Yesterday, I’m proud to say, was a magnificent feat of persuasion. I don’t often win discussions with Eva but somewhere around 8:30 this morning, I got her not only to turn down her Helen Love disco tunes but also to downgrade our Mummy-daughter day out from Kensington to Barking. Don’t ask why the Science Museum was on her agenda today – it’s a complicated and dull story – but it wasn’t where I wanted to hang out on a 32C day. In fact, I didn’t want to hang out anywhere that was either airconditioned or abounding in cold water.
And we got both! Once we’d picked our way through a building site in the carpark at Walthamstow Central, we found Queens Road and the Goblin Line. Which has airconditioned trains! Hallelujah! Just the time to play the “two shades” game:
If you’re wondering where Reuben was in all this, the answer is “at the cinema with Nathan”. Nathan had booked a day off work when I was already off so instead of the two of us spending time together we went our separate ways with a kid each. It seemed the best idea given how fighty the kids have been of late.
So just me and the girl, alighting at Barking and trying not to make too much eye contact as we walked down the hill towards the greenery of Barking Park. Google said it was about half a mile but we could see it from the station so it probably was a bit closer. Just turn left out of the station and straight ahead at this roundabout:
And you’re there. Along the way, we picked up some friends who were battling with the Phone to Pay system for car parking. The first hour is free but you still have to call and register your car. By all accounts, it was a touch tedious.
But never mind because water play and cooling down opportunities were just around the riverbend. The Barking Splash Park is in the middle of Barking Park and there’s a small fee to get in (£4 kids, £2 adults, £10 families). We got there just after opening at 10 and it was still fairly quiet – all the deckchairs had been taken but we nabbed a bench in the shade and went for a play.
Now, the signs at the splash park itself say no photography but the website suggests that discreet photos of your own child are permitted. So here’s as much as I can show you of the splash area:
By the look of the walls around the whole area I’m guessing it was where the 1930s lido used to be, which gives you an idea of how big it is. There are a ton of different water features – walls of water, arches of water, sprayers – and two ornamental fountains at either end. It was pretty much the perfect place to be on a boiling hot day. They take card payments too, so you don’t need unlimited amounts of cash but the range they sell is limited to drinks, crisps and Carte D’or ice cream. There’s nothing lunchy as far as I could see, although there is a cafe just outside the splash park.
We were on the ice cream by about 11am, if you’re wondering. It was that kind of day. Strawberry for both of us and darn good it was too.
So with the lack of lunch options in mind, we were starting to move towards an exit strategy. But the rides around the sides opened at midday and suddenly all the kids wanted to go on all the things, which all cost extra money. Eva had her heart set on the boats at 2 tokens (£2) each but the queue was massive and not in the shade so we compromised on the bouncy castle, which was the same price and had no real queue at all. Eva later said that she didn’t like it because it wasn’t bouncy enough but I think she was just bitter about not going on the boats.
One hasty departure and one lift from my friend later and we were lunching in the foresty coolness of The Owl at Loughton. I had a very nice chicken burger while Eva mainly snuck her fries to a 2-year-old and danced about in the forest like some kind of woodland sprite:
She had eaten a pepperami and satsuma wrap while we were still at the splash park so fries were just an add-on really.
You’d think all of this would satisfy the girl but no. When I asked her what she’d like to do the following day, she said she’d like to return to the splash park and go on the boats. Staring down another tropical day in London, I didn’t have much reason to say no.
This time we had the boys with us and Nathan drove us all from Highams Park in a matter of minutes. As it was a Saturday there were no parking restrictions on the roads opposite the park entrance so we parked on one of them, thus avoiding grappling with the Phone to Pay system.
And yes, they both got to go on the boats. Even though Eva spent most of her ten minutes looking like she was stuck in some corner of the pool or other.
As soon as they came off those, they were keen to do the final activity – walking on water in a giant plastic ball. We managed to dissuade them for a bit so they amused themselves in the water play, had some crisps, some more water play and then started nagging again.
I wasn’t keen for all sorts of reasons. Mainly that it was 5 tokens each to go on and I was sure that they’d freak out and refuse to do it once they were inside the plastic ball. After all, what’s worse on a hot day than being trapped inside a giant ball breathing recycled air? Eventually we struck a deal with them – if they paid for it out of their own cash then they could go on. I often forget that they both have stashes of birthday/Christmas money and so are far more cash-rich than their parents are.
And so it came to pass that, mere days after watching my firstborn hurl himself off the Orbit, I had to watch him climb inside a giant beachball and be tipped into a paddling pool.
And then the other one. If that paddling pool was a basket, all my eggs would have been in it:
Still, they had fun. They didn’t manage to stand up for long but both came off bright eyed and shouting about it being “AWESOME”.
Time for another ice cream, to steady all our nerves. This time, Eva chose marshmallow flavour which she was initially very excited about but then decided she didn’t yike. I don’t blame her – it was a weirdy synthetic taste like bubblegum ice cream. Didn’t stop me finishing hers tho. Roo had the safer option of chocolate, which he said was yummy.
Then just a few minutes in the playground next door before heading home. It all looked very new, with nice clean sand and a pirate ship for climbing. Roo would have loved it a few years ago but I think he found it a bit tame nowadays. Eva still managed to get herself stuck on one of the climbing frames though.
So not just one nice day out in Barking but two! Who would have imagined it? If only I could sleep under those fountains tonight…