If you fancy a change of scene, I can recommend Valentines Park, which includes Valentines Mansion and Gardens. I admit I’d never heard of it myself until it was recommended to me and we’ve been a couple of times recently.
I feel like I should have known about it already though – not least because it was the third placed London park in the People’s Choice Awards 2015 (our very own Vicky park has been the winner for the last two years).
It’s actually a huge park and two visits haven’t been enough to see the whole thing, but here are some highlights.
There’s a toddler-friendly playground with plenty of swings and slides.
Nearby there’s a toddler-friendly cafe that has plenty of space, and proper caff food at non-gentrified prices (including a children’s menu). There are also a small selection of flyaway footballs etc on sale there if you’ve forgotten to bring toddler entertainment with you, and you can buy supplies of duck food and squirrel nuts too.
There’s a huge boating lake and, further along, a pond full of friendly geese, ducks and swans.
The pond leads on to a water canal that takes you to Valentines Mansion and Gardens. We’ve not yet made it into the house yet, but the walled gardens are very pretty – full of lavender at this time of year. There’s another cafe in the grounds of the house, plus a small aviary, where – as well as some brightly coloured Australian birds – we sat and watched some chipmunks and their companion, a ninety-year-old tortoise called Tinkerbell. My toddler seemed rather fascinated by her (she’d never seen one before).
If you click here, you’ll see there are a few toddler-friendly events that you can attend at the Mansion in the next few months (see holiday activities).
There’s a huge expanse of parkland with beautiful trees, ideal for a two-year-old’s slightly confused notion of hide and seek. And the paths are ideal for scooters.
What? Valentines Park (including Valentines Mansion and Gardens).
Where? Valentines Park, Cranbrook Road, Ilford IG1 4TG (Click here for directions).
The park is pretty big and the Mansion and Gardens have a different address if you want to start there and walk over to the playground – Emerson Road, Ilford IG1 4XA (Click here for directions).
When? The park is open every day, but Valentines Mansion is only open Tuesdays and Sundays, 11am-3pm (plus Tuesdays and Wednesday 11am-3pm during school holidays). (Check here for opening hours etc).
How much? Entry is free. You need to pay for parking if you drive.
Facilities and access? I’ve been once by car and once by tube. The nearest underground station is Gants Hill (five stops from Stratford on the central line) and a 5-10 minutes walk away (For more info, click here). The park toilets are by the cafe and aren’t tremendous, neither are the ones near the walled gardens.