Wow, it’s been quite a day. First day of the school holidays, dog-tired after a late night at Chickenshed and some sneaky end of term drinks with the Year 1 Mums…and a 600th post Adventure on the agenda that really didn’t seem like it was going to happen.
For the 600th post, my vision was to visit Zone 6. If it had been the 6th anniversary last week that would have been much neater but as it was we’ve slipped out by a year and it was the 7th anniversary last week. I’ll come up with a way to mark that some other time. I scoured the zones map of London for a while, seeing what kind of delights Zone 6 might conjure up. Epping was a frontrunner until I realised there wasn’t much to actually *do* in Epping. The ironic thing is that my children came up with a brand new and very irritating game today, which was coincidentally called “epping” and just consisted of making little “epp epp” noises at each other till one of them snapped. I know.
Next thought was to just post about the night we spent in Zone 6 a few weeks back, camping at Suntrap. But I came to realise I wasn’t ready to talk about that yet. Yes, camping. Yes, I’ve changed.
So when I spotted Ruislip Lido on the map, over to the leftish, it seemed like the perfect plan. It had long been on my list of places to visit. A lido seems a great place to hang out in this heatwave and it linked in with two of my previous Summer Holiday projects – it finally bagged Hillingdon for us in the great London Boroughs Project of 2015 and it certainly ticked a box in the “Spend some time on the Met Line” item of 2014’s Bucket and Spade List. Sometimes I feel like I just do these projects for my own amusement. Scrap that, I definitely do.
But it didn’t seem likely at all. End of term lethargy, a mild hangover after those sneaky drinks and generally bad tempers all round meant that no-one wanted to get dressed and no-one was likely to be making West London sandcastles this afternoon. So we decided to start small. Coffee and milkshakes at Ziggys to get us going, along with a pain au chocolat in Snail Park and then we’d see if we could board a train.
Caffeine, sugar and social interaction worked wonders and by 11am we were on our way. And what a very long way it was. First change was at Walthamstow where we ducked out to Costa to buy a sandwich I would later regret and to have a post coffee pee. Next change was a long one at Kings Cross and after that we settled down for the likely 40 minutes or so we’d be spending on the Metropolitan Line. Roo had got his weekly Phoenix comic through the door just as we were leaving and it seemed like the perfect time to crack it out. Eva had Book 17 of Magic Animal Friends, which we’d managed to find in our library. (it seems fairly similar to books 1-16) so we had relative peace from Kings Cross to around Wembley Park.
I amused myself by watching us overtake first a Jubilee Line train and then a Chiltern Railway one (though the Chiltern fought hard). That’ll teach you puny trains for stopping at Neasden. Once the kids had finished reading, they started to get restless and the “epping” game began again. Ruislip tube could not come soon enough.
By this point, the kids were not convinced of the value of this adventure:
They remained unconvinced as we crammed on to the very crowded H13 bus to get us to the Lido. It was only when they glimpsed the holiday-in-Hillingdon vibe of the sand and the sea that they started to come round to the idea. First though, they wanted a play on the outdoor gym.
Everything properly exciting – the sand, the beach playground and the cafe – seemed to be on the opposite side of the lake to where the bus drops off so we had to walk around the side but happily, there was a planets walk to do as went. We had done something similar on the Isle of Wight a few years ago and it’s a good way to get kids running to the next sign, especially when it starts with the Sun and the planets which are more clustered together, as this one did. Of course, Wilfully Obscure Boy was replacing all the actual planet names with ones from Star Wars and then telling Eva she’d read them wrong but hey, that’s to be expected isn’t it?
Talking of things which are to be expected, let’s not dwell on the insane plan of trying them to sit down on the sand and eat their sandwiches before doing any more playing and/or getting their hands covered in sand. I surprise myself with my incompetence sometimes. The Chipotle Bean Wrap I’d got as payment for the loo trip was a bit of a disappointment too as it contained some stuff I’d been sick during pregnancy and now couldn’t really stomach. I think I just got dazzled by the chipotle sauce and forgot to read on. The wrap had a semolina kinda coating to it too, which in the circumstances tasted uncomfortably like sand. A total washout.
But let’s move on. I realise I’ve hit 900 words without actually blogging about the place we went to so here’s some lovely photos of the shiny new beach playground:
And the kids burying themselves in the sand once they’d finally finished those darn sandwiches:
Now, you might have made the same assumption as me that one of the principal draws of a lido was the chance to swim in the lake. However, I’d been pre-warned by a West London friend that swimming was prohibited and paddling wasn’t advised due to the poor water quality. So I had prepped myself and the kids for what might have otherwise been a massive disappointment. Luckily, there is a splash park right next to the beach so it’s still a good place to cool down after a spot of sunbathing:
I’m totally craving a lake swim now though. I’ve been going to London Fields lido of a morning lately but it’s not quite the same as a wild swim, however wild Hackney might be. But blue-sky thinking about today – I was solo with both kids so couldn’t have gone past ankle depth anyway, as Eva still is nowhere near swimming and gets very wussy in cold water. So wild swimming will have to wait for another time.
Next, we had a play in the other playground which had older and crankier equipment but still perfectly serviceable:
I almost forgot the most important thing about Ruislip Lido, which was that this scene from “The Young Ones” was filmed there. And I am talking about the 1960s Cliff Richard musical, not the 80s TV show. I was channelling my inner Carole Gray as I strolled around being mobbed by kids. I didn’t quite have the statement frock but prom dress shapes are quite impractical for the beach anyway. If you’re a fan of both the lido and the film, someone has put together a side-by-side location comparison here. Gotta love YouTube sometimes.
The sky was darkening and my stomach was rumbling after that half a wrap earlier. It took some persuasion to get the kids into the cafe but I promised them a slushie and/or an ice cream while I had a quick panini. Eva is still not be trusted with a double ice cream as she’s the world’s slowest eater and it had all melted by the time she made any progress. I had to move the Phoenix pretty quickly after this shot:
I was still convinced it was about to chuck it down, so we had the briefest of plays on the sand digger before I made them leave. Obviously they both wanted it at the same time but after some maneuvering, they managed to both have it at the same time:
Because of the thunder and lightning forecast, we decided not to explore the woodland this time but there’s a huge area of forest around the lake as well as the continuation of the planets walk (we’d got from the Sun to Saturn by the time we reached the beach, or Alderaan to Bespin if you believe Roo). There’s also a miniature railway but that doesn’t start its summer holiday schedule till next Monday so wasn’t running today. There’s definitely things we’d like to do if we went back and I’m sure we will go back. It really feels like a mini-holiday but inside the M25. Some practical stuff – there are toilets and changing rooms right by the beach, although the loos are of a metal, seatless variety and the doors are almost impossible to close let alone lock. The cafe takes card although I’m not sure about the smaller ice cream hut as you walk past the outdoor gym bit. There’s a proper pub-restaurant at the entrance as well if you’re feeling flush.
Getting back was reasonably smooth with one small glitch – the board at Ruislip said there was a Met Line train coming but it looked like a Piccadilly Line train and certainly talked like one once we’d boarded. After some deliberation we hopped off at Rayners Lane and got an actual Met Line back to Liverpool Street (didn’t fancy Kings Cross in rush hour…Liverpool Street as home turf seemed somehow more manageable). I briefly contemplated just staying on the Piccadilly Line til Green Park or Finsbury Park but I’m close enough to 40 as it is – I definitely would have been past that milestone by the time we changed for the Vic Line.
As we got back to Highams Park it had just started to rain, which totally justified dragging all three of our coats around all day. You gotta take comfort in the small things…