If all kids rebel against their parents – which I expect they do – then mine will almost certainly develop a loathing for long, pointless journeys across London. We’ve had a couple of long trips to West London recently and on Friday, decided to mix it up a little with a long trip to South London. Not to score another borough – although I was hoping that might be a happy side effect – but rather to the end of the Northern Line for not better reason than because H’sMama fancied it, and it had been far too long since we’d hung out with her and H.
We met them on a very windy and noisy platform at Kennington to start the epic journey down south. Of course, we no longer live in Kennington so had had a fairly epic journey to get that far. For purely sentimental reasons, I’d included the Victoria Line in our journey. It wasn’t necessary, but it was the last time we could use it for a while. And we wouldn’t be able to go down this escalator for a very long time indeed:
You have no idea how tricky it was getting that shot. So don’t complain that it’s blurry.
Anyway, H and her Mama picked up, we hopped on the tube and a mere 30 minutes later emerged at Morden. It was quite a moment – the tube even resurfaces into daylight for that final stop. Which is bizarre, as I always picture Morden as a dark kind of place, which takes undersized actors a tedious 9 hours to reach. The way it means “murder” in German doesn’t help these connotations much.
But I was wrong – Morden was gloriously sunny. The view out of the station was a touch uninspiring – grey concrete buildings, a huge road, a Wimpey – but we were headed to Morden Hall Park, which was supposed to be green and lovely. It’s a mere 5 minutes’ walk from the station across another huge road, but look at how wild it is as soon as you step through the gates:
Yup, that’s forest right there. It didn’t do much to allay my fears, as I still have a phobia of the countryside, even after a year in NearlyEssex. Neither did this signpost:
Err, Snuff Mill? Like a Snuff Movie? Yeah, this is getting no less scary.
We were pretty hungry after our long journey, so found a small patch of grass to sit and eat our picnic on. H’sMama had totally BoyScouted things with ten thousand sandwiches and some yummy rhubarb cake, but I had been unable to repress my Jewish Mother side and had gone to Sainsbury’s on the way for yet more food. So, we sat and ate and ate and ate while the kids played pooh sticks on a nearby bridge:
Lots of people passed by, giving us odd looks as they did so. Was this not the picnic area? Well, it did the job. It was only when we packed up and moved on that we found the glorious expanse of lawn that you were clearly meant to picnic at. Ah well.
It was at this point in the park that the tributary we’d been pooh-sticking on turned into the River Wandle, which was wide enough and shallow enough to go paddling in. Of course, we hadn’t expected paddling and so none of the kids had their swimming stuff with them. Naturally, then, they all stayed dry on the bank watching other kids cool off and have fun in the water.
You believed that? Like, actually? You’re new to this blog, aren’t you?
They watched from the bridge for a matter of moments before stripping off, getting suncreamed up and climbing in. Roo in a t-shirt and pants, Eva in her shorts, H as nature intended. Me, rolling my jeans up to my knees and hoping no-one noticed how stubbly my legs were. Weirdly, I didn’t take many pictures of our paddling attire. But this gives you an idea:
The river was beautifully clear and refreshing but there were a few logistical problems with trying to keep an eye on two kids at once. In future, I’d say this was a 2-parent, 2-child job. You’d seize one by the hand and watch as the other scampered off downstream in search of…pixies probably. It was a bit rocky underfoot so hard to move too quickly – but somehow we overcame these things and managed to have a pleasant paddle without anyone drowning or even falling over. Roo’s pants got a little wet in the water, and I didn’t have spares for him…but a trip to the hand drier in the loos sorted him out.
If you need to know, the loos are in the Stable Yard, which is back across the bridge and opposite the Rose Garden. It’s a little too far to walk barefoot, as I discovered…and then felt foolish as I realised I had a spare pair of shoes in my handbag all along. There’s also a little cafe in the Stable Yard but it was shut when we were there.
Refreshed by our dip and ready to play, we moved on to the Natural Play Area. It looked tucked away at the end of a path, so I wasn’t expecting it to be huge but it was much bigger than it looked. There were some wooden lookout platforms, which Eva called the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, and a climbing frame, zipwire, stepping stones and a swing. I’ll stop trying to describe it now. Have a look instead:
And here the stepping stones with boy inconveniently sitting on them:
A tree made climbable by putting climbing wall things on it (like me, you might find this concept slightly odd….aren’t trees kinda naturally climbable anyway?):
The standing up swing:
And the sharing swing:
It was a cool playground, but the lack of sightlines meant that, again, it would have been ideal to have a 1:1 ratio. I could never quite see where both kids were at once and, seeing as it’s surrounded by river on all sides, you kinda want to know what they’re up to. Still, lots of fun and we played until Eva broke down, hot and bothered by an altercation with some other small girls over the Helicarrier. Time to move on and replan.
See, the original plan was to walk through Morden Hall Park, along the River Wandle, through Riverscourt Park until we hit the borough border from Merton into Sutton. That was be a big tick on my boroughs list. But it wasn’t to be. It was already too hot, too late and the kids were too tired for us to consider anything but ice cream and hometime. First though, a slightly more chilled out play area with a “storyboat” in it:
I’m not sure what a storyboat is, but you can climb on it and the enclosed space meant I could sit and relax for a few minutes.
Then another toilet trip led to the children finding these cool rocking chairs:
What we didn’t find in Stable Yard, however, was any ice cream. The cafe there was still closed and yet, there was hope. We kept seeing small children with Calippos. Where did they come from? While everyone else hung out in the rocking chair room, I dashed out and found someone in a National Trust t-shirt, imploring him to give me ice cream. I was brandishing Eva’s scooter at the time, with her river-wet pants on the handlebars so must have looked quite the maniac. Still, he calmly gave me directions through the archway to the Potting Shed Cafe, then backed away slowly.
So, we went through the archway:
And found….another play area. Yay! This was filled with interactive boards, all about the gardening calendar. It was next to a large garden centre and the car park, which make me think we would have seen all of this if we’d come in through the main gate. Still, we’d found it in the end and cooling ice cream was but moments away.
Long moments though. Inside the cafe was chaotic – the park is hosting a performance of “Wind in the Willows” through the summer and the last show had just kicked out. Which meant kids everywhere, all wanting refreshment at the same time. Only one person seemed to be serving and the ice cream cabinet was in a small corner, kinda forcing the queue into an awkward snake. I left H’sMama to pay and took all three children outside. Luckily, a table had just come up, along with a highchair for Eva (who still insists on one from time to time..because she likes to play babies) so we could all sit down and enjoy a cool fruity something after what had been a most exhausting afternoon.
And let’s leave it there. Tempers may have got frayed all round later on, so let’s just leave it. I will say that Morden Hall Park was a surprisingly lovely one, and it’s well worth the trip to the end of the line. More information here