Our top natural play areas

Splashing through streams, crashing along muddy trails and peering through the branches of a woodland den - there’s nothing quite like playing outdoors. We’ve picked some of our favourite natural playgrounds for children to explore at the places we look after. They are perfect for family wild time, and great for ticking off some of the 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾.

Children playing at Hoe Fen, Anglesey Abbey

Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire 

Head into the woods in the grounds of Anglesey Abbey and you'll soon spot the Lime Tree Lookout. This giant two-storey treehouse offers great views through the trees. Find the story-telling circle and tell your friends a tale, or get closer to nature and build a den or create a piece of wild art.

Children enjoying the woodland play area

Bath Skyline, Bath and NE Somerset 

See if you can stay standing on the wobble beams at this woodland play area in Claverton Down. The Guardian of the Woodland carved into one of the trees will keep a lookout while you play. You can also build dens, play on seesaws and rope swings.

A woman pushes a young girl on a zip line

Belton House, Lincolnshire 

Children of all ages are promised hours of fun at Belton outdoor playground. With over 30 pieces of equipment, including tree houses, towers, rope swings climbing nets and zip wires, let their imagination run wild.

Child enjoying the rope swing at Colby Woodland Garden

Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire 

Colby Woodland Garden is really just one big adventure playground. Clamber across stepping stones scattered in the streams, let loose on rope swings or have a go at building dens out of sticks. You can also pick up a free play kit from reception and delve into a watery world of pond dipping, duck racing and dam building. Don’t forget your waterproofs and wellies – things could get a bit soggy.

Children walking along a muddy path in wellies at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

Croft Castle, Herefordshire 

Set off into the countryside and see if you can find this natural play area. Older children can play on the rope swings and rope bridges or build themselves a den. You can relax in the natural picnic area as the children explore. There are stepping stones and a trail for little ones as well.

Child playing in Chute Wood Dunstable Downs Bedfordshire

Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire 

Chute Wood is the best kept secret of Dunstable Downs, with a hidden natural play area and winding pathways just waiting to be explored. Gather sticks together to build a den, or search for bugs hiding on the forest floor or among the leaves. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Our wooden playground is perfect for practicing your balancing, climbing and scrambling skills, before settling down for a picnic in the cool shade of the trees.

Family den building at Emmetts Garden, a National Trust property in Kent

Emmetts Garden, Kent 

Intrepid explorers will love getting stuck into adventures in our wild play area, located just past the Old Stables Café. Can you walk across the balance beams without falling off, or compete to see who can build the biggest den? Little adventurers are welcome to play too, though maybe bring an adult along to help with the fun. With all these opportunities to climb, scramble, jump and swing you might need a sit down to catch your breath, so why not find a patch of grass to lie on and do some cloud spotting?

A little girl whizzing along the zipwire

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire 

Made from sustainable timber and hand-spliced ropes, this woodland playscape almost seems to blend into the trees around it. Little ones can hop, skip and jump from one end to the other, playing with chimes, a speak tube, skittles and a ball roll along the way. There’s things to wobble along and climb over, from scramble nets to a rope bridge and a huge zip wire for the most daring adventurers of all.

A child playing on the play area

Gibside, Tyne & Wear 

This woodland playscape was created from materials found on the Gibside estate. You can climb trees, crawl through tunnels, balance on log bridges and scramble up the wooden climbing wall. Gibside is also home to an adventure playground, inspired by the lost Strawberry Castle. You can take the low ropes challenge, build a den or see what you spot from the wildlife hide. Follow the Family Scramble trail if you'd like to take in both play areas.

Visitors in the adventure area at Hatchlands Park

Hatchlands Park, Surrey 

As you reach Wix Wood follow the willow tunnel to the balance beams. You can leap from log to log on the way back before finding the pile of wood for den building. Sit quietly for a moment and you might spot some of the many birds and bugs who call the woods home.

The adventure playground, next to the Park Cafe at Lanhydrock

Lanhydrock, Cornwall 

Lanhydrock’s adventure playground is a great place for little ones to climb, swing, jump and let off steam. Balance on wooden beams, scramble across nets or unleash your inner ape with a go on the monkey bars. The playground is right next to the Park Café and picnic spots so you can pick up a tasty snack to refuel – or alternatively hire a bike from the cycle centre to burn off some more energy on the woodland trails.

Children splashing in muddy puddles at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Mottisfont, Hampshire 

Enjoy exploring and testing your limits in Mottisfont's wild play areas. There are great places to splash around as well as trees to climb and hide behind. Ask at reception for the seasonal activity trails to enjoy in the school holidays.

Children exploring the garden at Sizergh

Sizergh, Cumbria 

Starting from the car park, you’ll need to follow the clues to find this wild play area. It will take you on a mile-and-a-half trail through the woods. You’ll be glad you made the effort when you're abseiling, balancing on logs and swinging from the trees.

Four girls play on a tyre swing at Springhill, County Londonderry

Springhill, Co. Londonderry 

Springhill’s natural play area is tucked away in a woodland clearing. It combines natural materials like tree trunks and willow structures with more conventional timber play structures. Explore the natural climbing frames, rope swings and dens. Keep a look out for mystical creatures and thrones.

Tyntesfield Pav play area

Tyntesfield, Somerset 

Look out for the enchanted tree house in the woods at Tyntesfield, near Bristol. You'll also find a rope swing to play on and plenty of places to play hide and seek. Keep your eyes peeled for the giant guano bird and other sculptures. You will also find brass rubbings on the trail, so take some paper and pencils in your survival kit.