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!

Visiting Morpeth, Northumberland

Northumberland is truly a spectacular place to visit; beautiful sandy beaches, stunning castles at every turn, and historic towns to explore. And yet with all those visits, I rarely hear of people visiting Morpeth.
Just 20 minutes from Newcastle and 20 minutes from the golden sands of Druridge Bay, it’s not only a great base to see the region, but also a destination in itself. As an added bonus, you might bag some bargain accommodation compared to the tourist traps of Bamburgh or Alnwick.


Things to do and places to see in Morpeth

The Walk to explore Morpeth Lady Lucy’s walk along the river is beautiful to see, and can be made into a circular route by looping behind the Abbey remains and back to the town via a spectacular viewpoint. A good description of this walk is over on the great Rucksack Rose blog here (the second walk of the short routes). Just be aware that the paths can get extremely muddy, and part of the route passes through a residential estate where I definitely thought we’d taken a wrong turn. If you want to stick to the highlights, keep to the river path, the castle remains and viewpoint.

The Full Day Out If you’re a regular reader of my blog, or follow me on social media, you might be aware of my pure love of Cragside, the best National Trust property in the country. It is simply amazing, so if you’re visiting Northumberland DO NOT MISS IT. Rather than me bang on about it again, read this blog before you go. Because you ARE going, right?

The Family Farm Our daughter LOVES a good farm. And Whitehouse Farm is a great one. There’s a wide range of animals (with ample opportunities to handle and feed), as well as indoor and outdoor play areas. So it’s a good choice for a miserable day!
The Beach Now I’m sure, being a Northerner, that I am biased, but there is nothing quite like a Northumberland beach. Absolutely nothing. And wherever we go in the world, looking at a beautiful beach, a little voice inside me is always saying “it’s not a patch on Northumberland”. Just miles and miles and miles of golden sandy beaches. You’ll often be able to find your very own peace of paradise, and be the only one on the sand.Just 20 minutes from Morpeth is Druridge Bay; a stunning seven mile stretch between Amble and Cresswell. There’s plenty for little ones to discover; and take your bucket and net for the rock pools! If it’s a windy day, you can also visit the country park, where there is a lovely walk around the Lake. Details here.

The Place to kill a few hours
Plessey Woods Country Park is just south of Morpeth, and is probably one of the best places I can think of to explore woodland. There are lots of activities for children, and I don’t just mean the play area. Fairy doors, the ogre’s swamp, a wooden drum kit and outdoor games are just some of the fun things they’ve got going on. I really love it here, and it is perfect for a time filler between bigger trips, or to get some (more) fresh air at the end of the day.


And finally… the shopping! It’s a market town! Don’t forget to drop in to Market day on a Wednesday and soak up the atmosphere. The Sanderson Arcade should also be on your itinerary, which is home to some luxury stores, as well as some well known stores. So there you have it…. some of the best things to do in and around Morpeth. It’s definitely worth considering a visit. Other blog posts covering days out in the North East include;

Walking Catbells with children

Catbells is often considered a good first mountain for children. I think this implies it’s an easy fell to walk. It’s really not; but it’s a short climb, easy to navigate and easily accessible. And if you (and your children) are up for the challenge, it’s both beautiful and rewarding, with fun scrambles and fantastic views.

The OS Explorer map covering this area is OL4/ The English Lakes- North Western Area 👉OS Explorer OL4 The English Lakes – North Western area (OS Explorer Map) (Amazon affiliate link)

The walk starts Hawes End. There is a small car park which we used (get there early if this is your intention) or for even more excitement, take the Keswick Launch to Hawes End Landing Stage.

The usual direction is to walk over the fell from the North (anticlockwise). This means you climb up the scrambles and then descend down stone steps. The scrambles are very do-able for children (but probably a little harder for the parents watching their three year old navigating a rock face!).

Just remember if you are carrying a baby like I was, your balance is definitely impacted, so you need to be confident! I found it easier with a back carrier so I could see my footing a little better. Our daughter loved these parts, and her small feet found footholds that weren’t much use for us!

After the first steep ascent/ scramble (Skelgill Bank) it is difficult to turn back, so you need to be sure that young children are up to completing the whole walk. If you find that you often need to carry your children on your shoulders for much of your walk, this might not be for you; until you’re back on the bridlepath they’re going to have to do it alone (unless of course you’ve got a proper carrier).

Check weather conditions before you go; you want children to enjoy it, which they’re less likely to do if it’s freezing cold or blowing a gale. In summer be mindful that the ascent has no shade, so hats and lots of fluids are a must.

It’s really not a walk children should be attempting in wellies or other casual footwear; make sure they’ve got something sturdy with a good grip. After a bit of a hunt we bought these Gelert Walking Boots for Jess, which we thought were great value for little feet growing so quickly!

👉 Gelert Kids Horizon Mid Waterproof Infants Walking Boots Lace Up Breathable Charcoal/Blue UK C8 (26)

The top of Catbells rewards you with glorious views over Derwentwater and down Borrowdale. Try to walk on a clear day so you can get the best of them!

The great views continue as you descend on the stone steps down, just be careful on rainy days as they can be slippy!

