One of the most exciting activities for children is a little paddle in shallow water – especially for those in the Midlands who live two hours’ drive from any shoreline! There are so many amazing, picturesque, natural beauty spots in the National Forest and Peak District with babbling brooks and ankle-deep streams. And if you can’t get to those, there are some wonderful paddling pools to choose from too. So grab your buckets and spades, dig out your plastic shoes, pack a picnic, fold a towel and read on to find out where to dip your toes this Summer. (And if it’s raining, get those wellies out!)
The Peak District
- Burbage Brook, on the Longshaw Estate near Padley Gorge. Known as the 'Sheffield Beach', this amazingly beautiful natural stream tumbles down over large stepping stones, with plenty of low entry points for keen paddlers. The mountainous waters are a bit icy though, so wear swimming/plastic shoes if you don't want your feet to go blue! The best place to park is at the Longshaw Estate Visitor Centre (National Trust, click here for directions), and wend your way through the country park, over the woodland activity areas and Boggatt Houses to the road (the B6521). Here you are very likely to see a couple of ice cream vans, in most weather (they're even on Google Maps!). On the other side of the road is the gate and steep steps leading to Burbage Brook and the Padley Gorge Trail.
Take a picnic
There are no toilet facilities
Steep descending steps
- Carsington Water (reservoir), Ashbourne DE6 1ST
Full swimming isn’t permitted (due to undercurrents and deep mud), but paddling in the water ankle-deep from the shingle beach is a favourite amongst families. There’s also the watersports centre, with kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing and sailing. Book online here with Carsington Sports and Leisure, for the sports before you go! The park is also home to a cafe, cycle hire, play area, toilets and visitor centre. Check out the updated regulations before you go via the Severn Trent site here.
No booking needed for the park/paddling
- Buxton Pavilion Gardens SK17 6BE
This 23-acre gardens is a highlight of Buxton – the Peaks’ beautiful market down that’s literally the source of the mineral water it’s named after! Many of the Park's facilities have re-opened, but do check for the day's report before you go here. There are pedalos on the boating lake, an ice cream parlour window, children's rides on the Promenade, gardens and a play area and a miniature train. Plus, aside from the boating lake there is a small stream, which is a favourite paddling places for kids of all ages, as well as our four legged friends.
No booking needed for the park/paddling
- Chatsworth Estate Garden, Bakewell, DE45 1PP
Chatsworth is a whole day out for the whole family, with its stately home, huge public park, kids farm and well cared-for gardens. If you book in to visit the expansive gardens (click here for details) you will find lots of children taking a paddle in the Cascade fountain. Chatsworth has confirmed to Raring2go! that while paddling is not banned, the fountain wasn't built or designed to be walked on and so can become slippery, so parents need to supervise their children at all times.
Book in advance for the gardens, children's farm and house. Booking not necessary for the public park, although parking charges will apply.
Derbyshire & Staffordshire
- Foremark & (Staunton Harold) Reservoirs.
The wind-swept Foremark Reservoir is the closest thing that Derbyshire has to a beach - and it's amazing. Open from 7am until 8pm, and although it's a functioning reservoir, the surrounding hillside has been made into a pretty country park, with bike trails, walking paths, refreshment kiosk, toilets and picnic areas. Parking is £3 for the whole day and entry is free. The other side of the reservoir is home to the Burton Sailing Club, which has its own entrance; so you'll often see boats sailing and people fishing in the distance. The Staunton Harold Reservoir is also nearby, and is well worth a visit.
Get there early to avoid crowds on a sunny day and to get a parking spot - how about a breakfast picnic on the beach!
Only park in the reservoir car park. Derbyshire Police have had trouble with drivers parking erratically and dangerously on the road running up to the park entrance.
Toilets & Cafe
Walking & cycling trails
- Cannock Chase Forest (stepping stones), Rugeley, WS15 2UQ
The Cannock Chase Forest is a dedicated Area of Natural Beauty (AONB), and if you venture out there, you'll see why. But the Forest isn't just home to woods, but many different walking trails, a forest Segway experience, Go Ape, an adventure play area and some exhilarating mountain bike trails. Park at the Birches Valley Forest Centre here, and wend your way on foot or by bike to the Stepping Stones - a favourite paddling spot among locals.
Plan a whole day out, as there is plenty to keep you and the little ones occupied.
Toilets & Cafe
Forest Segway Adventure
Walking & mountain bike trails
- Sutton Coldfield Park, B74 2YT. 'Sutton Park' is one of the largest urban parks in Europe, boasting 2,400 acres that's home to open heathland, woodlands, seven lakes, wetlands and marshes. Park at the Wyndley Leisure Centre and walk through to the park's playground, mini golf and pedalos on the boating lake! (There's also a handy Costa Coffee at the Leisure Centre). Thoroughly recommended is a trip on the Land Train (£2 per child, £3 per adult, contactless card payment available), which takes you round a majority of the park, stopping at the boating lake where you can feed the ducks and swans. The train also drives through the shallow part of the stream, much to the delight of its passengers. Get your wellies out and take a paddle in the shallow waters!
Go on the land train - great value and great fun.
- Jungle Madness soft play centre, Donisthorpe. Jungle Madness may be a popular indoor soft play and activity centre, but it's also home to a 'beach' and paddling pool! It's available for hire for private parties as well as day trippers, but it's important to check booking details before heading out.
- Cliff Lakes, Tamworth. A hidden gem in Tamworth, Cliff Lakes is home to a large Aqua Splash inflatable outdoor course, open water swimming (please check the link for COVID-19 updates), socially-distanced beach and paddling areas.
Children photo created by yanalevchenko
Alice is Editor of Raring2go! magazine for Burton and Ashby in the Midlands. She is a former journalist and freelance writer and has two young daughters.