Being out in nature: get outdoors in Durham

It’s easy as a student to get caught up in the typical student daily routine – wake up, lectures and library, maybe gym, back home to relax with housemates or go for a drink with friends – but there’s a lot out there in Durham that really is worth exploring when you start to feel like you’re sick of the same daily routine during term-time. And what better time to explore than in Autumn, when everywhere you go, you’re surrounded by stunning views of red and orange trees, distant hills, cosy cobbled streets, and (obviously) the river.

1. Wharton Park

One of the more accessible places on this list, Wharton Park, is situated just past the train station. It has a small garden (with herbs that you can pick, if you go at the right time!), a playpark, and plenty of greenery and trees. It isn’t huge, bear in mind, but if you’re living on that side of Durham it’s a great place for an afternoon walk to stretch your legs after a few hours of work.

2. The Woods opposite Maiden Castle

My personal favourite area of Durham, the woodland on the opposite side of the road to Maiden Castle (aka the fitness centre) is gorgeous at this time of year. If you follow the signs for the tearoom and Indian restaurant, you can continue down a road that quickly transports you away from the noise of the city. You can stroll into the woods and be surrounded by trees and farmland in seconds. A great place to explore with friends or take a picnic. Alternatively, you can stop at the Pumphouse Tearoom or restaurant for a cup of coffee and/or some lovely food to warm you up, nestled in the woodland.

3. Aykley Wood Nature Reserve

In a similar direction to Wharton Park, you’ll find a small nature reserve. You can watch the ducks in the pond, climb to the top of the hill walk and look out over the city and beyond, or get lost in the trees. If you walk far enough, you’ll find a huge open space which – in the summer, at least – is full of wildflowers and grasses, as well as lots of birds and other forms of wildlife. Worth the trip out if you want to feel surrounded by nature!

4. The Racecourse

Probably the most well-known outdoor space in Durham is The Racecourse, where students flock each summer for picnics, sports, jogging, and the occasional drink. But this area of Durham has just as much charm in Autumn, too – when you stand on the cricket pitch side of the river and look out, the colours of the trees are stunning, and walking along in the crisp air really helps to refresh you between lectures!

5. Old Durham Gardens

Another classic, Old Durham Gardens is near the racecourse, and can also be accessed via the woods by MC. The impressive steps and well-maintained gardens are a lovely place to relax at any time of year and are a favourite of both students and people who live locally. A place with history and beauty, it’s definitely worth a look if you’re in that direction and have half an hour to spare.

6. Botanical Gardens

Free entry for students! Everyone loves to hear that. If you take your campus card, you get free entry to the extensive and truly fascinating university botanic gardens, that change with the seasons and are delightful all year round. If the weather isn’t in your favour though, there’s a charming gift shop and tearoom too. On brighter days, some students take books for their studies and use benches around the gardens as a change of scenery when you’re bored of the library and TLC!

7. Low Burnhall

A little further out than the other locations in this post, Low Burnhall is a gorgeous area of woodland and wildlife unexplored by most students. Not only are there multiple walks signposted, but you can also wander around trying to find the wicker sculptures, or take a picnic and enjoy the views, and being so close to a variety of birds, trees, and plants.

Try using this guide to find somewhere near to you that might bring you joy, getting out and experiencing Durham as a city full of green spaces and fascinating nature, whether that be as a day out or a quick walk between lectures. Especially now, in Autumn, Durham is an area with so much to offer you, right on your doorstep. Enjoy it, and the benefits being in nature can bring to your mental and physical health, and your studies.

Featured image by: Darek Duchiewicz

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