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Making the most of the winter sunshine

As Hampshire schools enjoy a late February break Newburytoday looks at some free days out

Donnington Castle

Donnington Castle

ALTHOUGH West Berkshire schools will be back on Monday, many residents in North Hampshire are just getting ready to enjoy their February half term.

With temperatures set to remain unseasonably warm into next week Newburytoday looks at five free things to do outdoors with the children this half term.


Donnington Castle, Newbury: Not far from the centre of town this 14th Century castle has ample free parking (open daily from 7am until 7pm) and is the perfect location for a walk and, if you’re brave enough in the February sunshine, a picnic.

The large defences, built during the English Civil War, are largely still in tact. Although there is a bit of a hill to reach the castle, once there you can tread in the footsteps of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, who were both thought to be visitors to the castle.

Once you’ve enjoyed the spectacular views from the castle you can take a stroll down to the children’s park on the green.


Nature Discovery Centre, Thatcham: With two large play areas there is something to keep everyone entertained at the Nature Discovery Centre, on Lower Way.

Take a stroll around the lake and see how many different water birds you can spot or venture over to the internationally renowned Thatcham Reedbeds.

The car park is open daily from 8am (closing times vary during the year) and the café is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10.30am until 4pm.


Dinton Pastures, Wokingham: This country park offers more than 335 acres to explore, including seven lakes, two rivers, a meadow and three public bird hides.

The large children’s play area includes a zip wire, nest towers, willow maze, den building area and woodland obstacle course. There is also a woodland picnic area and café, where cycle racks are available.

There is also the Dinton Activity Centre, which offers a variety of activities at an additional cost. Car parking costs 1.20 per hour up to four hours and a 6 fixed price for longer stays.


Lydiard Park, Swindon: Although the house itself is currently closed until April, there is still plenty to keep excitable children occupied for a few hours.

The large play area includes sensory panels and there is a separate park for toddlers. The play areas are conveniently located next to the café and toilets.

There is also a tea room and Jungle Parc, which is an aerial adventure area available at an extra cost.


Swinley Forest, Bracknell: Set in around 1,000 hectares of Crown Estate woodland there are plenty of undiscovered trails to run, bike and walk through – and plenty of puddles to splash in.

Park at The Look Out and you will be centrally located for the café, play area and science centre (entry fee applies). The large adventure play area has separate areas to accommodate all ages and the all-ability play area is wheelchair accessible. There are a number of tables for parents to keep a close eye on the children and to make picnic lunches easier.

There are a number of signposted walks through the forest and a 24.2km cycle network. Other activities are available at an additional cost, including orienteering, mountain bike hire, Go Ape and horse riding. The car park is open from 7am until 6pm during the winter months and costs 2 for four hours, or 4 for all day.

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