You have a choice of routes that you can follow here, if you wanted something a little shorter (just over 5km in total), take the bridleway that forks left (towards the coniferous woodland), and hugs the side of the fell back to the start of the walk. Where the track drops to the road there is also an option to drop down to the Lakeside path and take that route back. This gives good views all the way.

The path forks ahead, where you can turn left to take the shorter route.

With children in good spirits, as our daughter was on this walk, you may fancy the longer route (10km), and continue the descent towards Manesty. After a brief walk along the road, you turn left towards the Lake and follow the path back all the way to Hawse End and the start of the walk.

Unless you fancy a detour heading into Grange, there are no facilities along the route. So you’ll need to take a picnic and/ or snacks with you. We found a great picnic stop on the side of Derwentwater, and enjoyed watching the launch pass us.

The path that returns to Hawes End is truly beautiful, winding through woodland along the Lake shore, with good prospects of the climb you’ve just completed. It’s fantastic. If you did get the launch to start the walk you could even pick it up earlier if little legs were getting tired!

Of course if the weather (or indeed the prospect of scrambling with an under 5) phases you, a great alternative is to take the bridle path half way up the fell and walk back along the shore line. You miss out on some of the fun but still get some great views.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you spend time enjoying this truly fabulous area of the Lakes. It’s popular for a reason!!

👉Nearby in the area you could also visit Whinlatter.

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?

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:

Finding Boggarts at Longshaw (NT)

Another weekend, another National Trust Trail!!

Longshaw, in the Peaks is an absolutely fantastic place to head to for gorgeous walking trails and outdoor adventures for children.

The Boggarts trail is based on one of the main walking routes that can be seen on the property map. Whilst the main path itself is suitable for robust pushchairs (some parts can get muddy), be warned the activities and exploring areas are largely set off the path.

The trail starts at the main car park, where you can pick up a trail guide for just a pound from the welcome building. Alternatively, you can follow the orange marked walking route and look out for Boggart signs!

One of the first discoveries is the little Boggart hamlet of Boggart Rise! All the little dwellings have doors that you can open and try to catch sight of one!

Other favourite activities were balancing at Boggart View and exploring Boggart Burrow.

There’s also a great viewpoint over the valley (although its largely obscured by our selfie)!

The Boggart trail’s final activity is found just off the orange route, on the path leading towards Padley Gorge, with more little magic dwellings.

If you’ve got a buggy, you’ll need to return to the orange route, it’s 1.7 miles in total. If you take a picnic it’s great for little ones!

However, if you’re buggy free you have the luxury of heading down to picnic or snack at the truly beautiful Padley Gorge. On warm sunny days you’ll find loads of families enjoying this wonderful spot, and there’s often an ice cream van parked on the road that you cross.

Without a buggy, you have another option to return to the car park. You can extend your walk by picking up the pink route, this brings the total length of the walk to 4.5km.

The pink route follows the stream, and whilst there’s no Boggarts to find there’s lots of fun to be had throwing in sticks and grass playing Pooh sticks! This path can get extremely muddy here, you have been warned!!

After crossing a footbridge the path leads up through woodland back to the car park. If you have older children there are some good boulders to climb on the way back.

It’s a lovely family walk, but if you fancy something a little more challenging then you might enjoy the fantastic 3 mile circular route of Mam Tor!

Mam Tor Circular Walk

If you’re looking for a challenge that young children will find manageable, climbing Mam Tor (the Shivering Mountain) from a car park only 50m from the summit could be the ideal choice!

Distance: 3 miles

Accessibility: The Walk starts with lots of steps… some muddy slopes can make for tricky walking in wet weather.

Route: The National have provided this route guide; https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinder-edale-and-the-dark-peak/trails/mam-tor-circular-walk

Parking: National Trust Mam Nick Car Park

The walk is easy to follow and the steepest climb starts from the car park, so it is over nice and early on!

The initial climb is on stone steps (can your little ones count how many?). There is a trig point at the top of Mam Tor, so it’s great for photos, with a beautiful 360 degree view. If you do this walk in finer weather you’ll likely see the masses of hand gliders taking flight from the top.

From here it’s a straight walk along the ridge to Hollins Cross, a cross roads in the dip of the ridge, and another great spot for 360 views. Be warned, it can get pretty windy along the ridge so if you’re walking in winter make sure you’ve got lots of layers! I think being so accessible there were many families who had come unprepared; it might be a family walk, but it is still a peak at over 500m so don’t get caught out!

The return walk passes under the Mam Tor peak, where the lovely views over Castletown continue. If it’s a colder day, you may prefer to choose this path for a picnic/ snack stop as it tends to be a little more sheltered than the ridge. Until you meet the road, and the path from the caverns back to the car park can get pretty muddy and slippy, so make sure you have appropriate footwear, especially in wetter weather. Whilst there is some uphill it’s not as steep as the start, and being on the way back to the start helps spur on reluctant walkers! If you need some ideas on how to encourage little ones to walk read this blog.

Back at the car park there’s often a catering van offering hot drinks, or you can drive down to Castleton with its excellent variety of pubs and cafes! We also like the Cheshire Cheese Inn in Hope, which does great food.

For future walks, or if you’re after a more challenging walk, the 61/2 mile circular from Castleton is a great one, taking in much more of the ridge and the glorious views!!