10 wonderful places to go on sunny days in Chester
We might be famous for our rain here up north, and yes, it’s true that some years we don’t really get a summer at all, but when the sun is shining and the temperature soars, Cheshire is a wonderful place to be. Whether you’re a sun worshipper or desperately searching for shade, here are some of our favourite local places to go on sunny days.
1. Sandy Lane water park
The free water park on Sandy Lane, not far from the centre of Chester, can get very busy on sunny days, and rightly so, as it’s a wonderful place to cool off when the temperature rises (though those with smaller children might want to avoid the post-school crowd).
The park includes around a dozen (chilly) water fountains for running through and playing in, and there’s also a small playground; a kiosk selling ice creams, lollies and drinks; newly renovated completely accessible loos; and the Dee running scenically past for those who want to feed the ducks. There is also a car park adjacent to the park; bear in mind that in summer 2016, some people received tickets for parking on the grass verge alongside, though the tickets were subsequently revoked.
Please note that at the time of writing, May 2017, the water is off due to a fault – keep an eye on the website for updates.
Sandy Lane water park is off Sandy Lane, Chester CH3 5UL and is open daily in summer from 11 am to 5 pm. A review of our visit to the park and a list of other open air pools and water parks close to Chester will be available shortly.
2. Marbury outdoor pool
A couple of junctions away down the M56, Marbury pool is tucked away in Marbury Country Park, near Northwich. The country park itself is large, and a lovely place for a walk, with cows, a mere with ducks, a playground (better for older children) and lots of room for scooting, biking and kicking a ball around.
The open air pool is open daily from May to September (weather dependent) from around noon to 7 pm. There’s a large pool with a diving board as well as a smaller splash pool for children, which often contains a plastic slide. Both pools are surrounded by grass and lots of trees (the splash pool is in the shade by mid afternoon), and if you’re not careful then you might find that a squirrel steals part of your picnic; we’ve also spotted bunnies lolloping around the grounds (there are usually lots more in the park itself by the early evening) and a couple of mallards floating serenely in the pool itself. There are changing rooms and loos on site (though they’re rather elderly – the pool is currently fundraising to rebuild) and a tuck shop which sells hot and cold drinks, sweets, ice pops (20p) and ice creams (60p) (both last year’s prices).
Marbury pool is at Marbury Country Park, Comberbach, Northwich, CW9 6AT. The pool is open from May to September: in May and September day passes are available from 1 pm and the pool is open until 6 pm; from June to August, day passes are available from 12 noon and the pool is open until 7 pm. Day passes cost £6 per adult and £4 per child (last year’s prices) and sales may be restricted during busy periods; you’ll also need to pay for parking. See the website for more information.
3. Loggerheads, Alyn Waters and Wepre Park
When the temperatures really soar, there’s nothing like splashing about in a river to keep you cool – even the air coming off the water is noticeably cooler, plus there’s all the lovely shade from the trees. My children had a lovely swim at Loggerheads a couple of years ago – the river which runs along the easy walking (and very buggy friendly) route is wide and shallow and perfect for paddling, then there’s a slightly deeper area behind the yews alongside the cafe area which they started off paddling in, then rolled up trousers, then ended up in nothing but pants. We can also recommend the ice cream available at the cafe.
At Wepre Park, there’s a shallow ford which is particularly good for paddling (and marked as so on the map), but several other shallow areas as well; there’s also a large playground which looks great but was too hot to visit the day we went!
We’ve also had a fantastic and rather damp visit to Alyn Waters – our review will be available soon.
4. Delamere Forest
Find shade aplenty at Delamere on hot days, where there’s plenty of room to wander and explore amongst the trees (and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Gruffalo statue while you’re there!).
At the moment, you can download the Gruffalo Spotter’s app before you go, then follow the easy walking Linmere Trail, looking for clues and making the characters from the book come alive as you go – click here for more details; you can also follow the trail without doing the challenge, or head for the shady den building area if walking seems like too much effort … Don’t forget to leave time for an ice cream from the visitor centre too (snacks and light meals are also available).
