5 Beautiful Country Parks in the North East

Hardwick Hall Country Park

Hardwick Hall Country Park is located to the west of Sedgefield village, in County Durham, next to Hardwick Hall Hotel. The 18th century historic parkland is a VisitEngland accredited attraction that boasts a beautiful lake as its centrepiece.

The park is deep rooted in history and has a wide range of archaeological remains to explore and learn about. Hardwick Park is well known for its beautiful views, diverse wildlife and exciting woodland trails which includes fun for all the family! There are a number of different routes to take through the park, all of which wind through the dense foliage and take you to the stunning blue water of the lake in the centre of the park. Here, you will find an array of swans and geese that inhabit the wetland and large areas of grass which can be used as picnic spots.

Hardwick Park caters well for families as it currently has a Gruffalo trail through the woodland for children to follow and a large play area next to the café for parents to relax whilst their children play. The park regularly hosts events such as music festivals, concerts and food festivals. Hardwick Hall Country Park is dog friendly and very popular among local dog lovers and walkers. However, it is important to note that visitors must follow the dogs on lead policy to protect the local wildlife.

Towards the back of the park, near the overflow car park, there is a designated dog exercise area where dogs can be let off their leads and run freely in the beautiful green space. Please not that dogs are not allowed in the children’s play area and dog foul must be picked up and placed in the bins provided.

Amenities at Hardwick Hall Country Park

There is a café on site which serves a range of lunch options, snacks and drinks with plenty of picnic benches next to the children’s play area.

The park has a small gift shop and a visitor centre which provides more information about the history and restoration of the parkland as well facts about the local wildlife. There are public toilets on site which are free to use for the public.

Opening Times at Hardwick Hall Country Park

Opening times of the park vary depending upon the season so it is always best to check their website for the most up to date information.

The general opening times are as follows:

Park gates: 7:30am-5.00pm
Toilets: 10.00am-4.00pm
Café: 10.00am – 3.00pm

Directions and Access to Hardwick Hall Country Park

Hardwick Country Park is located to the west of Sedgefield village and next to Hardwick Hall Hotel off the A177. It is roughly two and half miles from the A1M. There is a large car park at the entrance of the park with disabled accessible parking bays. Should the main car park be full, there is an overflow car park. There is a charge for car parking at Hardwick Park. The following pay and display charges apply at all times, all year round:

  • cars – up to two hours £2.00/full day £3.00
  • coaches and minibuses – all day £9.00
  • motorcycles – free
  • blue badge holders – charges as above

A 12-month parking permit is available to purchase for £85 if you are intending to visit the park regularly. Alternatively, you may wish to park for free in the nearby village of Sedgefield and follow the well-signed footpaths to the park.  

If you are using public transport to travel to the park, the nearest bus stop is on Sedgefield High Street. From here, you can follow the brown signs to Hardwick Hall Country Park for about half a mile.

There are a number of disabled access parking bays in the car park next to the entrance of the park. Most of the main park path is flat and well surfaced for wheelchair and pushchair use. However, in winter and rainy seasons, the footpath may become muddy and uneven underfoot. There are a few sloped paths, but easier alternatives are marked.

Plessey Woods Country Park

Set in 100 acres of beautiful woodland, Plessey Woods Country Park is the perfect spot to explore winding nature trails and stunning riverside paths. Located near Bedlington in Northumberland, the park is known locally as Bluebell Woods due to its yearly bloom of breath-taking bluebells within the woodlands.

The park has something to see all year-round from beautiful wildflower meadows in spring to bursts of yellow and orange leaves in autumn. Plessey woods is popular with walkers, cyclists, horse riders, bird watchers and families searching for an exciting day out.

One of the key features of this park is the great array of animals and insects that inhabit the river, meadows and woodlands. As you wander down the banks of the River Blyth, you are able to spot otters, kingfishers and dippers, but you should also look out for the magical doors in the trees!

In the summer, there are parts of the river where you can paddle or sit upon the jetties. When you make your way deep into the woodland, there are plenty of birds to look out for such as the great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch and tree creeper. The woodland is also home to red squirrels, deer and foxes. Plessey Woods Country Park offers a range of different trails for you to follow including a 2.7km loop. You can also choose to follow the free art and sculpture trail which is especially popular with families visiting.

Amenities at Plessey Woods Country Park

Plessey Woods Country Park has a café onsite which serves drinks and snacks with indoor and outdoor seating. If you are choosing to bring a picnic from home, there is plenty space for this around the park.

