Sywell Country Park has all the necessary ingredients for an amazing day out from Oxfordshire. Why would it not? This is a very scenic Country Park, developed from a former water supply reservoir and its surrounding pastureland, adventure playground in the woodlands with tunnel galore and big slide, a huge sand pit, water play equipment, mini beast sculptures, picnic meadows, outdoor native butterfly garden AND you only have to pay for parking.
The filter bed playground is visible from the carpark. It is essentially a huge sand pit with play equipment and a big climbing frame with climbing wires, wobbly rope bridge and tunnel slide, fireman pole and ropes to come down on. The water play area is next to it and though it looked a bit worn down, it was still fantastic. Ay was straight on to it, luckily, it wasn’t working on a cold wet autumn day. There is a water pump at the top, releasing water into the streams going all the way down to the mini reservoirs. It was full of sand and autumn leaves, though kids were trying to clear up the debris to help water trickle through. The set up is fantastic though my slight criticism is that of the location of the main water pump being outside the main fenced area. You can either climb through the frame and go up to it or you can walk out of the playground entrance and go to it. Either way, if your child is little, you won’t be able to see them from the playground down below, which (although Ay is tall for his age) happened to me. Although he is not one of those children who run away without saying, I started panicking when he was not in sight. Luckily, he re-appeared but it is something to be aware of if you visit. There was a play digger in the sandpit, which was cordoned off. Swings, stand up revolver and springers made the rest of the play area.
The amphibian pond is located next to the filter bed playground. We have recently been pond dipping at Science Oxford, so Ay was really excited; unfortunately, we couldn’t spot anything despite trying very hard, apart from the white flies which are swarming everywhere these days. Next to the pond is the Butterfly garden which, despite it being autumn, looked quite nice. I hope it has lots of butterflies in season. There is also a cool wooden shed/ hut on the side of the woodland area. I wished we were locals as I would have loved to have Ay’s birthday here.
You can do the normal thing and follow the path to the reservoir from the playground or race up the little hill (like us). The water is not visible from down below, so made for a good sight when it suddenly appeared in front of us.
However, if you kept to and followed the main path behind the filter bed house, you will come across a little stream. There are also meant to be cascades of mini waterfalls created by water running down big steps but unfortunately the dry weather of the summer meant water was quite sparse. It must look pretty good when water is freely flowing.
The walk around the reservoir or the lake (whatever you want to call it) is around 2.5 miles. The original Edwardian pump house buildings and valve tower still survive along with a collection of exotic trees in a small arboretum below the dam , which you can admire on your walk. The perimetry of the reservoir is a mini wall, which some children were climbing and running. on. It is still a fair distance from the water, so I did not think it was very unsafe, but you must know your child’s abilities better than anyone else. There are plenty of ducks and swans around too, though the dogs were running after them and chasing them away.
We started off the walk around the reservoir but as we got closer to the tower, we could hear screaming children from the woodland area below, so we headed in that direction. Voila, we came across a play area of any child’s dreams aka Brockwoods.
Brockwood is super cool. There is a network of interconnected tunnels made from huge pipes. You can start with one and go to the next and the next. It is pitch dark in there and the recent rain meant it was a bit muddy, but that could not deter Ay! He crawled into the first one and re-appeared all dirty from another one (Top tip: do not go in you best clothes or at least take change with you). There were some more tunnels on the other side of the play area as well. At one point, when he went in, he was so quiet that I started to panic. Apparently, he was just scaring me! this boy is getting really cheeky. He then started playing hide and seek with me which was not a good idea. There was no way I was going into the tunnels! luckily he made friends with another boy and the two kept playing together for almost half an hour. I sincerely hope these tunnels are cleaned regularly as they must invite all sorts of reptiles and mini beasts.
There are two slides in this area. Well I think they are two but I am not sure. One is the conventional looking, long spiral tunnel one while the other one is just a tarmac/ rubber mat laid on the downslope of the hill next to the first slide. I was not sure if this was actually a climbing platform for the first one or whether it was a seperate slide. Older boys were running up on it and then sliding down, sometimes running down, sometimes sitting and pushing down, sometimes sliding upside down (and timing who did it the quickest). Ay started attempting sliding upside down, which had my heart in my mouth, but despite the rain, luckily both slides were slow. His track bottom at the end of this was brown with mud! (Top tip repeat: do not go in you best clothes or at least take change with you).
There is also an awesome network of interconnected wooden balancing beams, in addition to the animal and insect sculptures dotted under the trees.
Once Ay was in Brockwood, there was no way I could get him out of there and by the time he did, it was getting dark. I would say do the walk or a bit of the walk first or at least between the two play areas, otherwise, the kids will be too tired for it.
Address: Washbrook Ln, Ecton, Northampton NN6 0QX
Paid parking- 3.2£ for 4 hours, 5.2 £ for upto 8 hours- There are pay points in each car park and you can pay by coin or card. Please see latest charges HERE
The toilets including Baby facilities and disabled ones are open from 7am to 7pm daily, except for Christmas Day.
The Pump House cafe is open daily, except for Christmas Day (subject to proprietor’s discretion).
Buggy accessible is most parts but terrain can be bumpy and muddy and some uphill portions as well
Dogs allowed but not in the play area
Picnics allowed- A ban on all BBQs, open fires and loudspeaker systems has been introduced in Sywell Country Park by North Northamptonshire Police (NNC). The move comes after an increase in the number of anti-social and unauthorised parties in the park. Why do some people have to ruin the fun for everyone!