The trail starts at the visitor centre, Delamere Forest, Linmere, Delamere, Northwich, Cheshire CW8 2JD – use postcode CW8 2HZ for satnav. The trail and app are free, though you can pick up an optional activity pack from the cafe or bike shop for £3; plus £2 for one hour parking, £4 for three hours parking or £6 for all day parking if you come by car. Click here for more information on the Forestry Commission’s website.
5. Backford Belles ice cream farm
Just north of Chester, close to Cheshire Oaks and the Zoo, is Backford Belles, selling award-winning Jersey ice cream. There are a dozen or more flavours available to eat in the parlour and even more in tubs to take home, including “Belles”, plain creamy ice cream described as “ice cream as it used to be”, and “Bethany’s Special”, a combination of plain ice cream, Smarties, mini Maltesers and chocolate sauce ripple which is bound to bring out the inner child in anyone. The parlour also now has a small fenced off play area inside with various books and toys, perfect for keeping your toddler in check while you finish your ice cream undisturbed.
Outside there is a guinea pig to meet and a few ride on tractors which my two year old adored, plus, over the drive, a grassy area with swings and goalposts (bring your own ball!) and a climbing frame with swings and a slide. A short walk away, you can meet some of the Backford Belles themselves, the Jersey cows who provide the creamy milk for the ice cream, plus hens and a herd of alpacas off in the distance. There is usually a maize maze which is open from September onwards and which is free to customers.
Backford Belles is at Acres Farm, Chester Road, Backford, Chester CH1 6PE and is open daily from 11 am to 6 pm (closed Mondays from November to March). Click here for the website; a list of local ice cream farms will be available soon.
6. Blacon Adventure Playground and City Farm
It’s a little rough around the edges, but we love the Adventure Playground in Blacon – as well as lots of swings and the large wooden structures for climbing, there are also shady woods for exploring and the animals to visit – you can even pick up some eggs in the shop. There’s a tuck shop for sweets or pack a picnic. It’s free to enter but donations towards the upkeep of the animals are appreciated. Our review will be available soon.
Blacon Adventure Playground & City Farm is at Kipling Road, Blacon, CH1 5UU and is open from 11 am to 7 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 6 pm on weekends. See the council’s website for more information.
7. New Brighton
Where better to head on a sunny day than the beach? We’re not far from the coast here in Chester, and New Brighton is one of our favourite seaside haunts for a tacky traditional day out. The highlight for my children is undoubtedly the easy crabbing, even if my four year old does stand on a bench and scream every time we bring up the the line, and there’s also the brilliant driftwood pirate ship, a small funfair, Vale Park with its fairy inhabitants, and of course the beach itself; other attractions include crazy golf and the popular Bubbles World of Play, which we have yet to explore.
8. Formby beach
At the other end of the scale is Formby beach, a huge expanse of sand, sea, sky and not much else – just lots of room to run, sandcastle and splash in the waves. If you tire of the beach, there’s also lot of piney woodland to explore and seek out some shade, and you can also look for the rare red squirrels which live in this neck of the woods.
Formby Sands is at Victoria Road, near Formby, Liverpool, L37 1LJ. The beach is free to enter but non-National Trust members pay for parking. The car park gets very busy and is often full at peak times, with queues outside; you can get the train to Freshfields, 1 mile away, instead.
Another National Trust property, Erdigg, near Wrexham, has a fabulous outdoor natural play area called Wolf’s Den, which has lots of tree stumps for climbing and balancing and a fantastic rope swing, all tucked away under the cool of the trees. On summer days there are often old fashioned games such as quoits on the lawn, there are several places to buy ice cream, and we believe there’s also a good river for paddling, though we’ve yet to visit it.
Erddig is at Wrexham LL13 0YT. Click here for the website.
10. Soft play!
Whisper it, but we love to visit soft play on sunny days – it’s usually deserted and often nice and cool too. We’ll be back on the beach again tomorrow, we promise … A list of local soft play centres will follow soon.