I'm a freelance writer, storyteller and poet living and writing in Manchester.
Published July 25th 2012
When the sun peeks out from its clouds, and you're looking to take advantage, you can't get much better than a day at the lakeside. Chorlton Water Park is ready to oblige. To be honest, even a rainy day at this spot is one well-spent, if you don't mind getting wet.
This local nature reserve, so well maintained by the Mersey Valley Countryside Warden Service, is a gorgeous woodland situated around a man-made lake and is set close enough to Princess Parkway and Barlow Moor Road to make it easily accessible, but at just enough distance to feel as though you've left the city entirely. There is no charge for entrance or parking, though you'll want to note the main parking area is gated at dusk.
Once inside, there is no shortage of things to do for you and (if you bring them) your family. Feed the ducks and birds, or enjoy the regal pose of the resident swans, who have been seen recently with a family of little ones in tow. There are grounds next to the lake for tents, so set up a home for the weekend on the shore and, between May and December, cast a line from one of the many platforms for some angling (after obtaining a permit from the office, of course). When you've had your fill of that, get onto the water to enjoy a bit of canoeing or windsurfing.
There is a Health Walk path around the perimeter of the lake, about a mile in distance, that is enjoyed by runners, cyclists, parents with strollers, horses and riders, and dogs out for a walk with their owners. It's a nice, wide, well-laid path that doesn't present any difficult challenges like steep hills or potholes to fall into. Often, there are smaller, wilder paths for a light-hearted adventurer to follow, but none that pose much more difficulty or danger than some mud through which to trod. Anyone willing to brave this risk will often be rewarded with breathtaking views of the lake and its wildlife, or with wonderfully canopied havens that provide shade and an invigorating connection to nature.
If you just want to relax and take in the rays (mind the sunscreen if you do!), there are plenty of open field areas which well accommodate a blanket and a relaxing lounge. Or, there is an abundance of benches where you can settle in and enjoy the scenery. You'll even find a picnic bench or two, if you'd like to pack and enjoy a lunch. When the young ones find themselves getting restless, there's even a small playground where they can find even more entertainment. Many sunny weekends, an ice cream truck can be found parked on the northeast corner of the lake, so a sweet treat could be in order, too.
There's so much to see, do and enjoy at this award-winning park, it will likely take you more than one visit to discover it all. But once you have, wander a bit south and explore the paths alongside the adjacent River Mersey or stroll through the nearby Kenworthy Woods. It's a wonderful way to pass a lovely day with only the cost of food or activity permits to consider.