Over the last month or so we have continued in our quest to find places which are free – but you just pay to park. What have we discovered? Well, most of those places are in Northamptonshire  and Bedfordshire, but providing you have a car they’re relatively easy to get to, and once you’re there then there’s lots to enjoy for at least a few hours.

From junction 14 of the M1 take the A509 through Olney and keep going. After about 30 minutes you’ll come to Irchester Country Park. Such a great place for playing! There’s a huge play area and I mean huge. There’s a sandpit area good for digging, a couple of large climbing frames, a really cool snake swing, slides and lots of other equipment suitable for toddlers. We completely missed the dinosaur play area as we were having too much fun. The railway museum is worth a visit if you have a little one who likes trains. Just £2.70 to park. More details and lots of pics here.

If you have children who love to explore then Castle Ashby may be right up your street. The gardens are among the most beautiful we have visited. It’s a few miles on from Olney, and friends who are local to the area have visited in all weathers and have said it’s delightful (take your wellies though if wet). The best time to visit it now! Go before the end of October as it’s just £4 to park – not only are the gardens are open but so is the menagerie of animals, the tea shop and loos. (After then they close). There’s also a pumpkin hunt in half term – £2 per child. Lots of pics and details of location here.

There are so many lovely places to walk in the area and Millennium Country Park is no exception. This is one of the places where it’s free to park. It’s in Marston Vale and just a short drive from the A421. There’s a nice little play area and a huge café with plenty of seating. The best thing about it as far as toddler was concerned – the wooden train with the bell. The park covers 225 hectares with a mix of woodland, grassland, meadow, lakes and wetland habitats – for more details click here.

If your son or daughter loves searching for hidden sculptures in woodland then Campton Plantation is the place for you. Great for dog walkers too! It’s near Shefford. When we went on a weekend back in May we just parked in the car park next door outside the council offices. If you go in the week you’d need to park in Shefford and walk. Either way you don’t have to pay to park! Just bear in mind there are no facilities though – loos, café etc Lots of pics of the sculptures and more details of location here.

Looking for more ideas? This is part 1 of this blog which includes details of Salcey Forest, as well as Stanwick Lakes, Emberton Country Park and Rushmere Country Park. Do please remember before visiting any of the places featured on Milton Keynes Kids website to check with the individual places before travelling as opening times and facilities are always subject to change. These are just ideas!

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