Muddy Kids: Get Back to Nature
Blow away the cobwebs with a breath of fresh air. Here’s my pick of the best local heritage properties, country parks, nature reserves, gardens and grounds.
Half Term Welly Wander, Draycote Water
Pick up a free trail leaflet filled with interesting facts and puzzles to keep kids entertained walking around the 5-mile reservoir before a play in the play area. Then warm up with a hot drink in the Waterside Restaurant with stunning views over Draycote or the lovely Toft Alpaca Coffee Shop (closed Mon & Tue), which serves locally sourced food and drink.
Family Fun Days and Snowdrop Walks, Baddesley Clinton
Grab your wellies and roam free on the natural play trail with stepping stones, rope swings, a hideaway hill and twisting labyrinth. Discover the bird screen in the woods. Inside the house families can pose for their very own family portrait in the Moat Room. There’s also a walk through the Arden countryside taking in the Stratford-upon-Avon canal to another National Trust property, Packwood House and another gentle stroll along the Grand Union canal towpath.
Knowle, Solihull B93 0DQ, nationaltrust.org.uk/baddesley-clinton
Packwood House, Lapworth
Go on Packwood’s Welly Walk using a child-friendly map through the woodland and get stuck-in den building. Discover the follies – playful art installations in the gardens given a contemporary re-working by artist Hilary Jack – and explore the bluebell woods where you’ll find a small Insideouthouse in the trees. Kids can see what’s growing in the Kitchen Garden, water some flowers and play in the Pottering Shed.
Packwood Lane, Lapworth, Warwickshire, B94 6AT, nationaltrust.org.uk/packwood-house
Stratford Butterfly Farm, Stratford-upon-Avon
I’ve spent a few rainy afternoons here and kids love it. Children can walk among hundreds of beautiful tropical butterflies in the Rainforest Flight area and see some of the world’s largest spiders in Minibeast Metropolis. After 2016’s £250,000 renovation, there’s new onsite toilet facilities. Open 10am -5pm.
Swan’s Nest Lane, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 7LS, butterflyfarm.co.uk/attraction/index.php
Ryton Pools Country Park
Enjoy lovely walks around the pools and a fantastic wooden adventure playground.
Ryton Road, Bubbenhall, Coventry, CV8 3BG, countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk/country-parks/ryton-pools-country-park
The Stockpot Cafe at Ryton Organic Gardens, Wolston Lane, Ryton on Dunsmore, CV8 3LG is a great family-friendly alternative place to eat, close by, with an indoor children’s play area.
Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park, near Kineton, Warwick
Over Half Term families can pick up a Winter Wander nature trail sheet at the Welcome Centre to complete around the Park, take part in nature craft activities at the Willow Tunnels, 1pm-3pm, go orienteering, check out the pond-dipping platform and visit Compton Verney’s excellent Adventure Playground, 10.30am-5pm.
Winter opening prices: Adult: £7, children (aged 5 -15) £3 and under 5’s free. A family ticket is £15. The House is closed until Sat March 18.
Compton Verney, Warwickshire, CV35 9HZ, comptonverney.org.uk
Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve
This 220-acre nature reserve is the headquarters of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in open countryside between Coventry and Rugby. There’s pools, grassland, woodlands, an Education Centre and Badgers Tearoom to explore. This Half Term children can take part in a Winter Woodland Wildlife Watch, a Woodland Adventure for toddlers, Teeny Tiny Den building for 2-5-year-olds. Check out what’s on here,
Brandon Lane, Brandon, warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/brandon-marsh
Ryton Organic Gardens
The perfect destination for anyone interested in learning more about organic gardening. Walk around a series of inspirational demonstration gardens, just outside Rugby. During the winter months’ entry to the gardens is free. The fab family-friendly stockpotcafe.co.uk serves up breakfasts, lunches, cakes and refreshments, 8am-4pm daily.
