Holidays and short breaks for me are the chance to explore and discover new places to visit. It’s an opportunity to experience new things and education N in what else is out there apart from farming. It works pretty well, although sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan. For example our attempt to visit Whipsnade which was so cold and then wet, we struggled to enjoy it as much as we would usually do. But choosing a random place to visit like Emberton Country Park worked out really well.
We do like a country park. Me, because it’s cheap (usually only paying for parking), and N because it’s a chance to run a bit wild, and more often than not, take the bike out. Unfortunately his bike had a puncture, so scooter it was.
Emberton Country Park is not far from Olney, and under 10 miles from where we were staying on our recent Milton Keynes/Chicheley Hall break. It opened in 1965, and for a winter day parking rate of £2.50 it’s a bargain, because you’ve got 200 acres of parkland to roam in. There are 5 lakes, touring meadows for caravans, plus a static caravan site, and nature reserves to explore.
We didn’t venture far. The grass was extremely muddy (needless to say N slipped and fell over straight away despite my warning – luckily we had spare clothes in the car), and we didn’t see paths, just the roads to walk along. I’m sure there are plenty of walking trails further into the park, but in the winter, wellies would be essential for those. We stuck with the road which was better for the scooter anyway.
N’s first exclamation was on noticing the diggers in a huge sandpit.
The quarry area is a great space for children to enjoy. There’s a large sandpit complete with fossil dinosaur to excavate, and a couple of diggers. N spent ages as usual on the diggers, but they were so heavy to manoeuvre, and couldn’t be done from sitting position, they needed either a parent to turn them round while the child sat on. Or the poor child had to keep getting on and off with every scoop. Not well planned.
Despite the cold there were a few families and friends picnicking on the benches, and playing. Once they headed off (and N got annoyed with a younger girl who kept standing where he was scooping, N tried out the gravel excavation area. This was a wooden play frame, with winches and buckets to scoop gravel and move it around the structure. Without spades it was hard to do – I was ordered around a bit, then spotted some scoops to use. Great. Except they were on too short a chain to reach the ‘buckets tied to the equipment. Oops. Bad planning again.
The scooter was calling and we moved on to see what else was around. We’d parked in the car park but some people had driven into the park further to park next to the playground. During the winter you’re asked not to park on the grass, but people had. A bit lazy given the car park was probably only 5 minutes walk from the park, if that.
The playground was a great area. Suitable for all ages, and including some equipment suitable for those in wheelchairs, there was plenty for N to enjoy.
It was great to see him happy and confident to go off and find what was around, rather than needing me all the time to try things first. And without me needing to encourage him.
From climbing up to the top of the hill to avoid the various wet and muddy slides. From the strange walking area to the willow tunnel. The trampoline to investigating the arch way. Then I was ordered around in his pirate boat, and was put in his ‘roundabout’ prison.
With it being such a beautiful day, it was lovely to spend some time in the sun, be able to listen to N play and enjoy his imagination.
One thing that’s essential after some play or walking time is lunch and a cake (or ice cream in the summer). Emberton Country Park has a small café Grounds. From the outside the visitor area and café looks run down (I presume the visitor part opens in the summer), but inside the café is fairly modern. There’s additional seating in the back room, and outside there’s a covered area with picnic tables, so there’s plenty of seating in addition to being able to picnic outside during warmer weather.
Meals are fairly limited given the size of the café – paninis and sandwiches can be made to order if you’d rather have something slightly different to the menu, there was a range of cakes and treats including energy balls, and they were also offering dairy alternatives for drinks. We both had tuna and cheese melt paninis which were delicious (aside from the red onion N pulled out of his – I wish he’d just eat it, given it wasn’t that strong), and before heading home returned again to warm up with hot chocolates.
Given the cold weather the playground was quite busy, so I can only imagine that the park gets really busy in summer. But it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area, for a relaxing walk and chance to stop off and let the children stretch their legs and play.
Have you enjoyed any similar parks in the area? Where’s your favourite country park?
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