Coate Water Country Park is a well-kept local secret. Lacking a major river or waterway, the residents of Swindon have embraced this seventy-acre reservoir and countryside surrounding it.
On arrival, surprisingly, the first thing you’ll notice is a striking art deco diving board – constructed in 1936, it stands more than thirty feet above the reservoir’s water. From here, several level and surfaced paths lead in and around the park. A route, slightly shorter than two miles, leads around the lake and provides a chance to see plenty of wildlife – from squirrels to fifteen different species of damselfly. There’s no shortage of water birds too, including majestic kingfishers and herons. Indeed, for keen spotters, there are a number of accessible bird hides around the waterway. Many of the angling pegs are accessible to wheelchair users, and the reservoir provides great opportunities for catching big fish – 40-pound carp are not unusual. At the north end of the reservoir, there is a children’s play area and miniature railway. The park has golf activities too: an eighteen-hole pitch and putt, mini golf and a nine-hole putting green.
It is worth downloading the map of the park from the website – it shows the location of all the facilities and attractions, as well as the surfaced and unsurfaced paths, so is a very handy planning tool. A tramper is available that can access pretty much anywhere in the park. You must book it in advance and collect it from the ranger’s station near the car park. It is possible to undertake the routes in a manual wheelchair, but in cold and wet conditions, it makes sense to use the tramper instead. At certain times of year, the accessible bird hides may be locked – you can pick up a key from the ranger’s office too. At a gentle pace it will take around 45 minutes to circle the lake. Unfortunately the mini golf has tricky access for wheelchair users. Steps are in place for level changes – these can be avoided, but only by using grassy slopes, so an assistant may need to be on hand.
Food & drink: The Sun Inn, situated on the A4259 Marlborough Road just before the entrance to the park, serves fantastic food. It has a disabled toilet and great access, is spacious and family friendly, with a good beer garden and accompanying play area. There is also a café on site at the park.