Outdoor family entertainment
Here are a few local, low-cost, outdoor ideas for having fun with your children.
Cassiobury Park, Gade Avenue, Watford
This park has 3 large paddling pools, min 1 inch – max 1’6″ deep, clean, supervised and free! There are toilets, a snack bar and an ice cream van! There is also a playground, a little train ride, and masses of grassy open space with big trees.
Hockeridge Wood, Berkhamsted
This small wood has trees with plaques which the children love to find and read. There is a map at the entrance and picnic tables in the centre.
Grovehill Adventure Playground, Hemel Hempstead
One of several adventure playgrounds in the Hemel Hempstead area. It is free, managed and supervised and during holiday times has a schedule of activities. See the Dacorum website for more information.
Verulum Park, St Albans
A wonderful park which extends from the museum right up to the Cathedral. It has a small, free, but unsupervised, pool in a grassy enclosure (bring your own shade), a large lake, paths for cycling, crazy golf, a café, a good playground, and, during school holidays, a tiny funfair for younger children. Toilets are in the café and at the museum car park
Aldenham Country Park, Aldenham
For £4 per car you get a lake which you can cycle/push prams around, a toddlers’ park, adventure playground, animals, a small café, picnic tables and toilets. Also visit Pooh’s 100 Aker Wood – a field with mock ups of homes and sites from the Winnie the Pooh stories. Take a book with you to identify the various houses, but don’t expect any of the characters to be at home!
Wendover Woods For £1.50 (£2 weekends and bank holidays), or 50p after 4pm, you can have the run of this fabulous environment; acres of walking, tracks which a large wheeled pram could negotiate, an invalid trail (for toddler walking, tricycles, dolls’ prams etc), a playground, toilets, ice cream van, picnic tables and barbecue stands.
Ashridge Estate, Ringshall, and Ivinghoe Beacon
Absolutely free, acres of woodland to run around on between Northchurch and Ringshall on the B4506. At the monument you will find two paths, which are good enough for prams or bikes, toilets, baby changing facilities, a National Trust gift shop, visitors’ centre and a café. You can climb the monument at weekends and on bank holidays.
Dunstable Downs, Whipsnade Road, Kensworth, Dunstable
Go to Dunstable Downs on a warm breezy day to see gliders and paragliders taking off and landing, kite flying and fantastic views of the Vale of Aylesbury. There is a gift shop (selling kites), a visitors centre, a snack bar and toilets. The national trust website has further information.
Tring reservoirs, near Marsworth
Ducks, geese and huge fish to feed, narrowboats to watch at the locks, a bird hide which children love peering out of, and an excellent teashop offering mango tea and homemade cake, not to mention a pub too! Walk or cycle around the reservoirs and along the Grand Union Canal Walk, maybe venturing along the newly restored Wendover Arm beyond Tringford Pumping Station.
College Lake Wildlife Centre, Tring
A 250 acre former chalk quarry with a fun circular walk taking in 14 bird hides (which the children love), a small folk museum, some small outdoor caged birds and animals, a wildlife trail, a children’s bird-watching area, a pond-level hide with a squirrel assault course, and a charcoal burner’s encampment. Have a look at www.bbowt.org.uk for more details.
Nicky Line Bike Trail and other cycle routes
This bike trail follows the track of a disused railway line which ran from Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead. Check out www.sustrans.org.uk for loads more ideas.
Waddesdon Manor Gardens, Waddesdon, near Aylesbury
Formal gardens, large lawns, a children’s playground, and an aviary. See www.waddesdon.org.uk.
Chenies Manor House, Chenies (between Chesham and J18 M25)
This has beautiful gardens, two mazes and a physic garden, as well as a pleasant tea room.
Batchworth Lock Canal Centre and Lakes, Rickmansworth
The Canal Centre is open in summer on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, & Fridays, 10am – 3pm, and Saturdays, Sundays & Bank Holidays 11am – 5pm and costs nothing. You also can take a ride on the Batchworth Ferry from Stockers Lock and explore historic ‘Roger’, the last wooden boat to trade on the Grand Union. Nearby are a number of lakes (no charge to visit) which are brilliant for kids. There is a small playground, paths for biking/walking, and birds, sailing and waterskiing to watch. Use the Aquadrome car park, signposted from Rickmansworth.