The last year has reminded many of us how fulfilling it can be to spend time outdoors. In between all the lockdowns and restrictions, walks and picnics in the park have often been the only way to escape. This impetus to explore outside has helped us to discover many of the vast commons, cultivated gardens and hidden greeneries around Lincoln, some of which we didn’t even know existed! After much wandering around the city, we have compiled ten of our favourite parks in Lincoln and other green spaces that are perfect for picnics, small gatherings with friends, or just enjoying the fresh air.
Parks in Lincoln: the commons
1. South Common
Lincoln’s two vast commons are the biggest green spaces around the city. As they both lie on the outskirts of the city centre and cover such a large area, they rarely get crowded, even on hot summer days.
The South Common, about 20 minutes’ walk down the High Street from Lincoln train station, is somewhat of an undiscovered gem. Rising up a sloping hill that faces back onto the city, the crest of the common has an unrivalled natural view across Lincoln. If a vantage point this good were replicated in the likes of London, Bath or Edinburgh, it would be teeming with people and you’d probably have to queue to get in!
This common covers some 80 hectares, with beaten pathways winding through a scattered mess of wild-feeling shrubland, open grassy spaces and ponds hidden among trees. It’s quite a steep climb to the top, and tough going in summer heat. Keep going though, because it’s at the top where you’ll find the best picnic spots – in green openings or in the shade underneath towering trees, facing out onto that city view.
Horses graze quietly on one side at the bottom of the hill, away from the main walkways and picnic spots. The International Bomber Command Centre is located just behind the common, so you could combine an afternoon picnic with a visit there.
2. West Common
The West Common sprawls across (you’ve guessed it) the west side of the city. Unlike its sister common to the south, it is mostly flat, and horses can be seen grazing throughout its 100-hectare mass of land. The space is also used for various sporting activities.
Lincoln Racecourse, which closed in 1964 after nearly two centuries, covered large parts of the West Common. The old Grandstand still stands at the south side, and is now a Grade II listed building that has been repurposed as a community centre. This end of the common is also bordered by the Fossdyke canal.
From the common’s flat grasslands you can see an alternative perspective of Lincoln Cathedral in profile from below, peeking out over the houses on the hill. It might not be as awe-inspiring as the elevated view you get from the South Common, but still an impressive backdrop for a summer picnic!
3. Cow Paddle
Lincoln has a third common that is relatively unknown. I’ve had conversations with people who have lived in the city all their lives and had no idea it was there.
Cow Paddle is located to the south-east of Lincoln at the foot of Canwick Hill. It only takes a 15-minute walk down Canwick Road from the city centre to reach it.
Cow Paddle is much smaller than the two main commons, but still has plenty of space to set up for a picnic. The paths that lead through it are speckled with flowers, and from the middle of the grasslands you get a great full view of the cathedral.
Parks and green spaces in Lincoln city centre
4. Lincoln Castle grounds
Lincoln Castle is one of the city’s historic marvels, built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. Today it is one of the best-preserved castles of its kind. You need to buy tickets if you want to see its highlights like the Magna Carta and the Medieval Wall Walk, but you can explore inside the castle grounds for free.
On sunny days, the grassy knolls inside the castle grounds are one of the most popular picnic spots in Lincoln. Much of the grass is exposed to sunlight inside the vast walls, or you can find shade beneath one of the lofty trees.
For more insights into exploring the site, check out our complete visitors’ guide to Lincoln Castle.
5. The Arboretum
When the Arboretum was constructed 150 years ago it became the first public park in Lincoln. Created by a renowned Victorian gardener, it was carefully designed with cultivated gardens, flowers, ponds and fountains. In 2003, a £3 million restoration project helped to revive the Grade II listed park to its original splendour.
The Arboretum, or ‘the Arbo’ as it is often referred to, is now beautifully kept, and makes for a wonderful little detour from the city centre. It is tucked away from the hustle and bustle, but only takes a ten-minute walk along Monks Road to reach.
The park features a bandstand, hedge maze and children’s play area around its 22 acres, making it a top option for families. With long opening hours from 7am to 10pm you can pick your hour of day.
6. The Lawn
The Lawn complex in Lincoln’s uphill Cathedral Quarter is built around the site of a 19th-century lunatic asylum. The grounds are home to the Lawn Café, which is operated by long-running local business Stokes Tea & Coffee, as well as the fabulous Olé Olé Tapas Bar & Restaurant.
Inside the grounds there is also an outdoor space for the public to use, complete with tables and benches for picnics. You can also wander around into the green grounds of the old asylum building.
Look out for the John Dawber Garden – a secret walled garden with a Chinese-style moon gate.
7. Liquorice Park
So tucked away is Liquorice Park that you would need to be looking for it to find it. A former orchard and meadow, it is now a sloping wild natural habitat maintained by local volunteers. A path winds down into it from Carline Road to the west of the city centre, eventually emerging below onto Yarborough Road.
At the top of the park, a viewing platform looks out towards the Lincolnshire horizon. From here you can spot landmarks around the city and out into the distance, marked out on a plaque.
Inside the park, the original orchard and meadow features have been preserved, and its grounds are now used to grow a variety of fruits and herbs as well as hosting a performance area. More renovation work is scheduled to take place throughout 2021 thanks to grants and donations.
Picnic benches in the herb garden provide a lovely spot to sit down for a while and breathe in the natural surroundings. Check out the Liquorice Park map to find more secret spots at the end of winding paths. And look out for the topiaries of a dog, cat and mouse!
8. Whitton Park
Whitton Park occupies a long strip that slopes down from Yarborough Road to the West Common on the west side of Lincoln. This is a simple city centre park, with large open areas of well maintained grass, tall trees and a children’s play area. A decent choice for a picnic if you’re around uphill Lincoln with kids.
The park has also been assigned some £150,000 in funding to improve its play areas, with work starting in 2021/22.
Parks in Lincoln: south of the city
9. Boultham Park
We visit Boultham Park more often than any other green space in the city as it is the closest to our home, and we walk the dog there several times a week. It covers 50 acres of grounds, featuring a large calm lake, woodland walkways and big open green spaces, as well as a bandstand and café.
From Lincoln city centre, the River Witham provides a scenic walking route to Boultham Park. Sometimes you can see otters bathing in the river along this stretch.
The lake is a real highlight of the park, with swans, geese and other birdlife active around its waters. A lake restoration project is under way, which will improve the pathways and add artwork features, a viewing platform, new picnic seating, and bird and bat boxes.
The bandstand area is ideal for picnics, with lots of space in both sunshine and shade. Look out for squirrels darting among the trees.
10. Hartsholme Country Park
We complete our list of parks in Lincoln with one of the most exquisite green spaces around the city. Hartsholme Country Park is probably the most aesthetically pleasing of all, with landscaped gardens and woodland pathways cultivated around a large reservoir. With many trails leading around the water’s edge and into the woodland, this park is also featured in our guide to the best walks in Lincoln.
A large open grassy space near the Skellingthorpe Road entrance and main car park is popular for picnics, although it does get busy when the sun is out (try coming earlier in the day to beat the crowds). If you wander more widely around the 200-acre grounds you can find some more secluded spots too.
After your picnic at Hartsholme Country Park, stop by at Daisy Made Farm just up the road for a famous homemade ice cream.
Map of parks in Lincoln
You can see the parks in Lincoln and other green spaces we have highlighted in this article on the map below:
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