Five things to enjoy at Thornes Park, Wakefield

With some unexpected sunshine we decided to try a new park, and settled on walking around Thornes Park, just outside Wakefield city centre. It’s the perfect place to get some fresh air after a shopping trip! Here are the top things to enjoy.

The Pub

Ok, I might be an advocate for the outdoors, but I’m definitely not immune to the charms of the great Holmfield Arms. Food is good and decent value (it’s a Greene King pub). It’s child friendly and has a fab beer garden (complete with small play area) for those summer days!

The play areas

A toddler play ground is separate to the larger area so bigger kids wont sit on your little ones. For older children, there are some good climbing stones and two long slides.

The viewpoint

Climbing the hill in the park centre gives great views across Wakefield city centre.

The aviary

I love parks with an aviary, Jess loves looking at all the birds, and this one is clean bright and airy.


The park walk

At the end of the day this is a nice park! It’s about 2 miles around the perimeter… with fitness obstacles as you go if you fancy it. The route takes you past the duck lake, which was twice the size as usual with all this rain!
And in brighter months you can look forward to seeing the rose garden and finish by enjoying the miniature railway (operating in summer only for 50p a ride).

The useful bits

The paths marked on the map are surfaced, perfect for buggy walkers! The path up to the hill and viewpoint is partly surfaced and I reckon in the summer on a dry day you could get a buggy up. But it’s a complete bog at the moment so don’t try it in wet weather! Parking is free! We parked at the stadium car park, and walked towards the Wakefield college buildings then down to the duck lake. There’s a cafe too if pubs aren’t your thing. This is just up the road from Pugneys, so you could easily combine them for a full day out… or travel a little further to Newmillerdam or Anglers.

Northern National Trusts with a bit of WOW

Did anyone else get National Trust memberships for Christmas? If you’re looking out for how to make the most of them, here are some recommendations of the best the North has to offer! There are soooooo many fantastic places to choose from that I’ve wrestled with writing this… can I really not include my beautiful local property (Nostell) that I’ve spent so many happy times at? I’ve had to be ruthless, so here we go….

Cragside, Northumberland

Yep, it’s tops another one of my lists! I think because it has EVERYTHING. An absolutely stunning house in the most amazing setting, a great history and my favourite element; miles and miles of fantastic walking trails in their impressive estate. It’s worth a holiday in Northumberland just to visit. Honestly, just go. More here.

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire

Obviously this World Heritage site has to be included. The magnificent medieval abbey ruins are in beautiful grounds, perfect for a leisurely day exploring! There’s a great adventure playground and good, accessible paths. More here.

Stickleback and the Langdales

If you’re into the outdoors, perhaps you already have a bit of a love affair with the Langdales. The scenery is spectacular…and there are miles of walking trails to explore this piece of paradise. We love the National Trust campsite at Great Langdale, where you can start the Stickle Tarn Trail, a great short but challenging walk.

Brimham Rocks, Nidderdale

The best natural playground you could wish for! Children (and adults) of all ages will love exploring and climbing these impressive rock formations. The views over Nidderdale are both breathtaking and extensive, and on a clear day you can even see York Minster! More here.

Mam Tor, Peak District

One of the Peak District’s favourite walks, the shivering mountain is great for families, and for little ones starting at the top car park it’s a realistic summit which still can give them a good sense of achievement.

Other notable favourites

These all have their own bit of wow;

  • Longshaw Estate in the Peaks has beautiful walks, including the unmissable Padley Gorge
  • Catbells is a favourite walk for many in the Lakes.
  • Gibside, on the outskirts of Newcastle is another go to place for family walks
  • Wallington Hall has some fab play areas and the walled garden is just gorgeous
  • Clumber Park is impressive in size and the amount of things to see!
  • The Lake District’s Great Wood is a starting point for many good walks
  • Wray Castle on the banks of Windermere in the Lakes is a favourite for children
  • Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge is a must see for anyone loving stepping stones!

Home Farm at Temple Newsam, Leeds

On the first day of the half term, perhaps it was asking for trouble letting Jess choose our activity. The choice was Temple Newsam Farm (well, she asked for ‘the one with the pigs’ to be precise, but luckily, I knew what she meant). We needn’t have worried, it was absent of the throngs that I had imagined, and as usual, was a great visit.

