Gateshead's Great Outdoors | Derwent Walk Country Park FREE Sculpture Trail & Thornley Woodland Centre

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details

When I think of Gateshead I think of the Metrocentre, the Baltic, Trinity Square and the Sage. A woodland walk isn't necessarily something that would immediately spring to mind. I was therefore intrigued to learn that in fact over 50% of Gateshead is made up of countryside and there's lots to get out and explore in the great outdoors. You can check out the Gateshead's Great Outdoors website for ideas and inspiration.

Thornley Woodland Centre is somewhere we've driven past on numerous occasions en-route to Gibside but I've never really given it any thought. NewcastleGateshead asked us to visit and I honestly had no idea what to expect. We discovered that the centre and surrounding Derwent Walk Country Park are such hidden gems that I decided to dedicate an entire blog post to this short walk. 

Thornley Woodland Centre Sculpture Trail 

You'll find Thornley Woodland Centre just off the A694 west of Winlaton Mill (Post code NE39 1AU). There is a bus stop nearby (bus 45 or 46 from the Metrocentre) and free parking on site. The centre is open daily from 10am - 4pm. 

The centre is a real hub for the surrounding ancient woodland and it is so much more than just a cafe. There are maps, activity sheets, wild life information, bird seed and nature toys for sale, friendly rangers on hand to advise.....pretty much everything you could need to prepare for a day in the woods. 

We parked the car and headed inside where we received a warm welcome from the staff. We chatted with one of the volunteer rangers about the best walking routes, picked up a FREE sculpture trail leaflet and map and checked out the information boards for ideas of the kind of wildlife we might spot. A quick pop to the loo and we were off......

There are a variety of walks you can try leaving from the centre ranging from the 1 mile sculpture trail to a 2.5 mile riverside ramble up to a 10 mile + Explorer Trail. There are maps available from the centre but I don't really think these are needed if I'm honest as the trails are very clearly marked throughout the woods. The one mile sculpture trail follows the yellow arrows.

The trail is fairly flat with no steep hills and I would say it is suitable for a buggy or wheelchair (although I'm no expert). We experienced all weathers during our 20-30 minute stroll and had fun stumbling across a variety of wooden sculptures. We used the activity sheet from the centre to tick them off and work out the clues but you can easily enjoy the trail without the leaflet.

As well as the sculpture trail, there are so many things to spot as you walk through the woods. We spotted everything from pretty butterflies to mushrooms, berries and moss.

We loved taking part in the trail it was a lovely way to spend the morning together with the family and didn't cost us a penny! We headed back to Thornley Woodland Centre with our completed trail in hand where the kids were rewarded with a special trail sticker for their efforts. We enjoyed coffee and cake (£11 for the 5 of us) and decided we'll definitely be back in the autumn to try the trail again and see what wildlife we can spot at a different time of year. The kids can also enjoy creating woodland crafts in the centre for an additional 50p.

Let me know if you've visited Thornley Woodland Centre and have tried the free sculpture trail yet? If you haven't, I'd definitely recommend for those days where you need to get the kids out of the house to enjoy some fresh air. 

If you'd like to see more from the trail and what there is to do in Gateshead's Great Outdoors, I have created a video featuring a few ideas (including the sculpture trail) below:

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  1. I definitely want to go and explore more of the Derwent Valley, as soon as Simon's foot is better I really want to do the Red Kite trail (all 11 miles of it!)

  2. Love Thornley Woods, we go all the time but weirdly never when the cafe is open so I've never been there yet. I will try and visit now as that cake looks lush.


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