Take a walk on the wild side with new nature trail at Kettering’s Wicksteed Park

Wicky Bear with local children Marley Sansford, three, and Hayden Sansford, eight, exploring the new play trail at Wicksteed Park in Kettering
Wicky Bear with local children Marley Sansford, three, and Hayden Sansford, eight, exploring the new play trail at Wicksteed Park in Kettering

A unique outdoor trail has been launched at Wicksteed Park to encourage youngsters to get out in the fresh air and have fun and adventures.

The free natural play trail at the Kettering park matches the vision of Charles Wicksteed, who founded the park as part of his dream to inspire and encourage play as a way to improve health and well-being.

It will be launched at the park’s latest playday event on Wednesday, May 27, where there will also be a number of other free activities for children and families to enjoy.

The park holds playday events throughout the year, featuring a host of traditional fun activities and games, to encourage families to exercise and have fun in the country park.

Many of the attractions on the play trail have been completed as part of the £3million restoration of the park’s lake, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Northamptonshire County Council and Kettering Council.

Activities include making a splash in the new sand and water play area located down in the lakeside area, building a castle and bringing a spade and dig for treasure in the giant sand pit, crossing the troll bridge to see what’s lurking in the water beneath and visiting the sleeping wooden reindeer by the train.

Youngsters can also find a stick and use it as a sword to find their way through the enchanted arboretum, make a daisy chain as they make their way round the trail, explore the willow tunnels and climb to the top of the logs to see if they can find the slide to come down.

People attending the Playday event will be able to pick up a leaflet to guide them around the trail.

Other activities at the event, which starts at 11am, will include a giant mini beast hunt, seed planting, a live music workshop, a straw mountain, arts and crafts and a space hopper maze.

Wicksteed Park’s managing director Alasdair McNee said: “The new natural play trail is a way of encouraging children to get out into the park, have adventures and most importantly have fun.

“The park has 147 acres to explore but how many children have looked under a log to see what’s there, or watched a squirrel for more than a minute, or counted how many different coloured flowers they can find on a walk?

“The attractions of modern technology and the like mean that the joy of natural play can be lost and we want children to rediscover that, both through the trail and our playdays.

“Most areas are wheelchair friendly and people don’t need any equipment, they just need to bring their imagination.

“They can do as much or as little of it as they like, whether that is ten minutes or the whole day.”

In his 1928 book, A Plea for Children’s Recreation after School Hours and after School Age, Charles Wicksteed outlined his ethos on children’s play when he said: “I have good reason to believe that the park I have formed has changed the lives for the better, to a greater or lesser extent of thousands of children.

“I have direct evidence from mothers how whining, pale-faced children, complaining of any food they get, have come back with healthy faces and rosy complexions, ready to eat the house out after a good play in the playground.”

The play trail is free and open all year and is perfect for families, youth groups and schools with children aged up to about seven who are looking for something to do outside.

Normal car parking charges apply or people can walk or cycle into the park for free.

Wicksteed Park has also announced a host of other new attractions for 2015.

They include the Wickys Play Factory indoor interactive play area, a new drop slide and the Woolloomooloo walk-through aviary.

The park has also recently launched one of the UK’s tallest and longest zip wires – RUSH.

For further information on the playday, go to www.wicksteedpark.org.