Did I mention that we are approaching the age of Maximum Whinge? Well, don’t worry if you missed it…there’ll be plenty later on in the post.
Our destination yesterday was Chalet Wood, Wanstead Park, to see the spectacular bluebell carpet before they all wilted. Our aims were 1) to get there and 2) to not cause any permanent damage. Despite the picture above, we achieved 2). She just about managed to tiptoe through the bluebells without trampling them. 1) was harder to achieve. Let’s blame SatNav.
It was a rare day in that Nathan was off work and Reuben was at school…so it was the three of us that were driving round the North Circular to Wanstead. Except that the three of us got in the wrong lane and ended up on the M11. Like I said, we’ll blame SatNav. The M11 does have a turn off before you hit Cambridge, but not that long before. It was certainly countryside that we found ourselves in, and I was making rapid mental adjustments that involved the Hainault Country Park or that park with the sandpit in Chigwell that someone once told me about. But the wrong turn or two only strengthened Nathan’s determination to Stick To The Plan.
Luckily, no more wrong turns presented themselves and we found our way not only back down the M11, but the A406, the A12 and some other other little roads that led to us to a rural-looking carpark. If it sounds like a long way, it really wasn’t. But it was a touch more scenic than Plan A.
And here was the carpark we found ourselves in:
From there, you have four ways to go and there’s no obvious sign pointing towards the bluebell woods. One way, though, is clearly off limits:
So, we took the middle option – a little track which didn’t quite have the reassuring look of the main path or the access road. But, despite Nathan’s misgivings, it went exactly where we wanted it to. The bluebell woods!
Now, I may have mentioned a slight countryside phobia of mine before, and I’m sure that part of it is to do with watching the Ruth Rendell mysteries when I was younger. They were filmed around the Hampshire countryside, so whenever I think of the woods around Winchester, I imagine a corpse turning up in them. I’ve learnt to engage with nature by only visiting bits of countryside with phone reception and a tube line and this wood ticked both boxes. So, you’ll be pleased to know I didn’t even think about the Inspector Wexford mysteries in this bluebell wood. Nup, Broadchurch all the way. I was expecting FencePost Lee to turn up any second, chasing a young girl about.
Luckily, he didn’t. Our own young girl had fun though, sticking mainly to the paths and looking at the pretty flowers. There are a few wigwams dotted about, which she really liked:
It was 10ish by this point, and well time for coffee. So, we made our way to the open space beyond the wood, in search of the cafe. I googled it on the way (see! phone reception!) and saw that it was a kiosk, rather than a cafe. That didn’t bode well for people who’d spent all their cash on a Jumble Trail and an oven. Sure enough, it didn’t take card and so Nathan and I made do with a packet of M&Ms from my pocket between us. Eva, as ever, had her snack box with her. And we had a pretty view:
And we found some goslings! Eva was happy with those:
But what she wasn’t happy with was the lack of playground. I’d kinda assumed there would be one, but another quick google proved my assumption wrong. Eva seemed to think I’d promised to take her to somewhere called “Tunnel Park” but as I didn’t even know where that was, I very much doubt I’d promised it.
This logic did not sit well with whingey girl. There was whinging. Even a pretty fountain failed to distract her for long:
So, we elicited some clues from her – it had a tunnel, it had a boat, she’d been there – and concluded it was likely to be Bisterne Avenue Park in Walthamstow. I showed her a photo of it on my phone and she stropped and said it wasn’t Tunnel Park. Nathan showed her the exact same photos and she perked up and said that was it. Gah, 3-year-olds.
We had nothing better to do with our day, so walked back to the car to attempt Tunnel Park. But there was one more strop to be had on the way. It involved this stick:
Look how optimistic she is in this photo. Surely, someone is going to help her carry this giant stick back to the car. Someone in a parental vein, maybe?
Sorry duckling, no. Never collect anything bigger than yourself unless it’s a statue of David Tennant made out of chocolate. We made her leave the stick. The resulting scene was ugly.
Fortunately, a small miracle happened. We drove a few minutes to Bisterne Avenue and, for once, Mummy and Daddy had got it right. For this was Tunnel Park! She was immediately happy:
And Nathan took the opportunity for a quick nap:
Before spending some time perfecting his “Sherlock on Dartmoor” pose:
Eva enjoyed a good play – there was a shark for her to jump on (she didn’t get the reference), a pirate ship, a zip wire to fall off and some nice natural play features.
There’s also a wild bit at the back, just in case she hadn’t had enough nature for a day. She could have climbed all day but dagnam, we still hadn’t had coffee. Time to roll down the hill to Lot 107.
We were pretty much reenacting the last day we had spent without Reuben – hanging out in Wood St, playing on the pirate ship then going to the cafe for coffee. It’s now going to be our “day without Reuben” cafe, and our “day without Reuben” park. Sorry Roo. Sucks to be at school.
Lot 107 is a lovely cafe. It was full of parents and children and has a kids’ menu, so you feel totally welcome, unlike another cafe in the Wood Street area I’m not going to mention. Eva insisted on a highchair and enjoyed a sausage sandwich with Ribena:
There’s everything you need for toddler visits – a changing table, plastic plates and cutlery, lots of highchairs. And toys! After she’d picked the sausage out of her sandwich, we went into the garden at the back and she joined a small boy in playing with some cars. She chose one that she said was “our car” and it was actually pretty close:
The outdoor space isn’t huge, but it has about four picnic tables in and will be lovely for summer. The staff were all super-friendly and it was definitely an easy dining experience. It pays to be child-friendly in this bit of Walthamstow, I think…
(As an aside, I just went onto Twitter and saw that “Ruth Rendell dies” is trending. Oh good grief, I was talking about her just up there ^^. Is it just me, or is that weird??)
Anyway, spookiness aside it was a fun morning out. Then we went to Chingford, entirely pointlessly, so let’s skim over that. The bluebells will be wilting soon so get down there in the next few days if you want to see the spectacle of nature. Alternatively, if you have an ungrateful child you can just skip the woods and go straight to Tunnel Park…