Attraction - Royal Victoria Country Park
Location - Netley Abbey, Southampton, Hampshire
Entrance cost - FREE
Parking cost - up to one hour £1.80. Over one hour £4.
Disabled parking available - yes
General facilities - cafe, shop, play areas, BBQ sites, miniature railway (charges apply, see http://www.royalvictoriarailway.co.uk/openingandfares)
Disabled facilities - Disabled toilets, accessible equipment in playground, sensory gardens.
Accessibility - The park is largely accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs, staff are very helpful and can advise on the easiest routes. Buildings are wheelchair accessible.
Dogs welcome - Dogs are welcome in the park and there are plenty of places that they can play off lead. Assistance dogs only in the buildings, play areas and sensory gardens.
Date of visit - May 2017
Stars - 5/5
Our visit in May 2017 was the second time we had visited Royal Victoria Country Park and we were looking forward to exploring parts of the park that we hadn't had time to see during the previous visit. We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather for our visit, ideal for walking, picnics, BBQs and generally having fun. So once we'd parked in one of the large car parks, unloaded my mobility scooter and the dogs, we headed into the park.
Our first stop was the cafe for a lovely cup of coffee. Mum is gluten intolerant and she was impressed that there was a good choice of gluten free snacks available - they weren't badly priced either. The cafe is wheelchair accessible but we had our pet beagle with us as well as my assistance dog, so we sat at one of many available picnic tables outside. We also had lunch at the cafe later in the day and can report that the jacket potatoes were delicious and reasonably priced. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and the food arrived in a timely manner.
Once we had recharged our batteries we headed into the woodland area. The dogs had an absolute ball running around like lunatics, while mum and I had a more relaxing stroll. The scenery is stunning and the paths are well maintained. The only minor problem we had was the lack of signposts in some parts of the park, we haven't got the best sense of direction and ended up slightly lost at one point - and that was with a map of the park! Because I had my large mobility scooter I was able to access some of the rougher terrain and out of the way trails, but there are plenty of easy routes for manual wheelchairs, powerchairs, pushchairs and smaller mobility scooters.
After lunch we headed to the open parkland near the beautiful chapel, which is currently being renovated. I hope to visit again in the future and see the chapel without all of the scaffolding. The large grassed area by the chapel is an ideal place for picnics, playing games with children and for dogs to run around - there is ample space for everyone to coexist happily so you shouldn't have dogs running up to pinch your picnic!
Next stop was the beach and a dip in the sea for my labrador Elgin. There is a ramp that gives disabled access to the beach, so was able to get down onto the beach level - although I obviously couldn't actually go onto the shingle beach itself. Unfortunately the part of the beach we visited had a lot of rubbish on it, which is a shame - I wish people would take their plastic bottles etc home with them!
After a busy day we headed back to the cafe for an ice cream, which was a nice way to end a lovely day out. The dogs had a little bit of ice cream as a special treat too!
We all thoroughly enjoyed our day out at Royal Victoria Country Park, and would definitely recommend it to everyone. It's ideal for nature lovers, dog walkers and families alike. We went home with two very happy and very tired dogs. There is so much to see and do - we spent the whole day there and I don't think we covered half of the park! We'll definitely be back for another visit the next time we are in the area.