Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford – 29/07/13

IMG-20130729-00041Remember watching the Olympics last year? Remember how shiny and finished Stratford looked? Well, forget it. It’s a construction site again, full of half-finished structures and flyovers to nowhere:

IMG-20130729-00019Imagine driving along that, happily on your way to the Olympic Stadium, when suddenly you ran out of road, a la Back to the Future 3, and plummet onto the train line? It wouldn’t be pleasant. Luckily, there are some weak wire fences in the way to stop you doing that . Phew!

Anyway, some bits of the Olympic Park are reopening, and today saw the opening of the Tumbling Bay Playground, which promises on its website that you can “take the weight off your feet and let the kids run free”. You can’t. But more on that later…

A lot later, as it happened, as we got to Stratford and found out that the park didn’t open till 2PM. So, we had a lot of time to kill. But before we get onto that, a quick word for anyone who needs to get to the QEO Park in the near future (perhaps for LolliBop?). The good news is that it’s all signposted from the station. Look out for these yellow and black signs, along with the pink and white “Events” signs:

IMG-20130729-00005 IMG-20130729-00004You’ll need to get a lift down into the subway if you have a buggy….then a lift back up to the ticket hall the other side. Which brings me to the bad news – it’s a bit complicated. Once you’re in the ticket hall, you need to take another lift up to the shopping centre, walk around “The Street” and then turn right onto Westfield Avenue. And then it’s a walk from there. Leave about 20 minutes, and don’t forget to check out this Lego tube map on the way:

IMG-20130729-00007 IMG-20130729-00006But we didn’t need to worry about timings, given it was 10:30am and the park wasn’t opening till 2. So, we met up with C’s Mum, C and R and we decided to go shopping. This may have been a foolish idea with two hyped-up preschoolers, but we were successful and Eva got a cute new hoodie (which would get wet by the end of the day…sigh).

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But all the children needed a runaround, so we found one of the three play areas that Westfield offered. There, Eva found a 7-year-old girl to help her up the steps of the slide, even though she was perfectly capable of doing it herself. Meanwhile, the sound system blared out 90s hits (“Kiss From a Rose” anyone?) and Eva found herself caught in a bubble.

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Then we went for some lunch in the almost-too-exciting World Food Court, where I panicked about the sheer amount of choice before choosing Vietnamese, simply because it was next door to the pizza counter. And Reuben, like any self-respecting Milner man, chose pizza. I’m happy to report it was all yummy. But I want to try the Caribbean or the Mexican next time.

And taking of almost-too-exciting, check out these golden walled toilets:

IMG-20130729-00013And a lovely Parent and Baby Room, with nappy changing, another little play area, microwave, CBBC on and feeding booths. Pity Eva didn’t need a feed!

IMG-20130729-00015But by now, it was almost time to get into the park and so we went on, stopping only for half an hour or so by these giant letters:

IMG-20130729-00023They really weren’t opening the gates before 2. As we waited, one of the barrier guards started a countdown. I was a little confused until Rosie reminded me that this was the first day the playground had ever been open, so it was a bit of An Event. But eventually, we got in!

IMG-20130729-00027And it was pretty nice! I mean totally artificial, but what else would you expect? There was an extensive water play area, which I hadn’t anticipated (disregarding my own advice, I had no idea where my towel was). And a great sand area, with pullies and shovels and things. Then over the top was this bridge, with a tube slide at one end:

IMG-20130729-00039And there were trampoline things, little stepping stones over a stream and a whole adventure playground we didn’t even get round to checking out. C’s Mum went and got us drinks (and informs me that the cafe only accepts cash at the moment, but is getting card machines next week).

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It was all lovely, but not somewhere you could sit and ignore the kids, because it was so extensive and unfenced. And that was about to lead to trouble…

IMG-20130729-00034As ever, I was splitting my attention between Roo and Eva as they both ran about . I took the liberty of sitting down for a minute, as Eva wandered behind the cafe. I waited a minute to see if she’d re-emerge and there she was! I watched her walk into a puddle with her shoes on. I took them off her to dry out and set her down again, to potter about. While she was sitting quite happily in the sandpit, I nipped up the steps to move the buggy, a manoeuvre that took literally 30 seconds (and regular readers will know that I don’t use “literally” lightly).

I came back to find her, only to have my way blocked by a large and unpleasant woman who told me to “keep an eye on my baby”. Apparently, she had tried to climb 3 steps, paddle and do all kinds of other terrible things while I was ignoring her. I tried to explain calmly that she wasn’t a baby, she was a 15-month-old toddler who was quite capable of both climbing a few steps and walking behind a building without damaging herself. But the woman didn’t listen, and told me that my baby could have died a death of dying while I was getting the buggy/sitting down/bandaging Reuben’s knee…and I’m afraid I lost it at her.

Yes, gentle readers. You heard that right. I shouted at a total stranger in an East London playground. I’m not proud of it, but hopefully it’ll make her think twice about accusing other parents of near-death levels of neglect. And yes, it did ruin our afternoon a bit, but a nice babywearing mama caught us on the way out and told us that IANBU and the woman certainly was Being Unreasonable and that made me feel better. Incidentally, the woman involved “sat on her arse” (her words, not mine) the whole time we were there, drinking coffee with two other grown-ups. So at least she was able to “take the weight off your feet and let the kids run free”. I’m so glad she took advantage of her position to judge me. I hope it made her feel good.

But visit the playground! As long as you don’t get accused of neglect, it’s really lovely. Honest.

More information here (official website)

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7 Responses to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford – 29/07/13

  1. Ray says:

    Great photos and love your rant! Like Rueben’s Thomas T shirt and the picture of him bouncing on the wooden thing!

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