We made it.
The long, wet, cold British winter is behind us. The sun has made a long awaited reappearance, and albeit a little chillier than we’d like, the spring days have rejuvenated a little bit of energy in all of us.
The Garden is no longer ‘off limits’ and the children, especially Dangermouse, have been having great fun exploring every little corner of it – as though it’s the first time they have ever been out there.
Better than that, we have reinstated the park trips. In fairness, they were there over the winter but in much reduced frequency and duration – armed with coats, hats and scarves and reserved for those sunny winter day moments when we just NEEDED some fresh air.
Or maybe, we just couldn’t face another visit to soft play?
But there is really no competition – parks are FREE, do not smell of grease, and are likely to make you feel lifted, and invigorated (as opposed to bringing on a migraine).
When it comes to Parks, we really are spoilt for choice. I like to think of them in four main categories
a) ‘Our little park’: About a two minute walk from our house. Sometimes frequented by delinquent teenagers and / or drunks, but a great 30 minutes out no less. The swings are sometimes stolen, but so far always been quickly replaced. The enclosed kids play area has seen better days, but at least it’s enclosed and dog poo free. I know I’m not selling it, but I can honestly say we have created some magical memories playing here – it’s local, it’s free, it’s an open space, the kids love it. And for that reason, we love it. We would all be devastated if that crummy little park disappeared from our road. Nothing gets them out of the door quicker than the promise of heading to that park.
b) The town park: If we are feeling a little more adventurous, an extra ten minute walk away is the big town park. It’s a no dog zone which makes the grass area a picnic haven in the summer. The play area could do with a little love, as could the toilets. In fact, we don’t use the toilets. There was a cafe once, when I was a child, but it got burnt down. There was a huge buzz of excitement a couple of years ago when a new cafe was erected. Sadly some *insert word of choice here* decided that should be burnt down too, days after the grand opening. None the less, some of the Supermums have dreams of building a skate park, splash zone, coffee shop…one day maybe. I had my thirtieth birthday picnic right there in that park, and it will always be a place I hold dear. Incidentally our walking route to nursery is through the park, something we have just started making the most of in the sunshine – funny how the same old lunch tastes so much better in the great outdoors.
c) The country park: When we are REALLY going for it, we don our wellies, make sure we have two quid for the car park, and take the 5 minute drive to the country park. With an amazing play area, woodland walk, and heaps going on for every season, this is a firm favourite. Dog friendly, but never had any problems with ‘mess’. The girls love going here and getting caked in mud! We have also explored country parks in the neighbouring towns, when we feel like we have done ours to death. Or should I say I feel that way – the girls never tire of the same place.
d) The premium play area: We are lucky to have some great places to take the children to in our area which are new, shiny, the cream of the park crop. Well maintained, with landscaped gardens, sand areas and high end equipment…all yours for a few pounds for a ‘family day ticket’. Often, these types of parks are funded by another main attraction, but are a tasty bonus on the side – well worth looking out for. Deserted during a week day, with enough to keep you entertained for hours. Think sports centres, zoos, leisure centres…often hiding some gems.
What dissecting our park life has taught me is that our Great British parks don’t have to be all about the big and the fancy. To a child, an open space in your local area, a bit of grass to run around in, learn to ride a bike in, eat a picnic lunch in, is something of wonder and magic. They won’t remember that day they watched TV. They just might hold memories of getting out and seeing the world a little dearer.
Mamas and Papas are channelling their inner-park-love in their latest campaign to spread the word about getting families out and about to their local parks. Specifically, they are homing in on the big parks in London and have put together a fab guide on what each of the Capital City’s parks has on offer, the facilities and where to find them. We fully intend to get up to London this summer and make the most of the free spaces on offer.
The words ‘use it or lose it’ are the perfect cliche – with councils continuously challenged with cut backs and budgets, show them how much you love your local play areas, green spaces and parks by getting out there and enjoying them. Who knows, it may even encourage investment and upgrade. But if not, they may not look the greatest to you, but through the eyes of your child, they are something else entirely. Our park isn’t perfect. But it’s ours, and we love it.
Disclosure: Collaborative post