Rainton Meadows | Wild Play Area, Accessible Nature Walk & Cafe

Rainton Meadows | Wild Play Area, Accessible Nature Walk & Cafe

Rainton Meadows is a Durham Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve in Houghton-le-Spring. It is free to visit (check opening hours online) with donations for parking for non-wildlife trust members (recommended £2.50 per car - you can do this with pay-by-phone on arrival). 

Use postcode DH4 6PU. The nature reserve is accessible by public transport, Sunderland/Durham buses stop at Rainton Bridge Business Park which is a short walk away. 

Dogs are welcome on leads and there are accessible paths for wheelchair users / pushchairs (plus disabled toilets and parking). You can use a Radar Key to fully open the gate to the reserve. 

We visited on a sunny weekday during term time. There is a small visitor centre / shop (and cafe) near the car park where you will also find the loos. There are maps to view in this building so it is a good place to start. 

There are a number of short, circular nature trails to enjoy which are well signposted with way markers. We decided to go for the yellow shrew route which we extended a little around Joe's Pond so around 2km in total. 

But first I couldn't resist a sneaky peek at the Wild Play area which is just behind the cafe. It looked lovely with a slide, climbing areas and nets to enjoy. It was in really good condition too. 

At the moment it is outdoor seating only at the cafe. The menu was more substantial than I expected. You order from the little hatch then they call your name when it's ready. There are several tables and chairs outside for coffee shop customers to use. I liked that there were dog treats on the counter and water bowls too. The staff were really friendly. 

Our cheese and chutney sandwich, corned beef pie and two drinks came to £10 which we thought was very reasonable. The food is freshly prepared and homemade. Really good value and I would recommend as a lunch stop. 

Onto the walk....... 

We followed the yellow (shrew route). This route is accessible for pushchairs. There is a moderate climb initially but it's not for too long and you can enjoy gorgeous views from the top. We spotted Penshaw Monument in the distance. You are surrounded by wild meadows and can watch lots of butterflies, hear lots of crickets and enjoy the flowers. 

After the initial climb, the rest of the walk is pretty flat. 

Follow your chosen route with these coloured markers on the posts around the reserve. 

I thoroughly enjoyed our nature trail. We spotted three squirrels throughout the walk, including one who jumped right across the path to another tree. 

We were also super lucky to spot two stoats run across the path in front of us. I've never seen a wild stoat before so it was all very exciting! 

There was an Exmoor pony, lots of different types of birds (which I don't know the names of) plus ducks, pheasants and swans and Steve spotted a teeny vole too. Considering we only walked less than 2km, I feel like we managed to see loads and it was all very exciting. 

Towards the end of the circular route we arrived at Joe's Pond which is a pond with Special Scientific Interest. It was beautiful and so peaceful too. There is a wildlife lookout point where you can get a closer look without disturbing the wildlife. 

Apparently, over 200 types of bird have been spotted here including all five types of UK owl. Amazing! 

I really enjoyed our morning at Rainton Meadows. It is a lovely place to really immerse yourself in nature, enjoy a short walk and a nice bite to eat. It is nice and easy to reach from A1/A19 too. We'll be back at some point to try some of the other routes. 

Find out more: durhamwt.com/nature-reserves/rainton-meadows

Rainton Meadows is a short drive from the following attractions: 

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Please follow social distancing rules & Government guidelines , respect the local area, leave no trace, take litter home, park responsibly and if somewhere is busy on arrival, please consider leaving and returning at a later date. 

Remember face coverings are required for indoor attractions / shops for those aged 11+ (usual exemptions apply)  

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Always check updated opening hours / protocols with venues direct before setting off as things may have changed after this post was published. 



  1. I’ve never been! I think Elsie would love it. The cafe is so reasonable and food looks really good. One for the list.

  2. Appreciate this post. Will try it out.


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