Watergate Forest Park - Dog-Friendly Nature Walk & Cafe

This post is based on a visit in May 2021. Please check information with venue direct when making plans as things can change over time. 

Watergate Forest Park - Dog-Friendly Nature Walk & Cafe

Watergate Forest Park is super easy to get to by car - it is just off the A1 near the Team Valley in Gateshead.

The site opened in 2000 and is on a former colliery (which you will see nods to around the park). It is also accessible by public transport by bus from Gateshead Interchange (at time of publishing buses 69, X31, X70 and X71 stop nearby but please double check this before planning a trip). 

There is no playground but there are wide & flat accessible walks suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs, lots of nature to spot, woodland, wildflower meadows and a lake with lots of little streams. 

We parked in the main car park (postcode NE11 9RQ then follow the brown signs for Watergate Park) which is large and free with no restrictions. If you are looking to combine with a playground nearby, Saltwell Park or Gibside are not too far in the car. Other attractions close by include: 

Watergate Forest Park - Dog-Friendly Nature Walk & Cafe  - location map

There are maps by the car park and three main walking routes to choose from.

We parked in the car park (top right of the map), walked down to the cafe (which is by the sports pitches) then went back up to the main car park and followed the wildlife walk which takes you around the lake in a circular route.

The walk is 1.4 miles but we walked closer to 2 miles as we ventured around a few other areas and went down to the cafe too. 

Whenever I share this post, a lot of people mention they didn't realise there was a cafe here! Please see the map below for it's location - just overlooking the sports playing fields. I will link to their FB page further down this post.

Why we love Watergate Forest Park: 

  • Easy to get to by bus
  • Large free car park and easy to get to - just off the A1  
  • Various walking routes with waymarkers 
  • Lush dog friendly cafe 
  • Waterfalls and lakes
  • FREE sculpture trail  
  • Lots of wildlife including ducks with info boards to learn more 
  • It's a large space so doesn't feel too crowded 

There are so many walking routes to try! 

Watergate Forest Park free car park

Watergate Park Sculpture Trail & Way Markers 

As you walk around the park, you might spot various sculptures and markers which are both a point of interest and assist those with visual impairment to find their way. 

You can download the sculpture trail leaflet and find out more here. 

The sculptures and markers are all linked to the old colliery site or the wildlife you will see now and local schools assisted with their designs. I loved some of the quirky seating. Here are some of our favourites......

Watergate Forest Park free sculpture trail

Love this sign below ' To the Waterfall'. 

Watergate Cafe 

It is an easy walk down to the cafe from the main car park (see the map at the top of this post). The cafe overlooks the sports pitches. You can find their Facebook page for up-to-date info and lots of lovely cake pics here. 

At the moment the cafe is open 10am-3pm weekdays and 10am-4pm on weekends but do check their FB page before setting out to avoid disappointment. 

The cafe is a social enterprise (which obviously means their cakes have no calories) and profits are invested back into the community. Dogs are welcome on leads too and they have a nice selection of dog treats available. You can also host your dog's birthday party here! They'll even throw in a cake. 

There is indoor and outdoor seating plus there are customer toilets. 

They have an ice cream counter and an amazing cake counter.

I had my handsfull with a dog, three kids and trying to order everything etc.... so unfortunately didn't take too many photos but Harry had the most amazing Boost chocolate cake and the boys loved their sausage rolls/pasty. My Bakewell scone was so good too! 

All of the food is homemade and the portions are big. Delicious and I would highly recommend. We will be back for sure. 

The staff were absolutely lush, nothing was too much trouble and the COVID protocols were fab. 

Watergate Forest Park dog friendly cafe

A little sneak peek of the indoor area - there is a nice book corner for kids and highchairs too. It's a really canny place. 

Oh and someone recommend I try a Jammy Jack so I shared one with Jack. Mmmm it was fab, kind of like a soft flapjack filled with jam. I loved it. 

This menu is from 2021 so do expect prices to have increased
This menu is from 2021 so do expect prices to have increased

They have just started stocking frozen yoghurts for dogs too. 

Watergate Forest Park - Walking Routes 

There are maps on arrival and the signs are really easy to follow around the park. The paths are multi use and suitable for walking, cycling and riding. Some routes are accessible too. 

There are three walking trails to follow: 

1 - Wildlife Trail (the duck signs). This is the route we followed from the car park after the cafe. It is a 1.4 mile circular route suitable for families, mobility scooters and pushchairs. 

2 - Watergate and Washingwell Wander (the red arrows). This is a 3 mile circular route taking you past several of the sculptures. There are steps and some rough terrain once you have passed the wildlife trail. 

3 - Watergate Riders Route (the blue arrows). This 3.25 mile circular route through permissive and and official bridleways is suitable for cyclists and horseriding but can also be used for walking (be aware of other users). 

You can download a map of these routes here (click on Watergate Map). 

Watergate Forest Park - Wildlife Trail 

We followed the wildlife trail route (the duck signs) which is the 1.4mile circular route suitable for pushchairs and mobility scooters. We started at the car park. 

Watergate Forest Park is full of dog walkers - most were off lead on the day we visited but lovely and friendly. 

The paths are pretty wide and it was easy to socially distance from others. 

Considering the site has only been here for 20 years, there was loads of nature to spot. We spotted swans, lots of ducks, robins, various birds and flowers. Steve foraged some wild garlic while we were there too. 

There are various places to stop en-route and admire the views of the lake but not much in the way of seating. 

The kids (and dog) loved exploring the areas and rocks around the lakes and streams. There are a few waterfalls to spot too (I didn't take a photo of the main one). 

I don't think I have officially introduced Ollie, he spends the day with us on a Saturday. We found him via Borrow My Doggy and absolutely love him. He really does brings us so much joy. I will share more about the scheme soon. 

We will be back! We spent around 90 minutes exploring / enjoying lunch at the cafe and loved it. The cafe was fantastic, the walks easy, there were areas for the kids and dog to explore with water, bridges and lots of wildlife too. Next time we visit we will try the longer walk I think. 

This park won't be for everyone - it does not have public loos (although customer toilets are available in the cafe), there were no picnic tables / not much seating and there is no playground. We really liked it though. 

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Watergate Forest Park - dog walk and dog friendly cafe

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