Southwater Country Park
Southwater Country Park
4
About
Southwater Country Park is a 90-acre aquatic site that features a beautiful circular lakeside walk leading round to a beach area and the ever-popular dinosaur island play area. Canoeing, kayaking, sailing and bike hire are available from the Southwater Watersports facility on site that van be found near the café and visitor centre that overlooks the lake. The park also includes a beautiful wildlife area called The Quarry, which is managed for nature conservation and supports wildlife such as lizards, Kingfishers, Nightingales and various butterflies and dragonflies. The adjacent Downs Link Bridleway passes through the park, making it the perfect base to explore further afield on foot, bike, or horse if you wish.
Duration: 2-3 hours
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4.0
202 reviews
Excellent
97
Very good
62
Average
23
Poor
8
Terrible
12

Peter S
Rome, Italy3,952 contributions
Sept 2023 • Family
Review of Southwater Country Park, Horsham, Sussex.

Sit on the beach to one side of Cripplegate Lake and look out over the people in the water; close into shore wading and playing around and, the other side of the floating barrier, people in canoes and standing/sitting on float/surf/paddle boards. A ‘Welcome to the Beach’ information board close to the gate through the fence that screens the beach/lake from the grasslands/BBQs on the park side of the fence warns you – the visitor – NOT to ignore the safety rules that apply. Keep within your designated water zone – floating and/or splashing around. You’re not supposed to swim in the lake – it says. How do you police this kind of draconian instruction. Of course, there were people swimming – both sides of the floating barrier – ‘littl’uns’ in the shallows and big people in the deeper water. Dogs were swimming too. There were also boards crossing the barrier for beaching.

The rules focus on water safety – you watching your kids and/or your family. Making sure that no one is out of their depth – ‘waist height’ is says. There is no lifeguard on duty - essentially you enter the water at your own risk. Follow the rule and you’ll probably be OK.

When you’re not watching the kids – in reality being in the water with them or the kids may be playing in the sand/gravel that makes up the beach – take time out to appreciate the gorgeous images of the lake – water, shore, trees behind the lake, aquatic bird life and, of course, there are people in/on the water enjoying themselves. Then consider the story of the park. Originally farmland that was sold for clay extraction for brickmaking >130 years ago. Dig out the clay and you’re left with a number of large holes/quarries. Which is how Crippegate Lake was formed. It’s estimated 10 m deep.

Brickmaking declined from the mid-1960s on following the closure of the railyard in Southwater. The park was opened in the mid-1980s – the most environmentally destructive of land industries became a gem of a local park in little more than 20 years. Someone clearly had vision and access to funding. The park covers 36 ha.

We had three hours in the park that afternoon/early evening. The park is a popular place for our family, who try to come a couple of times/month. We’d left our place on the Sussex/Surrey border for the 20 km/30 minutes run to the park, left the car in the spacious car park and then followed the kids who were following dinosaur footprints (painted ones) on the pathway and leaving us for dead. We had never been there before and the path was twisty.

No issue – past the beach and BBQ’s and round the lake to the kids play area – structures, slides climbing frames for all kinds of abilities – our two-year-old struggled. Mum caught up and we bagged a table for our evening meal right next to the sand pit with the hidden dinosaur bones. Less than an hour later Dad turned up with two large bags … containing … boxes … of … Chinese … takeaway foods. What could be better. We had the playground largely to ourselves and it was all that the kids could to do to prioritize eating/Chinese takeaway and playing on the equipment scattered across the playground – in amongst the model dinosaur statures.

And, this reference to ‘dinosaurs’? One hundred years ago the skeleton of a dinosaur was unearthed in one of the quarries. It was identified as an iguanodon – 9 m long, 2 m high & 5 t mass. No issue you’ll not meet one there today – they date from >100 M years ago and, crucially, they were herbivorous – grazing animals. That said, they could easily walk over you … if they’d not seen you. Opps! Sorry!

Issues? Nothing really comes to mind – it was just a really pleasant family outing at a gorgeous local country park. Read the TAdv reviews and you’ll see reference to dogs, bikkies and fences – as a starting point. We saw dogs running around. We did not explore/see/experience any dog poo. And the fence screening people off from the beach was still in place – it looked untidy with weed growth up through the wire, but you probably can’t argue the little ones being kept away from the water. If you’re/they’re big enough to climb the fence, well, there’s this thing about people being people. Particularly the lads. Is the gate locked at park closing time? Someone will know.

