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When we go down to the woods today. . . .
Moors Valley Country Park & Forest (Dorset)
Member Name: Evie-x-
Moors Valley Country Park & Forest (Dorset)
Advantages: Free apart from parking & additional activities, something for everyone, yummy food
Disadvantages: Not great in wet weather
Situated in Ringwood about ten miles from Bournemouth Moors Valley is a country park that literally offers something for every member of the family. It is open from 8am and closes at about 5pm although this changes according to the season.
On arrival you park in a massive car park, as it can be very popular in the summer. The car parking is paid at pay machines. It is £8 to park for the day but there is no entry fee to moors valley (although there are additional charges for certain activities). There is not much point hunting elsewhere to park for free as a lot of it is residential permit parking. If you are disabled you need to have a blue badge&tax exemption proof which needs to be shown in the visitors centre in order to park for free.
The large visitors centre is the best place to start off if you are unfamiliar with Moors Valley. The Rangers are extremely helpful and friendly. It is in here that you can book on activities (in peak season you would need to this in advance) and purchase walking, cycling and fitness trail guides. These were £1 each but the trails are quite easily followed without these so you could save your pennies for an extra ice cream!
Up near the visitors centre there is a lovely restaurant/cafe, we popped in there for a cuppa when we arrived& the breakfasts looked yummy. It offers a range of food from cakes to burgers. I had a delicious burger meal (£10) and my son had a kiddies meal(£4.99).. The wait for food was only about 15 minutes but it was obviously freshly cooked¬ just microwaved! Next to the cafe there is a large block of toilets which even later on in the day was still clean which is unbelievable with the number of people using them. There are great baby changing facilities which was a lovely find.
There is a gift shop near to the toilets (very cleverly placed for people who are waiting for loved ones to finish in the toilets) it sells a range of toys and trinklets. I didn't think it was too unreasonable and there were some cheaper items for little ones to buy.
It is hard to know where to begin on things to do at Moors Valley as there is so much, you would need at least two/three days. We followed the Play Trail which is about a mile long. All along the track there are huge structures for children and the young at heart to climb on from spiders webs to wooden beams. At the moment they are replacing the tunnels with a new treehouse. Off of the play trail you can join a tree-tops trail which takes you up through the trees but we didn't do this as we had our pushchair. The paths were easy with a buggy and would be suitable for wheelchairs. There are picnic benches along the trail although these are often busy. There are no litter bins so it is best to bring a carrier bag with you to place your bits in. This is because there is a lot of wildlife&we saw quite a few squirrels who I imagine would love rummaging through litter given half a chance.
There are lots of walking trails which take you through the woods. You will often see parts of the Go Ape Trail which adds to the fun of the walk. There is plenty of wildlife to be seen and we were pretty sure we saw badger prints. It is a relaxing walk but due to the popular nature of Moors Valley it is not long before you see others on the trail. You can purchase a leaflet with details about the walks but we found that they were easy to follow without a map.
Cycling is very popular here as little ones can safetly cycle so we saw a lot of families off out on their bikes. There are three trails from 1mile long to 7miles. We didn't try this but if you didn't have your bike with you then you can hire them for £17 a day.
Go Ape at Moors Valley is a great deal of fun we didn't do it this time but have done in the past. Through the trees there is a high ropes course including ladders, zip wire and cargo nets to name but a few. You are given clear instructions and guidance before being let out on the high ropes. Go Ape staff are always walking along the route making sure people are happy and helping out any poor soul that gets stuck! They now offer a junior Go Ape which you have to be a metre tall for ( this cost £16) kiddies must have an adult with them as well. When we were there spaces were available (although my son thought it was too scary, he is only five though) during peak season book in advance as this will be extremely busy.
There is a huge lake at Moors valley where it is possible to go fishing. A great place for a picnic and little ones will love feeding the ducks. They let you use disposable BBQ here although they must be raised off the floor (you can hire supports). The area by the lake does get extremely busy and sometimes it can feel like you have joined another family for lunch! It can be a great place to sit though if the children want to play in the parks. There is a park for older children with mini zip wire, tube slide etc. for little ones there were slides, swings and lots of lovely play sand so remember to bring buckets& spades!
Through part of the country park a miniture railway runs, it took twenty minutes for a return journey on a little coal run steam train which you sit astride of. It was great fun going through the tunnels and my little one loved waving to people. This opened just before 11am when we visited but would be worth checking times during the winter. It cost £3.30 for an adult and £2.20 for a child this was for a return and was cheaper a single journey. I was able to leave my buggy at the station to collect on our return. At the station there were lots of miniture trains to look at & you could buy ice creams (they take the litter for you).
There are lots more activities that you could try which I have not covered such as golf, Segway, fitness trail, events led by rangers and orienteering.
If you are on holiday it would be well worth planning two days for your visit and if you live closer purchasing. Season ticket would save on he cost. Although I do feel that £8 for parking is extremely good when you consider the cost of the upkeep of the trails and parks. The only downside is if it is raining it is all outdoors so although it is still open the play trail activities would be very slippery & there are no covered picnic areas.
If you are Ringwood way then this would be well worth a visit I am sure you will not be disappointed.
Summary: A lovely day out for all the family in the beautiful woods.