Updated: Aug 20
As a family, we are beach lovers, they are our go-to-place if we don't have plans, whatever time of the year and whatever the weather. But, we also love a country parks, albeit woodland walks, countryside rambles or the fantastic park areas many have to offer. Being based right down on the South Coast of the UK, we've got the best of both worlds. Here's a list of 10 of the best in the South of England, that we have visited.
10) Staunton Country Park, Havant, Hampshire.
For us, this can sometimes be a forgotten treasure.
Staunton Country Park is approximately 1,000 acres of parkland between Leigh Park and Rowlands Castle. That area does include an ornamental farm, lake, follies, maze, walled garden and glasshouses (but that side has an admission fee)
The parkland area is free to access and is the perfect spot for a picnic, sitting by the lake, it's hard to believe you're on the outskirts of such a busy city. There is a small play park and BBQ hire is also available. The parkland has a variety of walking trails and cycle paths, which are highlighted around the area. There is the choice of pay and display in the farm car park or free on roads nearby. The parkland is accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs but there are a few slopes (mainly to and from the lake)
The country park is currently under renovation with the addition of café and other improvements.
Fishing is available at the lake with the correct licences.
9) Itchen Valley Country Park, Southampton, Hampshire.
is a woodland country park. As well as offering forest walks and cycle trails, the park is home to a GoApe (Charges apply) There is a firm track that leads through the park, which is accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Itchen Valley has 2 play parks, one for smaller children and one for the older children, each offering a range of apparatus to climb, swing and slide. There is a field with a few benches, suitable for picnics and ball games.
Pay and Display car park. £4.50 all day (other rates available) Parking on site can be an issue when busy. There is a cafe and toilets on site at main entrance.
8) River Hamble Country Park, Hamble, Hampshire.
As in the name, the River Hamble runs right alongside this country park and offers beautiful views. We took the opportunity to crab from the pontoon on our visit and the children jumped in mud and paddled in the shallow water. **the River Hamble is tidal and there are warnings against swimming out into the river.
Advisory: if walking down to the pontoon with a wheelchair or pushchair, STAY on the track, and do not risk 'bumping' the steps as this route will lead you back round onto the main track anyway. The pontoon is signposted.
There is a play park by Barnfield Car Park and an open area for games. Toilets and a snack hut are also available here.
Pay and Display car park (£5 all day, when we visited 2019)
7)Alver Valley Country Park, Gosport, Hampshire.
Alver Valley is a small country park, located in Gosport.
It boasts a great adventure playground, as well as smaller parks around the site, lakes and is a wildlife sanctuary. The park has large slides, zipwires, various wooden climbing apparatus and swings for those confident in climbing. There is also a metal playpark for smaller children.
Within the country park there is also a BMX Track. The track is open and free to use by the general public when it is not in use by the BMX Club for their regular sessions or when they are hosting competitions. Pay and Display car parking in the different car parks onsite. There aren't currently any toilets on site.
For more details about the BMX Club and their use of the track see
6)Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Hampshire.
Royal Victoria is where the 200 acres of woodland meets the Southampton Waters.
There is a large field next to the Military Hospital, although the chapel is now all that remains which acts as heritage site for an insight into the building's past.
Facing one way we could see the sea and looking the other way we were surrounded by woodland, best of both worlds.
There is play area (which has areas accessible to wheelchair users) with slides, zip wires and a climbing wall, amongst other things. The miniature railway is always a popular attraction within the park too. Barbeques are available for hire through the park or the hants.gov.uk website. Pay and Display car park.
5) Dinton Pastures, Wokingham, Berkshire.
Situated in Wokingham, it's a scenic drive through the English countryside of Hampshire and Berkshire.
The country park has an adventure playground near to the car park, with a variety of swings, climbing frames, slides and sand pits. This is the only park but is a good size. A small adventure golf is available at a cost.
A range of friendly wildfowl, call Dinton Pastures their home and wait by the lakeside eagerly to be fed.
There are number of lakes at the country park offering the opportunity for tranquil lakeside walks, as well as pedalos, rib rides and scheduled water activity courses at the activity centre. (Cost) Alot of walkways around the park are firm and accessible.
