Parks and playgrounds

With April and its inevitable showers about to arrive, a visit to your local park or playground is a good way to get out in the fresh air while still being fairly close to home should the skies open.

If you're on the lookout for somewhere new, or have recently moved to an area, our Local editors have rounded up the pick of the bunch near you.


East of England



Paxton PitsPaxton Pits Nature Reserve Huntingdon

Paxton Pits Nature Reserve is a rich mosaic of wildlife habitats covering, at present, 78 hectares of lakes, riverside, meadow, reedbed, scrub and woodland, situated in the Great Ouse valley between St Neots and Huntingdon. 

The Reserve is open to the public all day, every day. The Visitors' Centre is open most days, where voluntary wardens, leaflets, maps and refreshments available to help you get the most from your visit. There's also a children's corner, bird food for sale, plus local books and field guides.


Danbury Country ParkDanbury Country Park Chelmsford

Danbury Country Park is set within the grounds of Danbury Palace and offers a blend of ornamental gardens and lakes, together with adjoining woodland and meadows.


Castle Park Colchester

Castle Park

Colchester's distinctive heritage is nowhere more apparent than in Castle Park. A site of national importance, this Victorian park contains evidence of 2000 years of history and is a landscape moulded by the people of Colchester over many eras.

Castle Park not only encompasses much of Colchester's rich heritage within its boundaries but is much loved and used as a part of present day life. Providing a green oasis in the town centre, you can sit, walk, enjoy music, play games, or picnic amongst wonderful flowers and trees.


Holkham Beach and Nature Reserve Holkham


The actress Gwyneth Paltrow walked across Holkham sand at low tide during the closing scenes of the film Shakespeare in Love.

Behind the shoreline lies a semi-circular basin, which, at very high tides, rapidly fills to form a spectacular shallow lagoon. Holkham Beach is part of one of the largest National Nature Reserves in the country, and is home to many rare species of flora and fauna.

Clatter along the boardwalks, through the trails along the piney woods that line the beaches and sit quietly in the bird hide and observe the diverse animal life found along the North Norfolk coastal regions.


Abbey GardensThe Abbey Gardens Bury St Edmunds

Bordered by the River Lark, the award-winning Abbey Gardens were first laid out as a Botanic Garden in 1831. In addition to the formal layout of the central area, here you can find an aviary, a bowling green, a bird feeding area, a water garden, a herb garden, a sensory garden, and a new children's play area.


Central ParkCentral Park Peterborough

Central Park boasts an aviary, bowling greens, paddling pool, putting green, tennis courts, children's play area and sandpit, as well as the Buttercross Tearooms (open all year-round). If you'd rather, you can bring your own picnic and then wander round any of the formal gardens, including a sensory garden.

There are lots of events that take place in the park ranging from concerts andopen air theatre productions, to sports courses, teddy bears picnics and fun days.


Epping Forest Epping ForestEpping

Whether you wish to escape the urban sprawl and simply unwind, or want something a little more active, Epping Forest has something for everyone.

There are numerous events throughout the year and plenty of activities to get involved in, from walking, running and cycling to horse riding, angling, football and even golf. There are also four Forest Centres to visit, with exhibitions, special events and friendly staff to help you find your way around the Forest.






Barking Park Barking

Barking Park

Barking Park is the borough's oldest park, opened in 1898. It consists of nearly 30 hectares, with a 910 metre long lake, ornamental areas, tree lined avenues, playing fields and facilities for boating, bowls and football.

The Barking Park Education and Outreach Ranger Service organises an interesting and exciting annual program of events and activities including a park open day, play sessions and educational walks and talks. The park also hosts an increasing number of community events each year, such as the annual East London Mela, fun fairs, firework display and circus.


Coombe Wood CroydonCoombe Wood

Entering the gardens from Conduit Lane the visitor immediately sees the pond, terrace garden and the stables and the Coach House Cafe, however there are footpaths leading from this point to all the other garden rooms and wooded areas. A parks publication is available which provides a guided route around the site.


Horsenden Hill conservation site GreenfordHorsenden Hill

A beautiful area of ancient woodland, grassland, ponds and hedgerows, that provides an opportunity to experience nature and escape from city life.

