When I visited Haigh Country Park in Wigan, Lancashire last week, I have to say I was a bit perturbed by all the disruption currently happening at the site. For regular visitors this wouldn’t be off-putting as they would have been aware of the undergoing work, but for newbies like myself: please look beyond all the disruption and you’ll find a great family friendly attraction.
For a number of reasons that prolonged my journey to Haigh, I only managed to scrape at most a couple of hours at this place. I parked up on the road leading to the Woodland Park area and walked onto the site by the main car park.
Haigh Woodland Park is right in the middle of a huge development project which meant there were JCB’s and trucks everywhere with large sections closed off due to noisy, messy work taking place. Haigh has always been a well loved attraction by Wigan’s residents, but the multi-million pound investment responsible for the work is set to transform Haigh Woodland Park into a regional destination for the whole family.
After taking a look around the visitor centre, much of which is closed off at the moment, I headed away from the noise and disruption towards Haigh Hall. The hall was built in the mid 19th century and was once the home of James Lindsay, the 7th Earl of Balcarras. Sold to Wigan in 1947 it is now used for weddings and corporate events and is a Grade II listed building. Similarly to the Woodland Park, the Hall is receiving a make-over with a £6m restoration fund provided by Contessa Hotels to create a luxury four star boutique hotel complete with 30 bedrooms, spa and fitness centre. This will turn the highly prized stately home into a luxury wellness resort in a manner sympathetic to its heritage.
From the hall, there are magnificent views across the Douglas Valley to the Welsh Hills. Surrounding the hall, there are 250 acres of park and woodland which forms Haigh Country Park, the aforementioned Woodland Park and Haigh Hall Golf Club, and once away from the disrupted areas, the parkland is a joy to explore.
In the short time I was there I wandered down to the narrow gauge railway from the hall (which wasn’t in operation, presumably undergoing redevelopment too) and around the ponds and myriad snaking woodland paths. I bumped into very few people doing the same, so I felt like I had the place to myself and a chance to become at one with nature.
More routes through the woodlands are being created as part of the redevelopment project for cyclists and walkers to enjoy in addition to improving the current footpaths and trails. You can download the various walking trails here.
On circling back towards the Woodland Park play area I came across the walled gardens, a quiet peaceful spot to spend a short while and sit down with my bottle of water while looking across beautiful manicured lawns and borders.
The walk back to the car park from here goes straight through the centre of the family adventure zone. The high ropes adventure course looks brilliant! They were currently testing this on the day I visited with a view to opening from the 30th July 2016.
The neighbouring adventure play area also looks fantastic for kids. It was super busy (as I was there during the first week of the summer holiday period) but lots there for children of all ages to get their teeth into. Boredom wouldn’t exist and most importantly there’s plenty of seats for parents and guardians around the edges.
I was sad to see the crazy golf course closed, but I later learned there is to be a new innovative adventure golf course opening soon. The golf centre will be remodelled to include a catering outlet, so it will become a suitable base for the adventure golf. It will also offer up new and varied membership options and programmes for the 18 hole golf course. The driving range will continue to be used as a driving range, but will also be used for overspill parking or for staging major events such as concerts.
I was also delighted to learn that the main visitor centre is to see the creation of a kitchen courtyard within the existing Stables courtyard where there will be new shops and outlets for some of the region’s best food and drink producers. In front of the current cafe will be a flexible space to host a programme of events and activities throughout the years in partnership with local voluntary groups.
The new cycle centre will be situated at the visitor centre providing bike hire, purchase and repair as well as cycling trail maps for the area.
The infrastructure is being enhanced to include improved car parking facilities with new surfaces, barriers and pay stations; new toilet facilities and better signage around the whole site. The latter I thought was pretty poor and if you don’t know the place you wouldn’t know where to go to see and find things. I just wandered, followed my nose and luckily came across things.
Despite the extensive work being carried out, Haigh Country and Woodland Park is still a great day out for the family. Keep checking online for further news on the redevelopment.
I will look forward to returning once the project has been completed and Haigh Hall Country Park has got its new lease of life!