You might have roughly the same mental image of King’s Cross that I do – a cramped ticket hall, filled with cranky Northerners on their way home. And that’s just how it was, two years ago. The station was tiny and the goods yard behind it was derelict, after the shutdown of those quirky little clubs. I went to The Key once, for a Buttoned Down Disco Easter party and even then it felt like venturing into the middle of nowhere. Once the clubs had gone, it really was just a wasteland.
Or was it? Seems like it might have been a long-term plan, because the whole area has changed. It’s like Shoreditch-hip now. I’ll leave it to you to decide as to whether that’s a good thing or not. But there are trendy food vans and lots of arts students. And Tammy and I decided to explore. Well, kinda.
Tammy and Jake had invited us to come at play at the Camley St Natural Park, which I assumed was part of the new development at King’s Cross. Turns out it was neither new nor at King’s Cross, but rather tucked under the Eurostar platforms of St Pancras and nearly as old as I am. If, like me, you go up York Way and turn onto Goods Way you will see the new development first. The Natural Park is not so obvious. You need to carry on past the green steps (above) and the “natural wall” and turn right before the tunnel. Then it’s up there on the right. If you go spectacularly wrong, like we did, lured in by the big red arrows and the shiny newness, you’ll find the Visitor Centre just inside St Martin’s College and they will help you. Follow one of the aforementioned big red arrows.
So, we found it eventually, but it’s not obvious. And once you get there, the charms are equally subtle. There’s lots for kids to see and explore, if they use their minds a little, but Reuben’s not exactly that kind of child. He tore through the two acres in a matter of minutes, before declaring it another “boring park”. Honestly, it’s like having a teenager sometimes.
On second glance though, even he found things he was interested in. Like spotting butterflies by these stepping stones. Or (correctly) guessing which vegetables were growing – he’s either watched too much “Mr Bloom’s Nursery” or he’s just lucky. Or looking at the boats on the canal. Or trying not to fall into this entirely unfenced pond:
In case you were wondering, Eva was very firmly strapped into her buggy at this point. She can’t resist an open body of water. And yes, it was possible to take a buggy right round, but bits of it weren’t easy and the terrain (woodchip) could be a bit hard-going. I noticed there were nets for pond-dipping but I didn’t entirely trust Reuben to do that sensibly. So, we ate sandwiches under this gazebo thing instead:
Yes, Jake still likes dressing as Batman… So, we ate and pottered about a bit. It’s a nice, calm place but Reuben’s not too good at calm places and I think he’s inherited my mistrust of the countryside. So, after a while we went in search of a playground that was part of the new bit.
We never made it. Along the way we got distracted by this frozen yoghurt van:
And then we got VERY distracted by the beautifully choreographed fountains that you could play in:
I could watch those for hours – they went up and down in a ripple, then they all stopped and you could play fountain chicken by walking the length of them before they started again. Eva was asleep, so Roo and I could scamper about a bit. It was more unanticipated water play, but this time at least I knew where my towel was and it was on the buggy! There was a small-ish problem in that it was a towel I was about to lend to someone else, so I probably shouldn’t use it to dry off soggy children. But then I figured that she wouldn’t mind. In fact, she didn’t know. But now she might.
Obviously, we didn’t have swimming costumes with us, but Roo played in just his shorts (yes those are the same shorts that got written off at Clapham Common in more unexpected water play. From now on, I will always expect water play.)
As we sat and watched the children play, it emerged that Tammy didn’t know anything about the new bit – she’d just suggested the nature reserve because she’d visited it a few years back. I didn’t know anything about the nature reserve until I found out about the new bit. So, we were talking at slightly cross-purposes, but happily we managed to explore both without really meaning to. Sadly never made it as far as the playground, or the intriguing sounding “Skip Garden” but we’ll revisit once the rest of it is open!