My children are a bit older, and we have a cocker spaniel who loves to be off lead, so we love to go to places with lots of space, which are unlikely to become too crowded, but ideally with some water for Calvin to cool off if it becomes too hot.
These aren't necessarily places with playgrounds or cafes, so please check information at the time of visiting, to ensure any amenities mentioned are available.
1. Humford Hill, Bedlington, NE22 5RT
Parking at Atlee Car Park at the bottom of Bedlington Hill, there are a couple of options for walks, either heading right along the river towards some stepping stones and play park, or heading left passing some sculptures and gym equipment (some inclines involved). No toilets or cafes.
Check out this review for more information.
2. Druridge Bay Country Park, Northumberland,
This 7 mile stretch of beach from Amble to Cresswell is just stunning, with sand dunes to tire the kids out. There is also a nature reserve where you can wild swim, hire kayaks and bird watch, and take a circular walk with some stepping stones. There's a great children's play park and cafe (takeaway only with COVID I believe) but always lots of space to play.
3. South Shields to Souter Lighthouse
This is a gravelled path, also suitable for cycling, easy to find walking south from Ocean Beach funfair. I really like the vista high up on the cliffs making a change from beach walks, again giving the sense of space and plenty of stopping off points for a picnic refuel. If you can make it to Souter Lighthouse, the National Trust have a takeaway cafe, to grab a hot drink, if you don't manage to a bring a flask along, or save the day when your flask breaks as happened to us recently!
Check out this Guardian review of the route
4. Herrington Park and Penshaw monument, DH4 7EL
Herrington Country Park is a country park and open public space in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. Located adjacent to Penshaw Monument, the park was built on the site of a former colliery. After taking in the views at the top of the monument, there are plenty of different paths to meander in the park, where there is birdlife (dogs on leads obviously) and places to relax.
5. Plankey Mill and Staward Gorge NE47 5ND or NE477BP
Plankey Mill is a campsite but from the bridge that you can see from the car park, you can take a lovely woodland walk to Staward Gorge. The path is part riverside and relatively flat, and part involves some ascending and descending banks which will require some sturdy footwear. You can also cross the camping field to the left of the Plankey Mill car park following the river in the opposite direction into some woodland for an extra walk. Please check car park availability before setting off.
Check out these trip advisor reviews
Just as important - what to eat!
It can be easy to eat unhealthily at a picnic but a little planning can ease the unhealthy fat and sugar load. Pita pockets or wraps stuffed with tasty ingredients like roast chicken, prawn and avocado, hummus and crunchy coleslaw or smoked salmon and cucumber are great for providing protein to support our muscles for walking. Falafels and meat koftas are also great sources of protein.
For some healthy fats, spanish omelette or egg muffins can be a tasty alternative to quiche and sausage rolls, and crudities such as sugar snap peas, carrot, celery, radishes and cherry tomatoes, dipped in hummus or guacamole can ensure some of the 5-a-day. Its the perfect time of year to enjoy fresh strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries or some simple flapjacks made in advance will be sure to keep you going til dinnertime.