“ National park located near Olney in Buckinghamshire „
As kids Emberton Park was one of two regular Sunday outings we enjoyed/endured as a family, the other being Irchester Country Park. Built on the old gravel pits of rural north Buckinghamshire it wasn't the most glamorous of days out but it was near enough a location to be routine for mum and dad and only twenty minutes from Northampton, our home town. We would pack the orange inflatable dinghy and airbeds into the car with the picnic table and off we went. Back then it was a couple of quid to get in and you didn't get much for your buck, a few electricity points for the caravan births and a new toilet blocks to go with thee only additions since then, austerity Britain. But as log as kids bring their imagination along then there is always something to explore.
The park is basically five decent sized lakes that are joined by a lattice of channels with some walks twisting around the park and the local area, situated just outside of the picturesque village of Olney that sits snugly on the River Ouse, the water ambling though the village without a care in the world. As with any stretch of water ad lakes in the Midlands it's popular with course fisherman and so the familiar smell of the occasional rotting fish by the bank inevitable, motionless working-class men wrapped in waterproof greens under funny hats waiting for something to happen if training to be a sniper, certainly dressed the military part. Why anyone would want to spend five hours doing this and then throwing the often puny fish back is beyond me.
In summer the place is full of noise, coming mostly from the kids playing and the parents moaning, be it the 'sprogs' flapping around in the murky water (the color you get when you mixed up all your finger paints as kids) or arguing over French cricket or Swingball on the grassy play areas. Swingball was flawed, of course, as, if you dad whacked the ball it would hit you square in the head and the game would end on an injury default and lots of tears. It was also a game that would show just how rubbish girls are at ball sports and coordination. I knocked me nans frilly hat off many a time. Why do women always look drunk when they play garden games?
The exciting thing about Emberton for an adventurous kid was the water, not so much for swimming in but for dinghy time. After spending most of the morning inflating your chosen dirigible with one of them old foot pumps your old man would fall asleep in his folding chair and we would launch our SAS inflatable into the water and begin our adventure. It was unclear how deep the water was but to us we were in the middle of the Pacific and so the fun begins. In truth in the summer you could get out of the boat in most parts of the smaller lakes and it was only up to your ankles. Dad would also bring a puncture kit as the secretive and intimate channels that join the lakes have lots of sharp braches in them and so ready to stab your dinghy and so mission abort, your kids snared up in them like an old Tesco carrier bag in a tree.
On my recent visit with my little niece there was a newish kid's play area with swings and improved information points and caravan access and a small shop. You pay at the gate for caravan spots and if you park up in the village you can walk in for free. It's a place very much for relaxing rather than cramming in loads of attractions and so you ever feel rushed. There isn't much there and basically a green space for the kids to run around safely and enjoy a family picnic and a snooze without spending the earth. There are few cafes, amusement arcades and ice cream vans around to have them pulling at your arms.
Bigger sailing boats are not encouraged so all future Ben Ainslie's need to go to Billing Aquadrome near Northampton or Cosgrove Park for more expansive boat work.
Camping & Caravanning Charges
TOURING FIELD - Enclosed field with allocated pitches and toilets/showers block.
Pitch per Night £21.50 with Electric hook-up £25.00
Pitch per Week £129.00 with Electric hook-up £150.00
Three open fields with a short walk to toilets / washbasins block - No Showers.
Pitch per Night £17.00 Pitch per Week £102.00
RALLY FIELDS - CLUB GROUPS (10 minimum)
Pitch per Night £9.50 Pitch per Week £57.00
Please Note: All Rally Field users are not permitted to use showers in other camping areas within the park, for comfort and safety reasons. Any campers found breaking this rule will be asked to leave the park.
OFF-PEAK CHARGES 6th September - 31st October
£2.00 reduction on charges per night except Club Rally Group bookings
PUP TENTS - One small tent for children only, to be sited on parents pitch.
£4.50 per night in all camping areas....
I love Emberton Park, we go here usually two or three times every summer as it's such a really big park. It's great for the family too. We normally squeeze as many of us as possible into as few cars as possible so that we can all go up and make a day of it. From my youngest nephew & niece (under 2) to my eldest relatives (post retirement), it's a place where we can all enjoy ourselves.
To be honest, there's not a lot to 'do' here in terms of provided activities, it's a park! That's the beauty of it really for me, you go along, take ball, bats, hula hoop or frisbee or whatever. You throw a picnic together, take some blankets, plenty of drinks and sunscreen, and you have a proper old fashioned family day out. The park opened in 1965 and was originally a gravel works like many places locally. It's now been transformed however, and is a very attractive park that covers around 200 acres and has lakes, picnic areas, a band stand, conservation areas, kids play area and more.
The children's play area isn't massive, and to be honest we don't normally go near it unless the kids insist, but it is there, and when we do go to it the kids enjoy the swings and things. One place we do normally make a trip or three to is the loos. They're not bad, as public loos go to be honest, though I do always make sure I take paper with me as I've seen many an empty holder there, so be warned!
You can also fish on the lakes here, but you'll need a permit, and only in season of course - this appeals to one or two members of the family particularly my step dad, so for at least part of the day we normally leave them to that while we go and enjoy a walk round the lake or something.
Oh and one really important thing for me - the park is very much wheelchair accessible! Ok, not quite everywhere is 100% accessible, but as a whole the park is really very good and the paths are wide enough for a chair no problem which means I can go everywhere the rest of my family go and I don't have to worry about how far it is, or whether I'll be able to manage. Also if you're a blue badge holder you can apply for a permit and that means that when you visit you can get in for free.
If you're not a blue badge holder, it does generally cost to get in if you come by car, but you can get a permit for unlimited use, or you can pay as a one off fee, and to be honest it's not huge amounts and I think it's a great way for them to help look after the 200 acres of land that make up the park and keep it nice for everyone. The charge is per car, not per person, and £3.50 per car, whether you have 2 people or 10 people in it, isn't too bad really. Pedestrian access is free.
We love this park for family days out, and it's even better if one of the local brass bands is playing here when we visit.