Wentworth Castle Gardens (NT)

This has been popping up on my news feed since it re-opened and I’ve been dying to see it! Absolutely did not disappoint. There really is a bit of everything; beautiful gardens, fantastic views, a sun monument, a castle to explore, and of course all the great facilities that you’d usually expect from a National Trust property.

Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wentworth-castle-gardens

Facilities: Everything you’d expect! Toilets, cafe and play area. Lots of benches dotted about.

Pushchairs: The gardens are fine for a pushchair, although I’d imagine parts would get muddy on wet days. The whole property is on a hill, so it might be difficult for scooters etc for little ones.

Dogs: Are definitely welcome!

Technically, this is our second visit. The first was a bit of a disaster….We decided to take Jess’s new bike which she decided she didn’t want after about two minutes. They’re pretttttty heavy now she’s bigger! So Steve started carrying it. James started having a meltdown. The heavens opened. We all got soaked. Jess fell over cutting both knees and screaming until she was having a meltdown too…. and we abandoned the day in favour of a (well needed) drink at the amazing Strafford Arms down the road.

This time round the sun was beaming down on us when we arrived which is always a good omen. First stop was obviously the play area; not only because Jess LOVES them, but because it’s the first thing you come to! Being a Monday it was nice and quiet so Jess had the place to herself. Absolutely fantastic space, with a toddler area as well as a fort and zip wire! There are a couple of picnic benches there too if you want to set up for a while.

With the weather so perfect, we skipped the cafe in favour of a picnic. I mean why wouldn’t you with these fabulous views!

We were told at the entrance the walk to the castle would be half an hour to 45 minutes, and I was a little worried because Jess was sooooo impatient to see it (are we nearly there yet? IS an actual thing). She kept telling me she was the Queen and wanted to see her home. But I need not have worried, there’s absolutely LOADS to see on the walk up. Firstly passing the temple (with a big hill to roll down- after the downpours over the last few days we skipped this), and then up to the gardens.

The Victorian flower garden is gorgeous and FULL of colour, and there are two sets of stairs to (almost- not sure what to call them) viewing platforms that give more great views.

I’d seen a sign for the sun monument, and naively thought it would be some sort of glorified sundial but nope… that really is a proper monument there!!!

And then the castle itself. Simply glorious. Now I’m not really a person with a problem with heights; skydiving, bungee jumping, climbing peaks, never been a problem. But I HONESTLY NEARLY CRIED with Jess when we climbed the spiral steps to the top of the tower. Having James strapped to my front probably didn’t help, but I nearly stopped circulation on her arm as we walked backdown I was squeezing so tight!! But Jess had lots of fun, and I enjoyed it more with her running around (at ground level!!!!) and exploring the other remains.

On the walk back we saw more of the gardens, they’re honestly beautiful and THE TREES!!! Oooooooh!! I do think the weather helped but it’s just gorgeous.

Jess was getting tired and James was getting cranky (he had his third set of jabs earlier which might have explained it) so after another turn on the play area we decided to head home.

I’m looking forward to returning and trying the walk around the Parkland, I imagine there are even more spectacular views!!

If you do make it over there, let me know how you get on… I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Rachel xxxx

Skipwith Common, York

Another new discovery for us! This is a lovely nature reserve and one of the last remaining areas of lowland heath in England. It used to be a bomber training airfield in WW2, and signs of this modern history add to the interest. Today we followed the 2 mile marked route, which was on tarmac path all the way, meaning we could take James in the covered pushchair to shelter him from the downpours!

Website: https://www.friendsofskipwithcommon.org.uk

Parking: Free, we parked on King Rudding Lane.

Facilities: Picnic benches and benches dotted around, but no toilets (nearby villages do have some good pubs!)

Pushchairs: Everywhere is pretty flat, and our route was great for pushchairs (as long as you don’t mind puddles!). The longer routes are largely unsurfaced.

Route: We followed the red route from this map, and the Friends of Skipwith Common websites provides this accompanying information.

Dogs: Are welcome but as this is access land MUST be kept on a short lead.

