You may have noticed there’s been some kind of Royal occasion this week. I’m not a massive monarchist but after the last couple of years of absolute crapiness, I can totally see why people might be up for a party. As it happens, we kinda stumbled upon some of the festivities more by luck than judgement but it means that this post is, for once, on trend.
The reason we ended up in a Royal Park a few days pre-Jubilee was mainly practical. The Hollies were staying in London, near the Tate Modern, and they’d requested some kind of park visit so that the kids could all have a runaround. My initial idea was Greenwich Park but the price of the Thames Clipper has gone up astronomically of late and the Jubilee line from Southwark doesn’t quite go to the right bit of Greenwich for park-y runarounds. So instead, we decided to get the Jubilee line in the other direction and head for St James’ Park. The choice of tube line was entirely coincidental but it does seem appropriate, doesn’t it?
First though, a quick play on the Thames “beach” just outside the Tate Modern. I’m not sure I’ve ever been down to this bit of shore before but it was certainly abundant in rusty metal poles and pigeons. I warned the kids not to actually take a dip into the Thames because of the pollution but also because then their clothes would get soggy and who wants that?
Hmm, we’ll come back to that point later.
On the way to Southwark tube, we took a rather nice wander through the Bankside tunnels, full of murals and buskers singing “Johnny B Goode”. The last stretch along Blackfriars Road was longer than I remember it being but turns out, that bit of the South Bank just isn’t particularly near any tube stations. There was the option to go into Blackfriars station at one point but it didn’t seem to be the tube line bit and was distinctly the wrong side of the river for where I remembered it being. So we pressed on to Southwark.
The weather at this point wasn’t bad – I mean, there was a large black cloud rolling in over the river but there was also blue sky. A picnic was definitely not out of the question.
And how handy is the little M&S at Green Park station if you did fancy a picnic? I’d remembered it was there but thought we’d need to leave the station and cross the road to get there. No! There’s a entrance right in the station, which is super convenient. We stocked up on bread, houmous, sandwich meats, biscuits and drinks and then left the station by the South-side exit, straight into the park without any road crossing at all.
This plan was working PERFECTLY. Literally no flaws.
The sun beamed down on us as we walked through Green Park and stopped for the kids to climb a tree and scamper through a glade. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, the first hitch was that we might not be able to get from one park to the other. As we approached the Mall, there were metal barriers that ran down both sides of the road, impeding both exit from Green Park and entry to St James’ Park. This could be an issue. Green Park is nice enough but it’s pretty dull. There are very few features, and seemed to be a giant stage set up in the middle of it for the Jubilee, which meant the paths around it were busy. We’d already done some tree climbing, which is one of the few things you can do in that park so were really hoping we could get across to the playground and pelicans of St James’ Park.
The short answer was that we managed to do it. Further down the Mall, there was a crossing point which allowed some pedestrian traffic across. We thankfully scuttled through and celebrated our success with a trip to the St James’ Park loos. You have to pay 20p a shot but can use contactless to pay and the nice man was letting children go through with their parents on the same payment. So not a massive hassle.
The plan, such as it was, was still going well! It was only when we emerged from the loos and were queuing from coffee that we felt the first spots of…..rain.
This couldn’t be! The forecast said no rain till 2PM. But it definitely was. It had just turned midday at this point, so we decided to huddle under a nearby tree and eat our picnic while we waited it out.
I said earlier that we kinda stumbled upon some festivities and over lunch was when we reaped the rewards of what might otherwise have appeared to be bad choices. They seemed to be running a soundcheck for the Jubilee concert so our slightly soggy picnic at least had the benefit of some cracking showtunes. We heard “Circle of Life” by the Lion King cast and then extracts from “Phantom of the Opera”. Eva found herself a little nook in the tree and, given the circumstances, we were pretty successful at not getting wet.
We sat under the tree for an hour or so while the boys ran about with a tennis ball they’d scavenged from the beach. By the time the rain had stopped, we were ready to start walking again, in the hope of reaching the playground. We crossed the bridge in more sunshine, with the clouds on the horizon an unthreatening Elephant’s Breath grey:
Oh wait though, the clouds over the Palace were more of a Mole’s Breath grey. We might not be out of the woods yet.
We made it to the playground a full ten minutes before the next rain storm. Luckily, Eva has recently decided that she likes being rained on so was taking the opportunity to prove a point. Roo was not so convinced and joined the grown ups in huddling on benches under the trees. The other kids, however, had important sand-construction to be doing and they weren’t to be deterred by a spot of rain.
“I’m covered in sand and I have no regrets” declared Eva, as she condemned herself to definitely needing a hairwash that night.
I reckon we lasted about an hour in the playground. It’s amazing how stubbornly you can decide to enjoy a day out, even when the elements are doing their best to ruin it. As we started to leave the, I took Eva to the kids’ loos to wash her hands. We came out of the loos to the sound of “Any Dream Will Do” from the soundcheck. Perfect.
The rain had stopped by now and so we took the kids to a small fountain near the edge of the park to try and de-sand them. My plan was to catch the tube from St James’ park station back to Waterloo, where the Hollies would eventually be catching their train home from. But were these kids tube-worthy? Even after a splash at the fountain, it didn’t seem likely. So I made what might seem to be yet another poor decision. We would walk back to Waterloo.
Of course, it did rain again. The skies opened as we crossed Westminster Bridge and Eva, for all her claims to love the rain, was somewhat anxious about being on a bridge during a thunderstorm. And this truly was the most impressive storm yet.
We briefly sheltered round the back of County Hall but then decided to make a run for the cake and comfort of the Royal Festival Hall.
Well, the rain got the sand off at least. We got coffee and cake and hot chocolate in the RFH cafe and slowly dried off. The stairs were closed for some reason but we took the singing lift up to the poetry library on the 5th Floor and enjoyed a few minutes of the children sitting quietly and reading or drawing in the cubby holes before the Hollys had to go for their train.
So, several royal touchpoints for a Jubilee week – an aptly named tube line, a glimpse of the Palace, a preview of the concert, two Royal Parks and a Festival Hall that is also Royal. All without really meaning to. Happy half term everybody!