Hoover and I recently went for a frosty dog walk in California Country Park, Wokingham. California Country Park is set within 100 acres of countryside, just three miles south of Wokingham in Berkshire. (map) It consists of lowland heath and bogland, including Longmoor Bog, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest that is considered a Local Nature Reserve. The park offers scenic walks, and wildlife watching – in particular around Longmoor Lake. Fishing is permitted, so if your dog likes to steal packed lunches, be warned! There is also a cafe, summer paddling pool, and an adventure play area…so it is an ideal place for the lone dog walker, or the family. Benches for watching the waterfowl are aplenty.
The footpath around Longmoor Lake is hard surfaced so it makes for easy walking. Other trails through the park are not and may be unsuitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs in wet, muddy conditions. Having said that many are a combination of gravel retained by a timber edge and timber walkways, so they are pretty sound too.
California Country Park was established in 1931 as a zoo and amusement park by Alfred Cartilage who named it California in England. There was a miniature railway that lasted until the outbreak of the second world war. During the war the park’s buildings were used for the manufacture of munitions. Alfred reopened the park after the war, but after a string of events new owners turned it into a holiday camp in the 1960’s. Caravan and camping facilities are still available on on part site.
It is a cracking place for a dog walk, and so varied: as well as the lakeside path you can follow woodland trails through the trees, walk the gravel paths across open wild areas of grassland, or take the boardwalk through the old, gnarled trees that flank The Orange Stream (it really is orange!). As is so often, we went early in the morning to avoid Hoover accidentally playing human skittles (small children are all too easy for Hooves to knock over) and we pretty much had the place to ourselves save for a handful of other dogs and their owners. It was a frosty morning and quite magical. Parking is pay & display. Jackson’s Cafe offers everything from tea & cake to a gluten free roast and a cold beer. They advertise as opening 9am-4pm Tuesday to Sunday, however when we visited a giant chalkboard on the roadside advertised that they now open for breakfast at 7am. Perfect after a winter dog walk! (streetview)