If, like many parents, you’re looking for things to do to keep the family occupied this summer, here’s a few of my favourite free days out in and around Northampton.
Abington Park has to be my favourite park in Northampton and we go there all the time. It has a brilliant play area, two lakes, an aviary and plenty of space to run around and let off steam. There is also a lovely cafe where you can sit outside on a warm day. The free museum is open Thursday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays April-October.
The Brampton Valley Way is a disused railway line running from Northampton to Market Harborough. This traffic free route makes a perfect place for a family walk or cycle. From the southern end Brixworth Country Park is easily reachable by bike, or on foot with older children. We have sometimes parked at Maidwell and from here it’s an easy walk to the Kelmarsh and Great Oxenden tunnels.
I mention Summer Leys near Wellingborough a lot, and I make no apology. This nature reserve in a former gravel pit, is free, quiet and the perfect place to escape for a couple of hours. A walk round the lake is about 3km or so, the ideal length for a leisurely family stroll. There are a couple of hides along the way where you can take a breather and enjoy watching the plethora of birds that descend on the reserve.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a big fan of spending time outdoors locally and, as I live in a town centre, you might think this is a difficult task. But on this list there are plenty of places that are accessible to us urban dwellers. Abington Park and Delapre Abbey are pretty much in the town centre, while another favourite, Harlestone Heath (or ‘the firs’, as I’ve always known it), is just outside Northampton. There is free parking just across the (very busy) road and lots of family friendly walks and cycle routes to be found. I’ve been coming here since I was a child, and I love bringing Finn here now. It’s perfect for quick escape when we need some outdoor time.
Delapre Abbey is another favourite of ours for a stroll. We love walking through the gardens, there’s also a longer walk around the lake although it’s a bit too far for Finn at the moment. The Abbey itself is undergoing restoration, shortly to be finished, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like after years of being inaccessible.
I’m a massive fan of a canal walk. There’s no traffic, navigation is straightforward and there’s loads to look at (and did I mention the abundance of canalside pubs?!) We’re lucky in Northamptonshire in that the Grand Union canal runs right through the county. The canal is easily accessible at Braunston, Napton and Weedon. Although my personal favourite is to park in the free car park right by the canal outside Gayton and walk to either Blisworth (3km) or Bugbrooke (5km).
Hunsbury Hill Country Park
My last suggestion is Hunsbury Hill. It took me years to discover this little gem, but now it’s a family favourite. It has a play area, lots of open spaces, nice walks and the remains of an iron age fort (just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t have an educational outing!). Parking is free and there’s a nice little cafe on site.
You can also make your family days out a bit more exciting. You could add a scavenger or mini beast hunt, try pond dipping or geocaching, or why not get the kids to plan a route on OS Maps and lead the way.
Do you know any awesome free places or activities that I can add to the list?