They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and that was certainly true when we left London to live in Shanghai for a year in 2009. In China entertaining Stanley usually involved a sweaty 45-minute cab ride across the city just to visit a soft play area, such was the dearth of accessible and affordable things to do with kids. Here in London there is an embarrassment of freebies – museums, galleries, children’s centres, city farms etc etc. But my favourite of all, is the parks – specifically, local playgrounds.
When I was a kid most playgrounds consisted of swings, a slide, an occasional sandpit and more often than not some sort of concrete structure that would never get past today’s health and safety standards (remember the concrete donuts?). Great playgrounds were pretty few and far between – I remember making special trips to Highbury Fields and thinking the zipwire was just about the height of adventure. Now, my kids have at least six really excellent playgrounds we can walk to (including two zipwires); and if I’m prepared to jump into the car for ten minutes, there are more like 30 at our fingertips.
Last weekend we visited Stationers Park, in Crouch End/Finsbury Park. I used to hang out here when I was at school (or rather when I should have been at school), but haven’t been back for years. It’s had a recent refit and this is the sight that greeted us on arrival:
How cool is that? What I love about this is that it is not a big park, it’s a local playground serving a small local community, and yet, it’s wicked! Stan was beside himself with excitement and Gertie was pretty pleased with the under-fives area (see below). Big congrats to the Friends of Stationers park who raised most of the funding to get the park redeveloped.
There are also some teepee-type structures and a the odd (carefully placed) fallen log. It’s all done in natural materials and, quite frankly, a bit posh.
There is still the old stream running through the lower part of the park, with a waterfall and stepping-stone crossing (where Stan enjoyed throwing petals to watch them wash down). I’m definitely thinking some nice summer picnics will be in order.