run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Wednesday 31 March 2021

20 outdoor days out in NW London post-lockdown (almost all with excellent food)

I once wrote that "soft play is the worst place to be a parent. They're stuffy, stinky, germy holes with no daylight, crappy food and worse coffee..." hahaha how we'd all love a calm morning in one of those places with the sound of kids' happiness now. But! We don't have to stay at home all the time anymore, and there are so many great outdoors days out around NW London that I wanted to write some down for you here.

We have 20-ish places to visit in or near NW (ish) London that aren't just about the babes - you AND your kids will enjoy them all. 

1. Capel Manor. One for the sunny days - Capel Manor is basically a university for gardeners, 30 acres to explore where they've created loads of different, individual gardens (think the children's garden, Japanese garden, water garden, etc) for you to all saunter round. There's a small farm, reptiles, a maze, a fairy garden plus regular activities for kids, like egg hunts at Easter. Take a picnic and you'll have a great day out.

2. Finchley Nurseries - this is a garden centre that's actually a great morning or afternoon out too. There are the usual plenty of plants, which my kids love looking at and playing guess the fruit/herb/vegetable plant etc, but lots more too: a small playground to clamber over, a fish / aquarium area, a cute cafe with really EXCELLENT takeaway cheese toasties and cakes at the mo, pick-your-own flowers in summer, and an area selling who-would-want-these china gnomes where my two could stay all day... Easy parking and lots of walks nearby too.

3. Kentish Town City farm: it's small but in combo with local strolls, makes a lovely afternoon out: oink at the pigs, see the chickens, horses and more then walk down to Boma Garden Centre for cute babycinnos and seriously, seriously good brownies. Must pre-book, opens for the public from 19 April.

Image result for kentish town city farm

4. Broomfield Park has one of London's biggest adventure playgrounds (and a smaller one that's more tot-friendly), a conservatory with bananas growing, crazy golf (albeit it's not such a crazy course), a lake and model boating pond - and the amazing nearby Baskervilles Tea shop, with delicious cakes, babycinnos, etc for takeaway. (Is it obvious that I'm obsessed with the cafes?)

5.  Kenwood - there are ducks in the pond and huge grassy expanses to explore outside, walk down the hill from the main house and put 'Hollow Tree' in Google Maps to find a really excellent hollow tree to clamber all over and explore.

6. Ally Pally: swan boats and pedaloes (bonus: great work out) on the boating lake are reopening soon - and there's a great playground with sandpit (the addition of sand adds an extra hour to the average playground session, I find, and about 1.5 billion grains of sand to my car). Few nice cafes, including one inside the garden centre.

7. St Albans. A drive from NW London, but worth it. There's a fantastic playground in the huge Verulanium Park, plus mini golf and a splash park if those ever re-open safely, there's the Waffle House which does a brilliant safe take-away service at the moment, and lakes to walk around too.

8. The Grove, Watford. Also a drive away and also yes, it's a five star hotel but in lockdown they've opened up their grounds to non-residents and still now you can go to walk in their grounds. We went, parked near the Anoushka Kids' Club, explored their brill musical trail in the woods (huge metal/wood structures to play with), then walked along the canal and near the golf course (the kids really wanted a go in all its 'sand pits' but had to desist..).
9. Sunnyfield Park, Hendon. To be honest, this is a fairly average park with an adequate playground and we go mainly because I love the Israel cafe. Really great takeaway shakshuka, wraps, sabich.. And a giant hill to tire the kids out with too.

10. Avenue House / Stephen's House. Being NW London born and bred, I haven't updated the lingo and this beautiful, volunteer-run space in Finchley Central is forever known as Avenue House. They've updated though, and there's a great playground (with extra sand delivered to the playground sandpit just today!), a more wild climbing area (check out the carved owl), wooden gym/exercise areas dotted around, a lovely pond, cafe with outdoor seating and good events too. I'm partial to walking the 10m to Falafal Feast for their yummy lunch and picnicking in the greens. Don't miss the chance to explore the gardens of the Bothy if you hit jackpot and visit on a day when they're open - and there's open-air theatre there again this summer too. Say hi to Spike Milligan from me.

