I’ve been meaning to visit Stanwick Lakes, near Wellingborough, for quite a while, having heard so many great things about it. It was actually a lot closer than I realised – it only took about 50 minutes to get there from Market Deeping. We went during February half term with some friends and spent nearly the whole day there.
Stanwick Lakes is a 750 acre nature reserve in the heart of the Nene valley, between Thrapston and Wellingborough just off the A45. There’s so much to do for everyone – families are very well catered for (and something for kids of all ages), but it’s also well-known for its wildlife, particularly birds, and there are a number of bird hides around the reserve.
What’s at Stanwick Lakes?
Where to start! There is so much to keep families busy for the whole day. Right by the car park is a fantastic adventure playground with towers, slides, cargo nets, wobbly bridges, a pirate ship, climbing frame and much more. I think our kids would have been quite happy to play here all day long! The playground is surrounded by a moat and also incorporates small streams, water pumps and rills, so be prepared to get wet. It was a bit cold to play in the water when we visited in February, but I imagine in the height of summer this will be the place to be!
There are lots of places to picnic right by the playground, including a BBQ area (with purpose-built BBQ stands). I like the fact the car park is right by the playground and picnic area, so you don’t need to lug your picnic around with you.
After our picnic lunch the kids grabbed scooters and bikes and we headed off on a walk around the reserve. There are several different circular routes to take in different parts of the reserve. We did the adventure trail (1 ¼ miles) which took in four different pieces of play equipment: two climbing rocks (the larger especially appeals to older children and teenagers), a rope bridge over the water, a giant tyre swing and zip wire. Needless to say, we took quite a while to get round the loop, having to stop to play on everything. We also explored a bird hide on the way round and an iron age roundhouse.
There’s also a heritage trail about the history of the site, a sculpture trail and a nature trail. The surfaced paths are even (in most places) and accessible for buggies (you wouldn’t need an off-road buggy), scooter, bikes and wheelchairs. The day we visited it had been raining, so it was muddy off the path, but the paths themselves were fine. For older children and adults, there is an assault course. There is also cycle hire (March to November) and boat hire (May to July).
After our walk/scoot/bike around the adventure trail we headed into the café to warm up. This is a large space with plenty of table indoors as well as a terrace overlooking one of the lakes. We just had a cup of tea and some cake, but the lunch menu looked good (hot meals, sandwiches and a kids’ menu) and reasonably priced. There is also a little indoor play area – The Hideaway – but this does cost £1.50 per child.
I know we have Ferry Meadows in Peterborough right on our doorstep, but I think it is worth a trip to Stanwick Lakes – even if just for the adventure playground. I can’t wait to return in summer when we can BBQ and Little Miss can play in the water in the playground.
Events at Stanwick Lakes
There are lots of family events at Stanwick Lakes, especially over school holidays. Regular events include the Rainbow Café – a parent and tots group every Wednesday which includes a craft, singing and music. For adults there are a number of craft classes including needle felting, spinning and button crafts. Many of the indoor events take place in the purpose-built Discovery Zone in the Visitors Centre. See the Stanwick Lakes website for details about events.
All the important bits
Stanwick Lakes is situated off the A45 between Wellingborough (eight miles away) and Thrapston (seven miles away). It is signposted off the A45. The postcode for sat nav is NN9 6GY.
There is a large car park by the Visitors Centre. There is a charge depending on the time of year and day of the week. It ranges from £2/day (November – February) to £5/day (summer school holidays). See Stanwick Lakes website for full information. The site is free for those who walk or cycle in.
Eating and drinking
There are plenty of picnic tables around the Visitors Centre and adventure playground, as well as occasional picnic benches throughout the rest of the reserve. There are also plenty of grassy spaces to set up a picnic. Café Solar inside the Visitors Centre serves a full range of hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes and light meals, including daily specials and a kids’ menu. Over summer there is a kiosk outside selling hot and cold drinks, snacks and ice cream.
There are toilets and baby changing facilities in the Visitors Centre, as well as some by the adventure playground.