“ Address: Northampton Rd / Brixworth / Northampton / East Midlands / England „
In March 2012 we were told we were suffering drought and a hosepipe ban would be enforced in Northamptonshire. The expansive and attractive Pitsford Reservoir that supplies Northampton with its water, and situated next to Brixworth Country Park, was at 69% capacity and falling. To locals this was not unusual and they have seen far worse in the last 50 years. After the wettest April and June on record the panic was quickly over and the reservoir was back to its normal levels, about 87%, which kind of debunks the idea that Britain can suffer any serious effects of global warming if the correction can be made so quickly by that thing we call traditional British weather. A couple of months of wiggle on that obstinate and irritable Jet Stream and the rain did cometh. How does that capricious Jet Stream fit into the man made global warming models we wonder? We are now being told by the same climatologists that Britain having its wettest year on record was also down to global warming, even though it was a degree colder in the UK last year because of all the rain. Global warming hype is simply to raise personal taxes to make up for the shortfall big business refuse to contribute to the Treasury now by hiding it in tax havens.
Now the point on global warming and a country park in little old Northamptonshire is that the weather makes this park a very different place to go as the water levels are up and down in the reservoir across the seasons. When the water is low you can walk out to little islands of what used to be here before they flooded the valley and when it's tipping over the edge it's alive with wildlife. They have a private sailing club on the reservoir and you can hire out small rowing or motor boats to fish but its still an effort to get out on the water to enjoy it. The sailing club is rather sniffy and middle-class and more about the social side consumption of alcohol in the clubhouse than helping kids enjoy sailing.
The Brixworth Park is a relatively new facility and opened back in 1997. It has a small café, toilets, a play and picnic area and cycles for hire, a nice touch to encourage fitness and getting out and about. Its £2.50 parking although there is free parking nearby. It's a great place to launch yourself on the long walks around the reservoir and for the kids to get up close and feed the ducks and swans. Unfortunately, due to the intimacy of the parking along the reservoir edge, it's becoming a 'dogging' spot for locals, the act of watching others have sex in cars. The council has employed wardens to keep and eye out but unfortunately that's exactly what one warden did and was found out by the local cops to be not only watching but joining in, as reported in the local paper.
The walks are blustery and the full circuit nearly 8 miles long so not for amateurs, great views of the reservoir and local wildlife all the way around. The paths are graveled for walkers and cyclists and so if you do live in Northamptonshire well worth a look down there. The reservoir has a certain stillness and calm to it and a great escape from the town. I like to cycle up there to get away from it. You can also take the misses or partner up there as there are great sunsets and cozy picnic areas around the reservoir.
The small village of Brixworth is just up the hill from the park and has tea rooms and pubs to enjoy on a warm summers evening. The smallish park is very wildlife centered with bird hides and things to do for the kids and young adults around that wildlife, getting involved if they so choose, a very hands on place. They have a 'naturetots' group for preschool kids every third Wednesday of the month at 3pm where they can pet birds and animals. They also do things like country skills for all ages, like coppice techniques (hedges) and conservation, like tagging birds. It's a good place to go to breath real air and see that all is well in the eco system and all very normal and there will be no global warming. But you will need a car to get out there.
We Brits are by history (and you could say geography) a sea-faring nation and if we're kept too far from the water some of us get a bit twitchy. Since Northamptonshire is probably statistically about as far from the sea as it's possible to get, having something large and wet in the area is very important to us. For my husband and me, that little bit of watery escape territory is Brixworth Country Park.
Brixworth Country Park was opened in 1990 and is a jointly managed project between Anglian Water - the local water supplier - and Northamptonshire County Council. The country park surrounds approximately half of the man-made lake known as Pitsford Water or Pitsford Reservoir. The part which is not within the park is managed by a local fishing club and access to that area is only available to members of the club. The division between the club zone and the country park is marked by the causeway that crosses through the middle of the lake. Having only half of the lake inside the park is not a problem since the part covered by the country park is plenty big enough for most of its visitors.
