Hackfall Wood, near Ripon

Over the Easter weekend we visited this stunning wood. Of course, it helped that the weather was fantastic, but aside from that, the surroundings were truly beautiful, and Jess found surprises and fun round every corner. I was sooo proud of her, she walked nearly 4km without asking to be carried or whining once!

Website & Location: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/wood-information/hackfall/

Accessibility: Not suitable for buggies- there are steep slopes and uneven paths

Facilities: None, but we parked and walked from the Crown Inn at Grewelthorpe which is child-friendly, including toys! It’s 1/2 mile from the wood itself.

Route & distance: Walking routes can be found here. We did our own version -which was 4.5km from the pub. Follow the lane at the side of the pub until there’s a sharp bend to the right. You’ll see a path to the left here- follow this to the southern most entrance to the wood. From here, starting with the stream on out right we headed in a North East direction to the Sandbed hut. From there we went to Fisher’s Hall, and then down to Kent’s seat to cross the stream on the stepping stones and returning to the exit on the other side.

Anyone who went to Hackfall over Easter may have spotted that our route is remarkably similar to the Easter trail- and we’d actually planned to do this. Unfortunately it was a cash only jobby- and since neither myself or hubby seem to ever use cash any more, that put an end to those plans! But it’s a credit to the diversity and interest of Hackfall that Jess still was entertained the whole way round. She has a bit of a love of collecting sticks, which helped. But there were lots of places for hiding (or attempting to hide) which was a sure way to win her over.

Jess attempting to β€˜hide’

Our lunch spot was on the sandbank, a proper sandy beach!! Fantastic πŸ™‚ the perfect spot for a picnic, but quite steep steps to get down there. There were a few dogs in the water as well as one brave gent who fully got in and swam head under! Brrrrrrr. Be careful if you decide to paddle, the stones are pretty wobbly!

The follies such as Fisher’s Hall were gorgeous and fun to explore.

Another point of excitement was the stepping stones next to Kent’s seat. This is a good place for paddling too!

So overall a gorgeous walk, that’s not even mentioning that the bluebells were out in force as well as some daffs clinging onto life!

We ended the walk happy and ready for a drink, so we were pretty pleased with our decision with starting point!

Since it was so near, we followed this walk with a visit to Swinton Bivouac and Druid’s Temple. If you have time I’d thoroughly recommend- even if you just go for the ice cream!!

Rachel xxx

Druid’s Temple, nr Ripon

This 19th century folly is a gem of a place for exploration, and as a bonus less than a kilometre from Swinton Bivouac. If you’re in the area it’s a lovely place for a stop and wander πŸ™‚

Route: The short walk to the temple is on a well signposted decent footpath. For a bit of a longer walk the woods have other trails that can be followed- just pick up a leaflet at the start or let your legs find you a way!

Location: Start at Swinton Bivouac

Access: Our sturdy buggy would have been fine today, in wetter weather some of the tracks may have been pretty muddy.

Facilities: Swinton Bivouac is a great starting point, there’s a lovely cafe here (amazing ice cream) with fantastic views. There’s a bit of play equipment for children, some owls to look at and the Owl Barn provided a craft area. There’s also lots of space for running around and the all important toilets.

Such a simple walk I don’t need much of a description, so instead here’s some pictures! The temple itself is perfect for hide and seek games, and a gorgeous place for a picnic.

We’d already made Jess walk a fair distance today (we’d visited Hackfall Woods before coming here) so she saved her energy and used her push bike.

There’s some lovely views to enjoy! And on returning to the cafe there’s no reason not to treat yourself again!

Rachel xxx

A few hours of fun at Pugneys Country Park

If you’re local to South Leeds or Wakefield, and are looking to fill a few hours and burn off some toddler energy, a trip to Pugneys will be well worth a trip! Whilst the location near a major road system puts some people off, it retains its beauty and there is heaps to do & plenty to keep little ones entertained!

Website: https://www.wakefield.gov.uk/sport-and-leisure/pugneys-country-park

Distance: A walk round the lake comes in at just under 3km but there are lovely ways to extend-including heading up to Sandal Castle

Route: Super simple- follow the path around the Lake.

