From our blog it probably looks like we go out and about a lot, and do a lot of walking. Well, we get out a fair bit (I hate being stuck at home, and it means I get N off the farm), but we rarely do walking unless we go somewhere. To me walking the fields is really dull (it all looks the same, just lots of fields), I much prefer walking around somewhere there’s plenty of things to look at.
But I can live with a country park. There’s usually a café, and other activities to break up the walk. The other weekend I wanted to get N off the farm, so suggested we go to a new park. He wasn’t impressed and just wanted to go to the park in town. Anywhere he can ride his bike or scooter. But he relented when I told him it wouldn’t be more than a half hour in the car and he could take his bike. So off to Ryton Pools Country Park we went.
I did get a bit mixed up with another similar place thinking there was water play – there wasn’t. And because we went on the Saturday (N couldn’t go on the farm that day because of the types of jobs being done) rather than the Sunday I’d planned, it meant the weather wasn’t great. It was cold and occasionally drizzly. Oh, and the miniature train rides only happen on Sundays. Thankfully there were plenty of other things to see and do, and taking N’s bike meant he could explore the trails at leisure.
I’ve not been on my bike for nearly a year because my knee still twinges when I cycle, so I just walk along. At least then I get my Fitbit (*affiliate link) steps up. When we arrived we headed to the information lodge first to get our bearings and find a map. Apart from the parking fee (at the entrance barrier, £3.50 for all day), visiting the country park is free so we did have to buy a map for 50p. The map was a little confusing for cyclists, suggesting you couldn’t cycle on most of the park, but really you could – even the lady in the info centre was baffled by my question where we could cycle.
There were a few options for walking and cycling round the country park. We opted for the shorter one, given it was nearly lunch and was looking like it might rain. This was just under a mile long so wasn’t going to take long at all. Well, if N didn’t keep going off to explore off piste and for wanders into the wooded areas.
The trails are all easy walking once you’re over the first steep section (the direction that we went). You can hire different types of bikes if you don’t have your own, and it was quiet enough when we were there to not worry about kids going all over the place and disturbing walkers and other adult cyclists.
There were lots of paths off the main routes to explore, plenty of pretty flowers and plants for me to photography.
Obviously with the name Ryton Pools, there are plenty of lakes to look at. We spotted bird boxes with blue tits, the swallow banks (no swallows), swans, ducks and geese.
N loved having the expanse to cycle in, and to spot others doing the same. He was in his element just enjoying the outdoors, and for me it was nice to get out and walk somewhere different.
We didn’t go on and do the longer trail because we both wanted some lunch, so headed back to try out the small café. En route, N decided he wanted to explore a bit of the pirates trail. This is a coin trail for children that you can pay for, but we could still go in and see what was there. There’s some themed picnic benches, and N was all for sailing out on his boat.
We dumped his bike back in the car, took a brief look at the sensory garden before N dragged me off for lunch.
The café is small, and it’s not the cheapest. Rather than paying a high price for the kids lunchbox (which only seemed to have 3 items in it), N had a normal sandwich and crisps, while I had a panini. I’d liken it more to the transport café style place, rather than a nice National Trust café, but it did the job and the toilets next door were clean enough. I’d imagine in warmer weather most people bring a picnic and just stop for an ice cream. There’s plenty of grassy areas to picnic, and we didn’t even get to the older children’s play area around the other side of the park.
After lunch, we had a brief play on the children’s playground. The equipment is nice, but it was busy. The play area was mostly aimed at under 6s, some of it N turned his nose up at as too young for him, but from what I’d read online it said that area was under 12s, and the other play equipment was aimed at older children – I took that to be that it would be too old for N at age 6. If that’s the case, there seems to be a gap in the middle not catered for, but as we didn’t go to the other play area, there’s no way of knowing whether I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.
We spent a good couple of hours at Ryton Pools Country Park, so give it better weather and going along with some friends on a Sunday, I could see it being a popular choice of somewhere to go for the day. N certainly enjoyed it and the following week he wanted to go back again.
While the playground isn’t as good as somewhere like Stratford, to spend a whole day there biking round and having a picnic it’s much better value given the lower parking cost. We’ll definitely be going back another day.
Do you visit Country Parks? Where do you take the children biking?