At the risk of sounding like a tight Yorkshire (wo)man, one of the biggest positives of this farm is the price. Children under 5 are free (and over fives are only a few pounds), so taking my two alone is a great cheap day out! Parking is also free, as is access to the large play area (with a fun slide and zip line) next to the car park.

Inside the farm, there’s another play area for the under 8s, which is a great place for a stop and a snack half way round. There are good hand washing facilities everywhere, including at the play area. Is anyone else’s kid obsessed with washing hands? I suppose there are worse things to get into… but slightly worrying that she was more impressed with the hand washing stations than some animals!!

I absolutely love the range of animals here. It’s one of the largest Rare Breed centres in Europe, so you might well spot some breeds you’ve never seen before! And even though many animals were cosied up inside, there was still plenty to see… including lots of baby animals!! Piglets, kids and calves were a-plenty, hopping about and getting into mischief. Although not today, often piglets are running loose in the courtyard, which is great for the children to see!

If you are planning on heading there this half term you might spot some brand new little piglets, this sow looked seriously ready to pop bless her! Takes me back to how I was feeling this time last year….

In and around the farm buildings there is lots of educational information, teaching you about what life was like on the farm. Some of this is interactive, which keeps little ones entertained!

And after you’re finished you can go for a walk round the estate, visit the house or take a rest at the cafe. It’s a fab day out!

If you’re looking for more ideas of Farms, Zoos and animal parks in Yorkshire, make sure to check out the links on the Days Out in Yorkshire page!

Wentworth Garden Centre

A day out to a garden centre? I was a little dubious when a friend suggested taking Jess (3) there. But what a great suggestion!! Based adjacent to Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham, this is why we loved it;

Feeding the Animals

A visit to the farm is £2.75 for adults and £2.50 for children, with a bag of food just 60p. You’re able to feed Aplacas, Llamas, Pygmy Goats and Sheep. We had to go back for more food because Jess was so excited by them! Other animals (that you can’t feed) include pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs, meerkats and a wide selection of birds.

The Play Areas

There is a main playground in the garden centre, and within the farm there’s a brilliant undercover toddler play barn and a large outdoor sandpit. In the farm there’s a number of coin operated rides, including a race track. There’s also notices up about a new pirate ship area coming soon.

The Maze

Within the gardens is an absolutely brilliant maze. Perhaps it was because we had the place to ourselves, but we had loads of fun playing hide and seek within it.

The Gardens

They’re great to explore, with lots of little paths and steps to wander round. Within the gardens is a short woodland walk, an ice house, a bear pit and deer to find!

The Food

We loved the cafe; it had a wide selection of hot and cold food, a good children’s menu, and despite being busy, efficient staff kept tables cleared so we didn’t have to wait. In warmer weather there’s alternative places to try.

And remember it’s a garden centre!

So mum and dad stay happy with a good mooch about, including looking at the gift shop and pet and aquatic centre!

If you’re looking for a garden centre (or let’s be honest even if you don’t), and want to keep everyone happy, you’d be hard pressed to find a better choice. You’re welcome.

A day enjoying Bolton Abbey

It is difficult to identify a more picture perfect place to enjoy the winter sunshine! There are walks for all abilities here… and on this beautiful sunny day we enjoyed two of them!

Firstly some key info:

  • A map of the estate can be found here.
  • Parking was £10 all day. With a ticket you can visit different car parks, but we based ourselves at the Riverside carpark. Entry is otherwise free.
  • At each of the car parks, toilet facilities are available.
  • Many paths are gravel or surfaced, but there are definitely muddy parts, particularly across fields towards the Abbey.
  • Pushchairs are certainly possible in many places, but you need to be brave on the steeper paths. If you prefer to keep it safe, a good option might be to the Astrid and back from the Riverside carpark.
  • There are no traditional play areas, but there is a sandpit, and at certain times of year there are activities on the main paths… including Easter and Christmas trails.

Starting our morning walk at the Cavendish Pavillion, we decided to take advantage of the glorious sunshine and walk on the far side of the river towards the Strid, crossing at the Aqueduct and returning on the near side. We’d packed a picnic so we’re looking out for a good spot for lunch!

