Dog walks near Chandlers Ford Blog Series
Welcome to #8 in my series of family-friendly dog walks near Chandlers Ford. If you have been following my blogs, then I really hope the information has been useful and you have discovered some lovely new places to visit with the kids and/or the dogs! If you have, then I would love to know what you thought of any of the places!
If you are new to my blog series then welcome! I started writing this a few months ago when several people asked if I could recommend anywhere good to go where they could take their children and their dogs to all have fun! I have a 4 year old son called Charlie, a 3 year old daughter called Evie and an 8 year old chocolate Labrador called Josie, so fun places to visit on a dog walk are important to us all!
I have based the walks in and around Chandlers Ford as that is where I am from, but to be honest, I have ventured quite far out as you will see from today’s post! I don’t think people mind travelling a bit further if they end up somewhere brilliant.
Why Victoria Country Park?
Apart from the obvious country park option which is so spacious that it is great for ball games, kite-flying, endless games of hide-and-seek among other things, there are literally so many things to do here that it is easy to spend an entire day here.
There is the pebbly beach which is across Southampton Water from Fawley. There is the newly refurbished park, the cafe, the Chapel, the train and most important of all, there is space. And fresh air. All very much-needed, especially if you’re in the midst of your summer holidays and need somewhere to go where everybody can let off steam and run wild! This is definitely the place to go.
If you’re not familiar with Victoria Country Park it is absolutely steeped in history. It was once the site of the world’s largest military hospital, although only the chapel (and a new extension) remains there today.
As a result there is also a very humbling and simple graveyard at the far end of the Country Park, many of the graves unmarked. There are some great stories and blogs online about the parts of history that the Chapel was involved in, especially a great one about the Ghost of the Grey Lady!
Victoria Country Park
So quite often when we visit VCP we don’t even go for a walk as we’re all (Josie included) quite happy to run around the fields or paddle in the water.
This walk is lovely however. To begin with, it hugs the coastline and then heads away from it towards the woodland area. This is a lovely shaded area and has a very accessible path all the way along, although just be careful as there are steep drops either side of the path down towards trees and bushes. Great for energetic dogs, not so great for clumsy or adventurous toddlers!!
The walk then continues towards the graveyard which is always very humbling and always forces me into a quiet moment of calm reflection. Many of the graves are unmarked which I find incredibly sad and grounding.
From here you can either turn around and walk back the way you came (the only option if you have a pushchair or wheelchair in tow). If you fancy a bit more of a cross-country feel, then I always veer off onto a wooden walkway that leads you through the trees and bushes. My dog loves this bit as it gives her a bit more freedom to dart in and out of the trees, although watch out for any gross stagnant water that may be lying around.
Eventually you come out by the top again where you started. It’s not a long walk but it is lovely to mix up the open space with the water with the woodland, especially if it’s hot and you need some shade!
Things to Enjoy at Victoria Country Park:
1) Amazing play park:
This has recently been refurbished and is absolutely amazing. I haven’t managed to get pictures of my children playing on it as we have always had the dog with us (we don’t go to the park with the dog in tow as I know my children would spend hours there and so therefore Josie would be tied up for that duration). The park is brilliant for all ages as they have different areas for different aged children, so there is no need to worry about babies and toddlers getting caught up with the older children.
Sometimes when we visit VCP we can literally spend the entire time at the beach and not go anywhere else. The children love throwing stones and collecting shells and Josie is as happy as can be if she’s in the water! The beach overlooks Southampton Water with Fawley power station in the background, but we love it as there are always a great range of boats to spot – whether they are IOW ferries, sailing boats, kayaks or jet skis!
3) The train:
Admittedly not the cheapest or longest of rides, this is still a great thing to do if you have little people who are as obsessed with any form of train (as my son is)!
4) The cafe:
The cafe stocks a really good selection of hot and cold food and has loads of tables both indoors and outdoors which I love. This is a great option if you need to stop off for a drink and snack or, as we have done many a time, popped out for a ‘quick walk’ and ended up staying all day!
5) The gift shop:
I haven’t personally been in there, but it’s a nice option to have, especially if you want to buy any memorabilia or treat for anybody.
VCP is very well designed and has accessible paths all around it and through it, so you don’t need to worry about limited accessibility if you have a wheelchair or pushchair in your party. In fact, when Evie was first born I used to come here to let Josie and Charlie stretch their legs/chase magpies while I pushed the sleeping baby round and round and round. It’s perfect for that!
7) Events and Activities:
It is definitely worth keeping an eye on their website as VCP hold a lot of amazing events and activities all throughout the year. Whether you’re looking for story trails or festivals, they do it! The Vicky Park Festival for example is supposed to be amazing and is well worth a visit! More information can be found here.
Although the parking is not free, there are ample spaces in each car park and there are quite a few car parks. We have never struggled to get a space at any time of day.
Excellent facilities up by the cafe and gift shop, but worth bearing in mind that they are the one ones so may take a while to walk there if you are over in the far fields or on the beach.
There are loads of shady spots dotted around so it’s the kind of place you can visit even if the sun is blazing all day.
11) Ice-cream van:
I’m not sure of the hours he works, but certainly in these hot summer months, the ice-cream van is in place down by the water all day. Ideal if you are spending the day on the beach!
12) The space:
From what I have read, the park is on a site that has 200 acres of land. It’s the perfect place to go to get some sea air and to stretch your legs. We have started meeting up with friends down there between Christmas and New Year and it’s great to be able to run off the excesses of Christmas!
13) The BBQ’s to hire:
If ever you’re on the lookout for having an outdoor party or barbecue then this place is amazing. You can hire a bbq and designated area around it, so can have games etc whilst you leave Dad to cremate (sorry, cook!) the food!
14) The Chapel:
From what I have seen and read, there is extensive refurbishment work on at the moment to restore the iconic Chapel and open it up again to the public. When this is finished I’d imagine it would be fascinating to visit and learn more about the history of the old hospital as I know there are many exhibitions and tours planned.
Things to Watch out for at Victoria Country Park:
This has been very recently modernised with electronic barriers and a card machine. The prices start at £2 for 1 hour and go up to £5 for the full day. Having change is no longer so important as they do accept card payments now at their new and swanky machines.
2) The weather:
As much as I love this place, you have to know when the weather hits, it really hits here hard. I don’t know if it is because of the proximity to the Solent, but we have been here in fog so extreme that you can barely see your hand in front of your face, or in ran so strong you feel yourself getting washed away! Ok so long as you are prepared!
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