What’s on in West Essex this bank holiday weekend: Friday 28 – Monday 31 August

ALL WEEKEND

BEACH EAST, OLYMPIC PARK STRATFORD

Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

It’s your final chance to visit the UK’s largest urban beach if you haven’t done so already, as Beach East closes on Monday. The kids will love the sand, paddling pool and fairground rides all within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford and close to Westfield. Read my full review of Beach East here and my advice is to get there early and bring you own picnic to avoid the expensive food on site.

Price: Entrance is free and rides are £2-£4
Opening times: 10am – 10pm
Address: Stratford Waterfront, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, next to Westfield E15 2DU
More information: West Essexs Mums review or Beach East website.

OLIVER JEFFERS EXHIBITION, DISCOVER CHILDREN’S STORY CENTRE STRATFORD

Oliver Jeffers real life rocket at Discover Centre Stratford

If the weather is true to bank holiday form, there may be some rain to contend with this weekend. If so, it’s the final few weeks of the current interactive exhibition at the Discover Centre in Stratford featuring the work of the brilliant children’s author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers. My son loves his ‘How To Catch a Star’ book so I’m feeling bad I haven’t taken him yet so I’m keen to get down there before it closes on the 6th September as friends have told me it’s great. The magical worlds of his books are brought to life and you can take a trip to the seaside, row a boat and make friends with an alien and a penguin. There are also activities for children aged 0-11 years old.

Price: Free for under 2s, £5 for adults and children, £18 for a family of 4
Opening Times: 11am – 5pm
Address: 383-387 High Street, Stratford, London E15 4QZ
More information: Discover Children’s Story Centre website

SUNDAY 30 AUGUST & MONDAY 31 AUGUST

MINIATURE STEAM & ELECTRIC TRAIN RIDES, RIDEGWAY PARK CHINGFORD

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 15.26.15All aboard! On Sunday and Monday afternoons you’ll be able to take a miniature steam train ride at the back of Ridgeway Park. A friend of mine takes her little boy quite regularly but we’ve yet to give it a go so this could be  good option for Monday. It’s run by the Chingford & District Model Engineering Club and prices are pretty reasonable with free parking in the park and on local streets.

Price: Kids under 3 are free with a fare paying adult, costs depend on the track in use but are 60p or £1.50.
Opening times: From 2pm – 5.30pm
Address: back of Ridgeway Park, Chingford. E4 6XU. (Near the Green Man pub near the top of Chingford Mount)
More information: Chingford & District Model Engineering Club website

SUNDAY 30 AUGUST

FUN DAY SUNDAY FEATURING MINI BEASTS, VALENTINE’S MANSION AND GARDENS

ladybirdAs part of their regular Fun Day Sunday, this weekend the family-friendly drop in session will focus on mini beasts. You’ll be able to make bee finger puppets, rocking snails, butterfly masks and ladybird crowns. You’ll also be able to explore the Valentine’s gardens to see how many mini beasts you can find living there.

Price: free entry, no need to book you can just turn up
Opening Times: 11am-3pm
Address: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens, Emerson Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4XA,UK
More Information: Valentine’s Mansion and Gardens website

MONDAY 31 AUGUST

THEYDON BOIS FAMILY FUN DAY, ST MARY’S CHURCH

Part of the flower festival that is on all weekend at the church, the family fun day will involve children’s games, a bouncy castle, a BBQ and other refreshments as well as stalls.

Opening Times: 10.30am-4.30am
Address: Between Coppice Row and Piercing Hill, Theydon Bois, CM16 7DN.
More information: St Mary’s Church website

Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

Review: Beach East at Olympic Park, Stratford

I was really excited to hear that the UK’s largest urban beach was opening just down the road in Stratford, so this week we headed down to Beach East at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to check it out.

Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

Luckily, the weather was warm and sunny on the morning we visited as this definitely helps with the beach vibe! I parked in Westfield shopping centre but you could also park at the Aquatic Centre or get the tube or bus to Stratford. We arrived just after it opened at about 10am and though it was fairly quiet when we arrived, it quickly filled up and by the time we left the place was getting pretty rammed. Obviously, with schools just breaking up this is to be expected but this was a weekday, so afternoons and weekends are going to be super busy.

boy on Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

The ‘beach’ is basically a little complex near the aquatic centre with fun fair rides, food stalls, picnic areas and a large sandy area complete with paddling pool. You do have to walk past a lot of rides to get to the beach area so the pestering starts straight away. However, if you can drag your kids past that the sand was lovely and clean and we brought along a bucket and spade which is always good for simple but effective entertainment of toddlers.

boy playing in sand at Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

While there are some food outlets as I’ve mentioned, they are selling stuff like hotdogs, chips and other fast food so if you’re trying to be a bit healthier or just want to save money you are allowed to bring in your own food and drink (although no glass bottles etc). Personally my little one is so fussy at the moment that I resent paying out for food he’ll barely eat so we packed a little picnic to eat on the beach. A few mouthfuls got eaten before he wanted to run around and play in the sand again. But if you can get them to sit still for long enough a rug is a good idea. There are a few deck chairs but these did all get commandeered by  10 am and they are not very comfortable for little ones. Be warned though – that fine sand gets into everything – gritty sandwiches ahoy! We had packed the swimming stuff for our little ones but they didn’t seem that interested and frankly, I was pretty glad because it was getting very busy with older kids as time went on. But if your kids are a bit older, I’m sure they’ll be desperate to have a splash about and a paddle in the water.

boy near food stalls Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

As soon as we arrived, my little one had spotted a ride with little cars so he spent most of the morning talking about the green car and attempting to run off to have a go. Most of the rides suitable for younger children seem to cost £2 but others go up to £4 and you need to buy tokens at the kiosk first. Despite initially enjoying sitting in the car, when the ride started it did go round the corner quite fast and my little one got a bit scared and started to cry. It was all a bit heartbreaking as I couldn’t get him out of the car until the ride stopped but my friend’s son of the same age was fine so, as ever, who knows how your toddler will react! However, I did notice the lady running it let some younger children on and quite a few of them seemed to be crying! So I’d suggest watching some kids go round on the rides first to get a sense of it and what age group they are and if you think your child would enjoy it (of course this is no guarantee with the unpredictable little monkeys!). There are lots of other rides for older children, such as mini roller coasters and swing seats that all look great fun – although I can imagine it could quickly get expensive.

boy in toy car at Beach East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford near Westfield shopping centre

Apart from the unsuccessful ride, we had a lovely morning there and when the sun was shining it definitely felt like we were on a beach and it had a distinctly holiday vibe. As it is open until 10pm and has bars, we decided it would be an interesting place to go on a date night for something different on a  warm summers evening. Not that we actually ever go out on date nights, but if you are the kind of parents that can get your shit together to do that I’m sure it would be fun!

Beach East is open until 31st August 2015. It’s open from 10am – 10pm and entry is free. You can bring your own food and drink and pushchairs but no dogs.

Beach East website

Address: Stratford Waterfront, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, next to Westfield E15 2DU

Have you been to Beach East? I’d love to know what you thought of it, just add your comment below.