If you are bringing children, there is lots to keep them entertained including a play park with games and puzzles such as noughts and crosses.

Within the park, there is a small visitor’s centre with a gift shop to pick up souvenirs and a forest school used for educational purposes.

There are public toilets located within the park.

Opening Times at Plessey Woods Country Park
DayTerm timeSchool Holidays/Bank Holiday
MondayClosed10:30am – 4:00pm
TuesdayClosed10:30am – 4:00pm
Wednesday10:30am – 4:30pm10:30am – 4:00pm
Thursday10:30am – 4:30pm10:30am – 4:00pm
Friday10:30am – 4:30pm10:30am – 4:00pm
Saturday10:30am – 4:30pm10:30am – 4:30pm
Sunday10:30am – 4:30pm10:30am – 4:30pm
Directions and Access to Plessey Woods Country Park

Plessey Woods Country Park is located near Hartford Bridge, off the A192. It is in the middle of Bedlington and Cramlington and approximately five miles from Morpeth.

There are plenty of parking spaces at Plessey Woods. Please ensure that you use the park car park and do not park on the main road (A192) as this is a no parking zone and you will receive a parking ticket. Parking at Plessey Woods is free for one hour, but you still need to display a ticket. Should you choose to stay longer, you can park for up to two hours for £1.60 or more than two hours for £3. Annual parking permits are available to purchase for £35.

If you are using public transport to access the park, the nearest bus stop is located just outside the park at Hartford Bridge/Hall or Shields Road Bus Stop. There are regular buses from Newcastle and Morpeth.

The park is accessible to visitors with disabilities as most paths are wide, firm and well surfaced through the woods to the river. However, due to the steep gradient, it may be difficult for wheelchair users to pass along the riverside. 

Herrington Country Park

Located opposite the grand Penshaw Monument, in the city of Sunderland, Herrington Country Park has a lot to offer visitors from walkways and cycle trails to environmental sculptures and stunning views of the North East. The park is built on the site of the old Herrington coal mine that closed almost 40 years ago and is now a hive for wildlife with its meadows, woodlands, lakes and streams. Visitors have to opportunity to spot over 100 different species of birds including the stunning swans and delicate ducks that sit upon the lake.

At the café located on site, you can buy bird food to feed the many birds that inhabit the land. Herrington Country Park has been home to many open-air concerts, festivals and events over the past few years, but is also used for educational activities by local schools and groups. The park frequently holds events throughout the year.

Located within the park, is children’s play park, skateboard park, amphitheatre, sculptures and a model boat sailing lake. The park has something to please all ages and interests and is perfectly located near to Penshaw Monument so that it can be combined as part of a trip there for fantastic views of the area.

Amenities at Herrington Country Park

Herrington Country Park has a range of amenities on site. Within the park, there is a visitor’s centre, children’s play area, skateboarding park and BMX track and an amphitheatre to be explored.

There is a café serving lunches, snacks and drinks and nearby a farm shop with a café, butchers, bakery and plant shop. There is plenty of green space and benches for visitors wishing to bring their own picnics. There are also toilets located onsite.

Opening Times at Herrington Country Park

Herrington Country Park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Directions and Access to Herrington Country Park

Herrington Park is located in Penshaw, Houghton Le Spring. If you are travelling by car, the park is just off the A19 at the A183 junction. The nearest postcode to use is DH4 7EL.
At the park, there are multiple car parks. The main car park is located as you drive into the park entrance. At busy times, cars will be directed to park on the grass in the overflow car park. The second car park is located at the boating lake and the third is by the skateboard park. Parking is free for all users. There are plenty of disabled bays available to use at this park.

If you are using public transport to access the park, the nearest bus stop is located on Chester Road just down from the entrance to the park. There are regular buses from Sunderland, Durham, Gateshead and South Tyneside.

The park is accessible to disabled visitors and there are plenty of disabled parking spaces in each of the car parks. Some of the paths are paved and include ramps for wheelchairs, however, some of the trails may involve ground that is uneven and small inclines.

Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park

Built on the site of a former clay pit which served a local brickworks, Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park is now a haven for wildlife watchers and walkers alike. Set in grassland, the park contains a network of waterways including a lake, series of ponds and streams and a beck.

The park is a brilliant place for birdwatching as it is regularly home to coots, pochards, swans, heron and ducks to name just a few of the 80 species that have been spotted here from the hides. The waterways also encourage toads, newts and dragonflies to inhabit the park and the long grasslands are home to foxes, butterflies, hares and other small mammals.