When we first arrived at the carpark it was absolutely TIPPING it down and we questioned our sanity at getting out the car (even Jess, lover of puddles, suggested she could just stay in the car). But, we had two hours before we had to be at our friends house in a neighbouring village, and it is #getoutsideday, so on went the waterproofs and off we went. I’m so pleased we did, the rain actually lightened as we went round- definitely did it at the right time of the day.

The walk starts on a little loop through woodland past a picturesque pond, and despite initial reservations, Jess was immediately onside with the puddles… at least she was until she suffered a mini Dawn French moment and jumped into puddle capable of housing the Loch Ness Monster. Water over wellies, wet feet and wet leggings. Good start to the walk!!!

The pond we passed had a little viewing platform, and information sign.

It’s access land, and there were loads of brown sheep wandering around. It’s a bit surreal really, I’m used to seeing sheep roaming around fields so it was a bit odd to see them appearing from behind the trees!

There are a few viewing platforms dotted about, and on a drier day I could imagine enjoying a picnic or taking some quiet time to enjoy the view.

The remains of the bombers training camp are so interesting to see, and whilst Jess didn’t have a clue what we were trying to tell her about, we found it pretty impressive! There’s a memorial there too, again not something easy to explain to a three year old.

It’s a great place to explore, and we’re looking forward to returning to do some of the longer walks! If you struggle to keep little ones motivated whilst you do walks, read this blog post for ideas on keeping them entertained!

Rachel xx

Brimham Rocks, Summerbridge (NT)

This is probably one of the most iconic places to visit in Yorkshire. It’s the dream playground for adventurous kids, and, let’s face it, us adults too! If you haven’t been (errrrrr why not?!), in a nutshell this National Trust site is a collection of rocks which are millions of years old, sculpted into weird and wonderful shapes… with fantastic views over this amazing county. Pictures (especially mine!!) simply do not do it justice.

Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brimham-rocks

Parking: Pay and display car park, free for NT members. Entry to the site itself is free.

Pushchairs: Whilst you can take pushchairs on the main paths, the main appeal of this place is to explore. I’d recommend a carrier for non-walkers.

Facilities: a ten minute walk from the car park is the visitor centre, toilets and refreshments. There’s an indoor area for picnics in bad weather, and lots of picnic benches outside, but no proper cafe.

We visited Brimham after doing a short walk in the area, and I was a little unsure on how much there would be for Jess (3) to do… memories pre-children consisted of heady heights and steep drops, but there really is something for everyone; and you can do as little or as much as you like.

Nothing here seems off limits, literally anything goes so you can scramble and explore to your hearts content. In this world of health and safety it’s massively refreshing to be able to test your boundaries, although we had to keep a close eye on Jess and there is always the scope for idiot behaviour (the horrendously sad episode of last year case and point).

There are plenty of photo opportunities, and for even more entertainment watch the hoards of selfie takers with their multiple pictures of various expressions in EXACTLY the same pose. I realise this might be an ironic observation, given the fact I’ve included a number of pictures in this blog but HONESTLY….

A previous visit with friends!

The views are spectacular, and at the visitor centre there’s a great picture that not only shows you the names of various rock formations, but also points out key locations on the distance such as York Minster!

To make sure you see everything check out the property map, but you may be like us and just go where your feet take you!

We love a good trig point!! The one at this site is just behind the visitor centre.

Whilst we let Jess pretty much dictate our visit by pointing to which rocks she wanted to climb (and us saying no to 90%!), the National Trust website suggests some good ideas for a more structured visit;

  • A Spot the Rocks trail, taking you on a guided walk of the key formations
  • Picking up an explorer backpack from the visitor centre which teaches children about wildlife and geology on the site
  • Geocaching; there is a series of seven easy to find which are perfect for children.
  • Child friendly events– look at the What’s On page to discover Storytelling and Nature Explorer dates.

So to summarise; if you haven’t been, or it’s been a while, make it a priority. I definitely had left it too long (although not sure if my heart could take Jess climbing at a younger age). It’s much better in dry weather when the rocks aren’t slippy and you can enjoy your lunch taking in the views. If you’re planning a full day there perhaps check out one of the activities they have for children. Enjoy!!

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 😂. 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!

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 £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.