RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate

What a treat to get some sunshine for our visit to Harlow Carr today. These beautiful gardens were able to show off their spectacular Autumn colours, and we could enjoy them at our total leisure! Jess was entertained throughout with an Autumn I Spy activity, so was on great form… meaning we all had a great day.

Website: https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/harlow-carr

Parking: It was a busy day, but there was plenty of parking in the three free car parks. Alternatively, you can walk through the woods from Valley Gardens in Harrogate; map here πŸ‘‰https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/pdf/harlow-carr/harlow-carr-map-of-walks.pdf

Pushchairs: There are surfaced paths around the gardens.

Facilities: Good facilities, although be warned to two Betty’s tea shops had long queues.

Things to see

The gardens are predictably gorgeous, with lots of different areas to explore. The kitchen garden is a great place to start, and it’s lots of fun guessing what everything is (to be fair me and hubby struggled at times!)

Another highlight is the woodland walk, not least because of the beautiful colours at this time of year. This part is not marked as wheelchair accessible on the map, but was fine for our pushchair. After the recent rain there was also plenty of opportunities to jump in the mud!

Around the lake and the Lakeside gardens are just stunning. Until 10th November, Harlow Carr are hosting Seventy Days of Sculpture, and the lakeside provides a focal point for some of the fantastic pieces on display.

The Streamside walk is lovely to take in and wonderfully calming!

Activities for children

On entry we picked up an Autumn I Spy leaflet which was fantastic for Jess, keeping her entertained the whole way round the gardens. We didn’t have a pen to tick off the things she saw, so we just used mud rubbed in the boxes (which was an activity in itself)!

The play areas are small, but enough to keep little ones entertained, with obstacles to climb, balance and swing on.

Dotted around the gardens there is plenty to keep interest and to look at!

If like us, you enjoy a good picnic, there are picnic benches around the two play areas, and covered benches at the Teaching Garden. I’d definitely recommend taking something with you if you go at a weekend. We had stuff for Jess, but had planned on enjoying Betty’s… but the queues looked pretty long and with James screaming we couldn’t face waiting!

So overall, a lovely day! Whilst entry isn’t cheap, if you plan on returning, annual membership works out a decent price, and with changing activities and events throughout the seasons, it would be a good investment.

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

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!

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.

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.

Northwood Fairy Trail, York

There’s a little magic in these woods, if you listen closely and stay very still you might just find a fairy!

Website:https://www.northwoodtrail.co.uk

Northwood Trail is a 1.5km path through some gorgeous woodland. You get the distinct feeling that you’re not alone, and can find lots of evidence that fairies are around, from the toadstool fairy rings, to the overhead fairy bridges, to the fairy doors on the trees. You’ll even see the thrones of the fairy king and queen!

Jess was disappointed not to see a fairy (she’d hoped dressing like a fairy might encourage them to show themselves), but reliably informed us that they were sleeping, and was happy that she’d seen where they live!

The path passes a bamboo maze to find a fairy ring! Be warned, it’s not an easy one and you may be in there longer than you think!

Towards the end of the trail is an area for children to play, with plenty of chopped logs to climb over and a den building area.

Back at the start we enjoyed tea and cake at the GORGEOUS cafe (I imagine in winter it’s even more awesome) and visited the fairy museum.

We really enjoyed this truly lovely walk (even in the rain) but be warned there’s limited places for stopping on the trails, and nowhere to picnic. As such it’s not a walk that you can spend a long time on, so take that into consideration when deciding whether to pay up! It could definitely do with some activities on the way round, perhaps some puzzles or nature spots and rubbings. Having said that it’s still relatively new, so perhaps these things are on the way!

So it’s not an all-day attraction, but would be a great stopping point to the coast or moors. The cafe itself is worth a stop, and I think we would on our next trip to Bridlington.

PS When looking back at our photos Jess was delighted to spot fairies!! They were invisible to our eyes, but the camera never lies, and we can see lots of fairy orbs flying around the fairy ring… see, they really do exist!!

πŸ‘‰Another Fairy Trail that you might enjoy is Studfold! This is more of an activity based trail, so you can make more of a day of it!