The site is broken up into three distinctive sections: Horsenden East, which contains large areas of woodland, with smaller patches of grassland which are managed by grazing the fields with cattle. There are amazing views from the summit, which at 84m above sea level, is the highest point in Ealing. Horsenden West contains a mosaic of wildflower meadows, hedgerows and ponds. And on the southern side of the canal lies Paradise Fields, comprising scrapes, reed beds and lagoons offering a peaceful haven for wildlife and visitors alike.


Greenwich Park GreenwichGreenwich Park

Greenwich Royal Park enjoys panoramic views over Docklands and the City of London, and is the oldest of London's royal parks. 

Greenwich Park hosts the Prime Meridian Line and Royal Observatory as well as being part of the Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site, home to the National Maritime Museum and Old Royal Naval College.


Canbury Gardens KingstonCanbury Gardens

Situated between the River Thames and Lower Ham Road, Canbury Gardens is within easy walking distance from Kingston town centre. The site plays host to the Green Fair event, The Boaters pub, the Dragon Boat event and other regattas. Band concerts are held at the bandstand during the summer period. On site is also a children's playground which caters for kids between the ages of three and 14, and private tennis courts can be hired through a Pay and Display-style machine.


Horniman Gardens Forest HillHorniman Gardens

With stunning views across London, Horniman Gardens are the perfect place for spotting urban wildlife, architectural treasures, or just taking time to unwind.

The Horniman Nature Trail is the oldest in London. Roughly half a mile long, it runs along the site of the original Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway, which was closed in 1954 and is now a wild woodland area.


Morden Hall Park MordenMorden Hall

The National Trust's Morden Hall Park is located on the banks of the River Wandle. It covers over 125 acres of parkland. The estate contains Morden Hall, the Snuff Mill and many old farm buildings, some of which are now a garden centre, a city farm and an educational eco-centre.

The park boasts much open space for walks, cycling and picnics, has a fabulous wood-constructed playground, many weekend and holiday activities aimed at families and is increasingly becoming a venue for outdoor events (including theatre productions, festivals, fairs, open-air cinema and more). Fabulous for either a quick walk, or a full day's entertainment.


Thames Barrier Park North WoolwichThames Barrier Park

The award-winning Thames Barrier Park provides a focal point for Newham residents and attraction for visitors to the area. 22 acres of greenery, set on the north bank of the Thames, and with stunning views of the flood barrier. This unique urban oasis features fountains, gardens, wildflower meadows, a children's play area and a 5-a-side football/basketball court.

One of the park's most imaginative and attractive features is The Green Dock which was created by renowned horticulturalist Alain Cousseran and Alain Provost. A 1km circuit of the boundary paths takes you to the Visitor Pavilion Coffee Shop where refreshments are available.


Valentines Mansion and Gardens Gants HillValentine's mansion and gardens

Valentines Mansion is a beautifully restored 300 year old country house on the grounds of Valentines Park, Ilford.

Featured events include tours of the mansion, arts and crafts workshops, garden tours and activities, and Sunday farmer's markets. An outdoor cafe serves hot and cold snacks.


Richmond Park RichmondRichmond Park

Every year millions of Londoners and tourists visit Richmond Park, the largest of the capital's eight Royal Parks and the biggest enclosed space in London.

It is home to the beautiful Isabella Plantation, Pembroke Lodge and herds of Red and Fallow deer. The park offers a great opportunity for a family day out in nature, with loads of animals to spot: fallow deer, squirrels, rabbits, birds and more.


Myatt's Fields park and water playground CamberwellMyatts Fields

Myatt's Fields Park is a beautiful listed Victorian park which has recently undergone a £3 million renovation,.

There's a new playground with water play, café and wildlife area, and a new children's building called the Mulberry Centre which houses the 1 O'clock club and can also be hired for children's parties.


Victoria Park Tower HamletsVictoria Park

The biggest park in Tower Hamlets - 218 acres with two lakes, ornamental gardens, the Gallery Café, a Chinese summerhouse, The Pagoda, and various sports facilities including tennis courts, a bowling green and many tracks for runners and joggers. There's also a skate park with a quarter pipe and pitches for football and cricket. The new playgrounds at Vicky Park, at it is colloquially known, are certainly a favourite with the kids!