Facilities: Basically everything. From toilets to a cafe, from picnic benches to a fantastic themed play area. There’s even a miniature train that runs at weekends.

Parking: Pay and display- change only. It’s Β£2.50 for up to 4 hours.

Access: Path round the lake is perfect for any buggy or pram.

There’s not much description needed for a walk around a Lake, so instead here’s a summary of the best bits!

1. The Play area

A sandy boat wreck sets the scene for this absolutely fab play area. Clockwise from this round the Lake is an Outdoor instrument area.

2. Activities for children all around the Lake

Starting at the visitor centre there’s the ‘Blown Away’ trail that you can follow as far as the path to Sandal Castle (activity sheet here). We haven’t tried it- but there’s also a pack to buy from the centre.

Otherwise, not exactly meant for children, but lots of interest in the Trim Trail exercise stations!

There were also stands for a ‘Room on the Broom’ scavenger hunt. I assume you can find out about this from the centre too- we didn’t, but Jess did the activities on the posts (such as hop across the path). It certainly doesn’t look as big as the one at Angler’s Country Park, but a welcome addition all the same!

The miniature railway is another bonus, there is a facebook page you can find from the Pugneys main website (above) for opening times. Nice and cheap too; Β£1 single, Β£2 return.

3. Standard Park Life

It’s got all the basics that a good country park should do- and more. Ducks and swans on the Lake to feed, plenty of picnic benches, a bird hide and nature reserve and lots of grass to settle down on with a rug and a ball. There’s lots going on a weekends to watch in the form of water sports and swimming, and you can even hire bikes here. The cafe looks pretty decent although we haven’t tried it.

All in all a wonderful park, perfect when you’ve got an afternoon to fill…. let me know your thoughts!

Rachel xxx

A family walk around Otley Chevin, North Leeds

The last time we went to Otley Chevin was 7th February 2016. I know this because an hour after returning home I went into labour with Jess- she was born a tiring 47 hours later. Perhaps this is the reason it’s taken so long to come back here.

So as I write this in the car drove home I’m hoping there’s no repeat of that outcome after a little walk at 31 weeks!

Distance: lots of different routes you could take, we did about 4K.

Access: if you have a buggy, stick to the Bridleways, whilst some of the footpaths are fine others are extremely steep/muddy/rocky. We tried a buggy today and I’m just pleased I had an excuse to leave all the pushing to the hubby! Would be fine to take little bikes around- as many families were doing.

Parking: various car parks, unmarked spaces so gets tight at times and busy on sunny days. See the car parks here; https://www.leeds.gov.uk/docs/chevin%20map.pdf

Facilities: Not great to be honest, two cafes though so head there for toilets and food. Lots and lots of benches and a picnic/ ball games area.

Route: Lots, but today we kept it short. If you look at the link to the pdf map above, we parked opposite the Cheerful Chilli and tea room, and walked East straight towards Caley Wood. We then went straight ahead over the board walk and left at the end to turn back past the wetland. And then followed the path back to the car!

We had every intention of Jess walking this with us, but she had a total meltdown in the car, and after 20 minutes of repeated “I want to go in the pram”, we took the easy option.

After getting her own way, she was on good form on the way round, asking lots of questions about the things we spotted on the way round.

There’s some really good wooden sculptures and interesting things to do. If you fancy doing a ‘can you see’ style activity whilst you go round here are some ideas;

  • Baby elephant sculpture
  • A wooden bridge over wetlands
  • Wooden horse sculpture
  • Fallen tree
  • A rocky crag
  • Ruins of a cottage
  • An animal’s burrow
  • A newly planted tree
  • Surprise view
  • A den
  • (If you’re lucky!) A red kite

At some point I’ll upload an activity sheet for here!

There are some lovely views over Otley and Almscliffe Crag for a picnic stop (or as Jess says ‘snic-snic’), and plenty of benches around for snack stops and to enjoy the views.

If you have the time and inclination head up to Surprise View (or even drive up if you haven’t seen it)- really spectacular views and well worth the trip.

For lazy days there’s a picnic area with lots of space for ball games if it’s not too busy.

In all it’s a lovely place to spend a couple of hours wandering round- any longer and no doubt you’ll need a cafe trip to use the toilets, and little ones might start to lose interest. Have fun exploring!!

