Sometimes it’s nice to have a peaceful walk around the countryside, but sometimes you want something a bit more wow to it. Rides tend to do it for N. Add in a lunch out and ice cream, and he’s usually pretty keen. After being ill for a couple of days, he wanted to get out and about. I’d heard someone mention Wicksteed Park and how much there was to do there, so we decided to try it out.
With glorious February weather we were spoilt, although they did only have some rides open compared with high season (which seems to be around Easter time from the website). If you just want a good playground and walk around lakeside grounds, you just pay for parking. For rides, check first on the website – they have a month by month run down of what is open.
Wicksteed Park is a large park near Kettering. It does get busy when the sun is out, and the queue for tickets and wristbands does get long just as the rides open. So worth getting there earlier for the free stuff, then you’ve got some in before having to queue to get a wristband.
If you want to spend all day there and go on everything, a wristband is the way to go – in half term it was nearly half price, probably due to being fewer activities open. Otherwise, you do want to make sure you’ll have time to go on everything. If you’re only there for a couple of hours, buy individual tickets instead – rides and activities range from 1 to 3 tickets a go, and you can see this online beforehand, or on the map.
N had already decided on the activities he wanted to go on before we arrived, so we had the map to work out location. The signage around the site is limited, but it’s not hard to find your way around. We only spotted one set of toilets, and it wasn’t clear which eating places were open before we arrived at them – it would be good to be told this on a big board at the entrance.
We thought only the café was open – but there was a limited choice. After queuing for 20 minutes for a poor sandwich that N couldn’t eat (it wasn’t great), and a sausage roll, we then spotted the fish and chip shop had opened. We couldn’t work out where one of the cafes was after checking the map, so I do think signage and information could have been done better. Maybe it is in peak season, but it doesn’t take much to have a few signs up or a board.
N decided he had bigger and better things to try ahead of the massive playground. Crazy golf was top of his list so we both had a go on that. We do love mini golf, and as they don’t provide you with score cards, there’s less pressure and fewer arguments, hopefully making people’s rounds go faster. Our first round, the staff member sent us round in reverse to avoid the bottle necks behind everyone else. Our second round later in the day, we did jump past someone slow at a quite stage as being only 2 of us vs 5-6 for some groups, we go a lot faster.
As well as all the fun, there’s also some calmer areas around Wicksteed Park. There’s the outdoor music place to enjoy – N liked bashing out some ‘tunes’, and it was nice to hear the bell like tube sounds as you were wandering or playing nearby. There’s also a quiet natural area to sit and enjoy the peace, amongst some willow and woven creatures and people in the trees.
If you want to get close to birds, you can walk through the aviary – the Australian parrots and tiny birds happily fly around as you walk.
After a bite to eat we headed down to the train station. N refused to let me go into the sunken garden but I can imagine it’s pleasant to sit in away from the sun and crowds. The train takes you around the lake – none of the lakeside activities were open while we were there, but I can see N wanting to come back to try some kayaking on the children’s lake, and the archery nearby.
You can walk around the lake and up the boardwalk. It was a really pretty sight, and the train was a pleasant journey. N’s decided he’s not doing another carriage train journey where we have to share with other people – we always seem to get annoying families, with kids who kick their legs on you. What with him refusing to go on boats as well, we’re going to be limited in future!
N loves a wire or high walk, so the tree top walk was going to be great for him. He decided as it went indoors first, he wanted me to come too. Not easy with a bag and coat, or an adult size kneeling down through tunnels. My knees felt bruised for days afterwards. There’s a high or low route, although the high route was blocked off when we were there.
The tree top walk was right next to the slides – N isn’t one for drop slides, but the wavy one looked good, so he wanted to try that one. There’s a viewing area at the bottom, and if you’re on the slide you take a mat up with handles. It was fairly popular with all ages, so there was a little wait at the top. N had a great time, as did all the children (and adults) going down.
Once we’d done all the activities we wanted, we did just stop to watch the meerkats again. You can go under their enclosure and pop up in domes to watch them next to you. I found it better for photos to go around the edges, but N loves exploring through the tunnels and popping up each time. The meerkats were a lot of fun – more active than lots you see who just sunbath a lot of the time.
We were done after about 4 hours having done everything we wanted. But there’s so much more to see – the lake, arboretum, formal gardens, little roller coasters, the playground and more. If you want to spend more time there, Wicksteed Park also has a campsite and with that you can get 50% off your second day.
What we loved about Wicksteed Park
- There’s something for everyone in the family, from fairground rides, to gentle walks.
- If you spend all day there, even full price wristbands are worth it (for children at least). For adults with older children who are tall enough to go on everything, you might just need tickets.
- The queues are rare. The chair swing fairground ride did have a large queue, and given it was out of season, peak summer might see some larger queues, but you’ll pay half the amount you would at other theme parks and spend half or less time queuing.
- Apart from parking, you can still enjoy certain areas for free.
- Great website for planning the tickets and rides you want.
What could be improved
- Signage is limited, especially for catering outlets. These might be more obvious when they’re open in peak season.
- Food on offer wasn’t great and service was seriously slow.
- Better ticket office queuing system. They did end up having someone ushering people to the best window, but if they had 1 clear queue laid out everyone would get served in order.
- If you’re taking a child on your own and have a bag, taking it on rides isn’t always practical. We didn’t see any lockers, so you might be restricted if there’s nowhere to leave a bag with a staff member manning a ride.
All in all we had a great day in the sun, and there’s plenty more we’d like to see and do on another visit. We just need to plan when might be less busy but still good weather, and possibly take friends along with us.
Have you ever been to Wicksteed Park? What’s the type of activities you’d fancy doing?