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Nine Mile Ride, Finchampstead, RG40 4HT
California Country Park covers 40 hectares and is set within 100 acres of ancient bogland and lowland heath. It offers scenic walks, wildlife watching, fishing and more.
There is a lovely children’s play area next to the main car park. It has plenty of climbing ropes, balancing logs and a small zip wire suitable for pre-schoolers as well as slightly older children.
There are couple of swings and slides for babies & toddlers and a pirate climbing frame with larger slide that my son loved.
The play area is probably most suitable up to the age of about 7 years.
Within the play area is a fenced off paddling pool. This was still closed when we visited but is open in the summer months and I think it would be a great hit with children of all ages. It looked a grubby at the moment but sure once it is cleaned up & filled and the sun is out you could easily bring a picnic and spend the whole day here.
There is a short walk of 0.9miles around Longmoor Lake or if you want to go a bit further you can do the Woodland Walk which is 2.2miles long. We did both and my 2.5 year old managed to walk the whole way as he was very interested in picking up sticks and batting them through the long grass on the Woodland Walk.
The longer walk takes you through the 8,000 year old Longmoor Bog on a specially constructed boardwalk. This was great for pushchairs and my son who loved running up and down the boardwalk. There are a few areas before and after the boardwalk that are still quite boggy and wellies would probably be advisable especially if you have children like mine who love nothing better to run and jump in mud at the first opportunity!
The shorter walk round the lake was very pleasant and tranquil as there weren’t too many other people about. We stopped at lots to look at the ducks and for my son to swirl the water with the sticks he had collected on the Woodland Walk.
Unfortunately the California Dreaming Café has been closed down and there are no other café facilities at present. There was a note in the window saying that the Council were looking to provide a permanent replacement in Spring 2014 so hopefully the café will reopen in some form or another soon.
In the meantime make sure you take drinks and food with you.
There were only 4 picnic benches that I spotted but there is plenty of grassy areas both inside and outside of the play area which would be lovely to sit with a picnic blanket if you couldn’t get a bench.
Toilets & Baby Changing Facilities
Despite the café closure the café toilet facilities are still open between 10am & 4pm.
The disabled toilet has enough space for a double buggy and a pull down baby changing mat with straps. The light wasn’t working when we used it so it was pitch black which wasn’t very helpful.
The Ladies has 4 stalls and a bench area that you could put your own changing mat on.
If the weather is nice I would suggest changing baby on the grass is probably easier. The toilets were fairly clean but not brilliant.
There is a small car park area next to the old café building and play area and if this is full there is plenty of additional parking a short walk away. Make sure you have the right change whilst the café is shut as there is no means of getting it otherwise (unless you bump into a kind person like me who gives you their remaining ticket). Charges are as follows:
Up to 1 hour – £1.20
1-4 hours – £1.80
Over 4 hours – £2.40
This is a lovely place to visit for a couple of hours if the weather is nice (or more if you take a picnic). And I suspect it would be a good days entertainment in hot weather when the pool is open.
3.5 out of 5 – Only due to the lack of cafe facilities