Whenever we head down to the New Forest area Moors Valley Country Park is always top of our list to visit. We’ve often gone down there just for a day trip or visited while camping in the area. I first came across Moors Valley years ago whilst holidaying with my parents. We were looking for somewhere to go where the dog could come along too and found a leaflet about Moors Valley at a tourist information centre. Since that first visit around 20 years ago I have lost count of how many times we have been back. It is the perfect place for all ages with so much to see and do, you can literally never get bored. This review is full of photos from various different trips and the kids at different ages as they have all been going since they were babies!
Entry to Moors Valley is free however you do need to pay for the car park which varies depending on the time of year and how long you stay there. The most you will pay though is £9 for the whole day in peak season and all the money goes towards helping with the upkeep of the park. The steam railway, bike hire and Go Ape are all additional charges but there is plenty to do there that is free.
Our favourite place to head to first is the ‘Play Trail’. The play trail is approximately a mile long and has wooden nature themed play frames along the route to stop and enjoy. From the giant ants nest to the snake pit there are loads of different areas to explore and run wild. This is a very popular trail for families as it is fairly short and there’s plenty to keep the kids amused without them realising how far they’ve actually walked. Another trail kids will enjoy is the Percy Park Keeper trail which you can get a map and quiz booklet for from the visitor centre. This themed trail changes each year. Currently in 2020 it’s a Shaun the Sheep glow trail. There is also a permanent Gruffalo trail.
Part way along the ‘Play Trail’ there are signs for the ‘Treetop Trail’ which is another one I highly recommend checking out. It is a wooden walkway on stilts which goes high up into the trees to give you a birds eye view of the forest. If you manage to keep the kids quiet you may be lucky enough to spot some wildlife. The walkway is enclosed by strong metal fencing so is completely safe to take kids but access is on foot only. You’ll need to leave the pushchair and collect it at the end.
After all that walking you’ll find the kids are of course ‘starving’. There are loads of picnic benches around if you want to take your own lunch or there is a restaurant at the visitor centre selling hot/cold food and drinks. Dogs are very welcome and there are water bowls for them outside the visitor centre and hooks to tie up their leads. Toilets and the visitor information desk are also located in this building.
After lunch there are 2 huge adventure play parks to enjoy, one of which is like a massive sand pit with slides, play frames, etc. Our favourite bit is the drop slide at the very start of the park. The play areas are designed for all ages, with the sand pit park aimed at younger ones and the large adventure play park aimed to be more challenging for older ones.
The parks lead out on to a large meadow ideal for picnic blankets, kite flying, frisbee, etc. The meadow overlooks the lakes and lakeside walks which are all pushchair and wheelchair friendly. There are lots of ducks and swans to see as well as beautiful dragonflies.
Around the edge of the park and down past the lakes runs a lovely little miniature steam railway. There is a station at the other end of the line where you can get an ice cream and visit the little shop full of train related goodies. You can then stroll back along the path alongside the track and see the trains go by or get a return ticket on the train to go back to the park. It does cost extra but is a lovely ride, especially for little ones who will really enjoy it.
As you can see from the photo above there is bike hire available at Moors Valley if you want to explore the trails further afield. We hired them last summer for 3 hours one day and had an absolutely brilliant time. We covered miles and miles of trails and found so many new areas we hadn’t discovered before. It was great fun! Of course you can always take your own bikes with you if you wish.
If you want to do something really adventurous then I would highly recommend doing the Go Ape high ropes experience. It isn’t suitable for little ones so do check age/height limits on their website first. If you have older kids though it is absolutely awesome. I was lucky enough to have a go twice as a teenager and loved it. Some bits are a little scary as you are so high up in the trees and throwing yourself off of platforms on zip lines, etc but it is so exhilarating. Definitely one for the thrill seekers! For those feeling less adventurous, maybe a little nature spotting while you wait?!
Moors Valley Country Park is by far one of our very favourite places in the entire UK. There is so much to see and do we just can’t help coming back again and again. You can literally never get bored here and for the price of just the car park its an absolute bargain of a day out. The entire family from babies to grandparents can enjoy the beauty of this place and have fun in the great outdoors together. We cannot recommend it highly enough.
Address: Horton Road, Ashley Heath, Nr Ringwood, BH24 2ET
Price: £ (free entry but pay up to £9 per day for car park)
Disclaimer: Moors Valley Country Park staff and volunteers had no involvement in this review. All photos, words and opinions are that of my own.