Summer time in and around St John’s Wood
When the summer sun shines down, for a few days, a week, or even a few weeks, the whole of St John’s Wood bursts into bloom. (I should apologise here because unfortunately, I am no gardener, botanist nor horticulturist and as such I have no clue as to what all the varieties of flowers and shrubs are so I shall refer to flowers as just that. If anyone does have a clue, and am sure many do, please feel free to update this section with the names of these summer blossoms. I, for one, would love to find out!) The roundabout from which the statue of St George rises tall, (situated opposite the St John’s Wood Church) and at which, you turn right to get to the East Gate of Lord’s Cricket Ground, is literally aflame with colour. The little park adjoining the church is an absolute delight to visit. From Spring through to Autumn, the pathways are lined with flowers in every imaginable hue and it is absolutely beautiful and summer I feel is always when they are at their most radiant. It is one of my favourite places to go, be it a picnic with the little one, a picnic with friends or to just curl up with a book on one of the benches. Both Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill are also glorious to visit in the Summer. Queen Mary’s gardens in Regent’s Park is ablaze with roses in every imaginable colour and the little walkways are just as pretty with all the varieties of wild flowers.
The open air theatre in Regent’s Park comes alive with performances for children and adults alike and the boating lake never ceases to be a great attraction for the kids. The many playgrounds scattered around in Primrose Hill park, Violet Hill park, St John’s Wood park and Regent’s park are always overflowing with children and that sense of community you get here becomes obvious as you bump into the same mums at different parks so that there is some variety for the kids even within the playgrounds.
A general list of summer activities in and around the area are,
- The various playgrounds at all the parks, i.e. St John’s Wood park, Regent’s park, Violet Hill park and Primrose Hill park are really great for any kid and if you are able to wander a little way out, you can also visit Golders Hill park which houses various species of animals (being an animal lover, am not particularly impressed with this kind of thing) but regardless, the park attracts lots of children and is a great family day out. It also has a little playground for kids.
- The Regent’s park boating lake. A great activity for the older kids or even the toddlers if you have someone who can hold them while you peddle your boat. Although slightly pricey, it is a lovely summery thing to do and kids find it great fun. You can take the boat out for around 30 minutes (if my memory serves me correctly) and you can peddle right around the lake (if you have the stamina for it).
- The Regent’s park, open air theatre. A schedule of performances can be found at http://openairtheatre.com
Make a special effort to watch out for the kids versions of the Shakespeare performances as they are great fun.The pictures below are from Dinosaur zoo which is done by an Australian company called Erth, who were touring the UK. The models were great though the compere didn’t seem too savvy with children as she pushed one little girl so hard that the child burst into tears! But I have to say the models (although there were too few of them to make it a truly spectacular show) were pretty good and kept the kids suitably jumpy!
Another plus is, that the show doesn’t centre around the usual suspects but instead introduces the dinosaurs who roamed the southern continent. I would say however that unless your child is a pretty brave kid, volunteering to be on stage, isn’t always a good idea.
- The London zoo. (Although not a fan of zoos myself, I do think that the animals seem better looked after here than at most places and the zoo is a hit with kids of all ages). The London zoo is host to an impressive range of animals and the new enclosures are pretty amazing. There is also a reptile house, an aquarium and an aviary.
A helpful hint is to try and get to there at opening time (10.00 a.m.) The animals are just starting to venture out of their enclosures, the big cats are beginning to prowl and you can get a slight feel for what it may be like to watch them in their natural surroundings and the animals tend to come right up to the glass so that they are almost face to face with your child.
Membership can be obtained here which makes it worth your while if you live close by as it adds up to roughly 4 visits to the zoo. Furthermore, membership also covers Whipsnade zoo which is where the larger animals like elephants and hippopotami are kept (if you don’t mind the drive there that is). It also helps if you are a member as you get some percentage knocked off the rides and the food at the cafe etc. and also parking at the zoo car park is discounted.
There are also lots of interesting little things to do between the different areas. For instance, near the Macaw enclosures there is a little spinner for donation coins and children love to watch the coins spinning round and round before falling into the till. The play areas with bouncy castles, playgrounds, roundabouts and all the usual bits that kids love are also a great hit as is the penguin snack time and lunch time shows.Christmas time is also great fun as you can sign up for the Santa’s grotto and the experience is complete with elves showing you the way and quite a jolly Santa Clause giving out presents. There are also themed activities during Halloween as well and children do tend to have a great day out. Living round the corner, we have become frequent visitors and the membership option means you have a private entrance as well as not having to queue for long periods of time if the private entrance is closed (as it sometimes is).
As a side note, if you do visit, please do try and remember to be mindful of your children tapping on the glass enclosures and roaring at the animals etc as I do think that it is bad enough for the animals to be within enclosures without having a stream of people tapping on the glass right throughout the day!Ticket prices and opening times can be found at http://www.zsl.org
- The London water bus canal trip. I believe there is a boarding point inside the London zoo (on the way to the Giraffe enclosure. I haven’t actually been on the canal trip but I am planning on doing it this summer so will post more on this when I do. More details can be found at http://www.londonwaterbus.com
- A tour of Lord’s cricket ground and the MCC museum. The tour guides are great. Both humorous and knowledgable, they provide a great insight into the history and traditions of the game and the grounds.
The guides provide their groups with great memorable anecdotes which are both interesting and amusing and all in all, this is well worth the money for any fan of the game. You can also interestingly buy grass from the pitch in glass cases from the Lord’s gift shop! A worthwhile souvenir for a die hard fan perhaps? More details on the tour can be found at http://www.lords.org/
- Hampstead Heath is also great fun in the summer. We often do walking treks, collecting a few wild flowers and fallen leaves to make pictures with and the heath has so many logs, replicas of wonderful old trees that have fallen or been felled which make great climbing and balancing bars for the more adventurous child. They are a firm favourite with mine! The long grass is great for rolling around in and all in all the Heath really is an adventure in itself.
- Both the Kentish Town city farm (http://ktcityfarm.org.uk/ ) and the Belmont Farm in Mill Hill (http://www.belmontfarm.co.uk/) are also brilliant for children who love animals and even the ones who don’t as they are as educational as much as being lots of fun. You can buy food bags for the birds as well as the rabbits and goats and sheep etc and the children have great fun feeding the animals. There are also petting sessions at timed intervals and tractor rides around the farm at Belmont Farm.
- Sally’s Adventure club (http://www.sallysadventureclub.com/#!about/cjn9) organises great nature trails through Highgate woods for the under 5s. Complete with songs, stories and puppets and a very enthusiastic guide, Sally herself, the adventure club is a massive hit. The wishing tree inspires dreams of enchantment and magic and the kids love examining the many bugs, beetles and birds they see on the way. Magnifying glasses in hand, a must-do out door experience for any little budding naturalist.
These are a few of the things that come to mind at the moment. If anyone else has any great ideas, do please feel free to contribute.