Ryton Organic Gardens, Wolston Lane, Ryton on Dunsmore, Coventry CV8 3LG, gardenorganic.org.uk/ryton
Coombe Abbey Country Park, owned by Coventry City Council, is right next to Coombe Abbey Hotel. You can wander around 500 acres of garden, woodland, lakeside walks and play in the woodland adventure playground.
Coombe Country Park, Brinklow Road, Binley, Coventry, CV3 2AB, coventry.gov.uk/coombe
Unspoilt rugged hills with a beacon, 12 Century All Saints Church and small woodland – good for kite-flying, walks and breath-taking views, £2 car parking (correct change needed).
Burton Dassett Country Park, Southam, CV47 2AB, countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk/country-parks/burton-dassett-hills-country-park
War Memorial Park, Coventry
I used to live a 10-minute walk away from here. There’s a great 2-mile perimeter path for walking, jogging or bike-rides, atemperamental summer water park, a good play area, Visitor’s Centre, and Conroy’s Cafe in the Park. Trees were planted to commemorate fallen soldiers with plaques. It’s also home to the Midlands’ biggest free music fesival in the summer – the Godiva Festival.
Kenilworth Rd, Coventry CV3 6PT, coventry.gov.uk/warmemorialpark
Re-opening of Charlecote Park
This gorgeous Victorian home and deer park has just re-opened for spring. Families can learn about the fortunes of the Lucy family, explore the inside of the house, its working kitchen and outbuildings or stroll through the parkland. It’s a great place for wildlife watching. Fallow deer roam freely and it’s wonderful to see them close-up. At dusk, you can see horseshoe bats and brown-eared bats swooping. The Orangery tea-room serves food and hot drinks. Pick up a Welly Walk Trail leaflet in half term. Welly-wanging and craft activities are also on the agenda.
Charlecote, Warwick CV35 9ER, nationaltrust.org.uk/charlecote-park
Tree Ninja, Salcey Forest Centre, near Northampton
In this ancient, semi-natural woodland, you’ll find Tree Ninja with its 40ft aerial rope walks, 6 zip wires and Shock Drop, open 10am-4pm in the winter. In Salcey Forest there’s also a children’s play area, 3 walking trails and The Forest Cafe, forestry.gov.uk/salceyforest A 3-hour rope course for 8 – 17-year-olds costs £20 and £25 for over 18s.
Forest Road, Northampton, NN7 2HX, treeninja.co.uk
OTHER GOOD PLACES FOR WALKS & PLAY AREAS:
Abbey Fields, Kenilworth
I used to love taking my children to this pleasant park when they were younger to watch the ducks on the lake, go to the play area and walk up to Kenilworth Castle. It’s also brilliant for sledging in the snow.
A pretty bridleway in woodlands, countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk/greenways/kenilworth-greenway
Newbold Comyn, Victoria Park & Jepson Gardens, Leamington
Three lovely parks within easy walking distance of the town centre.
St Nicholas Park, Warwick
A fun park, mini golf and play area with fantastic views over Warwick Castle. Watch out with small children as it runs very close to the fast-flowing River Avon, stnicholaspark.co.uk
Stratford Greenway, Stratford-upon-Avon
A 5-mile traffic-free path from Stratford up to Long Marston with two railway carriage cafes. It’s part of the National Cycle Network. Good for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders, countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk/greenways/stratford-greenway
Kingsbury Water Park
Enjoy exploring 15 lakes over 600 acres of country park on the North Warwickshire/West Mids border managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. Children’s events are held at The Information Centre.
Bodymoor Heath, Sutton Coldfield, B76 0DY, countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk/country-parks/kingsbury-water-park
Ufton Nature Reserve, Ufton, Leamington Spa, CV33 9PU
A 100-acre wild-life habitat, home to 28 different varieties of butterflies, 15 types of dragonfly, wild flowers and birds. Free parking, countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk/ufton-fields-nature-reserve
The Parkridge Centre, Brueton Centre, Solihull
On the edge of Solihull is this 5.5-acre nature reserve with tearoom and a shop. There’s a purpose-built classroom for children’s activities, warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/parkridge-brueton-park