Whilst planning our recent visit to Dinton Pastures Country Park, we noticed a brand new playground at California Country Park near Finchampstead, Berkshire. As it’s not far from us, we took a visit to check it out.
Set in over 100 acres of countryside, California Country Park is one of the most popular outdoor spaces for families in Berkshire. With its new play area, paddling pool and pretty lake, it’s a really fun place for kids. It’s also provides a great natural area for adults who enjoy nature, walking or running.
The new playground at California Country Park
The new play park at California Country Park is in a large natural area, with wooden play equipment to suit all ages. It is divided into two distinct areas: The Sensory Garden and the Wild Wood. These two areas cater for different age groups, but children can play in both.
California Country Park also has a large paddling pool, which is only open in the summer.
The Sensory Garden
Firstly, we headed for the Sensory Garden. If you have younger children, they’ll love this new play zone. It has a fantastic choice of modern equipment, including climbing frames, a spinning disc, and musical chimes . The old wooden ship has also had a lick of paint and is looking great.
The top attraction for toddlers in the Sensory Garden is the new water play area. It’s very interactive and your little ones are highly likely to get wet, so take some wellies. You’ll find water wheels and pumps, so there’s plenty to entertain them. I think the twins were a bit disappointed they were too big to play here!
The Wild Wood
Next, we headed to the other side of the playground to The Wild Wood.
The Wild Wood is the new play area for older children. Here, the play equipment is bigger and more challenging and includes plenty of climbing equipment. You’ll find several tree houses, with climbing walls and a tube slide. There’s also a zip wire and a trim trail, with monkey bars.
Leaving the playground, we walked over to Longmoor Lake, on the far side of the park. This is a very picturesque lake, which attracts a variety of waterfowl.
Whilst there, we saw a very protective coot with her very gorgeous young. She was getting extremely aggressive with other birds that came near, even the Canada geese, which were considerably larger. I later learned that coots can be ruthless with their young and will kill weaker ones if they cannot provide food.
In addition to the coot family, we saw Egyptian, and Greylag geese, as well as swans and ducks. There are five islands in the centre of the lake, which attracts birds for nesting, so there’s always something to see.
A circular walk at Longmore Lake
After feeding the birds, you can do an easy nature walk around the lake. The perimeter of Longmoor Lake is about 1km and only takes about 15 minutes to complete. The trail has a surfaced path, so is easy for buggies.
You’ll see fishermen along the way, as they offer coarse fishing here.
Normally you can do a longer circular walk around the bogland at Longmoor Nature Reserve. This is an Site of Special Scientific Interest, so is great for spotting nature. However, the council are currently upgrading the footpath and a temporary pontoon crossing is in place.
We had a relaxed walk around the lake, returning past the caravan park on our return. You can easily extend your walk if you wish or join the regular park run, if you fancy a jog.
Other country parks in Berkshire
Just 6 miles from California Country Park on the outskirts of Twyford, is the fantastic Dinton Pastures Country Park. As well as an amazing playground, you can enjoy nature walks, mini golf and water activities. Dinton Pastures is one of the best county parks in Berkshire and makes a great family day out.
Alternatively, you could head to the Look Out at Swinley Forest, near Bracknell. This is one of our top outdoor spaces in Berkshire. It has a fantastic natural playground with a wooden fort and a den-making area behind. If you’re going with young children they have an interactive science centre in the visitor centre, which is great for rainy days.
Other activities at the Look Out include Go Ape, Segway and woodland walks. However, the twins’ best activity here is cycling on the network of bike trails in Swinley Forest.
Another attraction for younger children in Berkshire is Wellington Country Park in Riseley, near Reading. This park has sand pits with diggers, giant slides, jumping pillows and an animal farm. Little kids love it. We have even stayed at the campsite, which gives you access outside of opening hours.
Practical information for your visit:
Admission to California Country Park
Admission to the country park, lake and playground is free, but parking charges apply
California Country Park is open every day, all year round. The access gate to the car parks is open between 7am and 10pm.
Eating at California Country Park
Jacksons Café serves fresh homemade food and has plenty of outdoor seating. Alternatively, there are plenty of picnic tables and benches around the country park.
Parking at California Country Park
California Country Park has a pay and display car park. Parking charges are currently £1.65 an hour (or a flat rate after 4 hours). You can also buy a season ticket.
Don’t forget to get a ticket as parking wardens were in operation during our visit.
Getting to California Country Park
California Country Park is between Finchampstead and Wokingham in Berkshire. It is about 10 miles from Reading.
The park is off the Nine Mile Ride (B3430). The sat nav postcode is RG40 4HU.
Have you been to California Country Park in Berkshire? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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