This path can get steep in parts, and be careful with a youngster as the path does have some serious drops in places! Jess is (usually) pretty sensible so we were confident she’d be fine. I can’t say for definite how far this route is, stupidly forgetting to start my tracker, but looking at the estate map I think a little over three miles. If you’re after something a little longer you could also walk up to Barden Bridge (previously done on this blog post).

Walking back was a bit colder in the shade! Luckily Jess was refuelled after her sandwich and the draw of ice cream (!?!) at the Cavendish Pavillion kept her going. I had an amazing chocolate brownie with my cuppa, which kept me pretty happy too!

After warming up we crossed back over the bridge, this time taking the river path to the abbey. This path is also steep in places, but there’s lots to keep children engaged including crossing a ford (although you can also avoid it), as well as a money tree!

Be warned, the field on the approach to the Abbey can get VERY muddy… the path along the side of the river (rather than cutting through the field) is a bit better, and also provides the opportunity for stone skimming!

To cross to the Abbey you have the choice of a footbridge or if you’re feeling brave, the infamous Stepping Stones!

After exploring the Abbey, we took the path alongside the road that takes you back down to the Riverside carpark.

Both children were fast asleep by the time we got to the road, a sure sign of a cracking day out!

I wonder what your favourite walks are there?

Moorlands Nature Reserve, YO32 2RE

We’re always on the lookout for a new nature reserve, this one, near Skelton north of York, is great for children! As well as enjoying the nature (complete with Nature Trail), there are loads of things to look at and explore.

Website: https://www.ywt.org.uk/nature-reserves/moorlands-nature-reserve

Route: A circular path leads you round the reserve, follow this trail map.

Pushchairs: The path does get narrow in places, but is fine would be fine for most pushchairs.

Facilities: None, but the nearby Haxby does.. including a Costa!

Parking: Free roadside parking

Our first visit here was on a Little Legs walk with the Baby Walking Group. Jess was immediately on side on entry, when she spotted some logs to balance on. I was more interested in some early Snowdrops blooming, gorgeous! If you visit later in Spring, this is a prime spot to enjoy bluebells.

The nature trail takes you around the reserve passing 10 posts of animals (they’re listed on the map linked above). We walked in an anti-clockwise direction, which meant that we could leave the tree house until later in the walk.

One of the first things you come to is the pond, with a platform to help you take a better look.

I wasn’t expecting the sculptures dotted about, but they were great, with a pixie tree our particular favourite.

The treehouse provided shelter for our snack, the children loved climbing the steps and peeking out the windows.

The final excitement came with the fairy circle outside the classroom. After this we “enjoyed” playing hide and seek back to the entrance.

Overall, this is a really lovely reserve, especially for small children to explore. It’s great if you live in York, but perhaps a little far from Leeds, unless you’re combining it with another trip. If you’ve got National Trust passes, you could visit the nearby Beningbrough Hall.

If your little ones need a little encouragement getting excited about being in the outdoors, you might find this blog post useful.

Shaun Glow Trail at Dalby Forest

Since my first visit to Dalby Forest about 10 years ago I’ve been absolutely enchanted. I love a good excuse for a visit, and the fact we hadn’t done the Glow Trail seemed to fit the bill!

We’d read about downloading the (free) app before we went. And obviously ignored it. And forgot there’s not really any phone signal there. So the first 20 minutes of our visit I spent in the cafe in the free WiFi waiting for it to download (it’s not massive, the connection was just slow) while Jess and hubby played in the rather impressive adventure play ground.

We also bought the activity pack for £3.50. The trail is recommended for 6-12 year olds. Jess was absolutely fine with the walking (she’s coming up 4) but didn’t get the concept of the trail as much. The activities were good, but I hate to say after standing there for 20 minutes getting the app, she was actually bettter using the paper clues in the activity pack. The app puzzles were a little beyond her…. but I think they would be good for older children (so the recommended age)! Online, I’ve seen examples of photos with Shaun which I also assume you can do on the app but we must have given up before that was possible, that or we didn’t see it (you can tell I work for a tech company, right?!?). In a nutshell, you CANNOT do the activities without buying the pack (you need the special pen) but if you have younger ones you don’t necessarily need the app too.

The walk itself takes you out the back of the visitor centre, and past the BBQ area where we stopped for a perfectly picturesque picnic by the stream. I can imagine in summer this is super busy, but we had the area to ourselves. It was a fantastic winter treat!