Cafe close to the car park as well as a kiosk close to the lake. Toilets located at the car park and cafe. Inclusive toilets also available. Pay and Display parking (£1.50 an hour or £6 all day)...Traffic Wardens do patrol!!
4) Alice Holt Country Park, Farnham, Surrey.
Cared for by the Forestry Commission, Alice Holt is now part of the South Downs National Park. Covering over 2100 acres, it is quite substantial in size and offers the opportunity for natural play as well as designated park areas throughout the forest. There are exciting play areas scattered throughout the woodland, from the main visitor area's pirate ship to a giant owl on the habitat trail, all with a range of equipment to enjoy, climbing, sliding, swinging and more. Trails vary in length and are mostly accessible.
Alice Holt offers trails throughout the year, including some from characters such as The Gruffalo, Zog and Shaun the Sheep. Check their website to find out more. Trail packs are sold at an extra cost. Cafe and toilets are situated at the visitor centre. Parking starts from £3. (£12 for the day) Go Ape is also available at an additional cost. *New and improved play areas soon to be opened.
3) Southwater Country Park, Horsham, West Sussex.
Southwater is a 90 acre site, in Horsham, which has been created from a former brickworks. It has tarmac paths which provide an accessible lakeside walk. It has a selection of outdoor activities including an adventure playground, beach and watersports.
The Dinosaur Island themed adventure playground is a delight and entertained the kids for hours. From a rope tree top trail to a sand pit with dinosaur bones, it is all well maintained and fun to use.
"The Beach"...a gravel, lakeside area and a space where you are able to paddle and splash in the lake.
We stayed all day and the Country Park started to become a lot quieter after about 2pm.
The visitor Centre, cafe and toilets are all located by the watersports centre. Portaloos positioned between the Beach and Park. £3 parking all day. (2019) Be aware that the car parks can become very busy.
2) Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean, Hampshire.
Being only a 15 minute drive from home,
is a very popular country park for our family and one we have visited often. Not just due to location but because the park areas are some of the best we've seen for tweens and teens. The country park covers 1400 acres of woodland and downland and also includes Butser Hill, the highest point of the South Downs.
There is a large assault course (positioned BEHIND the pizza oven) The recommended height is 1.4m but our littlies still gave it their best and loved it. The apparatus are spread out over a large area and to complete correctly they require a good amount of effort.
Visable from the car park is a smaller obstacle course around the edge of the field and here are four 'play houses' with a range of equipment from zipwires, balancing ropes, slides and telescopes and it was great to see children using their imagination whilst using them. I saw sword fights, forts, castles and classrooms to name but a few.
All the play areas are located at the top of the country park (Juniper Car Park) at this level there are toilets and a refreshment hut.
£6 all day parking.
1) Moors Valley Country Park, Ringwood, Hampshire/ Dorset border.
is a favourite of ours for an amazing time, in the great outdoors. Another country park in the hands of the forestry commission, it offers similar trails as Alice Holt throughout the year.
Moors Valley has so much to offer with an Adventure Playground and Sandy Playground close to the entrance and then a play trail with smaller play parks around the forest, aimed to encourage different types of play and skills. This is always a highlight and something we do, every time we visit.
Wonderful new play areas are being created and added year on year.
The country park also offers a miniature railway, cycling trails (as well as bicycle hire) golf, walking and fitness trails, Go Ape, fishing and more.
There is a good sized field for picnicking next to the lake (lots of benches too) The visitor Centre, cafe and toilets are located close to the main play park. (Dogs are not allowed in the main play park)
It is free Entry but there are parking charges (up to £12 for the whole day , 2019) But for a whole day out, I believe it is well worth it and a lot is invested back into the park. Please note: The car parking can become very busy at peak times, and may have restricted access.
So that's our round up some of the best country parks that we have visited. The majority of these parks are suitable for cycling and dog walking, and some host a park run. We are huge advocates of getting outside and enjoying the fresh air and playing in nature. It's good for learning and for the body mentally and physically. So what are you waiting for?
Do you have any that you would recommend? Get in touch and let us know.