Rachel xxx

A morning stroll around Woodlesford Lock, LS26

I was all prepared to go for a bit of an adventure today… but the home shopping arrived an hour late, and the realisation of how much washing I had to tackle this first day back from holidays made me re-assess my options. So instead, I stayed local to a short walk along the canal at Woodlesford.

Distance: Just under 2 miles (3k)

Accessibility: Fine for most buggies. One side of the canal is a tarmac road, the other side is a clear footpath but can be muddy. Also have to navigate over the locks- I managed it 30 weeks pregnant, so shouldn’t be a problem!

Facilities: A small car park and roadside parking. Picnic areas. No cafe but sometimes a catering van parks up at weekends. No toilets.

Route: Super-easy! From the car park and lock (pictured top-left below), follow the road (don’t worry, no traffic) to the next lock along- cross the canal here and come back the other side!

Jess was in good spirits as we started walking as dozens of ducks came running towards us in hope of food! She often visits here with her nursery so took great pleasure in telling me where we should be headed πŸ™‚

The start of the walk is so pretty- besides the ducks we liked looking at all the different canal boats and there’s a lovely picnic area for those sunny days.

I then passed her a little activity sheet to complete as we walked. Excuse the drawings- it was a 2 minute job before I left the house and decided we were coming here, but might give you inspiration to do something better! Also COMPLETELY underestimated the number of ducks she’d be crossing off.

One of the first things you come across is some wooden carvings; a scene from the Gruffalo and a wooden elephant 😍😍

The rest of the walk up this side can be spent spotting birds (you might be lucky enough to see the nesting swans) and jumping in puddles.

Jess was delighted when two canal boats passed us- and everyone on them waved at us!!

When you reach the far lock you might be lucky and get to see it in action, but even if not it’s a good chance to explain how it works πŸ™‚ You can also see a wind turbine in the distance- Jess was massively confused by what this was, perhaps this would have been something more interesting to have used on her sheet!!

On the other side the path can get quite muddy, and sits between the canal and river, so is gorgeous to walk along! Not so gorgeous, but interesting for Jess, was the sight of diggers in the distance moving rubbish onto the waste disposal site.

We followed this back to the start to catch up with the boats who waved at us πŸ™‚

This is a great little walk if you have an hour or two to kill, and there’s loads of scope to extend it if you want (I’ll post some other routes over the next few months). Let me know if you try it and like it!

Rachel xxxx

Oakwell Hall Country Park, WF17, 2 miles

Facilities: cafe, toilets, play area, parking

Accessibility: the 2 mile nature trail itself is not suitable for buggies BUT there are lots of other paths to try out, just might be muddy in places. Use this map for access guidance.

Location:Nutter Lane,Batley,WF17 9LG

http://www.friendsofoakwellhall.org.uk/images/pdfs/oakwell_nature_trail.pdf

I love everything about sunny days β˜€οΈβ˜€οΈ it’s so lovely to see so many families out and about enjoying the fresh air! We weren’t planning on a walk today but this fabulous weather drove us here, a great decision even if I do say myself! We walked the superb two mile nature trail, before heading back to the centre to get ice cream and a trip to the play area. The sole ice cream van must’ve thought all his Christmases had come at once, massive queues in February!!

Oakwell Hall is a lovely place to spend a few hours- there’s plenty to do and see and well signposted trails. The play area has a good combination of activities for toddlers in a gated area, as well as larger obstacles for older children dotted about in the nearby woodland.

I think it’s the type of place that you can find something new every time you visit. Just be warned- unless there’s an easier way to get there that we haven’t found (highly likely) it’s a bit hidden away so make sure you have a navigator next to you on your first visit.

Anglers Country Park, WF4, 2 miles

What a gorgeous sunny day to try the Room on the Broom trail! It’s a 2 mile circular walk around the lake, with a Β£2 activity pack available to help you along your way!

http://www.wakefield.gov.uk/sport-and-leisure/parks-and-countryside/room-on-the-broom#rotb

Distance: 2 miles (9000 children steps!)

Facilities: Toilets, Visitor centre, Play area, Picnic areas, Drinks van, Bike hire. *Cafe set to open Spring 2919!

