Victoria Park (or Vicky Park as it’s know to locals) is one of my favourite parks in London and after a £12million refurbishment in 2012 for the Olympics, it now boasts some fantastic family-friendly facilities. It is genuinely beautiful throughout the year and has loads to entertain the kids. The children’s playgrounds are some of the best around and it’s only a 20 minute drive down the A12 from my new home in Woodford, so definitely worth the trip if you haven’t checked it out. Before Christmas, I spent almost the whole day in the park on a Saturday with the Little One and catching up with some old friends. Admittedly it was a stunning autumn day – all crisp leaves, red and yellow trees and warm sunshine – but I realised just how family-friendly it is, so I thought I’d share some reasons why I think you should visit. 1. THE PLAYGROUNDS ARE EPIC
Yes playgrounds, plural. There is not one but two large, well-built playgrounds in the park constructed out of solid wood with really interesting swings and slides. Playgrounds definitely weren’t this good when I was a child. The playground in the larger East side of the park has some truly stunning, extra-long slides that older kids will adore (and adults will wish they could slide down). And next to that is a brilliant water play area, the Pools park, with fountains and jets which is full of shrieking kids in the summer. The playground in the West side of the park is probably more suitable for younger kids. With toddler swings, slides, climbing frames as well as lots of imaginative swings and climbing frames. There is also another smaller water play area with water flowing through levers and pipes – again usually only running in the summer.
2. YOU CAN HIRE ROWING BOATS
The West Boating lake has an impressive fountain and sculptures as well as residents swans and ducks keeping guard. These birds are obviously a great attraction for all children, but slightly older kids will love a trip in one of the rowing boats which you can take around the restored Chinese Pagoda.
3. THERE’S GREAT FOOD AND DRINK
My favourite place for food is the Pavilion Cafe, right next to the West Boating lake, which has lots of outdoor seating which means children can watch the ducks as they eat. They serve locally sourced food, lots of it from artisan producers at Borough market and serve a brilliant all day breakfast. There’s a great veggie breakfast option, eggs benedict and daily lunch specials. It’s not cheap but you’re paying for good food, it’s delicious and definitely worth visiting for brunch and a delicious coffee. When we visited on Saturday they were also serving delicious warm, spiced apple juice which was like Christmas in a mug. There’s a large stack of high chairs for the little ones and being outside means you can worry less about the crumbs on the floor. The dogs taking a rest from their walks provide lots of entertainment for little people and the people watching is pretty good for adults if the fab view of the lake isn’t enough. The People’s Park Tavern (formerly The Britannia pub) in the East section of the park has a great, fenced off garden which is perfect for the little ones to run off steam in a secure space. I haven’t been since it was taken over by new management but the food looks good and the garden has been given a bit of a revamp. The Royal Inn on the Park on Grove Road is also child-friendly and has a smaller outdoor terrace but there are much more tables, so I’d recommend the People’s Park Tavern if you want the kids to have some room to play.
4. THE PARK LANDSCAPE KEEPS CHANGING
While The Little One took a nap in his buggy, my friends and I were so busy chatting that we actually walked around the total perimeter of the park several times. But what is what is so lovely about this park, is the variety; you have the more manicured flower beds and beds in the West park and but if you walk right to the far reaches of the East Park it feels much more wild and wooded. Theres’s also the memorial and lots of hidden spaces to discover such as the Old English Garden, Rose Garden, East Fishing Lake as well as a bowling green and tennis courts. Another huge bonus is that paths are paved all the way around the park which means walking with a buggy is easy. I used to come here a lot when my son was very young, as it was an easy place to have a long but relatively easy walk and, as the paths are in full view, you can even walk around on your own and feel safe. Once the Little One woke up and wanted to toddle on his own for a bit, the paved paths meant he got a lot less muddy than usual.
5. YOU CAN MAKE A DAY OF IT
As you’re so close, it would be a shame not to take the short 15 minute walk along the canal to Broadway Market which is bustling with food and vintage stalls on a Saturday. Or on a Sunday, why not combine the park with a trip to Columbia Road Flower Market to stock up on beautiful blooms? (Although, I’d suggest heading to the flower market super early if you have a buggy as it gets super busy later on.) Or if you’re visiting by tube, you could stop off at the excellent V&A Museum of Childhood which is right next to Bethnal Green tube.
6. IT’S EASY TO GET TO
As I said, it’s only a short drive down the A12 and once you turn on to Victoria Park Road, you can turn left at the roundabout onto Grove Road that cuts through the park. You can then park for free (most of the time) in the surrounding roads. Check the parking restrictions but some roads right next to the park are free at the weekends and after midday in the week. You can also obviously visit by bus or Mile End tube. Or get the central line to Bethnal Green which is a 10-15 minute walk away, although I don’t think there is a lift and there’s quite a few stairs which may be an issue with prams and buggies. Or you can walk over the canals from the Olympic park. The official address is Victoria Park, Grove Road, Bow, London E3 5TB. In terms of other practical points, there are public toilets next to both cafes with baby changing facilities.
7. A VISIT MIGHT INSPIRE YOU TO CREATE A HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL CHILDREN’S TV SHOW!
If, like me, you now watch more children’s programmes than adult ones you will already be familiar with the lovely, wistful animation The Adventures of Abney and Teal on Cbeebies. It’s based on the works and writings of illustrator Joel Stewart and follows two friends who live on small islands in a park. And in an interview, Joel confirmed that the original idea came to him during a walk in Victoria Park. Find out more at the Victoria Park website. Find out more at the Victoria Park website.