Peter Steele
06Oct23
Written 6 October 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Shelley C
Littlehampton, UK17 contributions
Apr 2023 • Family
Our favourite park, even when muddy! Amazing climbing facilities, safe and always clean. Lots of benches and bins. Only grumble are toilets being opposite end of lake to park x
Written 11 April 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

W. Spence
3 contributions
Aug 2022 • Family
On 31 st.August along with my wife and two of our grand children we visited the park. We had a great day. Our grandchildren spent most ot their time on the lake , paddle boarding etc. The staff were polite , professional and very helpful. We felt safe at all times .
Written 13 September 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

John Smith
1 contribution
Jul 2022
Used to be lovely until the dinosaur monstrosity they'd have been better off spending the £250k or whatever it was on the poor fishing lake. Sadly neglected for years to the point the fish are dying year on year. Sad state of affairs.
Written 30 July 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

holly d
2 contributions
Aug 2021 • Friends
Loved this park until they put up a 4ft fence around the lake. Only reason I would go was to take a dip. Now it's made unsightly and difficult to get into the water. Take it down!
Written 16 July 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Lucy C
3 contributions
Sept 2021 • Family
I loved this park especially the unique paddling area.. but now a classic example of ridiculous covid rules have destroyed it for my son and myself..
Having read the council website on why there is an ugly fence still in place it seems that the suggestion is people like the booking system..
Well I personally don't want to sit in a beautiful location looking on the outside through an ugly unnecessary fence.
They also say that less people are using the park.. Well that's a shame and for the business... I can imagine why..
As for the parking problem Well don't buy a house where people love the go and moan about people parking outside your house..
What a shame.
Written 14 July 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Gabby Long
United Kingdom3 contributions
Jan 2022 • Family
Lovely park and walk around the lake. Fab little cafe which serves the best hot chocolate! Play park great for little ones.
Written 1 February 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Henfield_family
Henfield, UK3 contributions
Jan 2022 • Family
We visited the playground and walked around the lake. We enjoyed the playground and found a good selection of equipment. There were only four other families with kids as we were early (9:30am), so not remotely crowded.

The walk around the lake was pleasant with the sound of birds. Swans were on the water. Minimal litter which was good and no dog poo on the pavement.

The Dinosaur Island playground has a good range of equipment. We liked the zip line and volcano. Whilst the equipment was in good condition, the landscaping around the equipment was in need of grounds maintenance to replace lost grass and soil, it felt a bit neglected and in need of attention. The fact it was wet and muddy from rainfall the day before made the state of the area more noticeable with caution needed on some parts to avoid slipping over due to mud. There was a dog poo in the playground even though dogs are not permitted and clearly signed.

The walk around the lake took about 30mins walking slowly. Car park was cheap (£1:20 on the Ringo App) and easy, after registering. Did not visit the cafe or toilets do cannot comment.

To pay to park I used the Ringo App and was disappointed that I needed to register an account to pay, rather than being able to pay as a one off. I am sure I will not use the App again or not for some time and will probably forget the password.
Written 3 January 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Travel820247
25 contributions
Aug 2021
Went yesterday with our granddaughter. Had a nice walk around the lake and the cafe area was nice. Down side was the dog Poo in middle of the path around the lake.
Our granddaughter being into dinosaurs thought there would be more …some foot prints to follow to the play park and I think three different dinosaur wooden sculptures in this area was all we could find unless we were missing something! Think there could be more input on the ‘dinosaurs’ theme.
We were there early by 11.00 the play area was far too over crowed so we left.
Written 31 August 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Ann M
Southampton, UK1 contribution
Aug 2021
We arranged to meet family here, being a central point to Essex, Brighton and Portsmouth. It was our first meeting since lockdown and we didn't know the area. We found a very good play park for our 6 year old and 10 year old grand daughters. We also booked a slot on the beach which was all the better for not being crowded.
We were also impressed by the amount of cleaning and litter picking we saw.
Well worth the car parking fee.
Written 6 August 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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