wet weather!

After leaving the fields, there’s a fairly chunky walk along the road. Luckily it’s pretty quiet, but bare this in mind if you’re taking children with you.

The final part of the walk is along a path between the woodland surrounding the reservoir and the golf course. It is deceptively long, but this time of year it’s great to enjoy all these colours.

Be warned the climb back up Goodrick Lane to the cars feels a lot steeper than it actually is, especially if your legs are tired!

Overall, a lovely walk to enjoy if you need to stay close to Leeds or don’t want to venture too far away.

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: £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.

Bramley Fall, 1 mile

This might only be a short walk, but it’s got lots to explore along the way!

Route: Found on the following website: http://west-leeds-country-park-and-green-gateways.webplus.net/doorstep_walk2_bramley_fall.html. The paths are signposted at key points.

Accessibility: Along the canal path is fine, and you can get down and back up other ways, but this route itself would be difficult with a buggy.

Parking: Car park on Leeds & Bradford Road

Facilities: There’s a basic playground and picnic area. It’s a short drive to Kirkstall Morrison’s with a cafe and toilets, but there are none in the park itself.

This lovely route takes you down through pretty woodland (quite steep and uneven surface) onto the canal, crossing over a lock that we were lucky enough to see in use.

It’s a flat and easy walk along the canal- with the added bonus of a train line to the other side.

Crossing back over another stepped lock takes you back through the woodland. Before the playground you also pass outdoor equipment from a ‘Trim Trail’ that adds a little fun.

Five Fab Reasons to visit Harewood with children

We’re making the most of our Gardner’s World 2-4-1 cards and so today spent this sunny Friday afternoon at Harewood. The gorgeous weather kept us out of the house itself, so here’s our top five things we enjoyed whilst there!

1. The Himalayan Garden

All I can say is wow. Such GORGEOUS colours and beautiful setting with a stream running through and stepping stones. The fact a 3 year old was so taken by it just shows it’s charms. Absolutely lush.

2. The Bird and Animal Experiences

Through the courtyard you can enter the animal experience. Lucky them, they have a pretty incredible view! There’s a relatively small selection of animals, but enough to keep interest with rabbits, goats and pigs. The birds include penguins 😍 with a twice daily penguin feed to watch! There are also flamingoes, owls and macaws. Harewood and the surrounding is also famed for the possibility of spotting Red Kites, and we were incredibly lucky to see one really close during our picnic. Breathtaking.

3. The ferry across to a picture perfect picnic area

There is a free ferry between the bird garden and the picnic area- it’s a short trip across but a novelty journey to get lunch! There was a converted horse box selling refreshments- including Prosecco if the mood takes you!

4. The Play area

What would a family friendly day out be without a decent play area? This one is a good size with different age-appropriate equipment.

5. Pretty walks around the grounds

Walking from the picnic area towards the Himalayan Garden takes you past Fairy tree ❤️ If you have older children you could keep them entertained with one of the trails on the Families page of the website. The path between the walled garden and lake affords some stunning views, and we were delighted to see some cows cooling off!

Other highlights;

  • Food and drink is reasonable and readily available (including ice cream!)
  • The Curiosity Cabin; a place for little ones to learn and get creative
  • The House!
  • Facilities for changing and toilets 😂😂 such a mum comment but so important!
  • The walled garden- with scarecrow!

For full details of Harewood visit their website; https://harewood.org

Enjoy!

Discovering Wildlife at Fairburn Ings, Wakefield

We had planned on doing a walk today, but the weather was somewhat wetter than we expected, so instead we decided to spend the morning exploring and pond dipping at Fairburn Ings. We had a truly wonderful time, and with our newly acquired RSPB membership we cannot wait to return and do it all again!

Website: https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/fairburn-ings

Parking: At the visitor centre. Free for RSPB members, £4 otherwise.

Facilities: Toilets and refreshments (not a cafe) at the visitor centre. Play area with den building and bug hotels! Pond dipping, mini beast explorer packs. Multiple trails.

Accessibility: The discovery trail here is suitable for wheelchairs and buggies.

On arrival at the reserve we went straight to the visitor centre. The staff there were super friendly and really helpful! They showed us all the things we could get up to and talked us through the trail routes. However, with the wet weather (and my bump means I can’t fasten my waterproof!), we decided to stay close and take advantage of the activities we could do on the short family friendly discovery trail. The trail has lots of information around, and never mind Jess, I found a renewed sense of enthusiasm and learnt loads whilst walking round!

If you’re not a member, the £4 car charge enables you to access all the trails for free, but there are small charges to use the pond dipping (£2 per kit) and explorer backpack (£3 each).

Here’s some of the things we got up to;

Pond Dipping

The Pond Dipping Kit included a net, tub to examine any findings and a guide (that Jess proudly wore round her neck). I must admit we weren’t massively successful with our findings, but the dipping itself was a novelty and Jess happily kept trying!

Wildlife Explorer Backpack

After choosing the orange backpack (huge bonus points for the different colours!), we went off on our mini beast safari. There were a range of activities to do (rubbings, drawings as well as ‘discovery’ activities) and some really good resources included that helped us identify what we saw (a bird guide for example). Unfortunately the mini beasts we discovered got as exciting as a ladybird, but no doubt if we had longer we would have looked harder.

Jess was also excited to find a stethoscope in the pack, and took the opportunity to listen to the baby 😂😂

The Play Area

The Play area is really well thought out, whilst it doesn’t have your traditional equipment (other than a swing) the activities are designed to engage children and kept Jess really entertained. After all, you can find slides anywhere- but how often do you get do climb on a dragon fly or build a den?!

The Hide

When the rain got a little heavier it was the perfect opportunity to take shelter in the hide. Jess enjoyed watching the ducks ‘having a bath’. There were pictures around the hide to help us identify what we saw (I’m far from knowledgeable and so found it really useful to help Jess).

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our morning here, and I was disappointed to leave (Jess is spending the afternoon with her grandparents so had to cut our trip short). In better weather we’ll definitely be returning for the full day- perhaps do the activities in the morning then take a picnic and do one of the trails in the afternoon.

If you go, let me know what you think, I hope you have as much fun as we did!

A buggy walk around Temple Newsam, Leeds

Temple Newsam Estate has loads of different walks and woodland to explore, which is lucky as it’s on our doorstep! This route takes in some of the highlights.

Distance: Approximately 3.5km

Route: Use the estate map here, our route is highlighted below in yellow. Walking in an anti-clockwise direction means the uphills are on smoother paths nearer the house. This route is suitable for buggies, but it is steep in places and be warned in wet weather can get extremely muddy in places!

Parking: Free, we usually park at the playground

Facilities: Head to the stable courtyard for toilets and cafe. Home Farm is just brilliant and extremely reasonable.

Starting the walk from the house gives you gorgeous views of what’s to come! Pass by the entrance to join the pretty tree lined avenue to start the walk.

When the path forks, take the left path (Bridleway) to start the circular route. It’s a lovely view on the way down this hill, a bit at odds with the sounds of the motorway and glimpses of trucks!

Top tip: Look out for the gate on the right out of some woodland (16 on the map) for a pretty part of the nature trail to glimpse at. There are also some picnic benches in here if you want a quiet and picturesque spot! Be warned there are a few (small steps).

We were surprised to be able to see Little Temple as we passed below it- in the past the shrubbery has obscured the view but it’s all been cut back.

Following the route shown takes you on a quiet path to the back of Lakes, and you can follow this back to the popular Rhododendron walk up to the house and cut through the farm to the playground!

There are so many variations of this route and new places to explore in this fabulous estate! Keep your eyes open for the next adventure there!

Rachel xx