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!

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!

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: £6 all day, £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 £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 (£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!

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!!

👉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!

Sundown Adventureland, Retford

We had THE BEST day at this amazing theme park for the under 10s! We’d been last year, and had a great day but left feeling the park was a little tired in places and needed some tlc. Since then there’s been some updates and improvements.

Given it was a sunny Sunday in July, it was great the park was busy but queues remained small and fast moving.

The park consists of a number of areas with themed rides and play areas. There are also small towns, with lots to explore and buttons to press! With a couple of indoor soft play areas there is lots to do in all weather 👍👍

At three, Jess was able to go on all but one of the attractions, and I was able to take James (7 weeks) on most things too.

The rides were definitely the highlight for Jess, her favourite was the water ride which was a pirate themed raft ride which squirted you as you went past! She liked driving the tractors on that ride; great that with four seats our whole little family could get on. Tip: the tractor ride has been the one with the longest queue on both visits so get there early.

My personal favourites were the flying pigs and ostrich ride!

The play areas are fab; we loved the fort with all the slides and Captain Sandy’s Play Cove which is based on a huge sandpit.

There are picnic areas all over, but there are plenty of food places too (if a little pricey). There’s a great ice cream shop!

If you have small children I honestly can’t recommend this place enough! We spent the full day here and still didn’t cover everything. I think the ticket prices are great value compared to other days out, particularly if you pay in advance!

o

Adventure Valley, Durham

Don’t go expecting bells and whistles, this place is refreshingly all about good old-fashioned family fun!

We’re up in Newcastle introducing James to family, so thought we’d take advantage of the trip to squeeze in a visit to Adventure Valley. We’ve not been before, and after seeing mixed reviews on the internet weren’t quite sure what to expect but I’m pleased to say that we had a great day, with lots of fun and laughs!

I’m not sure what you can compare Adventure Valley to; it’s great mix of farm, play areas and soft play. As with any of these places, on a sunny day it would be fantastic- particularly for slightly older children where you could set up a picnic base and let them explore the masses of outdoor play areas.

We were impressed with the selection of animals, particularly in creature corner which housed the world’s fastest tortoise (who didn’t move) and a variety of reptiles. There are regular petting experiences- even on a week day (although no pony rides through the week). Goat mountain gave you the chance to pull food up to the goats by a train!

The play areas are fab. In the bottom field there are loads of things to explore; slides, forts, sandpits, pirate ships, zip wire… with lots of picnic tables dotted about.

The Dragon Slide was a hit…. the first time Jess went down. Second time she fell out on the way down, not quite so successful! Think maybe for a little older ones.

The Bouncing Pillows were fun, and there was a separate one for over 5s which reduced the worry of bigger children jumping all over Jess!

As well as petting activities through the day, there are tractor rides and at weekends goat racing.

Other things to enjoy;

  • The indoor soft play area (including an area for under 5s) next to the cafe, which we thought was reasonably priced. There’s also an Indoor Wild West Area.
  • Pedal Go karting track for older children and pedal tractors for those too little
  • The Runaway Races for over 4s- like a huge slide in inflatable rings

I’m sure there’s more- you can pay extra to do adventure golf too. In the summer it looks like a Maize Maze will be open.

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

We bought tickets the day before online; as it was a weekday we paid £7.95 each (under twos free in). Personally I thought this was well worth the money. I’m not sure we’d make the trip from Yorkshire specifically for a day out here, but would certainly come again if we’re up this way and looking for a fun day out.

  • Cannon Hall Farm, Barnsley

    Making the most of the hubby’s paternity leave, on Monday we celebrated James’ one week birthday with a trip to the always-fun Cannon Hall Farm. Whilst he slept most of the afternoon, Jess had a great time and did not want to leave! We were so busy enjoying ourselves I forgot to take many pictures, so instead of a blow by blow account of what we got up to, here are the reasons we love to visit…

    The Play Areas

    Always happy with a slide, there’s a great adventure playground with lots of slides and tunnels. She loved the tube maze (pictured above)- especially when she saw what had happened to her hair! she spent at least half an hour on here exploring. We also tried the indoor soft play for the first time- what a fantastic space! There were some great slides, and for the younger ones a designated space.

    Farm Life

    It’s a farm! So seeing the animals is a clear perk. We were lucky enough to see newborn piglets en masse. And I felt suitably silenced complaining about the pain of breastfeeding when I saw 11 piglets climbing and squealing over each other to get to their tired mother. Never have I been so glad not to be a pig 🤣🤣

    As well as standard farm animals (pigs, goats, sheep, cows), there’s a really great reptile house. There’s also lots of opportunities to pet animals throughout the day. Jess was resistant to the iguana, but much happier to see the rabbits!

    Tractor Trailer rides are good fun- just be warned that through the week they’re less frequent.

    Quirky Activities

    Sheep racing and ferret racing are highlights of any visit here. The gambler in me always loves a good race, and combining this with some good ‘ole family fun is a winning combination!!!

    And finally….

    The food!! It’s got a great farm shop and cafes- including a dog friendly one. Get a stamp to enter/ exit the farm as much as you need.

    So in all a great family day out. Top tip; if you’re local after 3.30pm the entry price drops to just £3 and whilst you might have missed most of the organised activities, there’s still plenty of time for play and animals!

    Website: http://cannonhallfarm.co.uk/about-the-farm/

    Nostell, Wakefield (NT)

    Nostell has what every good National Trust property should have; beautiful gardens, good facilities, a decent cafe and an adventure playground. With some lovely walks it is a great choice for a day out with the family.

    Website and location: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nostell#Contact%20us

    Trail paths: https://nt.global.ssl.fastly.net/documents/maps/1431729758418-nostell.pdf

    Accessibility: Good accessibility generally (a few easy to navigate steps with a pushchair in gardens themselves). Parkland walk not suitable for wheels.

    Facilities: Everything you’d expect from the National Trust! Cafe/ toilets/ play area/ picnic benches.

    Parking: Free for members. £7 all day for non- members, but note this does not include entry to house, play area and gardens but you can use parkland and other facilities.

    We chose a beautiful sunny day for our latest visit to Nostell; everything looked so green! Being a weekday the site was relatively quiet, and there were parts of our walk around the gardens where we didn’t see a sole; absolutely gorgeous.

    Jess was delighted to see a swan with her cygnets too on one of the Lakes!

    The adventure playground was in sheltered woodland, but well spread out with a range of equipment. We have seen better I think from the National Trust (I think this might need a little updating), but it kept Jess happy enough!

    I was feeling a bit ‘too pregnant’ today to try one of the Parkland walks as I’d hoped, but look forward to returning post-birth! From the shop you could pick up a few nature trails to keep children entertained too- always a useful addition!

    Overall, as always, an enjoyable visit with lots to appreciate(although how couldn’t you on a sunny day) and we didn’t even visit the house, which I’m sure is lovely too!

    Xx