The trail continued uphill into some woodland. It really isn’t suitable for buggies after the first kilometre of so; it gets quite steep as you turn off the main track and is super muddy in places. It’s definitely a step up from the Zog Trail, despite it being not much further in distance.

The activities involved using a glow stick (UV torch) to identify shapes. Jess loved this, even though, as I’ve said didn’t necessarily get the whole spaceship theme.

Between the stops for clues there are also suggestions for little activities, our favourite was how many trees can you touch in 30 seconds. So obviously in the denser part of the forest we did this about five million, six thousand, three hundred times. Our favourite activity in the woods is always looking for signs of the bears, I’m dreading the day Jess gets too old for this because we love it soo much!! Every fallen tree, snapped branch, trodden leaf is a sign a bear has been through!

Back at the visitor centre we enjoyed some hot chocolates whilst Jess had her usual winter food choice of ice cream.

I think the walk’s just the right length for younger children.. the return to the centre is downhill which makes it easier for them! There should still be plenty of time to do another walk or maybe some bike riding afterwards. Make sure you do leave time for the play area, and a little play in the stream at the back.

If you wish to do another guided trail, I think you could mostly do the Zog trail without buying another pack, as the activities are written on the clues. There’s also a beginners bike trail from the visitor centre. Or you could just go and explore the beautiful woodland on one of the many walking trails. I cannot wait for the children to get older so that we can go on longer walks. There are also explorer packs that you can rent for £3; little backpacks with all the tools you need to explore the streams or woodland.

If you do make it out there let me know how you get on!

Details:

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?

Calverley/ Apperley Bridge Circular (4.5 miles)

A great walk which follows the easy canal path and back in the other direction along the river Aire. With decent pubs at Apperley Bridge and Calverley you have a choice of places to enjoy your well deserved drink or meal!

Parking: Roadside parking is available at Calverly Bridge, but be aware it can get busy and some spaces are for residents only.

Route: Starting at the Railway pub, walk along the canal to Apperley Bridge. Climb the short flight of stairs onto the main road, navigating through the grounds of Woodhouse Grove to pick up the river path (more on this to follow).

Access: Whilst the canal path is suitable for pushchairs the river path is not, being extremely muddy and you’d need to carry the chair up the stairs or continue further along the canal to come off. The walk to Apperley Bridge and back could be a nice option, particularly if you have lunch at one of the lovely pubs there. If you have an off road buggy you could potentially try the route if it is dry in summer.

Facilities: There are good pubs at both the start and mid-way points. At Calverly there is also a picnic area.

Vlog on walk: (be prepared for my ramblings) https://youtu.be/DXvBU_ae-rM

If like me, you’re doing this walk in winter, be prepared to get muddy! I’m not great at walking over a couple of miles in wellies (my calf muscles suffer), so I tend to stick to walking boots and avoid the mud where I can!

The two halves of the walk are nice and different. The first half is straight up to the canal, the path is surfaced and so easy walking and easy navigation. A train line accompanies you on the walk, so you are frequently greeted with the passing of trains. There are some beautifully picturesque parts that make you eager for more!

On arrival in Apperley Bridge you pass under a bridge, continue for another 100 yards and you’ll come to another bridge. To your right, take the stairs up to the main road.

Turn right and walk along the road until you reach the entrance of Woodhouse Grove School. It isn’t immediately clear how to get onto the river as the route has recently changed, but some friendly groundsmen gave me directions. On entry to the grounds head on the right hand road towards the pavillion. Just after this you’ll see a small path straight ahead that follows the other road. When you reach the wall turn right and head towards the 5 bar gate that takes you onto the riverside path.

The path takes you along the side of the River Aire and is a really lovely stretch.

Eventually the path leads away from the river, along the side of a field to join a little lane.. be aware this part can get really muddy!

If like me, you have an older map you may find yourself having to use your phone to navigate the streets of a new housing estate back to the start point. Essentially the easiest way on leaving the lane is to go straight ahead until you reach Calverly Lane. Turn right to take you to the bridge that takes you to your starting point.

The best end to the walk is to enjoy a home cooked meal at the Railway pub! It’s a really lovely route with plenty to see on your way round. Enjoy!!

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 up in 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 fab 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!