- Enjoy an idyllic walk or cycle around this large lake and beautiful nature reserve.
- Build a den in the local woodland, and meet the local wildlife.
- Children can play to their heart's content, with three play areas to choose from.
- Wander along the River Gipping and take in the local scenery.
If you're looking for a countryside escape to the country in Suffolk, the stunning Needham Lake and Nature Reserve, located next to the town of Needham Market, is the perfect place to come with the kids. With a large lake and plenty of ducks to feed, children of all ages will have the time of their lives exploring this beautiful park.
With just under 10 acres of parkland to discover, Needham Lake and Nature Reserve is known for its wildlife and peaceful nature. Created from a flooded gravel pit, the lake itself is a very popular fishing venue, so if you've got fishing enthusiasts in the family, this is a great destination. From bream to pike, there are all different types of fish in Needham lake, and even if you're not fishing, kids will love spotting the fish as they flit around in the water.
Aside from the fish in the lake, Needham Nature Reserve is also bursting with local wildlife, waiting to be discovered as you explore the nature trails. There are lots of beautiful wildflowers, including orchids, as well as small birds and dragonflies in the summer. There are multiple areas to discover, including woodland, wetlands and meadows. As you walk around the lake you'll also spot some ducks, so bring along some birdseed or corn to feed them safely! Since the nature of the site means the lake and local nature reserve are popular for dog-walkers, joggers and families alike, the park can get busy at peak times. However, if you choose to visit in the morning or afternoon, you'll often find this is a pleasant, quiet area to enjoy as a family.
As well as taking the opportunity to enjoy the wildlife around the reserve itself, there are plenty of local trails if you feel like a longer walk, including the Gipping Valley River Path, which takes you along the River Gipping to experience the local Ipswich countryside. Or, bring the bikes and follow the path that goes around the lake- this is a hugely popular option for parents with young kids, as the path is smooth and easy for learners to practise on.
Needham Lake and Nature Reserve has long been a hit with families because there is so much on offer for children all year round. From model boating events on the lake to top play equipment for children, there is no shortage of fun attractions on offer. There are three on-site play areas, as well as a special area for den building. Whether your kids are creative or sport-loving, there's something to keep them all entertained. Alder Carr Farm is also just a short walk away from Needham Lake, another popular free attraction with picnic and play areas, farm animals to meet, and more River Gipping walks. Plus, you can pop into the Alder Carr Farm Shop for a souvenir to remember your day out. Bonny Wood Nature Reserve is another local nature reserve that is worth visiting. Located on Barking Road in Needham Market, Bonny Wood is the perfect place to discover more wildlife, flora and fauna. The wood itself dates all the way back to the 13th century and was relied upon by royalty to supply wood for hundreds of years. For those who enjoy learning about local history, Bonny Wood is definitely worth exploring if you are on a day out at Needham Lake.
If you fancy something to eat while you're on your visit, there are large picnic areas on site, where you can take in the local surroundings as you enjoy your lunch. Alternatively, head to the Mill Meadow if you're visiting in the summer, where you can have a barbecue, as long as no residue is left behind. The reserve and lake is also just a short walk from Needham Market, where you can enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake at the Angel Coffee Shop on the High Street, or have a sit-down meal at The Curry Inn or Olive Tree. If you're planning on staying in the area, you'll find lots of local and chain hotels in Needham Market and the surrounding areas, with plenty of options for all budgets.
If your family loved experiencing the wildlife at Needham Lake and Nature Reserve, make sure to add Jimmy's Farm and Wildlife Park in Ipswich to your list of things to do, where you can meet rare breed animals and perhaps even a dinosaur or two! Or, for a more historical touch to your day out, head to Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, located on the site of the ancient Abbey of St Edmund.
What to know before you go
- Needham Lake and Nature Reserve is always open, but the toilets on site close at dusk.
- Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead on the paths.
- Most of the reserve is accessible for buggies and wheelchairs, with smooth lakeside paths.
- Accessible toilets and baby changing facilities are available on site.
- Day tickets are needed for fishing at the lake, and some restrictions can be found on the Mid Suffolk District Council website.
- To get to Needham Lake and Nature Reserve by car, you can access via the A14/A140, and follow the signs for Needham Market.
- Free parking, including Blue Badge parking, is available at Lakeside car park.
- The closest train station is Needham Market Station, which has good connections to the rest of East Anglia.
- Many cycle routes go through Needham Market if you would prefer to travel by bike.