Battersea Park BatterseaBattersea Park

Within the 200 acre Battersea Park, there's a lake where you can hire rowing boats, a gallery to visit, the peace pagoda to climb up, a riverfront to walk along, bikes to hire, ornamental gardens, fountains, an adventure playground, smaller children's playground, lakeside café, tennis courts, athletics track, astro-turf pitches and even a zoo!


South East




Lower Leas Coastal Park FolkestoneLower Leas

Lower Leas Country Park is an award winning park with free events and facilities for the whole community - a great day out! There's a more formal area with pine avenues, gardens and flowers in bloom, as well as the Fun Zone - the largest free adventure play area in the south east - and the Wild Zone - a beautiful spot where wildlife is carefully managed so it can thrive.


Furtzon Lake Milton KeynesFurtzon Lake

Furzton Lake's open views make it a popular choice for joggers, cyclists and walkers. Created to act as a basin for floodwaters during rainy spells, the lake has matured into an easily accessible and peaceful oasis for local residents, office workers and wildlife.

Providing a striking landmark at Furzton is the Triple Star Head sculpture by Romanian artist Paul Neagu. Look out, too, for the Silhouetted Portals by Wendy Hitchings - wooden sculptures on the islands near Lynmouth Crescent, which have proved popular with the resident bird population.


Hatchlands Park GuildfordHatchlands Park

Discover over 400 acres of beautiful parkland and ancient woodland on Guildford's doorstep. Explore Wizard Wix's Willow Warren - a natural adventure area featuring hand-crafted tunnels, domes, balance beams and a totem pole.

The Georgian country house is home to tenant Alec Cobbe and contains his remarkable collection of keyboard instruments and paintings. Enjoy the homely tea-room in the old kitchen, browse the shop, learn more about the history of the house in the Old Stable exhibition and enjoy a fun programme of events throughout the year.  


Southsea Skate Park Southsea

Southsea Skate Park

Southsea Skatepark is arguably the oldest skatepark in the world, with the current 'rink' area dating back to a roller rink that was first built back in the 1950s.

The skatepark was remodelled in the 1970s with concrete (bowls, snakerun, etc) and then modified again in 1990 with a new bowl replacing the old reservoir. In the mid to late 90s the rink area was built on with new ledges, banks, rails and ramps and in the last ten years two new mini ramps and a replacement vert ramp have been built.


South West




Fun for a Fiver at Cardinham Woods BodminCardinham Woods

Cardinham is a beautiful mixed woodland, popular with local dog walkers, cyclists, and horse riders. Waymarked trails will take you deep into the woods to discover stunning viewpoints and an intriguing history, and the Woods Cafe will help you refuel after your adventure.

The climbing frame pirate ship outside the cafe is enclosed so very safe for toddlers and the bars and poles find enough to entertain older children too. It is a lovely spot with outside benches and sheltered from the wind.


Woodchester Park NympsfieldWoodchester Park

The tranquil wooded valley contains a 'lost landscape' with remains of an 18th and 19th century landscape park with a chain of five lakes. Park Mill Pond is the last of these lakes and features a man-made island that is now a heronry. Large carp can also be seen in the waters.

Secreted away in the surrounding woodland, you'll find an old Boat House, where bats now roost in the roof space, emerging at dusk to hunt over the lake. The wood also hides a disused quarry. Waymarked trails (steep in places) lead through picturesque scenery, passing an unfinished Victorian mansion. Woodchester Park is ideal for dog walkers. There is a free play trail with a zip wire and climbing logs.


Moors Valley Country Park RingwoodMoors Valley

At Moors Valley there is something for everyone whether you want to enjoy a peaceful walk or cycle through the Forest, experience a ride on an authentic narrow-gauge steam train, or even Go Ape on a high wire forest adventure swinging through the tree tops.

Out in the Forest, discover the Play Trail with its unique pieces of wooden play equipment. Explore inside a giant 'ants nest', climb and crawl through towers and tunnels, slide inside giant snakes in the 'snake pit', attempt the crocodile crossing, and find your way through the pond maze. The trail is only a mile long but with so many exciting pieces of play equipment you should allow at least an hour to complete it all.


