Parks, playgrounds and open spaces in Kent you can visit in lockdown
Are you looking for a fresh place to walk, cycle or scooter with the kids in your local area?
With lockdown restrictions continuing, families are asked to continue remaining within their town or city, but is there a nearby park, play area or open space you've not yet tried?
1. Betteshanger Country Park, Deal
The vast park includes walking and running routes, one of the longest cycle road tracks in the UK and a play area with rope walks, slides, climbing frames, cradle swings, see-saws, swinging steps, stepping stones and a swinging rope snake.
The park is open all year round and has bookings open for bike hire, orienteering and geocaching. Read more here.
2. Cobtree Manor Country Park, Aylesford
On the site of the old Maidstone Zoo, the park is part of the Cobtree Manor Estate. There are a number of play areas to choose from and a sculpture trail and you can even see parts of the old zoo still standing in the grounds including the elephant house together with information boards to help you understand how the land was once home to a number of wild animals. A great place to explore.
3. Haysden Country Park, near Tonbridge
With a lake, natural play area and cycle route there is plenty to find fun in at Haysden Country Park. Opening and closing times vary and will be displayed on entrances and exits for visitors.
4. Jeskyns Community Woodland, near Gravesend
This Forrestry Commission-owned park just off the A2 at Cobham is a perfect place for a play and a walk. The paths are gravel and popular with confident young cyclists on two wheels or those with balance bikes but it may prove a trickier surface for scooter users or those still on stabilisers. The park also has two play areas. Jeskyns is also popular with dog walkers with dedicated exercise areas and areas where pets are allowed off their leads are clearly signposted to other visitors. Learn more here.
5. Lower Leas Coastal Park, Folkestone
Overlooking the Channel, the Lower Leas Coastal Park is a secluded haven. Paths wind around the three play zones – wild, fun and formal and the fun zone is home to one of the region’s largest adventure playground. A National Cycle Route also runs through the area.
6. Mote Park, Maidstone
Mote Park is great for cycling and walking - there are lots of trails and paths to follow across the park. There is also a popular play area which is suitable for children of all ages keen on a place to play.
7. Toddler's Cove, Westgate Gardens
Small scooters and children's bikes are perfectly suited to the picturesque pathways and surroundings of the Westgate Gardens. And nestled at the back of the Gardens is the fantastic Toddler's Cove play area enabling children to walk, ride or scooter to a great place to play.
8. Gravesend Promenade and Fort Gardens
For a cycle beside the river, head down to the Promenade at Gravesend, also known as Gravesend's Riverside Leisure Area. There are plenty of flat paths and surfaces for learning to cycle and scooter and there are children's play areas and sports courts to enjoy too.
The promenade offers parking at a number of neighbouring council-run car parks and the riverside area is also just a short walk from the town centre.
9. Cromers Wood, Milstead
Just outside of Sittingbourne town centre is Cromers Wood near Rodmersham. There is numerous walking routes across the ancient woodland and a pond within the nature reserve to visit too.
To learn more about finding the woodland click here.
10. The Leas, Minster
Over on the Isle of Sheppey is hundreds of metres of pathway by the sea just perfect for young riders. The flat surface is ideal for families coming with anything from scooters to cycles, balance bikes to trikes.
There is free parking along the seafront.
11. Tankerton Slopes, Tankerton
The pathways in Whitstable can sometimes be a little busy for young cyclists but head further along the seafront to Tankerton and there is far more room to ride and parking is free in many parts of Tankerton. It can be very windy so wrapping up warm in winter is advisable.
12. Bewl Water near Lamberhurst
Described as 'the perfect place to walk, cycle and run in beautiful Wealden countryside' Bewl Water is keeping its vast open spaces, miles of paths, toilets and takeaway services open during lockdown.
The car park and adventure playground is open 8am until 4pm, toilets open from 9am and the cafe for takeaway only between 11am and 3pm. Fishing and bike hire facilities currently remain closed.
Parking and admission is £5 for pay and display. To learn more click here.
13 Bedgebury Pinetum, near Goudhurst
Bedgebury's forest and some facilities are open for families locally. The car park is open daily 8am to 5pm but with limited capacity so may close temporarily at short notice to maintain safety and social distancing.
Car parking charges are £14 for a day in peak times and £10 off peak (weekdays during term time only). Learn more at www.forestryengland.uk/bedgebury
14. King George's Park, Sittingbourne
With a playground area, ample field space for ball games and popular with dog walkers this park in the centre of Sittingbourne has something for everyone.
There is also a cafe selling hot and cold food and drink to take away. A small car park within the park grounds is free to use.
15. Riverside Country Park and Play Area, Rainham
Riverside Country Park, maintained by Medway Council, is open during the current lockdown period, adhering to government guidelines.
The cafe is open for takeaway only and toilets remain open until the cafe closes. The children's play areas are also open to visitors.
To learn more click here.
15 - 23. Kent Country Parks, countywide.
KCC has nine country parks across the county. They are Brockhill Country Park near Folkestone; Grove Ferry Picnic Site in Canterbury; Lullingstone Country Park; Manor Park in West Malling; Pegwell Bay in Thanet; Shorne Woods near Gravesend; Teston Bridge near Maidstone; Trosley Country Park near Meopham and White Horse Wood at Detling.
Visitors will be able to buy takeaway food and drinks from cafes at parks which have these facilities and toilets, where available, will also be open.
For further information about visiting a country park owned and maintained by KCC please visit www.kent.gov.uk
Outdoor places in Kent remaining open in lockdown which require a pre-booked ticket...
23. Hever Castle
Hever Castle says it has reviewed the government guidance on outdoor public spaces and will keep parts of its historic site open during this lockdown for those living locally.
The gardens will remain open to visitors living nearby, who will continue to have to book in advance before arriving. Its play areas Tudor Towers and Acorn Dell will remain available with restrictions and whilst indoor catering will close, outdoor takeaway options will open.
Alongside pre-booking Hever Castle asks all those intending to visit to read the 'Know Before You Go' information. All details are here.
24. Leeds Castle
In a message on its website Leeds Castle near Maidstone has confirmed it will remain open to local visitors keen to enjoy its outdoor open spaces.
Whilst the Castle itself will be closed, the grounds, gardens, maze and children's playgrounds will remain open. Outlets offering takeaway food and drink will also be available to families.
Those looking to enjoy Leeds Castle's picturesque surroundings should book their ticket for a specified date and time in advance of visiting. To learn more please click here.
25 - 30. National Trust properties, countywide
The National Trust has kept some of its outdoor spaces it cares for open, including car parks, gardens and parklands. These include grounds and gardens at Chartwell, Ightam Mote, Scotney Castle, Emmets Garden and Sissinghurst. Some takeaway food and drink options are available alongside toilet facilities.
At Knole Park in Sevenoaks, the facilities remain closed to visitors including the cafe and toilets, but the car park is open to pre-booked visitors who wish to access the parkland. Learn more here.
A spokesman said, in line with government guidance, National Trust remains open for people living nearby.
He said: "Following government guidelines, National Trust gardens, parks and countryside in England remain open for local people to exercise. The safety of staff, volunteers and visitors from nearby communities remains our priority. Shops are closed under the restrictions, but some places will offer a basic takeaway service and toilets will remain open.
"Please visit our website for opening times and information about facilities and to book your visit. We encourage all visitors to book before their visit, as this enables us to ensure social distancing is possible."
More details at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/