With the easing of lockdown rules delayed just a little longer to keep us all safe, it’s time to look to the great outdoors as the place to meet up with family and friends. The good news is that it’s summer – yay – when even in the UK you can quite often leave your umbrella and coat at home and plan to have some fun in the sun.

Taking a walk in the fresh air has so many benefits – regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of major illnesses and boost your wellbeing too. What’s more, it’s totally free! With so many tempting green spaces in Leicester and Leicestershire, from local parks to riverside pathways, our advice to you as you ride out the delay is don’t see red, go green!


Pack up a park picnic

If you don’t want to stray too far, head off to your local park. With 130 in the city alone, there’s sure to be one not too far away from you. They come in all shapes and sizes and if you don’t have outside space at home, they’re a ready-made garden, and if you do, they’re a garden you don’t have to mow or weed. If you’re feeling energetic, or have munched your way through too many pork pies on your picnic, 30 parks have outdoor gym equipment too.

The city’s big players when it comes to green spaces include Braunstone Park, which spreads over 168 acres, with large expanses of grass and two lakes. Right in the middle, it’s also got a hotel and restaurant, Winstanley House, which has a lovely terrace where you can enjoy post-walk refreshments or even have a go on the tree swing.


A river runs through it

Abbey Park is another vast green space, divided in two by the River Soar. Make your way here along the canal towpath from the city and you’ll encounter historic locks and walls decorated by striking murals. With its historic abbey ruins, miniature railway, boating lake and pet’s corner, what more could you possibly want from a park on a sunny afternoon? Apart from an ice-cream van, that is, and there’s usually at least one here.

Between Beaumont Leys and Anstey, Castle Hill Country Park offers great walks through grassland and woodland, with stunning views over Bradgate Park, and the ponds and meadows of Evington Park attract many wildlife species in the summer months.


If it’s good enough for Sir David Attenborough…

For a smaller, but perfectly formed, green space, head to the University of Leicester Botanic Garden in Oadby. Spanning just 16 acres, exploring its grounds and greenhouses is a relaxing way to while away a few hours, sitting on a bench every now and then to admire the water features and sculptures.

In nearby Knighton, the university’s Attenborough Arboretum, opened by none other than Sir David, features a medieval ridge-and-furrow field. The way the trees have been planted here chart 10,000 years of natural history, and two large ponds offer great wildlife spotting opportunities.


Pathway to a paddle

If you want to stretch your legs further, or dust off your bike, several well-maintained pathways lead to lovely stretches of countryside right on the city’s doorstep. National Cycle Route 6 is the M1 of cycleways and connects Leicester south to north, eventually heading off through the beautiful villages of Rothley, Mountsorrel and Quorn as it finds its way to Loughborough. Throw your sandwiches and a bottle of water into your rucksack and meander into the urban oasis of Aylestone Meadows.

As the city’s largest local nature reserve, set along the River Soar, the River Biam and the Grand Union Canal, keep an eye out for all sorts of wildlife, from weasels scuttling in the grassland to wading herons eyeing up unsuspecting fish. There are plenty of open spaces for a picnic or a kickabout, a medieval packhorse bridge to walk over and Pebble Beach if you want to kick off your walking shoes and dip your toes.


From tigers to plesiosaurs

Connected to Aylestone Meadows and the National Cycle Network, Everards Meadows offers a 70-acre paradise for walkers and cyclists. It’s also where you’ll find Everards Brewery Beer Hall, where not only can you enjoy a drink and a bite to eat – Sparkenhoe red Leicester cheese scone with Tiger ale chutney, anyone – but you can see the brewers at work at the same time.

Why not grab a coffee from Jenno’s Coffee House then hire a bike from Rutland Cycles and head further along the route to Watermead Country Park. This former sand and gravel pit is now one big playground for nature-lovers. Explore its network of lakes interspersed with woodland pathways and perfect picnic spots, look out for a life-size mammoth sculpture and let the kids run wild on the award-winning Jurassic Play Trail’s plesiosaur play mound.


Walks sure to a-maze

The National Forest runs wild through Leicestershire, and ancient woods form the perfect backdrop for an outdoor adventure. Just a few miles out of the city, the villages of Groby and Ratby are spoilt for choice with Martinshaw Wood, Pear Tree Wood and Burroughs Wood making up the largest continuous area of woodland in Leicestershire. Whether you choose to walk, cycle or horse-ride, this trio is easy to explore with a network of paths keeping you on track.

However, if you prefer to lose yourself completely on a walk in the countryside, Wistow Maze, just a few miles south of Leicester, is the place for you. It’s one of the country’s largest mazes, carved into eight acres of maize and sunflower crop and incorporating a fun quiz trail. You can dip in and out of the maze – this year formed in the shape of a phoenix – a fitting design that heralds new beginnings, hope and freedom.

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  1. Matt
    Can anyone tell me where the main picture (with the windmill) is please ?

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