There is one place we’ve gone that we have never had a bad day at – Willsbridge Mills. Whatever the weather or time of year, whether we’re on our own of with friends, it just never fails. There are so many different areas to explore, but what really makes me love it there is the aura of a bit of magic.
You can park on the main road by the mill, or disabled parking is available right on the site, but we always park in the ‘official’ carpark (on Long Beach road) which means we get to have a lovely little walk through the woods to get to the main area. And in the summer, the first thing you pass are masses of blackberry bushes. Yum!
There are hills to climb, rocks to explore, odd little paths shooting off in many directions. Not to mention the big paths that feature history walks or bat walks! There are also brass rubbings, wood carved benches, and the like. But our favourite bit is always standing on the first major drain cover and listening to the water rushing underneath us.
The main pull to Willsbridge Mills is the little river/stream running through it. We’ve spent many summer days splashing in it, and this year we plan to see how far upstream we can hike in it. The rocks are very uneven, so very little ones may need hand holding to help keep their balance. There are loads of larger flat rocks, and you can stack them to make quite amazing rock towers in the water.
There’s a long dock that runs along the water, with amazing carved benches (to be honest, the carvings everywhere are one of the main things I love about this place!). The dock also has a couple of steps with a handrail to help smaller or less able people get into the water easily.
Behind the seating area is a sloped small hill covered in vegetation. My kids spent a full forty minutes last week pretending to be ninjas as they created a circuit of climbing up the hill, then sliding down a muddy part on their bottoms.
Also near the water is a large pond that is used for pond dipping. There are more wide, carved posts in this area – ideal for a snack break. There is also a larger lunch area that is ringed with curved tables and benches.
The final main bit of Willsbridge Mills is the nature garden. They’ve created beautiful gardens with lots of little areas to explore – more water, reclaimed tyres/sinks/baths full of plants and flowers, an amazing and colourful tile path, more carvings talking about what plants need to thrive, recycling, snails, etc. Plenty of little paths, sunny spots, and more little circle areas that would make for great picnics with friends.
There are also a number of large paths around the area – we’ve not gone far down many of these. Apparently one leads to a quarry, so we will definitely be exploring that in future visits.
On sunny days, the area is quite shaded so it stays cool – and protected on windy days, so even in colder weather it doesn’t feel exposed or brutally cold. Last week was neither particularly warm or cold, and we went in the water wearing wellies and waterproof trousers (though I just wore sandals and barefeet! First spring water splashing is fantastic!)….though my wellies plan backfired somewhat as I didn’t account for the fact the river would be very swollen from recent flooding. So as the kids stepped into the water, it was just high enough to immediately spill into their boots! But such is the magic of the place that no one complained…
This is a spot that is usually quite calm and quiet, though obviously we are often there during school hours so that has an impact. There are flowers to smell, letters to trace with fingers, sticks to be floated along the water. I can’t recommend it enough!