Access: Nice wide paths suitable for buggies and bikes

Parking: Charges do now apply- check website for current prices. http://www.wakefield.gov.uk/sport-and-leisure/parks-and-countryside/parks/anglers-country-park

We started the trail explaining to our excited three year old the characters to look out for- today she was going round on her bike as we walked behind her. It wasn’t long before we started to spot the wooden carvings- there are metal shapes dotted too for rubbings if you fancy it (there’s a sheet in the activity pack to use- unfortunately we didn’t spot it until we got home :-().

What would a lakeside walk be if not for an opportunity to feed the ducks? Bags of bird seed are available from the Discovery centre for 50p a bag.

There are lots of benches along the way to stop for snacks and to admire the view.

Back at the centre there’s a great playground for children- not a huge amount for toddlers, but a swing and a couple of slides are enough to keep our daughter happy!

The trail was a great chance to keep Jess engaged in being outdoors, she loved spotting characters and thoroughly enjoyed herself! Best of all she completely wore herself out and had a mammoth nap once back at home!!

Stainforth to Catrigg Force, Nr Settle

Distance: 2 miles.

Facilities: Car Park in Stainforth (machine takes card) wih public toilets. Nice looking pub with beer garden in village.

Accessibility: Not suitable for buggies

Route: http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/391880/walk-stainforth-and-catrigg-force.pdf

This is such a fantastic short walk, we’ve chosen a brilliant morning to do it; there’s a light covering of snow making everything incredibly beautiful. The sun’s out so not too cold and Jess is in a great mood. Prefect combination!

The length of this walk means it would be fine for younger ones- just be aware of quite a steep start. Once this is over you can enjoy the rest of it safe in the knowledge that any hard work is done.

After the initial climb it was great to see a bit more snow, and keeping Jess in the carrier was near impossible after playing with snowballs!

After taking time to appreciate the views over the three peaks we ventured down the rather slippy path to look at Catrigg Force, it was gorgeous and we can’t wait to get back here in the summer for a different view!

It’s an easy walk back down a lane to the village. If you’re on a tight schedule you could do this in a little over an hour, we took about two what with the excitement of playing in the snow, but in warmer weather would have taken a more leisurely pace and built in a lunch stop.

We drove over to Settle for lunch in front of the fire at the Golden Lion afterwards. Would thoroughly recommend it!

All in all a great short walk, one we’ll definitely be doing again!

Bishop Wood, LS25, Woodland Walk

Directions: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/wood/10644/bishop-wood/

Distance: Various depending on your routes, but I’d go expecting up to 5k

Parking: Free car park on road between Biggin and Thorpe Willoughby

Facilities: None

Buggy access: Main paths are suitable for buggies but it is a little muddy in places and there’s the odd fallen tree to navigate!

We stopped here for a few hours before meeting friends at one of our favourite pubs (https://www.theqott.com). It was a really lovely woodland, with good paths that our toddler enjoyed practising her balance bike skills on. Perfect if you’ve got an hour or two to kill, or are looking for somewhere new for a dog walk. But, beware there are no facilities, and so I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way for a day trip. I definitely think we’ll return, but no doubt under similar circumstances as today- a place to get fresh air en route to somewhere else nearby!

Pontefract Racecourse, WF8, A park walk

Distance: 2 miles around the full circuit, smaller routes also there http://www.friendsofpontefractpark.btck.co.uk/Walkingandrunningroutes

Parking: Plenty- head to the car park at the main entrance

Buggy friendly: Yes, around the full circuit

Toddler friendly: Yes- we took ours round on a bike

Facilities: Play area, pond. No cafe but perfect for picnics and an emergency McDs near the entrance.

Someone suggested we gave this a go- given its proximity to the M62 I wasn’t overly hopeful, but so pleased that we did! Have a look at the website first to get an idea of where you’ll want to walk http://www.friendsofpontefractpark.btck.co.uk/Walkingandrunningroutes

It’s a proper park area- complete with football pitches, playground, duck pond- even an area for flying model planes! There were loads of people when we went round, enjoying the winter sunshine. The 2 mile path that follows the racecourse is gritted, and there is a tarmac path around the duck pond. Other routes are grassy, so may get boggy at times. We’re looking forward to returning in the summer for a picnic day here!!