Nottingham Parks – But Which One’s?
Maybe you’re a tourist in Nottingham, wanting to find some green space? Or maybe you’re a local and just don’t venture beyond your immediate town that often? Whatever, it’s Summer and we should all be making the most of these patches of turf that this fine city has to offer.
When I moved here 20 years ago from the North East I was struck by how green Nottingham was – it was one of the reasons I fell in love with the place. Don’t get me wrong – I love the beach back home, and it’s 6 palm trees along the promenade, but when I tell you they’re crammed with the nests of birds (from blue tit to bald eagle) for lack of alternatives, you get the picture of how different this new forest-like town was to me!
I loved it, and I still do. I don’t take for granted the park life on offer and so I’d like to share my 4 favourite Nottingham parks, all within ten minutes of the city centre.
Only a short ride on the number 10 bus from Victoria Centre, in a little village called Ruddington.
In 1940 a Depot was built on this spot with a bomb factory and ammunition bunkers, then after the war the site was used for auctioning redundant ex-military vehicles and equipment. The Nottingham Depot closed in 1983 and by 1990, 200 buildings were reduced to rubble and used to landscape the Country Park. Thousands of trees were planted and the lake was created.
To do and see…
This is the back drop for a picturesque landscape with the emphasis on wild-life and nature. There are so many things to do here which especially focus on the park’s flora and fauna – like the ladybird trail, conservation areas and lots of mini-forests for the kids to build dens and play hide and seek. There are over 8 kilometres of footpaths for some beautiful walks, or if you’re feeling a little more energetic – try the 5k/10k park-run which is hosted every Saturday morning at 9am. And, for all my canine readers, whilst your owners are getting their sweat on, in their lycra shorts and Aldi running shoes, there’s even a Dog Activity Trail so you can see whether or not the world of Cruft’s is for you.
On top of all that there are ping pong tables, a skate/scooter park, a tyre maze, a sensory trail, 3 walking trails, orienteering opportunities and if your little boy loves Thomas then take him to the bridge over the train-line, next to the play park, to watch the steam trains.
Ruddington village itself is good for a wander too, hosting a few cafe’s and pubs. If you’re looking for somewhere lovely to eat I can wholeheartedly recommend The Ruddington Arms – the food’s great, the beer garden is cosy and sheltered and it’s very easy on the eye. A welcoming gastro type pub.
Wollaton Park has always been one of my favourite spots in Nottingham and my kids have grown up with it featuring regularly in their lives. It’s special. And if Nature and Wildlife are the theme of Rushcliffe Country Park, then History is the theme of Wollaton.
Built in the late 16th Century, this Elizabethan Hall was the sensation of its time and still commands your attention today as it sits on its hill in all its glory. Designed by architect Robert Smythson, you might recognise his style if you’ve ever visited Hardwick Hall or Longleat. It’s not hard to see why the Hall was chosen as a film location for ‘Wayne Manor’ in the 2011 film Batman – Dark Knight Rises. It was quite exciting watching the helicopters filming that year from our house’s vantage point on a nearby hill.
To do and see…
The Willoughby family, who owned it all the while up until Nottingham Council bought it in the 1920’s, were a family of explorers and I’m sure they’d be quite proud of the collection of Zoological, Geological and Botanical gems inside the Hall’s Natural History Museum. And, if you spoke to any Nottingham school child, they’d be able to tell you who George is – known locally for the way he ‘hangs’ if you catch my drift.
So, that’s just the Hall – wait till you see the actual grounds! 500 acres of parkland with enough to keep you busy and inspired. In all directions the park teems with Deer, in all seasons, and they can be staggeringly (ahem) huge when you get up close.
Take a walk up to the gardens at the rear of the Hall and while the kids play hide and seek or climb trees there are plenty of strategically placed benches for the adults to sip their take-away coffees whilst inhaling the views from this high vantage point and watching the busy squirrels run by. It’s truly breath-taking.
The lake is just the right size to meander around and if you catch it right, you might just get to see the Stags cooling off in the water too. Also, if you’re into Geocaching, there are quite a few pretty good ones dotted around, so stock up on your little trinkets before you leave the house!
The cafe does good coffee and if you’ve missed the ice-cream van, the gift shop through the archway sells ice lollies too.
