At least once a year we travel to Poole/ Bournemouth to take a holiday or mini-break, I love this part of the country and having spent a few years living there whilst I was at University it feels like a second home to me.
The coastal journey from East Sussex to Dorset is pretty long and there can be some horrendous delays along the way so by the time we reach Ringwood we are desperate to lett he kids get out of the car and to run some energy off. The Avon Heath Country Park is located on Birch Drive just off the A31 an it has everything we need (and more) when we make a stop-off.
Most times we stop here it is just for the kids to play in the park (they always manage to make new mates here and little groups of children play well together), something to eat and to use the toilets, but we have driven out here before as a destination venue to make use of the heathlands discovery centre, wild life area and acres of wide open heathland.
The park is great fun, it is mainly wooden built and consists of bridges, a zip wire, climbing equipment, sand pit, agility equipment, a huge lizard that slinks down the hill and you can climb up and in it. There is a field right next door for running free, ball games and the like and you can sit on one of the outside tables by the cafe and watch your children play.
If you prefer to picnic, you can bring a blanket and there are static brick built BBQ's you can use too. We have often seen large family/ friend groups, scout groups and schools using the space successfully.
The park gates open at 8am and close at 6.30pm for entry and 7.30pm for exit. You do have to pay to park but it is minimal and the highest charge is currently £3.70 for the whole day. The toilets are open 8am - 5pm and we have always found them to be clean, fresh smelling and well-stocked. there is of course an accessible toilet and baby change area too.
The cafe on site has lots of indoor and outdoor seating and ti is good, honest English cafe food served. On our last visit in May this year I had steak and mushroom pie, chips, veg and gravy, dh had an all day breakfast and all the kids had sausage and chips. There are things like sandwiches, jacket potatoes and freshly cooked hot specials each day. The canned drinks and ice creams are reasonably priced and we always enjoy a good meal here. Generally the cafe open sat 8am and runs through to about 4.30pm.
The Heathland discovery centre is open 11am - 4pm, it has displays and games providing information about the park, its habitat and special wildlife. There are regular treasure trails and events, family activity trails, competitions for children as well as information about local places of interest. It is free of charge to enter and to use the glorious heathlands but there is generally a small charge to complete the trails.
We haven't been for a heath walk for a few years now but it is wonderful and you can see from the pictures you can get really close to the wild cattle and horses. We did one of the trails and the kids had a great time so I suspect we might do another when we head down this way again in a few weeks.
Avon Vale Country Park is a wonderful lace to stop off on a long journey or to visit for a fun afternoon, we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
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