Down a slippery slope - sledging in the UK
‘It’s great fun for eight-year-olds, of course,’ note rueful news reporters as soon as the snow comes out and they have to do a live report out in the cold while trying to dodge shrieking youngsters whizzing down hills on homemade sledges. And we think for adults too, even if you do have to take a day or two off work because of the schools closing. Make the most of it, we say, by packing a tray and heading off to a slope.
(In fact, I’m hereby using this blog to inform the rest of the Pitchup.com team that I will be unavailable on any days/weeks there is a slight snow flurry, and will be found instead sledging giddily down a hill with a hip flask tucked inside my three coats. If you can’t beat them, join them. Or something.)
If you want to hark back to your childhood with a spot of snowy truant, we have a few of the best sledging spots in the UK to try, and where to stay nearby:
Tis sledging country, North Yorkshire. Urra, the highest moor in the area, is where sledgers take it seriously: there are three different sledge zones, which are allocated according to what material you’ve used for your sledge (proper sledges, bin bags and ‘miscellaneous’, which makes us feel mischievously inclined to come up with something inventive). The zones are also divided according to level of sledger, so you can feel safe taking the kids – just go for the beginner or intermediate level rather than the one marked out as ‘crazy’.
In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, try the slopes at Cowling Back around Leyburn and near Bedale, while you can sled speedily at Knavesmire and Garrow Hill close to York, or scoot down the hills behind Moor Lane at Newby near Scarborough.
For accommodation in North Yorkshire, there are heated camping pods at Hillcrest Park and Grinton Lodge Youth Hostel, both at Richmond, starting from £30 - 40 a night. There are also en-suite bunkhouses sleeping up to four or six at Dalesbridge in the Three Peaks area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and next to the Forest of Bowland, from £68 a night.
The Brecon Beacons
Rock up with your tin tray pretty much anywhere in the Beacons for some hair-raising shooting down slopes, with Storey Arms a favourite option for adrenaline seekers. To add some fishing to your trip, stay in a heated lakeside pod at Teglan Fisheries in Ceredigion less than an hour's drive from the Brecon Beacons National Park: whoppers of up to 35lb can be landed here and the pods start from £45 a night for up to four.
Slide down the slope at Abbey Fields near Kenilworth Castle, with plenty of room for stomping about in the snow afterwards around the 68 acres of Abbey Fields Park, or the four local nature reserves Kenilworth Common, Knowle Hill, Crackley Wood and Parliament Piece.
Nearby Wootton Park has camping pods starting from £65 for two adults, which come with bedding, towels, bathrobes and even a continental breakfast in the old farmhouse; up to two children can be included in the pod too if you bring your own airbeds. Or try the Dandy Riva glamping van at the adults-only BlueBell at Birdsong Garden just across the border in Northumberland, from £45 a night for two (free biccies!).
The ancient hill and nature reserve of The Stiperstones is probably the best Shropshire sledging spot, with enough quiet places that you can make the first tracks in the snow (which as we know is the best thing about being out in it). There’s also the popular Winny Hill in Shrewsbury to get up some good speeds, or try just outside the village of Clunbury in the south of the county: climb over the gate at the end of the village hall. Those in the know add that the steep hill at the back of Newport Rugby Club is a top sledding spot for the brave and cushioned.
To stay nearby, bag a berth at Woodland Park Camping Huts in Ellesmere, with a choice of four, seven and nine-berth huts set in peaceful woodland and available now from £35 a night: keep your eyes peeled for polecats and more in the surrounding countryside.
Ipswich and Suffolk: Ipswich has three parks which are good for hurtling down hills at: Christchurch Park, Broomhill Park and Alexandra Park, while to the west there’s Out Risbygate at Bury St Edmunds and Devils Dyke into Cambridgeshire. There’s also a crater-shaped dip near West Suffolk College, from which we think a sledge should reach dizzy heights.
About seven miles from Ipswich, weary sledgers can be welcomed by Brick Kiln Campsite will see weary sledgers welcomed by Tina, Sophie and Gloria the retro caravan; stays start from £85. At Bury St Edmunds, the family pods at West Stow Pods sleep up to four and have a double bed, wetroom with shower, TV and DVD player, heating and outdoor decking. They start from £65 a night, for a minimum two-night stay.
If you’re planning a few days of glorious truanting and sledging in the snow, let us know if you find any other good spots. Next snow blog: skiing.
First published Jan 2013, updated Dec 2013