The £400 million, fifth largest UK shopping centre most commonly referred to simply as ‘Bluewater’ has a lot of hidden gems, but the Bluewater Nature Trail is by far one of our favourite places to spend quality time with family.
Only steps away from the hustle and bustle of window shoppers and hungry bellies lies a safe haven full of wildlife, nature, and geese that I’m fairly sure might harm you if you don’t bring them chopped lettuce. I mean it – they even square up to my toddler.
What was once simply a lake that you’d wander around aimlessly with a group of friends when you were fifteen, is now themed around The Very Hungry Caterpillar™ and full of fun outdoor activities to keep little ones, and adults, busy for hours at the least! From bug hotels and a trim trail, to fairy doors and ducks, there’s always something new to discover upon every visit.
With so much to discover, the possibilities are endless, but here’s some of our favourite activities to do:
• Follow The Very Hungry Caterpillar™ trail and fill out a quiz using the information on the signs dotted around the trail
• Take your photo with the large wooden The Very Hungry Caterpillar™ sculpture, crafted by Steven Porchmouth
• Climb on the trim trail style play equipment – why not let your child be your personal trainer?!
• Play in one of two play areas
• Have a picnic on The Beach
• Feed the ducks, geese and swans – but remember, no bread! We always take chopped lettuce with us, and it’s normally a huge hit.
• Enjoy tranquillity at the Wildlife Viewing Point
• Watch the bug hotels closely and see what insects you can find
• Find the fairy doors – how many will you discover?
• Enjoy the spray on a breezy day from the water fountain in the Pond of Reflection
If you want to follow the Bluewater Nature Trail, you can download the leaflet on the Bluewater Shopping Centre website. On the leaflet, you’ll find a map of the trail, and a quiz – if you fill out the quiz using the information on the numerous signs around the Nature Trail and return it to a concierge desk inside the shopping centre, you can get a reward prize! Please note: at the time of writing and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prizes are not currently being issued.
The Bluewater Nature Trail starts outside Zizzi, located on the lower floor, in the West Village. If you’re not following the exact trail or completing the quiz, you can join the Trail at numerous points. For access to the lake only, you’ll want to head to the Pond of Reflection and through the Mosaic Tunnel.
Follow signs for ‘The Village’ car park – the turning you’re looking for is named ‘The Village Crescent’. The Guildhall car park is also close by. Good news, too – car parking is free at Bluewater Shopping Centre!
Yes! There’s signs welcoming dogs all around The Nature Trail. If you are planning on taking your dog, please be mindful of the wildlife and note that there may be lots of excited children running around having fun, so keep your dog on a lead at all times!
What I love most about the Bluewater Nature Trail is that there truly is something for everyone – whether you simply want to sit in tranquillity and watch the ducks, geese and swans, or you let your children run off steam in the play parks, there’s something for you!
One local mum told me that her toddler loves the stoney ‘beach’ on the far side of the lake – not only can you get close to the birds and water, but in reality: the stones provide ample entertainment for a toddler in awe at collecting stones. Another mum told me The Very Hungry Caterpillar™ sculpture is her favourite as it’s her childhood dream come true! I even know of a Cub leader, who led her Cubs hiking around the Nature Trail in the dark of the night to earn their hiking badge. Hidden from the noise of the nearby motorway traffic, but lit just enough to not fall over, a night time hike around the lake sounds like the most picturesque night time adventure.
PS – Visiting the Nature Trail is an EXCELLENT excuse to go shopping!