11. Clarenden Playground at Hornsea Park 

Full disclosure: this ridiculously good-looking brand new playground was shut the day we visited, but it looks so good that it's on our list to return ASAP and you should too. Even has sun loungers for parents to relax on (HAHAHA, yes I have a toddler and baby and 5yo.)

12. Stationers' Park, Crouch End

Big playground, tunnel slides, and you can walk to the bajillion excellent eateries of Crouch End, what's not to like?

13. Golders Hill Park
There's the animals, the strange cuboid sculpture that I remember, as a five year old, running up the sides of (but realise now that this didn't happen), the delicious gelato from the cafe, and the tennis courts, duck pond, always-closed butterfly house, climbable trees and rolling hills of the main park, but take a sharp left as you enter from North End Road and keep wandering and you'll find a beautiful pergola, lake and rambling ruins to explore. Along with a whole lot of pouting Instagrammers.

14. Lewis Ice Cream Farm
A speedy drive to Barnet and you'll find yourself in a well-managed, socially-distanced queue for one of a gazillion flavours of perfect ice cream. There's a playground and haystacks to clamber over in normal times, hopefully they'll reopen them soon, and lots of fields to explore. But walk, shmalk, we mainly go for the sundaes...

15. Highgate Wood and Queens Wood

The woods really saved our lockdown. Dens, sticks, the Gruffalo, and bam, the kids have happily played together for an hour. The benefits of these adjoining woods are the excellent large playground of Highgate Woods, with separate section for younger kids and two sandpits, the even better Pavilion cafe (best park food in NW London? I think so.) and the vast wild areas to explore in Queens Wood, which by the way also has a small but perfectly formed cafe. 

16. Lyttelton Playing Fields, Fletchers Park, Northway Gardens and Bigwood

An undulating triple park bonanza here; park on one of the roads around Norice Lea and enter Lyttleton Playing Fields; you'll find a capacious playground, lots of room to run around, a stream, good bridge for Pooh Sticks, and small (Kosher, if that's your bag) cafe. When you want to explore further, cross Kingsley Way to enter the small, recently-jazzed up Fletchers Park with nice planting, and walk through to cross Northway road and enter Northway Gardens. You'll pass Toulous Cafe (which used to be public loos, geddit?) where you'll find nice sarnies and sweet potato chips (currently closed), see beautiful, volunteer-planted rose gardens, a gushing stream, tennis courts and another playground at the tip,  which is perfect for toddlers. If you've still got energy to burn, exit the park near the playground, cross Oakwood Road and enter Bigwood, some not-so-big woods with lots of nooks to explore.

Not a park but it's outdoors - crazy golf with pretty terrifying animatronic dinosaurs all over the place, what's not to love?

OK, NW London is a stretch but it's actually in Maida Vale and this is hands-down the best playground in London WITH AN EXCELLENT PIZZA RESTAURANT next to the playground gates. I mean, look at this playground! There are lots of Paddington Bears dotted around too.

19. Teddy Bears Walk, Mill Hill

You'll find it if you put 'teddy bear walk nw7' into Google Maps - a magical path next to a field, filled with cuddly toys in the trees and branches. Tag it on with a trip to Mill Hill Park's epic playground and really excellent cafe and you've had a great morning, even if the rain dumps four years' worth of wet on you in one go, as it did to us...

20. Forty Hall, Myddleton House combo

Between these two institutions (a drive away in Enfield) you'll find animals, lakes, gardens and cafes. You have to book Myddleton House in advance at the moment, but it's free.

Other ideas for days out (some slightly further afield):
Berkhampstead, Cassiobury Park, Friary Park, Oakwood Park, Trent Park, Firs Farm Wetlands, Grovelands, Aldenham, Ashridge Estate (bluebells aplenty), Beckonskot model village, Ivinghoe Beacon, Gruffalo trail in Ealing, Broxbourne sculpture trail.

No comments

Post a Comment

© run out of womb. All rights reserved.
Blogger Designs by pipdig