Parks In Nottingham – Our Top Picks…
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. But which parks in Nottingham tick our boxes?
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, but when I tell you of the 6 graffiti’d palm trees along the promenade, 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 parks around Nottingham, all within ten minutes of the city centre. In short, if you’re looking for a park, Nottingham pulls out all of the shots!
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 one of the best Country Parks in Nottingham. Thousands of trees were planted and the lake was created.
To do and see…
This is the backdrop for a picturesque landscape with an emphasis on wildlife 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 cafes 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 parks 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 Park.
Built in the late 16th Century, the Elizabethan Wollaton 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 1920s, were a family of explorers and I’m sure they’d be quite proud of the collection of Zoological, Geological and Botanical gems inside Wollaton 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 breathtaking.
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 Park 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 1700s and bought by Jesse Boot (of Boot’s fame) in the 1920s, this 121-acre park is one of the most picturesque parks around 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 exhibition 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!
- A recent addition to the park is an 18 hole crazy golf course, and it’s a good one too!
- And last but not least, you’ve got to have your photo taken in front of the rainbow Nottingham sign.
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 on its 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.
This Nottinghamshire 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 lose! 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 that’s 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.
Colwick Country Park
Until Lockdown happened Colwick Country Park had always been the biggest disappointment for me. We used to park at the Mile End Road Car Park near Colwick Village and it always seemed like a constant dilemma of warning the kids about dog poo or cars! But then, in an attempt to add variety to our daily constitutional during Covid exercise sessions we discovered the other end of Colwick Park behind the racecourse.
Nottingham Walks were in high demand and it was hard to find somewhere without crowds and cramped paths. But even after Covid has gone we will probably still visit Colwick Park on those days you just need peace and serenity.
Park at the Colwick Hall end on Racecourse Road and take one of the pathways through the trees. They are like doorways to Narnia and absolutely do deposit you in enchanted forests. Even after more than a dozen trips, I still can’t get my bearings but that’s half of the magic of the place.
If you keep your eyes peeled in Colwick Woods you will see some beautiful nature-themed wood carvings as you wander through the trees and if you come across one twice, well then you know you’re going around in circles. Sometimes the tracks through the woods open up into clearings of lush green meadows, sometimes you end up down by the water’s edge and maybe you’ll even stumble across the old ruins of a 17th-century church. Wherever you find yourself, the dappled light through the trees and the absence of humans absolutely makes this the most tranquil of country parks in Nottinghamshire.
Things to Know…
- Colwick Country Park is one of the only places you can go wild water swimming Nottingham
- There are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife here, especially for the ornithologists amongst us. 140+ species including about 60 that actually breed here. Ever heard of a Fulmar or a Pomarine Skua? No, me either. I personally love to spot the Black Storks and Herons.
- Colwick Hall is now used as a wedding venue and hotel but through the summer months you can rock up for a Pimms and lemonade or afternoon tea on their lawns at the back of the Hall.
- Colwick Hall and Woods is one of the oldest recorded estates in Nottingham, turning up in the Doomsday book in 1086. It’s passed through a number of infamous families including the Byron’s and Muster’s. I found lots of interesting history on this particular website.
Is that it for parks in Nottingham?…
So that’s my four but it wouldn’t be fair to not mention some smaller spots too;
- The Arboretum, a stone’s throw from the retail mecca of Nottingham if you wanted a peaceful stroll and chat with 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 complemented by Bridgford’s 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! And if you’re looking for mountain bike trails Nottingham, there’s a great one here through the trees.
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 greenness like me? It’s over to you…
pin for later…
Going a little bit further afield, one of our favourite parks in Nottinghamshire in Clumber Park near Sherwood Forest, have a read of our article…