Woods, parks, lakes until we had Tinkipop I had no idea there were so many places to explore near Milton Keynes. Here are some of our favourite places to get outdoors, have a picnic and with any luck wear out a small person.

Willen Lake, MK15 0DS

I’ll be honest despite living on its doorstep we rarely venture to Willen Lake, however a recent trip reminded us what a great day out it can be. There’s plenty to keep tinkis busy the play park has been updated and is split into sections so all ages are catered for. Talking of catering there are lots of options from picnics, a BBQ area, a pub and a café and icecream vans. For the more adventurous there is the watersports area offering canoeing, pedalos and other water activities, there’s a wake boarding centre and a high ropes trail. If all this seems like hard work you can always chill out and feed the ducks instead.

StStandwickanwick Lakes, NN9 6GY

I’m going to be honest we were vastly under prepared when we went to Stanwick. We’d read great things about the play park with its water activities and knew it was a great place to let Tinki roam free but we went on a day where the park had been wet and we totally underestimated the level of mud! The park it has to be said is epic and we spent hours playing, so much so we didn’t even get to check out the boat hire, assault course or bird watching hide so we’ll definitely go back. The café is nice and has an indoor soft play area and there is a set area of the lakes where BBQs are permitted. We’d definitely recommend the lakes but take towels and changes of clothes!

Waddeston Manor, HP18 0JH

Although more expensive than other picnic locations Waddeston is a firm favourite in our Waddesdon denhouse and has made it well worth us signing up as National Trust members. The impressive house and drive way make an imposing view as you arrive, the play park is fabulous with a great zip wire and den building spot. The park is in a shady spot which makes it ideal for sunny days. There are lots of picnic spots, an aviary, some lovely shops and cafes. They have arrangements to leave your picnic at the visitors centre to save you carrying it. They also welcome small bikes for those under 5.

Irchester Country Park, near Wellingbrough NN29 7DL

Irchester is a fantastic mix of woodland play for all ages. There is trail with dinosaur statues an amazing park and even a high ropes course. The park is free to visit but there is a £3 parking charge and the high ropes course is payable separately. There are plenty of spots for a picnic or if you’d rather the Quarryman’s Rest Café does cakes, lunches, ice-creams and good coffee (be warned it can get busy). Kid friendly essentials are covered there’s lots of toilets and parts of the forest are a levelled to make it easy for pushchairs to negotiate. You can easily spend a whole day here.

rushmere-slideRushmere, LU7 0EB

Rushmere Park is about 20 mins from Milton Keynes near Heath and Reach it’s a massive site 210 acres and gives you the chance to walk to near by Stockgrove Park making the whole site over 400 acres – effectively days of walking for toddlers! There is a significant slide that will keep even  the most adventurous toddle happily occupied; especially as its near the posh ice cream kiosk. The woods have a lovely fairy trail with statues and fairy doors in the trees to discover and spark their imagination. There is a visitors centre with café and toilets and lots of information about the site. A special mention must go to the friendly staff who were wonderfully helpful tracking down Tinki’s lost backpack a sure sign of a toddler friendly venue. Its a bargain too just £2 to park all day, be aware though you do have to have the correct change to work the barrier on exit.