North East




Endcliffe Park EcclesallEndcliffe Park

Open daily from dawn 'til dusk, this is a wide open space for games, picnics and walks. An award winning cafe serves delicious home made food and there's a children's playground, adventure playground and duck pond. Located 10 minutes drive from the city centre, there are also frequent buses serving the park.


Museum Gardens YorkMuseum gardens

The ten-acre botanical gardens, around the Yorkshire Museum, stretch from the River Ouse up to the back of York Art Gallery, and from Marygate on one side to Museum Street on the other. They make a popular picnic spot.

The gardens are a listed Botanical Garden and contain many varieties of trees, deciduous and evergreen, native and exotic and were laid out to show off the buildings and plant specimens as they were introduced.


Leazes Park NewcastleLeazes Park

Leazes Park is the city's oldest park. It's a very short walk from the city centre and has recently been beautifully restored. Facilities include play areas, tennis courts, basketball court, lake with rowing boats for hire during spring/summer months. There is a bandstand, a bowling green, used by the Bowling Club, as well as an Angling Association. There are toilets and seasonal kiosk facilities available in the park.


Tyne Green Country Park HexhamTyne Green Country Park

Tyne Green Country Park runs along the bank of the River Tyne, with plenty of green space for running around, games and having picnics. There are many duck feeding opportunities on the river bank, great pathways for cycling and walking through the park, plus picnic benches and toilet facilities.

There is also a fantastic play area with plenty of play equipment including rope climbing frame, slides, swings and zip wire.


North West




Stanley Park BlackpoolStanley Park

Stanley Park contains a fantastic range of facilities, including one of Lancashire's largest adventure playgrounds, all weather pitches, an indoor sports centre and outdoor sports arena, a golf course, cricket ground, tennis courts and bowling greens. There's also a skate park, BMX race track, model village and historic Art Deco café. The park is open dawn 'til dusk every day of the year.


Worden Park South RibbleWorden Park

The formal gardens provide a quiet space for visitors to sit and enjoy the peaceful surroundings, The playground is the largest in Leyland and has equipment for toddlers, including swings, climbing frames, springy toys and a large sand pit complete with sand diggers. And for older children, a see-saw, climbing frames, slides, rope climbing frame and cableway. There's also a hedge maze, free to explore, or you can take a ride on the model railway.






Beveridge Park KirkaldyBeveridge Park

Beveridge Park has many pleasant features including formal gardens, play facilities, sporting facilities and a pond where boating is available. The park dates back to 1892, when Provost Michael Beveridge bequeathed 104 acres of Raith Estate to the people of Kirkcaldy.






Sutton Park BirminghamSutton Park

A wilderness within an urban environment, visitors to Sutton Park can enjoy the captivating scenery, using an accessible network of paths.

There are opportunities to walk, jog, golf, nature-watch and cycle, plus a choice of cafes and restaurants and two play areas. The Visitor Centre is an ideal place to start your journey into the Park. There are toilets, baby changing facilities, a gift shop and maps. 


Beacon Hill Country Park LoughboroughBeacon Hill

Situated in Charnwood Forest in north-west Leicestershire, Beacon Hill Country Park has over 135 hectares of mixed woodland, grassland, wildflower meadows and adjoining farmland.

At 814 feet, Beacon Hill is the second highest point in Leicestershire and the site of a Bronze Age hill fort. Visitors can explore an extensive network of paths, enjoy picnics and barbeques, and discover the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside that can be seen from the summit.


Wollaton Hall and Deer Park WollatonWollaton Hall and deer park

Wollaton Hall and park is an Elizabethan mansion in the heart of Nottingham, and was recently used as Wayne Manor in the latest Batman movie and is home to the Splendour music festival.

The cafe serves home made soups, sandwiches and snacks, and souvenirs can be bought from the on site shop.






Belle Vue Park NewportBelle Vue Park

Belle Vue Park opened in 1894 and has many features typical of a Victorian public park, including a pavilion, bandstand, conservatories and rockeries. Following a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Belle Vue Park Restoration Project set about restoring the park buildings and recreating the original planting scheme.

Last updated: about 3 years ago