Having moved to Daventry from Northampton forty years ago I have always considered the Country Park to be one of the districts true gems. When my two children were growing up I often took them to the adventure play area to let off some steam and explore. As they got older I would take them for walks around the park pointing out the birds on the lake, in the trees and around the bird tables.
My children would get very excited when we spotted Blackcaps, Nuthatch, Robin, Goldfinch, Tree creepers and even a Buzzard or Jay as well as the abundant species of ducks and geese out on the lake. As a school teacher I also started to bring the young people down from the Southbrook for nature talks from the Park Rangers and even managed to get the students to complete some conservation work as part of a community based learning scheme at the school.
The students loved coming down to the park whether it was for science projects, environmental studies or just `getting out of school for a walk in the fresh air down by the water`. I have recently moved much closer to the park and walk almost every day looking and listening to the changing of the seasons. I generally opt to complete the circular walk which is 2.3 miles (3.7km) long but there are numerous marked and hard-surfaced trails throughout the woodlands and meadows. The walks go close to the reservoir so that walkers are encouraged to stop and view the wildlife.
The timber marsh boardwalk on the western side of the reservoir has been replaced together with the resurfacing of paths on the eastern & western side of the reservoir. There is also a very pleasant walk across the two meadows linked by a small wooden bridge and new footpaths which has now made it possible to walk around the meadows & through a small woodland, even during very wet weather! The paths are a real improvement and are easily accessible to wheelchairs & pushchairs. Apart from the seating areas around the very popular children`s adventure playground there are several picnic spots situated around the park too.
The toilets next to the Cafe have been fully refurbished and the signage throughout the park vastly improved. The Reservoir Café, where you can stop and have anything from a cup of tea to a full English breakfast, has been completely revamped with extensions to both the kitchen and outside & indoor refreshment areas. The courtyard has been repaved and a new canopy installed over the covered seating area. Children can get up close to the wildlife feeding the ducks on the wooden platform, which is soon going to be replaced with a new circular boardwalk, which will be accessible for all to use.
This year marks the 43rd anniversary since the park first opened to the public in 1978. Although the country park is now forty three years old, the reservoir is considerably older, having been built as a feeder for the Grand Union Canal & Oxford Canal in 1804. Many land holdings including part of the nearby hamlet of Thrupp were flooded to create the reservoir. When Daventry began to grow during the 1970’s, the District Council agreed with British Waterways (now the Canal & River Trust) to manage the site for recreational and conservation purposes. In 1983 a new visitor Centre and cafe opened in the old reservoir keeper’s cottage, adapted for the purpose and the park was expanded in 1994 with the construction of the Northern Way introducing the new Wild Acres and Community Orchard.
I have taken to walking twice around the park every day and I have seen how well the park is used by walkers, cyclists, runners and sometimes even horse riders, which are no longer allowed in the park! If like me you hate the gym but want to stay fit and healthy there is also an outdoor gym in the park. The fitness equipment is located in the Northern Field beyond the car park near the entrance. The cardiovascular equipment includes a rowing machine, leg press, cross-rider, air walker, skier, cycle, body twist and rider. With its wealth of wildlife, nature trails and the great expanse of water across the large reservoir the park really is a fantastic facility to have on our doorstep.
Daventry Country Park hosts a Park Run every Saturday morning starting at 9.00am with hundreds of runners of all ages competing against the clock in a 5km timed run. Runners run at their own pace and participate for their own fitness and enjoyment. The Daventry Park Run which in recent years celebrated its 100th park run and is organised and managed entirely by volunteers and new runners are always welcome. The Country Park has been awarded the Country Parks Accreditation and has received numerous Green Flag Award`s which recognises it`s importance as one of the best green spaces in the country.
In recent years the park has seen major improvements to the circular paths, the building of new walkways, jetties and improving the café area and toilets. New equipment has been installed in the children`s play area, including a castle-themed fort with lots of different activities, new swings and some smaller items for toddlers plus a refurbished zip wire! The pathways within the Community Sensory Garden and along the western side of the reservoir have also been resurfaced and two timber footbridges near the southern entrance have been replaced.
A new pier named after Tony Newby, the parks long serving Park Ranger, `Newby Pier` will have improved access for all and will replace the current structure opposite the Cafe. A new jetty will be constructed on the opposite side of Lovell’s Bay, providing a safer spot from which to view the wildfowl and as a safer staging point for a number of new water sports including wild water swimming which have already attracted many participants.