Cowpen Bewley Park has an endless amount of trails for visitors to follow through wildflower meadows and mixed woodlands. There are routes that take you onto two mounds which offer panoramic views up to the coast and the Cleveland Hills. Upon the hill, there is seating where visitors can rest to take in the wonderful views. This country park is the perfect place to take family or the dog for a peaceful walk in the local area.

Amenities at Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park

Located within the park is an activity centre. In here, there is a small gift shop, toilets and café which serves drinks and snacks. The opening times for this activity centre varies.

Within the car park, is a feeding station for feeding the animals in the park. This station is supplied with food by wardens and visitors in the winter months.

Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park also has a small play area for children with a popular woven willow tunnel.

Opening Times at Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park

Cowpen Bewley Park is open 7 days a week, but opening and closing times are dependent upon the season.

Summer: 8:30am – 9:00pm
: 8:30am – 5:30pm

Directions and Access to Cowpen Bewley Park

Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park is located near the town of Billingham. Access to the park is off the A1185 Seal Sands Link Road. The park is not far from the A19. The nearest postcode to use is TS23 3NF.

There is a reasonably sized car park at the entrance of the park and parking is free to visitors.
Pedestrians are able to access the park from Billingham and Wolviston off Wolviston Back Lane to the east of Low Billingham. There is also a National Cycle Route (14) from Billingham Town Centre that runs through the park. The route can be picked up in Stockton, Hartlepool or Billingham.

If you are using public transport, there are regular buses to Billingham from Middlesbrough, Stockton and Norton. The nearest bus stop is located on Low Grange Avenue. Here, you follow the signs to the pedestrian entrance on Wolviston Back Lane.

Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park has a specially allocated set of disabled bays. The paths are quite level so are wheelchair accessible. However, there are some steeper inclines and during winter months, the ground can become quite muddy underfoot.

Wynyard Woodland Park

Located on the site of the former Thorpe Thewles railway line, Wynyard Woodland Park is now home to a wonderfully popular walking and cycling route with an excellent children’s play area, café and planetarium.

The park makes many nods to its railway history with the original station signage, station house and carriage. Visitors flock all year round to this parkland to enjoy the many activities it has to offer. The 3 mile park trail is perfect for families and dogwalkers to explore the woodland, wildflowers and plants and under bridges with the option of taking winding footpaths up into the coniferous trees. Whilst on the trail, visitors can look out for the abundance of wildlife that nestles here including an array of wild birds such as coal tits, goldcrests and owls.

Throughout spring, summer and autumn, you can enjoy the scent of wild flowers such as herb robert, violets, stitchwort and scabious.

Amenities at Wynyard Woodland Park

The children’s adventure play area, located next to the car park, is split into different areas to cater for children of different ages. The play area includes a play village, sand pit, seesaws, climbing frames and zipwires.

The former station house has been transformed into a tearoom that serves sandwiches, cakes and hot and cold drinks and has indoor and outdoor seating in a small courtyard.

Wynyard Woodland Park also boasts its own planetarium and observatory that is run by the Cleveland and Darlington Astronomical Society. This 70 seat planetarium is open to the public at restricted times to view the wonder of the night sky.

The park frequently hosts events throughout the year for families such as weaving, country crafts and woodturning. 

Opening Times for Wynyard Woodland Park

The opening times of Wynyard Woodland Park is dependent upon the season.

Summer: 8am – 9pm

Winter: 8am – 5pm

The Station House Tea Rooms changes is open Tuesday-Friday from 10am-3pm and on weekends from 10am-3:30pm. In the school holidays, the Tea Rooms is open Monday-Friday 10am-3pm and weekends from 10am-3:30pm.

Directions and Access to Wynyard Woodland Park

Wynyard Woodland Park is located near the village of Thorpe Thewles. The park has two entrances, but the main one is located off the A177 on the back road from Wynyard Hall. The other entrance is located off the A689. There are brown tourist signs to follow, however, some of these signs may still refer to the park as Castle Eden Walkway. The nearest postcode for the main entrance to the park is TS21 3JG.

Parking on site is free and there are large car parks at either end of the walkway.

Dogs are welcome on leads throughout the park and walkway.
Wynyard Woodland Park and the Station House Tea Rooms are wheelchair accessible. On the walkway, there are vehicle barriers to stop motorbikes and horses. If wheelchair users are unable to fit through the barriers, there is RADAR padlock on all barriers. There is a disabled toilet on site near the tea rooms and disabled parking spaces in the main car park next to the play area.

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