My favourite location to walk dogs in Northampton. Lots of different entrances with free parking. Very varied terrain to please all dogs. Great place to meet other dogs and their owners. Plenty of dog waste bins. Barn only open limited hours but run by volunteers. Barn has water fountain for dogs on outside wall.
For this the first in a series of reviews about places to walk dogs I wanted to focus on Bradlaugh Fields. It’s become one of my favourite places to walk the dog in Northamptonshire along with Hunsbury Hill. If you are a local maybe it’s one of your favourite places too? If so feel free to add a comment at the end of this article.
Bradlaugh Fields History
Before I discuss why I like Bradlaugh Fields and what it has to offer for the dog owner I thought I should mention something about its history. Firstly where does the name come from? It’s actually only been known as Bradlaugh Fields since the late 1990’s.
The name comes from Charles Bradlaugh Northampton MP between 1881 and 1885. He was a controversial character for his stance on religion and the monarchy. He served time in prison for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the Crown. His funeral in 1891 was attended by 3,000 people including a 21 year old Mohandas Gandhi.
Before the late 1980’s the area was mainly a golf course. When the golf club decided it wanted to move there was a proposal to use the land for housing. This was opposed by local groups keen to maintain as much green space in the area as possible. Thankfully these local groups won and we are today left with this park for all the local people to enjoy.
Bradlaugh Fields – Getting There
Being such a large park, locals access Bradlaugh Fields from one of a number of different entrances, depending on where they live. For me this is normally one of the entrances on Fulford Drive. Other entrances include Spinney Hill Road, near Northampton School for Girls and an entrance near Morrison’s on the Kettering Road. Free on street parking is readily available at most of these popular entrances. I’ve never been unable to find somewhere to park, even at weekends when Bradlaugh Fields is at its busiest.
Bradlaugh Fields – What to expect
One of the things that makes Bradlaugh Fields special is the variety on offer for dog walkers. There are flat open fields as well as a more undulating area known as the Hills & Hollows Local Nature Reserve. Towards the northern end you will find pathways through trees and some smaller enclosed fenced off areas. There really is something for every dog personality here! I’ve yet to meet a dog who doesn’t enjoy the experience here. It’s also large enough to enjoy a walk in excess of an hour. It will take quite some time before any dog is bored here! Drainage is pretty good, it’s certainly less muddy here than some other popular local dog walking locations. It’s possible to modify your route to avoid those areas which do become muddy after heavy rain. There are also a good number of dog waste bins placed around the park which seem to be emptied on a regular basis.
As a popular location with dog owners you are almost always guaranteed to meet other people on a walk. This is ideal if you have a puppy who needs to socialise with other dogs. Thankfully in my experience both the owners and the dogs you meet here are very friendly. There is also a popular pack walk that takes place most Saturday’s at about 9:15am where people congregate in the main field near the barn.
Bradlaugh Fields Barn
One of the popular gathering places in Bradlaugh Fields is the area known as the barn. Some refer to it as Bradlaugh Fields cafe but they serve little more than hot and cold drinks, cold snacks and doggy biscuits. Don’t expect a bacon sandwich or any fancy Cappuccino or Latte here! Prices for the limited range however are cheap and the place is staffed by volunteers. There are toilets for customers which are a blessing. When open there are water bowls for dogs left outside. They also recently installed a device that automatically fills with water for those times when the barn is closed. Dogs are allowed inside the barn if they are on a lead. Opening hours vary because it depends on volunteers. Currently the barn is open at the following times:
- Tuesdays 10AM-3PM
- Wednesdays 10AM-4PM
- Thursdays 10AM-3PM
- Saturdays 9:30AM-11:30AM
- Sundays 9:30AM-11:30AM
The current volunteers are actively trying to make good use of Bradlaugh Fields barn. Some dedicated events include a Moms & Tots session and a Knit & Chat group. There is also a camera group for kids that takes place on Saturdays.
Bradlaugh Fields Community Show
Bradlaugh Fields also holds an annual Community Show. It tends to take place on a Saturday early in August. Typically you can expect to find food stalls, a bouncy castle, birds of prey demonstration and a fun dog show. It all takes place in the main field close to the barn.
Bradlaugh Fields – Other Users
Whilst Bradlaugh Fields seems to be most popular with dog owners you do find other people using it besides the groups mentioned above. It’s not unusual to see photographers with macro lenses looking for insects and flowers to photograph. In the main field they have recently added two areas with colourful wild flowers. In the less visited, northern end of Bradlaugh Fields meadow after meadow of wild flowers are a common sight.
Wildlife within the park includes squirrels, rabbits and butterflies. Red kites are now a common sight and if you are lucky you might even spot a Muntjac deer.
Bradlaugh Fields – In summary
To sum up Bradlaugh Fields is a fantastic location and a gift that Northampton can be proud of. It’s especially popular as a place for dog owners. The only negative is that the long grasses contain thousands of burrs (seed pods) which in summer might stick to your dog!