When I first heard about the Cotswold Water Park, I assumed it was an adventure oasis filled with daredevil flumes, slides and splash zones. My first assumption couldn’t have been more wrong… While the Cotswold Water Park is most definitely an oasis – it’s actually a natural playground made up of over 50km of paths and bridleways. Set on the border of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, it spans 40 square miles with over 140 lakes formed as a result of limestone gravel extraction.
Cotswold Water Park Accommodation
Many of the lakes have now been restored – and the park offers a wide range of activities to suit everyone from watersports to walking trails, and bird watching to cycling. Meanwhile, there are several accommodation options from the De Vere Cotswold Water Park Hotel which looks out over the water as well as self-catering properties and camping sites, and food choices such as picnic areas, country pubs and bistros.
It’s also a significant area for wildlife, and the environmental charity, the Cotswold Water Park Trust – made up of staff and volunteers – is working with local communities and organisations to create a sustainable future for the park.
Cotswold Water Park Cycle Hire
We opted to explore Cotswold Water Park via the extensive cycle routes and, after googling the nearest cycle hire shop, we headed to Go-By-Cycle. We were impressed with the speed of service and the fact we didn’t have to pay until we returned the bikes.
Cotswold Water Park Beach
Armed with a cycling map and advice as to which route we should take – we headed off and followed the trail towards the Cotswolds Country Park and Beach. The beach – the largest inland beach in the UK – was heaving, while the bouncy castles, crazy golf course and adventure playgrounds were full of families enjoying themselves. Much to our surprise, Monkey didn’t ask us to stop – he was much more preoccupied with beating mummy and daddy on the bikes!
As we began to steadily move away from this busy hub, it didn’t take long until we were by ourselves. After we decided to head away from the River Thames and take a trail directly into the Park proper, we began seeing much more ‘wild’ terrain.
Cotswold Cycle Routes
Most of the paths were pretty clear, however, there were some parts that were very overgrown with stinging nettles. The poor guys got their legs stung as they were wearing shorts – and in one section I got stuck in a huge mud puddle. Cue lots of laughter from everyone but me – it was lucky my trainer wasn’t left behind…
The scenery was rugged, with plenty of wild grass and flowers. As we continued along the trail, we began passing several working quarries. Monkey enjoyed watching all the large construction vehicles going about their business. We eventually hit the small village of South Cerney – and it was felt a little strange to suddenly be riding along a busy road when just moments ago we were on the peaceful trail.
We did have to cross over a couple of main roads – but before we knew it, we had arrived in Cricklade – a small town which was founded in the 9th century by the Anglo-Saxons.
It was well past lunchtime and we were all ravenous. After a good rest, a pint and a hearty meal at The White Hart pub, we got back on our saddles to make our way back towards the hire shop.
We went back on ourselves for a short distance before veering off on a different route. This time we were able to cycle adjacent to a large lake, where we got to watch some water skiers in action and look at some of the water-side accommodation that is so popular with tourists.
At this point, Monkey had fallen asleep from all the excitement. And we were all getting a little saddle sore. Choosing to take the quickest route back, we ended up cycling the last stretch on the main road – a little hair-raising to say the least, but we all returned safe and sound.
In total, we cycled for around five hours and covered around 15 miles. Not bad going considering we just wanted to have a little bike ride! And, even though we were pretty exhausted, we had so much fun exploring.
I would definitely recommend hiring bikes if you want to cover a good distance across the Cotswold Water Park. But if you don’t want to be as strenuous, you can always go for a stroll and enjoy a pint by the waterside. Just as fun and not so taxing on the behind…
*Go to the Cotswold Water Park website for more information on events, activities and accommodation