Park life! Muddy’s favourite green spaces
School's out and it's National Parks Week so - in the words of George Michael - let's go outside!
It’s National Parks Week (yup, it’s a thing) and also the first week of the summer holidays for many, so we reckon there’s a high chance you’ll be venturing somewhere green and pleasant this week. A third of people recently polled for a survey by heritage sites insurer Ecclesiastical said that national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are their favourite places to visit – the most popular choice ahead of historic building and museums. We’re certainly spoilt for choice in our ‘hood, so here are the parks in which the Muddy HQ crew will be strolling, lolling and, naturally, boozing on a blanket this summer.
Willen Lake, Milton Keynes (chosen by Hero Brown)
I’ll be whizzing the nippers up here in the hols to try the brand new £2m splash park, which is due to open any day now (yeah don’t worry, I’ll let you know the moment the spouts spirt). It has a whopping 60 water features and is open every day from 12pm-6pm. There’s lots to love here, especially if you’ve got active (OK, feral) children who need a good run out every day. With tonnes of green space, cycle trails, a playground, high ropes, BBQ and lakeside picnic areas as well as loads of watersports, I’m going to exhaust the little buggers if it’s the last thing I do.
Cutteslowe Park, Oxford (chosen by Kerry Potter)
If we’ve got a house bursting at the seams with visitors, we’ll often ship everyone out to Cutteslowe Park for a run around. My children – and their cousins and friends – love this sprawling, no-frills council-run park in North Oxford. There’s three playgrounds, a duck pond, an aviary, tennis courts, table tennis and acres of green space – we take a rounders bat and ball. And let’s not forget my 6-year-old boy’s all-time favourite activity – the miniature ride-on steam train, manned by lovely, enthusiastic, beardy trainspotter types (I’ve probably been on that darn train more than the Tube).
Regent’s Park, London (chosen by Sophie Hadjikyriacos)
Thank goodness for London’s Royal Parks – perfect for escaping the city madness for a while. I especially like a wander in Regent’s Park, not least because it’s easy to jump on the train home afterwards. Queen Mary’s Garden with its 12,000 roses is a sensory treat and I’m currently eyeing up the Open Air Theatre summer programme for a night out with a difference (the difference being it doesn’t involve going to the pub, ahem!). Speaking of pubs, hip boozer The Queen’s Head & Artichoke on nearby Albany Street is great for a bite if you’ve worked up an appetite with all that strolling.
Dinton Pastures, near Wokingham, Berks (chosen by Katie Molloy)
This one is definitely worth nipping across the border for, with kids/dogs bundled in the car. There’s 450 acres of woodland, meadows, lakes and rivers, and my girls love the playground here, with its sandpits, monkey ropes and wigwams. There are two cafes, one with hammocks – oh yeah. Plus – it’s easy to park and it’s deliciously freeeee!
Black Park, Wexham, Bucks (as chosen by Sascha Way)
Between Iver Heath and Stoke Poges in South Bucks and covering 535 acres of woodland and heathland, Black Park is brilliant for biking, dog-walking and running rowdy children ragged. The 10 miles of tracks and paths are well maintained, there’s a massive woodland play area and a sweet lakeside cafe. Need more to persuade your little darlings? Well, Black Park was a location for the Harry Potter Goblet Of Fire and Chamber Of Secrets films so it’s highly likely Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have touched those very trees – ooh!
Hinksey Park, Oxford (chosen by Sarah Taylor)
It’s easy to go to Hinksey Lido and not realise it’s within a gorgeous park, so I’d urge you to take the time to have a mooch around after you’ve swum. Or if you’re having lunch or visiting a museum in Oxford and afterwards need a blast of fresh air, then Hinksey’s your spot. I love how it’s a gorgeously green bijou oasis just a few minutes from the city centre, just off Abingdon Road. There are tennis courts, table tennis tables and a splash park – all pleasingly free, a grassy area for all your ball-throwing/ running around/ picnicking needs, a dedicated cycle track around the outside and not one but two lakes.