It’s always risky to go back to old hurts. You just know you’re opening yourself to being hurt again, just like every time Rachel forgives Ross only to be once again told that they were on a break. Heart-wrenching stuff. And my last trip to Brockwell Park was equally heart-wrenching. So I’ve been putting off going again, just in case.
Just to break the tension, I’ll tell you right now – there was water in the water play area. Yehhh! Which is just as well, given that you have to wait for weeks for a day that’s worthy of water play. Yes, I know we had a few the week before last, but as discussed, I was scared of squandering a day’s sunshine on a risky move. But today we weren’t disappointed.
So, water play at Brockwell Park – it’s cool. There is a large sand pit, with rocks in it, and an adjacent paddling pool, with fountains and sprays. The water and sand sometimes -regrettably- get mixed, which makes for a sludgy sandpit and a murky paddling pool but those are the risks of combined sand/water play. There is also a kind of river area, with a water pump and removable dams and that was verrry sandy today. Two boys were covering what I hoped was their scooter in the sludge and then riding it through the puddles. Mmm, laundry-y goodness. Lucky that Mums are currently being sponsored by a large pharmaceutical company – I assume that means a sachet of Ariel is on it way to all of us.
So, it was fun. We all got hungry by 11, so Roo and I had a picnic (and Eva had a picnic of sorts) in a scrap of shade next to a bush. And that brings me to my major gripe – the lack of shade. There was one decent sized tree, which had a lot of people crowded underneath it and then a whole lot of saplings. Obviously it’s a new play area, so you wouldn’t expect huge trees but they need something there. By 12, the shade by the bush was non-existent, and Eva just had to lie in my shadow. The heat in the sandpit was pretty unbearable (Roo didn’t mind, but I did) so we sat out and watched Roo play with a random small child, from the other side of the sandpit. Basically, it’s a case of following the shade. There’s not much of it and it moves. As we left I saw a big shady area in the corner next to the paddling pool but you couldn’t see the sandpit from there. There’s also not a lot of seating, and none of it in the shade. It wouldn’t be such a problem with just a toddler but Eva’s a bit too new for a lot of sunshine. She’s barely even seen it before, so it’s a bit of a culture shock.
Other than that, it’s a nice play area. It’s “natural” and doesn’t have that roasting astroturf stuff underneath. The sand is pretty clean and so is the water, until the children get involved. It did get verrry busy . At times trying to spot Roo was like a magic eye picture – you just have to stare at this forest of wet-suited children until yours emerges out of the picture. But that’s to be expected on such a hot day. Roo spent more time in the sand than the water, which slightly defeats the point of trekking to somewhere with water. But I certainly appreciated dipping my feet. At one point, he asked me to cover him with sand and then got slightly affronted when I did as asked and starting saying “it’s sandy! I’m all sandy!” in a panicked way. “You’re sandy?” asked I. “No” said Reuben “I Reuben. Sandy sea turtle”.
It’s also an obscure Octonauts reference, so don’t feel bad if you don’t get it…
Eventually, it was time to move on. So we wandered towards the new play area. Brockwell Park is undergoing a lot of renovation at the moment, and bits of it do have a building site feel. Because of that, there is no actual path between the two play areas, so you have to follow and informal buggy-trodden path through the long grass. Roo was excited about the “Big Orange Digger”, and you could still see the ducks on the lake, through the fencing. Mental note – next time, bring bread for the ducks. I thought Kettle Chips were probably a bit too good for them.
So, briefly then, the new play area? Also very nice! Last time I went, it was pretty unremarkable, with metal play frames and colour-coded blobs on the floor to signify which age group were allowed to play on which equipment. Try explaining that to a 2-year-old. There was also a sandpit that you could get into easily but not out of. Useful for the parents, but again try explaining that to a toddler…
Anyhoo, it’s changed. Now, it’s all wooden frames and soft, clean sand. Five slides in all, but I kinda lost count. Again not much shade and not much seating. Three sandpits. Several teenagers having a water fight, which swamped the toilets. And a nice natural feel again. It had the same tunnels as Archbishops Park, cut into grassy mounds. It seems like this is the way playgrounds are heading – less of the plastic and metal (which would have been crazily hot on a day like today) and more wood and grass. And random hippyish features like this:
All in all, they’ve done a nice job on it and once the building work’s finished, the rest of the park should match. You would never know you were a supermalt’s throw away from Brixton. After four hours in the park, I called time and we got an ice-cream from the yellow van just outside the playground gates. It was good ice-cream. I’d recommend it. Proper lemonade lollies as well. Mmmmm…..where was I again? Oh yes, onto the…
VERDICT: Lovely water play area and playground. Could do with more seating and shade.