If you’re after some fresh air and somewhere to take the kids for some exercise, without spending any money, then Needham Lake is a great place to go. We regularly take our son Joe (nearly 4yrs) and often meet up with friends and family. Each time we go we have a different experience, but always have a nice time.
Naturally the lake is most enjoyable in the summer but we’ve also had some lovely visits in the spring & autumn when the trees are alive with colour, and even some brisk winter walks. The man-made lake is on the outskirts of Needham Market and is only a few minutes drive from the A14. There are two car parks, one on each side of the lake and they are both free for as long as you want. Usually we park up at the first car park we reach (Ipswich side) which has a large grassed area that is great for football/games etc. There is also a ‘den’ that has been formed by a group of trees that the kids spend ages playing in.
There are several picnic benches around, a kiosk (open at weekends and during school holidays) that sells cold drinks and ice-creams, and a large play area suitable for all ages. Before any of this however we usually get Joe’s bike or scooter out and head off for a trip around the lake. To reach the lake from this side you take a footbridge that crosses the river adjacent to the lake, you can then follow the footpath that runs all the way around the lake.
For those with small children be warned, you have to keep a close eye on the kids as there are no barriers around the edge of the water. I would describe the lake as ‘medium’ size, it takes about half an hour to walk all the way round at a leisurely pace, but there are a few things for the kids to see and do along the way, like den building, climbing logs, sculptures etc. There are also quite a few resting points along the way with wooden benches scattered around. We always see a few fishermen dotted around the lake as well so if you’re into fishing it’d be worth finding out the rules/cost etc but I don’t personally know the fishing etiquette!
Our son also loves the fact that on one side of the lake you are close to the railway – Needham station is next to the lake on the Needham side, so the kids love it when the trains speed past. On the Needham side of the lake, where the other car park is, there is a block of public toilets that are very handy, although not overly clean. There is another smaller play area on this side, probably more suitable for younger kids, and a few more picnic benches. We usually stop here for a play and to feed the ducks. There is also a launching platform for the model boat club so we often see people from the club with boats out on the water – or you can take your own of course.
There are seasonal car boot sales held twice a week in the large field next to the car park (Ipswich side), on Sunday & Wednesday mornings. These are quite large and very popular and hence the lake/car parks get very busy at these times. In addition, a few events are held at the lake throughout the year. This year we went when the annual raft races were taking place in June which was a fun event involving several teams in fancy dress racing on the lake in their home-made rafts! There was also a small funfair on that occasion.
This is a lovely place to go in all weathers for a walk, cycle, scoot and play and if it’s warm enough it’s a very nice place to stop for a picnic. The great thing about it of course is that it’s free, with the possible exception of an ice-cream. The lake is enjoyed by all ages, young and old, and is also a nice place to walk a dog. Don’t forget to take some bread for the hungry ducks – there are usually loads around!