“ Address: Bolam Lake Country Park / Belsay NE20 0HE / Northumberland „
I am always on the lookout for interesting and enjoyable places to visit with my children; preferabley ones that are either free or have a low cost involved! One of our favourite places to visit is Bolam Lake and Country Park in Belsay, Northumberland.
Bolam lake and country park is just 14 miles North West of Newcastle yet it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere. Finding the park is easy as it is well signposted from the small village of Belsay. From Newcastle take the A696 north. The park is 7 miles North West of Ponteland and 9 miles west of Morpeth.The Lake Postcode is NE20 OHE.
There is no regular bus service to the lake although there is a limited Sunday service during the summer months that runs from Newcastle (see travel line website for details). The nearest train station is in Morpeth.
There are 3 car parks and bays for disabled drivers with a blue badge. Parking costs £1.40 for 2 hours or £2.80 for all day parking.
The visitor centre.
I strongly recommend you start your visit here as there is a wealth of information about the lake and surrounding area. Entry is free and the centre is fully assessable. The centre sells maps, gifts and leaflets detailing the local wildlife and flora. The staff are very knowledgeable and helpful.
The small café sells lovely cakes, sandwiches, soups and drinks. It is reasonably priced and the coffee cake is well worth the cost!
The visitor centre is open at weekends and during school holidays from 10.30 until 4.30 from Easter until November.
The lake and surrounding park.
The lake and park are set in stunning countryside and give a feeling of peace as soon as you arrive. Even on a busy summer weekend it is possible to find tranquillity. There is a ¾ mile long path that runs around the 25 acre lake. The path is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. The path can get very muddy after rain so wear suitable footwear!
The lake is really beautiful with lots of wildlife to view including resident swans. My children always enjoy feeding the swans, so remember to bring bread! The park is also a great place to take photographs especially as the light changes over the lake.
This is a great place to walk a dog although it is recommended they stay on a lead during bird breeding time. There are dog bins provided! Whilst on the subject of dogs I would like to give a word of warning. The lake often freezes over during the winter months and is very dangerous to walk on! That includes dogs!
Activities on the lake.
It is possible to canoe on the lake although you will need to bring your own canoe. You will need to purchase a permit available from the car park machine. Permits cost £4 for a day or £15 for the season. Canoeing and fishing is only allowed on the lake from June until March.
Fishing permits are available from Belsay post office in the village (you can't miss it!) Permits cost£8 for the day and season permits are also available.
There is a small island on the lake that is used by coot for nesting. Swimming is not allowed in the lake.
Beyond the lake.
There are numerous paths to explore though woodland and into meadows. We really enjoy watching for wildlife and you may be lucky enough to spot a Roe deer or even a red squirrel. Sadly we haven't seen any red squirrels for some time now as they are declining due to the pox introduced via the pesky grey squirrels! There are also nuthatches, woodpeckers and tits. The tits will feed from your hand especially near the picnic benches.
We usually bring a picnic when we visit, even in the winter months. There are plenty of picnic benches situated around the lake and in the so called pheasant meadow. There are also benches outside the visitor centre. I would recommend those situated in the meadow as they are usually quieter. Barbecues are allowed.
There are bridleways suitable for both horse riders and cyclists.
There bare very basic, although clean toilets next to the visitor centre. I don't remember seeing any nappy changing facities, although we also changed our children on the back seat of the car. I'm not sure if there are toilets for disabled visitors.
During the summer months midges can be a problem especially late in the day. We use Avon's skin so soft and this does seem to deter them for some reason. The paths can get very muddy and slippery after rain so you will need to wear suitable footwear.
Overall this is a lovely place to visit and has something for everyone. Whilst in the area you might consider a visit to Belsay hall nearby- See my review for more information!