The country park at Great Notley, near Braintree in Essex, is a great place for a family day out and an easy stop on your way out from, or back to, Happy Campers’ HQ. The open space, which covers more than 100 acres, was once arable farmland but has been transformed into exciting play areas and beautiful countryside walks.
There are over 15 miles of walking and cycling paths on the Flitch Way which follows the old railway line between Braintree and Bishop’s Storford and with comprehensive cycle hire on site, there’s nothing easier than getting on a bike and exploring the local countryside.
We visited on a chilly, overcast day in November, wrapped up in scarves and wellies to search out the adventures waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately the water had been turned off for the winter in the water play area. This is a hugely popular section in the summer months, as it’s full of equipment for children that allows them to experiment with various ways of transporting water around wheels, aquaducts and streams. So, we sped past that onto the huge see-saw and spent a good ten minutes running from one end to the other trying to balance it.
As we made our way along the mile-long, winding play trail, we stopped at each of the adventure areas, whizzing down slides, balancing on logs and playing shops in the wooden houses. The cold weather had obviously put a few people off as we seemed to have much of the park to ourselves, but there’s nothing the boys and I love more than wrapping up and getting out in the fresh air, whatever the weather!
There’s plenty to do, whatever your age, with role-play areas, different sized structures for climbing on and a huge sand pit with a variety of digging and building tools. My two particularly liked the wobbly stairs and ‘bouncy swing see-saw’ although I’m sure that’s not it’s official title!
We didn’t have time to explore the lakes and ponds, where you can spend hours fishing if that’s a favourite pastime, nor the many wooden sculptures hidden all over the park. However, we did manage to finish off with a race up the ‘Great Notley Bowl’ – an amphitheatre used for outdoor performances – to the ‘Bird of Peace’ sculpture so we could take in the fab view from the top.
To round off our day and warm ourselves up, we popped into The Wooden Spoon cafe for hot chocolate and cake before heading back to the camper for the journey home. All in all a fantastic adventure of a day!
Great Notley Country Park is located on the A131 near Bratintree, so it’s within easy reach of Happy Campers HQ. The park is open all year round from 8am until dusk with many special events taking place in the Discovery Centre throughout the year.