I have one (hyphenated) word for Holland Park and that is “crazy-assed”. We walked there from the tube and you follow a grand, sweeping terrace that looks like the London of Noel Streatfield books until you find a small door in a white wall that says “Holland Park”.
And you think “Is this all?”. And no, it definitely isn’t. The first section you go through is a lush tropical garden – and we were there on a humid day, so I thought we’d actually wandered into a rainforest. I know the 148 has a crazy route but Brazil…?! Took our eye off the ball there….
But then I was reassured because at the top of the hill, we were back in England, in some kind of forest. Still definitely not in London because there were no buses and a lot of mud, but the right continent. We wandered through the forest, changed a nappy while Roo stood on a tree stump, mopped up some blood when Roo scraped his knee on aforementioned tree stump, and got very muddy. But that’s OK, cause everyone else will be muddy too, right?
Wrong! Turns out that on the other side of this forest, there lies what we know as “civilisation”. We emerged mud-streaked and soggy into a world of manicured lawns and posh restaurants. And there are some people we know from sixth-form in Winchester – what are they doing here?! That randomness aside, more randomness was to follow. Peacocks strutted amongst a giant chess set, a wedding party were leaning over the balcony and a photography class were training their lens on these feral forest folk that were blinking in the bright light.
Most confusing. So, it’s a beautiful park but just like a surreal dream. Kind of Alice in Wonderland meets Where the Wild Things Are. With some time to kill before meeting the people we were actually supposed to be with (as opposed to our Winchester friends), I left Nathan on the lawn next to the fountain and took Roo to the giant sandpit/playpark. Just ace. Apart from the obnoxious West London birthday party. The entire play area is filled with sand but there are swings and a slide. And toilets right next door! Which was handy for me as, unlike Reuben and bears, I don’t…ahem…go in the woods. (What, you thought we were changing nappies on a tree stump for fun?!)
Once everyone else turned up, they settled down for a picnic next to the duck pond/fountain and Nathan and I played the “keep Reuben out of the duck pond/fountain game”. I thought I could distract him with his ball but that only led to a new game. Yup, ball in the duck pond. After several rounds of both games, he was winning, both his shoes were wet, several ducks had been traumatised and the amateur photographers’ perfect compositions had been ruined by the bright red ball flying past the lens. And then another concussed duck. Mummy and Daddy had enjoyed some picnic food but never at the same time and it tasted slightly pond-weedy. Home time, Roo.
VERDICT: Yes, a great place to take toddlers as long as they aren’t obsessed with climbing into the pond. There is NO fence around it. Take spare shoes and socks and – if you’re precious about these things- give ’em a wet wipe over between forest zone and formalwear zone.