Barnwell Country Park
Located in the heart of the Nene Valley. The Park comprises 37 acres of lakes, riverbank and meadows to explore, situated close to the historic market town of Oundle. With three way marked waterside trails, well-stocked children’s play area, numerous picnic spots, a wealth of wildlife and facilities, Barnwell Country Park is a great place for a family day out.
The Park was developed from abandoned sand and gravel workings and is situated on the flood plain of the River Nene just south of Oundle in the landscape area classified as the Rockingham Forest (see our Park History page for more info). The park is bounded on the north-west and south-west by a flood channel loop of the River Nene, known as 'the Backwater', and on the east by the A605 Barnwell Road. The present landscape consists of a series of willow fringed lakes, short mown grass, coarser vegetation, conservation grassland and small wooded areas.
The lakes, picnic meadows, river and the resident water birds make the park very attractive to visitors and in particular young families. The irregular shapes of the lakes provide different views around each corner and a sense of progressive revelation to the visitor. The park is flat and very accessible with a network of stone paths suitable for prams and wheelchairs.
The Park is part of a group of 5 parks owned by Northamptonshire County Council, which also includes: Brixworth, Fermyn Woods, Irchester and Sywell Country Parks. The services in the Park and its day to day management are delivered by First for Wellbeing CIC Ltd which is a community interest company. First for Wellbeing is a joint venture between Northamptonshire County Council, Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Northampton, which offers an integrated health and wellbeing service for people who live in Northamptonshire. On the ground the Park is run by a Senior Ranger assisted by full time Rangers and volunteers. You may contact the Park directly at [email protected] or on 0300 126 5931.
The Park is very attractive and very accessible making it popular with disabled people, elderly people and people with young children. The Park is mainly used for:
- leisurely strolls
- kids playgrounds
- dog walking
- feeding the water birds
- school visits
- watching the wildlife
The ecology and wildlife value of the site has changed over the years and it is no longer a place attractive to wading birds but does host some notable species including breeding kingfishers, warbler species and otters and the park is designated a Wildlife Site. Sensitive wildlife areas include Lowlands and the backwater river and lake fringes.
Flora & Fauna
The principal faunal interest of the site lies in the wintering wildfowl which use the open water areas of the site. Other birds also breed in the lowlands reedbed, and in the willow and emergent vegetation fringes. A range of small mammals have been recorded for the site, as would be expected, and a small colony of water voles were recorded on the site during the 1970s. Barnwell Country Park has been one of the few areas in the county that generated regular sightings of otters, however in recent years there have been no confirmed sightings on the park itself. In 1995 two pairs of otters were released at Ashton Mill into the Nene, coordinated by the Otter Trust. The bulk of the floral interest of the site occurs in the water margins and in the more species rich grassland areas.
- Water Vole
- Pygmy & Common Shrew
- Grey Squirrel
- Bank Vole
- Field Vole
- Water Vole
- Wood Mouse
- Water Shrew
- Whiskered Bat
- Daubenton's Bat
- Noctule Pipistrelle
- Brown Long Eared Bats
- Candle-Snuff Fungus
- Shaggy Ink Cap
- Sulphur Tuft
- Fairy Ring Champignon
Barnwell Country Park supports a wide range of bird species. Along with the wintering wildfowl there are a variety of species associated with the Lowlands reedbed and the scrub / hedgerow areas of the site. The site is also fortunate to have steep bank sections along the river that rise high enough above the water level and which might provide nesting sites for kingfishers. However, most kingfishers seen in the vicinity seem to prefer to nest in the vertical root plates of fallen trees. There are two bird hides at the park. Species include:
- Greylag Goose
- Tufted Duck
- Reed Bunting
- Tawny Owl
- Green Woodpecker
- Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Marsh & Great Tits
- Blue, Coal & Willow Tits
- Reed Warbler
- Sedge Warbler
The Park's lakes and backwater contain a natural head of course fish. No formal stocking has taken place although specimen carp are present in numbers in both North and Mill Lake. North Lake, which is joined to the wildlife refuge, contains a larger head of carp. This has made the park a sought after fishery by carp specimen hunters. The park, with its accessibility and facilities also provides a good venue for novices, with a reasonable stock of smaller fish to be caught. The river can provide good Chubb and roach fishing, although it is fairly challenging owing to its streamy, weedy nature.
Fishing is available on day tickets, concession and evening tickets, 12 month season tickets and winter season tickets. Tickets must be purchased before you start fishing and are available at any time on a self serve basis from the Rangers Office near the park entrance.
Species present in the lakes:
- Mirror carp (to 30lb)
- Common (to 24lb)
- Pike (to 28lb)
The river contains all of the above and the following:
Walks & Activities
Visitors may participate in Duck Feeding on Mill Lake - duck food is available from the Country Park Visitor Centre (much better than bread for both the ducks and the water!). There is a 22 peg Orienteering Trial with maps and control cards supplied from the visitors centre for a small donation towards printing costs. You can also view the map & card on our Visiting page.
There are three Walking Trails around the park:
- Lakeside stroll (Yellow) 1/3 mile 0.4km allow 15 minutes fully hard surfaced
- Kingfisher Nature Trail (Red) 2/3 mile 0.8km allow 30 minutes fully hard surfaced
- Riverside Walk (Black) 1 mile 1.6km allow 45 minutes hard surface path but some sections of sand, boardwalk, grassland meadow
Kids Play Areas
The Park contains two modern and well maintained play areas, one for toddlers or younger children and a second, more demanding obstacle course for older children as well as a zip wire, slides and a sand pit. There is also seating provided for adults.
The Country Park currently has a hard standing car park with a capacity of around 50 cars. The Recreational meadows are also used for seasonal overflow parking. Charges apply on a Pay & Display basis with all funds going towards the maintenance of the park.
The Kingfisher Café
The Kingfisher Café is open all year round. It has added a wonderful additional dimension to the Park serving fresh locally sourced hot and cold food, drinks and excellent coffee. The amazing outdoor decking terrace is a perfect space to watch for the wildlife, including the kingfisher.
The café hosts a variety of events through out the year. For the latest information visit: www.kingfishercafe.co.uk
The Rangers actively encourage people to volunteer to work alongside them to develop and enhance the Park. If you would like to get fit, help local wildlife, learn a new skill and maybe make some new friends, please give it a go and contact the Rangers or just turn up. There is always something to do. The Friends also organise regular and seasonal volunteering sessions. Check the Events Page for any such upcoming volunteering opportunities.