Open from 10am – 5pm in the Summer, 11am – 4pm in the Winter
Free Entrance to the house weekdays, £5 historical house tour beginning at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm.
Wollaton is only a few miles from Nottingham city centre and the buses are aplenty or you could hire a city bike and pedal there – it’s not that far and you could really see everything Wollaton Park has to offer with 2 wheels.
Landscaped in the 1700’s and bought by Jesse Boot (of Boot’s fame) in the 1920’s, this 121 acre park is one of the most picturesque spots in Nottingham. For me, it’s all about the water. And you can actually go on it too – it’s a proper boating lake with vessels to hire all through the summer. Then there’s the on site Art Gallery, which boasts some great exhibitions – changing monthly. Then there’s the play park, one of the more thoughtfully designed in the area. Then there are the Giant Squirrels – maybe they’re escapee’s from the University’s Science labs, but if they get any bigger they’ll be waiting tables at the park cafe. You get the point – plenty to see here! And, although not officially Highfields Park, if you meander towards the impressively imposing Trent Building and beyond, the University grounds are beautifully manicured and landscaped for you to aimlessly saunter around. Just beware of the Giant Squirrels!
The park has a lovely cafe with indoor and outdoor seating where we’ve had many a tasty deli-style lunch. However, I will add as a disclaimer, despite the fact the cakes look delicious and appetising, it has always been the most disappointing calorie-filled chomp I have ever endured! The scones look amazing; they taste like old flannels, the cakes look appealing; the baker obviously still thinks sugar is rationed. Don’t bother, get your sweet tooth nursed at the resident ice-cream van!
While you’re here…
-take the opportunity to peruse the current exibition at the Djanogly Art Gallery over the road, there are often decent exhibits to see.
-Check out what performances are on at Lakeside Arts, from Music to Theatre, and workshops for all ages.
– Walk to the far end of the park where the stepping stones are waiting – a particularly pretty spot.
– Check out some of the Geocaches, there are some clever ones hiding!
My final entry goes to Woodthorpe Park – a couple of miles north of the city centre and overlooked by some heinous towering architecture, but a green jewel of Nottingham nonetheless!
Originally forested grazing land for a pig farm, it then became the family home of Henry Ashwell and the Grade II listed building still stands in it’s grounds today. Over the years there have been railway tracks running North to South across and under the estate but World War I and the electric tram eventually put a stop to that! There are a few remains in the tunnels throughout the park.
The park is home to several greenhouses which provide the majority of the flowers for ‘Nottingham in Bloom’ and there’s also a Tropical House with a carp filled pond, banana trees and birds of paradise – it’s always warm and smells of sweet syrup, I love it and in the winter it’s a great pick-me-up till our next sun-soaked holiday! There’s no greater joy than being able to take your 3 cardigans off in the middle of winter.
The main reason this park has a place in my top 4 though is because of the pitch and putt. It’s one of the only sports I can actually say I’m not bad at, and seeing as you only really compete against yourself in golf, there’s no need for me to sulk in a corner when I loose! It’s the only place you can play pitch and putt in Nottingham and it’s a great activity with the kids for not a lot of money and I allow myself extra bonus points for the imaginary ‘Being a Great Parent’ scoresheet in my head, seeing as it’s outdoors and exercise combined. And if I take them over to the sunken garden and they choose to make houses for fairies out of debris then thats the get their imagination going box ticked too… I think I will reward myself with a lovely coffee from the eco-friendly kiosk and a plant from the parks Plant Shop for being such an exemplary parent!
Don’t miss the play area and formal gardens too.
Is that it?…
So that’s my four but it wouldn’t be fair to not mention some smaller spots too;
- The Arboretum, a stones throw from the retail mecca of Nottingham if you wanted a peaceful stroll and chat to the parakeets in the birdhouse.
- West Bridgford Park may be small in comparison but it’s got great facilities and is beautifully landscaped, and can be complimented by Bridgfords cafe culture and independent retail delights.
- And, finally, Bramcote Hills Park – if only for the pavement maze and sundial. What can I say, I like walking in circles!
There are plenty of other green spots in this wonderful city of ours but these are my favourites and I’m sure you’ve got yours, so drop me a line and let me know – perhaps there are some beauty spots I’ve missed. Do you have a favourite? Are you in awe of this city’s green-ness like me? It’s over to you…
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