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A surprisingly fine city park
Abington Park (Northampton)
Member Name: koshkha
Abington Park (Northampton)
Advantages: Plenty to see and do and lots of wide open space
Disadvantages: Dare I say........it's in Northampton!
I thought I'd take a little break from all my India and Bhutan reviews and write about somewhere much closer to home.
I've lived not far from Northampton for over 4 years now and it's fair to say that I'm generally pretty rude about what the town has to offer. I don't venture into the centre very often - it always seems to be full of yobby kids and there's not a lot to excite me on the shopping front. However, if you take a small trip just out of the centre, there's a park that's well worth a visit.
I lived in the area for over a year before discovering that Abington Park even existed and even then, only because my husband signed our cats up with a vet near the park. It was a further two years before I went to take a proper look. A friend from Norfolk was visiting in autumn and we needed somewhere to pass an afternoon. Since the things worth seeing in Northants tend to shut as soon as August passes, we decided to check out Abington Park and Museum.
**How to find Abington Park**
There may be many ways of getting there but for me, if I were in the centre of Northampton, I'd head east up the Wellingborough Rd (or Welly Road as it's known locally), and turn sharp right round the weird roundabout - or alternatively, down the Bedford Rd and turn Left.
The park is massive and if you drive roughly in the right direction, it's so big you'll struggle to miss it. The park is bisected by a road not too surprisingly called Park Avenue. Most of the facilities lie to the west of the road but the largest part of the park is to the right. We parked up at the south east side of the park and walked back to the eastern area.
**What you will find**
The park was opened in 1897 and was the first public park in Northampton. It must have been exceptionally valuable back in the days where few people had gardens and living standards were poor. I had few expectations of what we'd find and I have to admit I was really impressed. We started out by visiting the museum which is one of two in the town run by the local council. In addition to general household and historical objects, the museum also hosts the collection of the Northamptonshire Regiment and the Northamptonshire Yeomanry. The building is a grade one listed and dates to the 15th century when it was a manor house that was once the home of one of Shakespeare's granddaughters. The park grounds would have been the gardens and land of the house. Close by the museum is the beautiful small church of St Peter and St Paul where the aforementioned granddaughter was buried.
Other attractions in this part of the park include bowling greens and tennis courts, a small aromatic herb garden which was apparently created for the blind, a rather bizarre aviary, a popular café and a terrific old traditional bandstand. On the afternoon we visited a male voice choir was belting out some tunes whilst the good folk of Northampton sat or lay on the grass in the sunshine.
On the east side of Park Avenue you'll find the largest area of land. The road is lined by horsechestnut trees and slopes steeply down to a very large children's playground and a beautiful lake where local anglers like to fish and people walk round the lake to feed the ducks and watch the birds. Traditionally the mayor of the town plants a tree each year to mark his or her time in office. At the very far side of the lake you can find the remains of a deserted medieval village that dates back to the 13th century and see an old pigeonry that's several centuries old.
The park also offers facilities for local sports teams who can hire football,cricket, rugby and hockey pitches by the hour as well as renting changing facilities. I think that starts to give you a sense of just how big it is.
The remarkable thing about Abington Park is that even though it's very popular with local people there's still always plenty of space. It's so big that it seldom feels crowded and everyone should be able to find their own bit of space. I wouldn't suggest to go out of your way to visit, but if you find yourself in Northampton with time to spare, it's a lovely place for a visit.
Summary: A bit of a gem and free for everyone to enjoy
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