Here are our fave places to take the kids for a walk, where they can have fun splashing in puddles, getting stuck in the mud – and most importantly – burn lots of energy in the great outdoors.
● Westonbirt Arboretum near Tetbury:
This isn’t a free walk unfortunately, but it’s certainly worth the entrance cost just to see their little faces gazing up at the enormous trees and light up when they find the huge wooden sculpture of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much-loved Gruffalo character hidden among the trees. You can see this in the Old Arboretum where there are lots of routes to walk, taking in different varieties of tree. There’s usually a family trail you can follow which changes seasonally, and until the end of February you can join another of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s characters, Stick Man, on his quest to the family tree as part of a special activity trail. On your way in, pick up an activity pack, (£3) containing rubbings sheets, crayons, pipe cleaners and games and puzzles. Dogs aren’t allowed in this area of the arboretum but you can take them into Silk Wood, where there’s plenty of space for pooches and children to run free reign. In this part of the arboretum you’ll find trees with hollows perfect for hiding in and a 2,000-year-old lime tree – a true marvel.
● Leigh Woods:
This National-Trust owned patch of woodland next to the Clifton Suspension Bridge is always a go-to spot to allow kids to let off some steam close to home. It’s a great place for games of hide and seek and tag and as you follow the paths through the trees you’ll come across the natural play area where children can challenge themselves on balance beams, logs to climb over, tree stump stepping stones and swings. Let their imaginations go wild with den building or creating wild art and spark their curiosity with bird watching and bug hunting – it’s a wildlife haven. There’s a family trail you can follow too (available to download at www.nationaltrust.org.uk) – let Franklin the Fox guide you through the woods and reveal stories about what you can see along the way.
● Oldbury Court Estate (also known as Vassalls Park):
Here there are winding paths through woods, a muddy riverside walk and a children’s play area to keep your walk interesting and adventurous. You’ll also find a large open space that’s ideal for kicking a ball around and a café kiosk next to park for that well-deserved coffee. Don’t forget to find some twigs on your way around so you can play poohsticks on the bridge over the River Frome.
● Arnos Vale:
Yes, it’s a cemetery – but it’s a beautiful one, and if you walk up and around through the trees at the back of the site, you’ll find some lovely open spaces to take a good gulp of fresh air. Arnos Vale has a varied and full events programme designed specifically for families and children to attend, including woodland wanders, outdoor play and craft activities.