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:

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!!

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?

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 join 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 great 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!

Eccup Reservoir, North Leeds (4.5 miles)

If you’re living in North Leeds, you’ve no doubt tried this walk before… it’s perfect if you want to feel that you’ve escaped from the bustle but don’t want to travel too far. It’s not pushchair friendly and might be a tad long for little legs, but is good for older children and is fairly flat.

Route: A good description on this site.

Distance: 4.5 miles

Accessibility: Not suitable for pushchairs. Fairly flat, but can get muddy and a few stiles.

Facilities: None. The Dexter is a decent pub a short drive away if you’re looking for food and drinks afterwards.

Parking: Park on Lakeland Drive or Alwoodley Lane.

I recently walked this with the baby walking group, and enjoyed some gorgeous Autumn sunshine.

After walking down Lakeland Drive, take the path on the left to walk round the reservoir in a clockwise direction. Whilst this walk doesn’t provide access to the waterfront itself, you are provided with lovely views through the trees during the first part of the walk.

The route should be fairly clear through the fields on this well walked route, watch out for lots of mud after wet weather!

After leaving the fields, there’s a fairly chunky walk along the road. Luckily it’s pretty quiet, but bare this in mind if you’re taking children with you.

The final part of the walk is along a path between the woodland surrounding the reservoir and the golf course. It is deceptively long, but this time of year it’s great to enjoy all these colours.

Be warned the climb back up Goodrick Lane to the cars feels a lot steeper than it actually is, especially if your legs are tired!

Overall, a lovely walk to enjoy if you need to stay close to Leeds or don’t want to venture too far away.

A Day in Rydal, Lake District

With friends over from Holland, this weekend we needed to find a good spot that both showed a glimpse of the beauty of the Lakes, as well as providing easy paths for the three little walkers we had with us. Rydal proved to be the perfect choice… and if you fancy a day here, let me suggest a good itinerary.

Spend the morning discovering Rydal Hall

Brochure: https://rydalhall.org/cms/resources/rydal-hall-2019.pdf

We had read about Rydal Hall from the rather brilliant Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District blog and decided we should give it a go! We parked in the gardens, you are able to leave your car all day for £5 with a permit from the Main Hall. The grounds aren’t huge, but that suited us fine, and we followed the little route suggested on the brochure. We loved reading the little informative signs dotted about to learn about the trees, and there were plenty of things of interest to keep our young children entertained, including waterfalls and sculptures. In the centre, behind the cafe, are toilets and a baby change.

Enjoy lunch in beautiful surroundings

There are a few options for lunch; the cafe at Rydal Hall is pleasant but doesn’t have the best options for children. You could enjoy a picnic, there are plenty of picnic benches in the grounds or you could head down to the Lakeside and find a spot.

The Old School Room tea shop is also a short walk away and is in stunning surroundings too!

Walk up to Rydal Caves

Another fantastic suggestion on the Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District blog. We used to walk around here frequently pre-children, so it was great to spot a walk in the area that was suitable for our three year old. We crossed the road from Rydal and across the little footbridge to take the path that joined the White Moss footpath. It’s not suitable for pushchairs, but a relatively short distance.

Remember when you get to them, that the first cave isn’t the main one. Keep going round the corner and climb to see the huge mouth of the cave. Entry is by stepping stones, or scrambling over the stones at the side of the cave- which was our choice with me and the baby carrier and our little one. We were massively lucky to find a choir in the cave itself, and enjoyed the music for a little bit. Just up from the cave was a great viewpoint over Rydal Water, and we took obligatory family photos before heading down.

Finish the day with a wander around Grasmere or Ambleside.

Grasmere is much smaller than Ambleside but has gift shops and cafes to mooch around, whereas Ambleside is much larger with more choice. There is a wide range of cuisines and many leisure activities to choose from.

If you’re in the Lakes for a few days you might wish to visit Grizedale, a fantastic forest with lots to enjoy. There are so many walks to enjoy around the area, if you have difficulty getting your child motivated, read this blog post for tips to keep them going!

Exploring Haw Park Wood

Maybe you’re like us; you’ve tried the Room on the Broom trail at Anglers, and perhaps have even seen the signs there for Haw Park Wood. But why try it when such a fantastic trail nearby? PLENTY of reasons. This woodland is amazing, gorgeous actually. The perfect place to go searching for a pixie village!

Facilities: The visitor centre has toilets, indoor crafts and games, and a new cafe with a good selection of hot and cold food. There’s a good play area too.

Waterton Countryside Discovery Centre

Route: There are a number of paths in the Wood (map here) but be warned that the signs in places have definitely fallen away so don’t rely on them.

Parking: Pay and display at the visitor centre.

Accessibility: The paths are flat with no stiles, but it can get muddy in places with really narrow paths.

From the car park turn right along the bridleway and eventually you’ll get to the woods (it’s a bit further than we anticipated but worth it, and Jess walked it all so don’t get put off).

There are a few things to see in these woods! Our purpose was to find the pixie village that is rumoured to be there! It isn’t signposted, so you have to hunt (but basically it’s behind this sign at the centre of the woods, where the five paths meet).

And let’s face it, it’s definitely more of a pixie hamlet than a village with only a couple of doors on trees. But we did spot a pixie swimming pool (water in a tree stump) and a pixie theatre (toadstools on a nearby tree).

There are other points of interest around the woods too… look out for the most picturesque of picnic benches, hidden toadstools and you could do follow a scavenger hunt.

We also played a few games on the way round. That old classic peg game was a huge hit with Jess, and we hid from the bears when we saw all the trees that they’d pushed over! For more ideas of activities whilst you walk, have a look at this blog post.

After we’d done all the exploring Jess could face, we headed back to the visitor centre to enjoy a luxury hot chocolate and a play.

If you want to make a full day of it, explore some of the other great walks in the area.