“ Address: Irchester Country Park, Gipsy Lane, Little Irchester, Wellingborough NN29 7DL „
As I said before Irchester and Emberton Country Parks were the two default local days out when we were kids, not too far from our hometown of Northampton and so many a long summers Sunday afternoon spent there, whether we liked it or not. It's just something we did and never thought twice about. Where as Emberton is a park your car up by the water affair with plenty of space for ball games ad picnics, Irchester Country Park is a more physical affair with lots of walks and adventure playgrounds to wear the kids out as mum lets them off the leash with a picnic to enjoy as reward.
As with Emberton it's a park created around some old mineral works although here the extraction of iron ore not gravel, less about lakes and open space and more about big holes in the ground and forests to be explored. In recent years the park has become more commercial with pay play areas and an onsite shop and activity weekends but still somewhere for the kids imaginations to run wild.
It's situated near the grotty market town of Wellingborough and with no charge on the gate a great place for parents to take their kids for a weekend day out to wear them out for an early night but not spend too much. If long walks in the reasonably sized wooded areas are not for you and your kids (circular, waymarked and hard-surfaced) then there's an educational working steam train museum on site with a 200 yard track to watch the old trains go up and down. There is also the 'Spirits of Wood' chainsaw artist work based in the park and a new play area with rope bridges and all manner of climbing frames for the kids to try out instead. Sadly you have to pay a tenner for the pleasure and so mostly yummy mummies hiding in the compound to escape the rough boys tearing around the park on their BMX bikes and stolen cars. Well how else did you think those rusting old cars get to the bottom of quarries?
The quarries are good fun for the kids to explore although not the safest places as loose rocks are everywhere. There are plenty of deep wooded areas to walk around and secret little water pools deep inside of them if you are more inquisitive with your walks. The tracks are marked out with those familiar acorns and pleasant strolls and not too long. As I say it's less about water here and more about physical activities for the kids and with a big grassy play area for picnics and a game of French cricket you can split the day up into what you want to do although if you go there regular its not really an all day place.
The walks are fun and plenty of pinecones to kick around the haunted woods. When the winds blow and the trees sway here it is spooky. The play and picnic areas where the car park is can get busy so best to do the trails and enjoy the woods and quarries instead and the picnic area also popular. There is a local shop there for tea and snacks although no camping sites as such, the park just too small to be that type of venue. The train museum is great for kids for the basic stuff with plenty of hissing and whistling steam engines to explore the mechanisms of with a guided tour. They run educational trips and days out for local schools too.
Parking - £2.50 (pay and display)
Upper car park open all day, every day
Lower car park open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily (except Christmas Day)
Annual car parking permits available
Blue badge holder parking available near to accessible toilets (pay and display charge applies)
Open every day except Christmas Day
Open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily (except Christmas Day)
As a child we used to regularly visit Irchester country park or "Irchy park" as we call it. It was an 8 mile drive away from our home as children so it was the perfect place to go and just run around and take a picnic. Now I live much closer and can walk there in around 45minutes from our home.
**This review is a day out for those with children. If you don't have children, it's still an amazing place to go just for the walking and the sights. It's a beautiful place and there is much to do for adults too. **
About the Park:
Irchester country park was a former ironstone quarry which is still there now. You'll see the quarries which look like big huge craters when walking the trails.
The park has 83 hectares of land. There are so many different parts to the park to walk around you definitely want to check it all out. There are big climbs, muddy paths, huge sheltering trees and so much wildlife and magical sounds.
Irchester country park is situated between Wellingborough and Irchester in Northamptonshire East Midlands.
The park and what to do:
Pack up a picnic, bring blankets and a football and Irchester country park can give you a whole day of fun. Just make sure to wear comfy shoes.
When you arrive, a £2.50 parking fee will be charged for the day. They are open Wednesday-Sunday, all day, but the lower car park shuts at 5pm, so if your planning a later arrival, then park in the upper car park. It's open everyday on school holidays.
If you have children, this park is a great place to wear them out and for you all to enjoy family time. The only way to really get there is by car or there is public transport to use with a bus stop outside. Just make sure to know which stop to get off!.
The park is just like Doctor Who's Tardis. From the outside it looks small, yet when you get there, it's very big. There are so many different things to enjoy and pretty much all free!.
Picnic in the park:
Whenever we visit we will always pack a picnic. There are so many benches and table sections to stop off and eat a picnic. There is a beautiful grass field area which I always prefer when visiting. I like to pack a nice big picnic blanket and enjoy the surrounding trees and wildlife chirping in the woodland.
There are so many options for eating out here at Irchester park as they have their own cafe which you can eat in or out of. I haven't eaten here as I always like to make the day as low cost as possible,
but I've heard a lot of people say it's lovely and well priced. There is even the option for you can set up a BBQ in the designated area and eat a hot lunch cooked by yourself. Bring a coolbox full of meat and some buns and you can cook for the family. It's the perfect way to make your day much cheaper. You could have lunch and dinner at the park if you planned it well.
The majority of the benched areas and the BBQ areas aren't too far from the parking so you could leave it all in the boot and go back when it's wanted. Again, I haven't done this as I don't usually go with a big party of people so taking a picnic lunch is always my best option.
If you are travelling here there are plenty of supermarkets in the surrounding areas and a large Tesco not far from the park if you wanted to pick something up on your way. Me and Hollie have often been to the park just for lunch.
