Finding outdoor places to walk without booking has become a bit of a game since lockdown eased. Some days you win and many days you lose. Even as National Trust members, we are still yet to be able to snag a ticket in the Friday 8am rush.
Outdoor places to walk without booking
It is great that more and more people are discovering the great outdoors. Whether for a walk, picnic or to zip around on bikes or scooters. However, it can be a bit more of a challenge to be able to find places to visit at the weekends. I have found that the booking of places is a great idea, but it does squash that little bit of ad hoc freedom of the weekend. I have since been doing a bit of research to find outdoor places to walk without booking. So we have a nice bank of places to visit for a wander and can head there on a whim.
Some of the places do have paid for parking though, just to warn you. I will add as many details as I can with each option. But I do hope that you find somewhere nice to take a walk this weekend too.
Tatton Park, Cheshire
While Tatton Park is part National Trust which needs to be booked in the Friday rush, you can go to visit for the general country park. There are acres of green space, waterside walks around the lake and even the village of Knutsford to enjoy. Parking is paid for at £7 per car, but you can easily spend the day here, which makes it a small price to pay. Plus, you can drop by at any time as there is plenty of parking.
We visited on a very warm and sunny Sunday. The overflow car park was very busy, but we were still able to find plenty of space to spread our picnic mat and enjoy our food. Everyone was good with the social distancing, and we barely bumped into anyone on our walk to and from Knutsford.
The added bonus of Tatton is that they have plenty of toilets and a great system for using them. Small queues, hand sanitiser on the way in and a one way system while you’re in there. So you can enjoy a tea in the tea shop or guzzle your flask without worrying about finding a loo.
Pennington Flash, Wigan
Pennington Flash is a new one to me and a pleasure to find. Having passed the signs on the motorway many a time, we managed to get there one weekend (post-lockdown). Parking is pay and display and there is space for up to 200 cars. We dropped by on our way home from somewhere and it was easy to park and walk around with few people. It was really lovely being next to the water and seeing boats floating by.
If you’re into feeding birds, there are loads here too – be sure to bring something healthy for them (thawed peas/corn or some special bird feed or seed) and they will love you for it.
I really liked how many benches there were around the lake. It makes it somewhere you can easily spend a few hours with a picnic. If you want something more guided, there are some Jubilee Legacy walking routes to help you find your way around too.
Sale Water Park
A nice local Manchester one, is Sale Water Park. It is easy to get to by car and also by tram as there is a stop right outside. It is a nice place to visit if you want to grab an ice cream or brew from the cute visitor centre and cafe too – both open when we dropped by. There is free parking for around 50 cars in the one near the cafe. But we found there are a few car parks on the other side which makes it usually OK to find a spot.
Walking around the lake, there were a few routes to follow. One of which leads to Chorlton Water Park, if you fancy getting a second space into one visit. The paths are well maintained and there are some benches and seating spots around the walk. And a waterside pub if you fancy something a bit stronger than a coffee
We really enjoyed wandering around the water watching the boats, paddle boarders and open water swimmers making use of the lake.
If it is a real feast of nature that you’re looking for then Brockholes is the place for you. It is a Nature reserve nestled beneath the motorway and in easy reach from Manchester in the car. There are facilities in the amazing floating visitor centre and also one of the best playgrounds ever!
There are a number of different walking routes sign posted around the reserve. There are lots of benches on each route too, so you can simply stop and enjoy the scenery.
This was another of our ‘stopping by when other plans go awry’ visits and we easily found a parking space and there was lots of room for distancing both in the centre and around the reserve.
Parking is £5 all day and goes towards supporting the reserve.
Windy Bank Wood Walk, Wigan
I will end this post with a slightly offbeat walk which I discovered when we went to Bents Garden Centre. Part of the walk is advertised on their website and we took a mini detour to discover more of the area of Glazebury around it.
We do enjoy a trip to a garden centre and Bents is one of the best in the North West. I love that they are also encouraging visitors to find out more about the area (you also get to see the original shop front!)
Parking is free for customers and there are good systems inside for keeping your distance. It is a huge place, so it’s not too challenging. On the walk, though, we only met one other family and two cyclists, which was good going.
Getting out for a walk on a whim!
Although it might seem like a bit of a pain getting out for a nice walk in nature, there really are some outdoor places to walk without booking. These are just a taster of the ones I have found so far. I am on a mission to find more and would love your tips on some too. If you know any outdoor places to walk without booking in and around Greater Manchester, I would love to visit them and include them in my next post.
Here’s to enjoying the best of the free/cheap places in Greater Manchester and Lancs where we can head to for a weekend wander.