“ National Parks / Address: Chester-le-Street Riverside Riverside Sports Pavilion Riverside South Chester-le-Street County Durham DH3 3SJ „
I've been a regular visitor to Riverside Park in Chester-le-Street over the last few years. Features include ornamental gardens, a wildlife meadow, bowling green, childrens play areas and the riverside walk with accompanying waterfowl. It's easy to get to; right next door to Durham County Cricket Club just off the main A167, it's overlooked by Lumley Castle. A greeting sign upon entering reads 'Gateway to the Great North Forest', and a map shows walking routes in the locale. There's a good sized pay and display car park, the rates aren't too bad, I think we usually pay 90p for 2 hours.
As the parent of a young child, the main draw for our family is the childrens play area. This is large and well maintained, it's also continually updated and developed. When we first began coming to this park the main play park was in the gated area. This boasts a colourful central castle with slides which land in a sandpit. Around here are lots of rides for young and older children, several slides, unusual climbing frames, see saws and spinny things. There's lots for toddlers as well as older children. There are only three toddler swings which means that if it's at all busy children have to wait for a turn, and it does get very busy, in the summertime particularly. For older children, the swings are more adventure based, rather than the traditional three-in-a-row type.
The field next door has had a lot added to it recently, this is styled more like an adventure playground and includes an aerial runway, one of those large net swings and obstacle courses. There are also some of those adult exercise machines that seem to be springing up in green spaces everywhere.
In the summer there will almost certainly be an ice cream van near to the entrance of the play area and there's often a trampoline pitch too, one of those where you pay maybe £1 for five minutes. Also near the main play area are some floor games; giant snakes and ladders, hopscotch and a target score.
Another attraction is the kidney shaped paddling pool and fountain. This seems only to open during the summer holidays. When it's open it's a nice extra which can turn the park experience from just a trip to the swings into a fully fledged day out.
The Park Centre is a short distance away. There's a kiosk which sells ice creams, chips and other snacks and has an outdoor seating area. The toilets are rather basic and could generally do with a clean on the occasions I've visited. There are disabled toilets and a separate room for nappy changing. These facilities are open from 9am to 6pm in summer and 9am - 3pm in winter.
Just behind the Park Centre is the bowling club and gardens. The gardens are well maintained and have a planetary theme, each garden reflects a different star or planet. There's a folly which is meant to be walk-through but has been locked whenever I've visited. There are plenty of benches dotted around. There are a few boards around with information about the local wildlife, including the wildlife meadow which gets cut down over the winter to bloom again in spring. A spotters guide can also be picked up from the nearby sports pavillion.
Another big draw for children are the birds. On the river are to be found lots of ducks and swans and a few other water birds too, such as cormorants and moorhens. Unfortunately the edge of the river is usually swamped with bread, obviously thrown to the birds by well meaning people. The birds are used to people and will often eat from hands, but do be wary with young children and swans, I remember being quite worried about the size of them when my daughter was toddling around and they were following her in search of food. I do think it would be a good idea for the shop to sell appropriate bird food, rather than letting people swamp the river with bread which isn't the best food them in any case.
Dogs must be on lead in the gardens and aren't allowed in the play area, although they can run free in other areas. There are fines in place for dog fouling and park rangers can also issue on the spot fines for litter dropping. There are plenty of bins around. The park has a Green Flag award which means it meets national standards for well managed parks. People are requested not to go into the river, it does have a strong current and several people have drowned in it, there are lifebelts located all along the bank.
Riverside is one of my favourite parks. It's very popular with families with children, but it has plenty to appeal to other visitors too. There are various events on during the year, we've been to a dog show and kite day amongst other things. The play facilities are excellent, the gardens are nice, you can buy hot and cold food and if the weather permits it a walk along the river tops off a nice day out.
Riverside Sports Pavilion
Tel:0191 389 0986