St Pancras Lock Open Weekend – 04/02/17

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Some days are harder sells than others – when we were sitting in our friends’ flat in Hackney, watching the rain streak the windows the idea of an afternoon on the canalside wasn’t as appealing as it could have been. But yknow what? This worked out fine.

Let’s spin back though, past Hackney and to the kids I was trying to motivate to leave the house at around 10am. It was already raining then and my Plan A – let’s go to church and retrieve Mummy’s lost phone and then go to Kings’ Cross – was not shifting their tiny asses off the sofa. But then I got into a conversation with Bob on Facebook and found out that she, Not-Bob and Boby were going to watch “Hey Duggee” at the Hackney Picturehouse at 11. I know, Facebook is totally replacing face-to-face interaction isn’t it? Except when it’s really useful, like this time. Of course, having lost my phone I didn’t then have Facebook for the rest of the day so who knows what else we missed out on.

Anyway, my kids love Duggee. It’s the last show we watch before leaving for school in the mornings, so it’s very much a “shoes on, coats on, go go go” time of day rather than sitting and enjoying. This would make a nice difference. Before we could enjoy it though, we needed to do that whole ”shoes on, coats on, go go go” thing in order to (narrowly) catch our train. Ironic, huh?

Also, I needed to check my kids could actually go. It was a Toddler Time show and whatever the blog’s called, I don’t actually have a toddler any more. But I checked and as long as we had a bona fide toddler with us, we could sneak one older child in. Eva’s still an under-5 anyway so I think she was OK but Reuben is a bit leggy to be passing as a preschooler.  We went to one of the first ever Toddler Times that Brixton Ritzy had and in my review of that, I was fretting about how big he’d got. That was four years ago. Gosh darn.

It was fun, anyway. You notice all kinds of jokes when you’re actually concentrating on the show, and Nathan and Not-Bob particularly enjoyed the Donkey Kong reference in the Jam episode. Just a pity they didn’t show my favourite episode, which appeared to spoof Steve Zissou. It’s a great show – it looks awesome and it’s never offensively sickly like some kids’ shows can be. It even looked good in the high res of a cinema screen.

All of which brings us to a spontaneous lunch at the Bob-house, during which I sensed Nathan’s enthusiasm for a Kings Cross jaunt waning. We were at Hackney Downs and could be home in a matter of minutes for a post-lunch nap. But remember that we have kids, and in actuality it would be an afternoon of post-lunch-squabbling-over-the-X-Box-controllers. Better to keep them out and exhaust them, right? I don’t know how I persuaded them all to side with me but we took baby steps. We were near church, so let’s pop that way and see if we can retrieve the phone. Then once we’re there, we’re practically at Kings Cross, right?

One massive advocate came out in my favour – and it was the sun. Suddenly this was all looking a bit more manageable.

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Sadly, there was no-one at church (which we were kind of expecting) so phone will remain unretrieved until Sunday, but I did spot this advert, which I just love. International London FTW:

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We were halfway there to Kings Cross by now and it seemed foolish not to at least try and see what the St Pancras Lock Open Weekend had in store for us. Besides, by the time we got there, it was a gorgeous day:

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We walked behind the station and past the birdcage, which now has its swing restored to it. I stopped to look at the unusual basket-weave architecture of this building:

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And of course someone wanted their photo taken in front of it:

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Slow progress then, but we were greeted by some Canal and Riverside volunteers who pointed us in the direction of the kids’ activities aboard the Jena. It was gone three by this point, and the day finished at four but we were going to do as much as we could. We’d pretty much missed the boat rides, but we found the Jena:

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And inside, we were making bird boxes with copious amounts of glitter glue:

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The cost of the activity was a £3 donation but we had no change on us, so I’ve just paid online. Happily, you can donate too if canals and rivers are your thing. And they should, be because look how beautiful the area was:

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It’s difficult to believe we were in Zone 1, just behind three of the UK’s busiest stations. We took a floating walkway from the Jena to the lock, which Roo described as “awesome” and I’d describe as “slightly terrifying”, as it tipped at an angle whenever anyone walked off-centre. I saw one person attempting to cycle along it but he too looked slightly terrified.

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The lock was only two minutes’ walk away along the floating path and no-one managed to fall in in that time, which was a positive. I’m not sure how buggy-friendly it would be so if you’re taking a little ‘un tomorrow maybe consider a sling.

And here was phase two of the action – the lock and St Pancras water tower.

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We went briefly down inside the lock but I couldn’t really explain to the kids how it worked so we moved over to the more obvious charms of the water tower – a Victorian era brick tower which again looks slightly incongruous against the background of modern and ultra-urban Euston Road.

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It was crowded inside. Like, really crowded. I don’t think it’s often open apart from things like Open House Weekend. They were serving tea and cake but we pressed on up the spiral staircase to catch a look at the views from the top.

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Southwards, it was pretty much the back of the stations and a glimpse of London Eye just past the British Library. But northwards, you could see as far as Alexandra Palace.

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We were also overlooking Camley Street Natural Park, which seems smaller than it used to be. I might be wrong, but I remember a hilly bit with a gazebo to the left of the gate? Again, it was four years ago that we visited.

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We climbed back down as the stalls were starting to pack up – it was 4PM by now and the open day was all but finished (back on tomorrow though!) So we had a quick runaround in Gasworks Park, which is just a grassy space but surrounded by mirror pillars similar to the ones in the Olympic Park.

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You can guess who *loved* all the mirrors:

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Roo, meanwhile, was taking “a quick runaround” quite literally and getting us to time him every time he did a lap of the circle. Remember, the whole point of this exercise was to wear him out. Eva was shuffling along behind him, imploring him to let her catch up:

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On the way back to Kings Cross, we stopped at Granary Square to use the toilets and the kids spent quite a long time just looking at the colour-lit fountains. We told them not to touch them, as 4:30PM in February was not ideal water play time, but Roo got us to agree that he could touch them with a stick. Next we knew, he had fetched a stick to poke them with. I swear that boy is mostly puppy.

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The sun really was setting now, which made for some fantastic views:

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But also meant we should be heading home. Kings Cross had one last distraction though – the aforementioned birdcage swing, which now has colour-changing lights. It gave Nathan the opportunity to nip off for coffees while the kids had another quick play.

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Just as a finishing flourish to the day, we arrived back at Walthamstow to see more spectacular skies:

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I feel like I’ve ended blog posts this way before but, unlike the members of “Walthamstow Life” I can never get sick of sunsets. Hey, Reuben look at that view. Look well. If you can’t see, fashion an optical device out of something nearby:

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The St Pancras Lock Open Weekend continues tomorrow, on 5th Feb. More details here.

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