We braved the winter sunshine for a much needed breath of fresh air. After a very dramatic morning (involving a newly fledged toddler, a fight with a door frame and a trip to the walk in centre 🤦🏻♀️) it was nice to get out of the house for a change of scenery.
One of my favourite things about living in the North East is all the amazing nooks and crannies hidden in plain sight. The sort of places where you’re instantly transported from the hustle and bustle of the city and suburbs, to a tranquil space which feels like the middle of nowhere. Watergate Forest Park provides just this kind of escapism.
Popular with dog walkers and wildlife appreciators – this vast expanse of winding woodlands, clearings and paths is ideal for blowing away the cobwebs.
Firstly we popped into the super welcoming Watergate Cafe, which is nestled just next to the football fields behind Emmanuel College. They run loads of lovely sessions for little ones. This week involved a morning and afternoon story and craft session themed on the Gruffalo (eeek!). Attendance is free, but support of the cafe by means of purchasing refreshments is much appreciated. We were slightly late for the afternoon session (given the morning’s events getting there at all was nothing short of a miracle) so we missed the story but the kids got suck straight in with the crafts – making some really cool Gruffalo masks from paper plates.
The cafe itself is really well suited for little ones, with a relaxed atmosphere, play kitchen and a lovely array of toys to suit all ages. It’s so really dog friendly (and even runs doggy birthday parties!!). I bought a drink to have while they played (caused chaos) and some duck food for the next part of our adventure.
The park itself is absolutely ginormous! Built on a former colliery site, it’s been transformed into wonderful wildlife reserve featuring wetlands (cue massive duck pond!!), a waterfall, wildflower meadows, expansive woodlands and trailing paths.
You could literally walk for miles however we were somewhat limited by little legs, as my eldest insisted on jumping in every, single, muddy puddle and stroking every, single, boulder (mummy made the mistake of introducing her to the furry moss…🤦🏻♀️)
We made it as far as the duck pond (eventually) and had a glorious time feeding the incredibly excited wildlife (with an equally excited 15mo who is duck MAD at the moment!). The view over the pond was particular spectacular as the sun started to lower in the sky.
Keen eyes will be thrilled to discover all the various pieces of artwork/sculptures dotted around the park. Especially all of the different chairs which are like magnets to small children (and weary mums).
I would have loved to explore further to the waterfall but with only a single buggy and a wandering 3 year old the trek was getting a bit tiring (note to self buy a buggy board!!!) so we reluctantly (and oh so slowly) ambled our way back to the car park, saying hello to all the rocks along the way 🤦🏻♀️. We also appear to have gained a stick somehow…
There are two car parks, which are free to use – a smaller one which is near to the cafe, just next to Emmanuel College (be warned, during term times this is very much taken over by 6th formers so we were unable to find a space) and a much larger one which is signposted just off Wickham Highway.
For a full list of events coming up at the cafe check out their Facebook page.