Walking the trails:
There are lots of different trails to walk at Irchester country park. There are short ones, long ones, adventure walks and ones which aren't suitable to small children. There are trails which involve high mud hills or large steps which isn't suitable for buggies or wheelchairs.
Most of the trails are muddy so taking wellington boots with you is important for the wet weather. The best trails to walk bring you to small climbing frame parks or the large one with lots of fun things for the kids to play with. There are lots of benches to sit at whilst the children play there and they are fenced in so little ones can't wonder off on their own. Just don't forget a plastic bag to put those muddy wellies in!
Me and Hollie usually take the shorter trails which are best for us as she walks slower than a snail and stops every 5 seconds to pick something up. We usually bring a small bucket with us now so Hollie can pick up sticks and feathers from all the different birds we see residing in the trees.
Bringing your bikes:
There are tonnes of routes which are flat which will be great for a bike ride around the park, or if you're a BMX rider or mountain biker, the mud hills and drops will be great fun to ride on. We usually see them about from time to time in groups and watch them jump over the hills. It's quite scary to watch because you don't know how skilled they really are. When Hollie is more steady on her bike in a year or so, we will be taking our bikes round there and possibly try the longer trails on bike. There are a lot of flat trails which are great for biking round.
Narrow Gauge Railway Museum:
Open on SUNDAYS only.
The railway museum is free to go to and is home to a collection of exhibits and industrial artifacts. There are steam and diesel locomotives to look at and a life size diorama of a quarry. There are also many other interesting displays. I haven't been there for a long time and can't remember it well. We visited there with the school when doing a sponsored walk but that was going back almost 12 years. It's changed since then and has more exhibits to view.
Prices: Xplorer Adults: £21 each (18years+) Children: £16 each Family (2 adults 2 children): £65 (Children must be 10 years or 1.35m) Adventurer Children: £12 each (4years+) If you and your family would prefer to do something a bit different and wild, the Jungle Parc is good fun to do. It's also great for the adventurer package for children's birthday parties. The high wire forest adventure allows you to trek through the trees on over 40 different activities, such as zip wires, Tarzan swings and cargo nets.
There are photos and more info on this here: https://www.jungleparc.co.uk/index.php This part is fairly new and we haven't seen it in action yet. I am a bit of wimp when it comes to things like this, so I'm sure I will be sat on the sidelines watching others when we see this. Hollie wouldn't go near it either, it's hard enough getting her to go on the tea cup rides at carnivals. If your planning the day to be free, you can go to the park's customer centre and get an orienteering pack. These will include a trail map and bearings for you to follow. Just adds some fun to your walks.
Children's playground park:
There are two playground areas for children to play in. One is smaller with swings and fun wibbly wobbly walk alongs made from wood. The second is much bigger with lots of different things to do. Hollie loves these parks the most. We always go here after lunch so she can play with other children and have some time to wear herself out before heading home. The whole way round the trail walking she will be asking me when it's time to head to the park. I enjoy watching her here. There are swings and slides and some really good climbing apparatus which is quite different from anything I've seen before. There are almost vertical wooden walls with ropes for the children to try climb to the top on. Hollie always attempts these and fails landing on her bum a lot. There is a sand box where children can dig and find things but Hollie is terrified of getting dirty so she always stays away. Almost everything in the play areas is made from wood which is great as it fits into the surroundings and blends in well. In the summer it gets very busy so I tend to choose a week day to go as that is less busy.
Fun free things to plan before hand:
Get some paper and glue ready and bring it along with you. The children and go leaf searching and find all the different leaves they can and stick them down.
It's great fun to learn what all the leaves are too in a leaf identifying book you could bring along too. You could also bring paper and crayons to do some rubbings of the trees and different surfaces at the park.
Bring the camera, there are lots of photo opportunities in the park and some great wildlife photos you could capture.
The squirrels aren't shy and often come very close.
I loved going here as a child but I love it even more now as I have a child to take. Hollie really enjoys coming here and this summer I know we will be visiting it a lot. There is so much to do there and if you pack your picnic, you can stay all day. Just don't forget to pack spare clothes, shoes and some rain coats. The amount of times me and my family went as a child and we would get soaked or someone would get mud plastered over them was uncountable.
It can be such a low cost day out for the family if you plan it well. Pack a picnic up and lots to drink, parking is just £2.50 for the day and you can do whatever you want to. With being able to BBQ, it just means you can eat something filling when hungry from your long walks. If you don't want to go walking, there is so much else to do that it will still fill your day. I love going here just to get some relaxation and quiet away from home. It has so much to do you can never get bored of going there.
The best parts for me are the planes of grass. I love setting up a blankets and picnic whilst playing games with Hollie and other family. We often take over some tennis rackets or cricket bats to play some games. It's best to go on a sunny day so you get to experience the park without the mud being wet or the grass damp, yet there is still lots of ground and it wouldn't disrupt anyone still. I have so many memories from Irchester country park and I have so many more to come with my daughter. She loves being outdoors and being an adventurer.
You can really have a brilliant family day here and it will do well to wear the kids out. I give the park as a whole, 5/5 star due to it being a magical place to enjoy. I would go there every week if we could in the summer. It's full of fun and children love it.
Thanks for reading.
Irchester Country Park is a free exploring park with 83 hectares of land to walk.