The country park is one of Northamptonshire's most popular visitor attractions and seems to be the destination of choice for families with kids who want to ride their bicycles, couples taking aging relatives out for a stroll, joggers and runners who don't mind a slightly rough terrain, and just about anyone who's in search of fresh air and exercise. The park is also home to a sailing club who can be seen tacking back and forth across its waters and are, with the exception of the fishermen, the only people who are allowed to get wet in Pitsford Water.
~ What brings people to the Country Park? ~
I guess different people have differing motivations for visiting but for the majority it's the opportunity to walk, run or cycle in some very attractive countryside. Many people bring their dogs although these are supposed to be kept on leads at all times and are forbidden to go in the water. As you can imagine, both rules are widely broken. I don't have a dog but often walk down at the reservoir with a friend who 'borrows' an elderly springer spaniel. Whilst I sympathise with the need to keep the park clean, it does seem just plain cruel to take an excitable dog to a park and keep it on a lead and once they are off, there's little you can do to stop them chasing ducks.
For the less energetic, there's a café which offers second-rate food at inflated prices and has and some of the slowest service known to mankind. There's a picnic area for those wise enough to bring their own food. If you don't have your own bicycles, plenty are available for rent, including some with small trailers on the back for pulling children around. There's a sensory garden, a shop, public toilets and occasional special events too and all of these are centred around the main part of the park where the large public car park is located. Parking at that car park comes with a fee of £2 per day although annual tickets are available for frequent visitors.
We locals are too mean to pay for the main car park and tend to use the free one that's located by the causeway. There are no permanent facilities at that end of the park so this approach is only advised for those with good bladder control - it's a long walk to a loo if you start from the smaller car park. However our car park has some benefits - firstly it's the number one spot for feeding the water birds and secondly it's home to the Gallones' Ice Cream van which regularly parks up in the car park and offers excellent local ice-cream and hot drinks. Feeding the ducks at the causeway car park is one of my favourite activities and I'm not alone in this. We've met families who go to the supermarkets at the end of the day just to buy up all the cheap bread and bring it to the country park to feed the birds. Many people are rightly terrified of swans but the birds here are so tame and so used to humans that they will take bread directly from your hand.
The circuit around the park is around 7-8 miles long and generally takes us about 2 hours to walk or a lot less on a bicycle. It's a bit rough underfoot, especially after fresh batches of gravel were laid a couple of months ago and that's not helped by the fisherman's vehicles which are the only ones allowed into the park. Personally I'd make them walk - it's bad enough leaping out of the way of all the cyclists without having to contend with over-excited fishermen too. I'll admit it's a while since I did the entire circuit and mostly due to the age of my friend's dog we stick to a shorter route between the two car parks and back again. On the whole I prefer the quieter side of the park which is best accessed from the causeway car park by crossing over the lake and walking down through the woods.
~ How to get to Brixworth Country Park ~
For first time visitors, I'd recommend using the official car park. This is well sign-posted off the A508 road between Northampton and Market Harborough. Coming from Northampton, take the roundabout just before Brixworth or if you are coming from Market Harborough or the A14, you'll need the roundabout after the first turn off to Brixworth.
From Brixworth village it's possible to take footpaths all the way to the country park and this makes a lovely walk especially on summer evenings after the crowds have gone home. There are owl nesting boxes along the route and we've often seen owls flying over, checking to see what we're up to.
When we moved to Northampton almost five years ago we needed to narrow down where we wanted to live and my husband took one look at Pitsford Water and demanded that wherever we chose, it had to be not far from the reservoir. I think it was a wise choice
NOTE - For any locals looking at the photo and thinking "Hmm, there's something not quite right about that" you'd be right. Goodness only knows how, but dooyoo uploaded a picture of the lake in Abington Park. It took me a while to spot the mistake but what the heck, it's a pretty lake too, just an awful lot smaller.
Be sure to bring your bike along! Bike the seven miles from the park around Pitsford Water.