Rushmere country park in Bedfordshire review
*** PLEASE NOTE this review was written in January 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic. It does not contain information about social distancing or facilities. Please check with the park before visiting as toilets and the cafe were closed when it first re-opened the car park in May 2020.
Rushmere Country Park is a large country park in Heath and Reach – not too far from Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire and a short journey from Milton Keynes. We started visiting in 2015 and now go a few times a year as we have a different adventure each time we go depending on the time of year. You only pay to park and could pretty much spend the whole day there if your children have the energy. There are a number of trails, two play areas and a cafe. It’s a great cheap day out for the kids and an excellent country park in Bedfordshire that is well worth a visit.
Where is Rushmere Country Park?
The address is Linslade Rd, Heath and Reach LU7 0EB. It’s easy to get to by park. You pay £3 on exit – correct as of December 2019. If you don’t have £3 in coins then go to the cafe and you can buy a token for the same price that will also get you out of the car park.
What are the play areas like at Rushmere Country Park?
There are two play areas at Rushmere Country Park. They’re both near the entrance. The first is a smaller toddler area right next to the cafe. It includes a little house, small slide and digger. I’d say it’s definitely most suitable for under 5s. There’s sand. My children used to really enjoy playing it when they were little. It is gated. The other play area is opposite the front entrance to the cafe. People often miss it though. There’s a nest swing and a massive slide. At one point in 2018 the slide was closed after the Greensand Trust which manages the park was ordered to pay damages after a child was injured on it in 2014. The slide did re-open later in the year – there are signs up now which say that it’s only suitable for children aged five and over. The slide is fab and one of the biggest out of most of the country parks we’ve visited. Like most metal slides if you go on it when it’s damp it’s easy to get stuck (I’ve tried) but it’s fairly quick in the summer – so if you’ve got young children it might be better to wait at the bottom for them. The slide is on top of a steep hill and although there is a fence I still keep an eye on my youngest up there.
What is the sculpture trail like at Rushmere Country Park?
One of the things that makes Rushmere Country Park distinctive – and what you’ll see the most pictures of – is it’s sculpture trail. You start by walking down the path from the visitors centre and look to your left and right and you’ll see fairy doors and benches. They’re not signposted, you just have to see if you can spot them. Continue walking along the path and you’ll get to a giant chair – it’s so big the kids will have to climb to get on to it – or you’ll have to lift them. At the giant chair turn left, you will shortly come to a big spider, walk on a bit further you’ll come to a woodland area where there’s a wooden seat and if you then turn left again somewhere after there you’ll come to more wooden sculptures and back to the field in front of the car park. If you don’t want to turn left at the giants chair you can continue walking on and to your left you’ll see the ‘Wild Things’ doors. From there you can join the Oak Wood Sculpture Trail – see below. Or I think you can walk on to explore more of Stockgrove Country Park – although we haven’t gone that way.
Where is the Oak Wood Sculpture Trail in Rushmere Country Park?
If you’ve been to Rushmere Country Park already there’s a good chance you’ve explored the sculpture trail above – but there’s also another sculpture trail in the Oak Wood part of Rushmere which was officially opened in 2018. If you have young children I think you’re unlikely to just stumble on it but it’s well worth finding as it includes sculptures of the Green Tiger Beetle, Common Lizard, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Damselfly, created by sculptor Ian Freemantle. The Oak Wood Sculpture trail is on this map. There are two ways we found some of the sculptures. The first is by walking down to the ‘Wild Things’ doors mentioned above – then as you’re around level with the doors looking at them turn right – that will bring you out on to a path where the trail is. At that point you’ll be between number one and four on the map (the lizard and the beetle). The other way we found them was if you start at the visitor centre then cross diagonally over the field picnic area and start walking in the wood that way and essentially keep walking – then keep left along the path – the Greensand Ridgewalk – eventually you’ll get to Black Pond. I know that sounds quite vague but there’s no signage so it’s difficult to give many landmarks. The walk itself goes around in a circle. My children loved the sculptures and it was really quiet. There is also a natural play area around the trail too with a couple of dens.
When is it good to visit Rushmere Country Park?
Any time of the year! In the summer in hot weather it’s a great place to go for shaded walks. In the Autumn it’s fab for loads of orange leaves. A couple of ‘hidden gem’ tips. At the end of October 2019 we found edible chestnuts walking along the Oak Wood Sculpture Trail near the woodpecker along the Oak Wood Sculpture trail. We collected quite a few to take home. My children enjoyed it so much we returned the following week to get more and they’d all gone because of bad weather. However instead we found the most delightful ‘fairytale toadstools’ that were hidden amongst the trees behind the giant spider. Fab to look at and take pictures of, but don’t let the kids or dogs get too close.
What could be improved about Rushmere Country Park?
I’d say the signage and maps. I think if you’re the type of person / family that is happy to explore and follow a simple map you’ll be fine. If you have young children, or are first time visitors then I think it would be useful to have more information showing you where things are. Simple signs showing where the Oak Wood Sculpture Trail starts and how to find it, and then information posts about the sculptures are would be great. I also think young children would find it more exciting to have better maps pinpointing where to spot fairy doors and pretty benches.
Tips for going to Rushmere Country Park
You’ll need £3 in coins for parking – or you can buy a token in the cafe. Take a picnic and drinks to save money. Wear wellies if there’s been any rain whatsoever. It’s been some time since we’ve used a buggy but it can be boggy if there’s been any rain so I wouldn’t say it’s the best country park for buggies. Looking for other places similar to this one? Have a look at the country parks section of my website.
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