Just what we need during these post-Christmas, grey, gloomy days – light!
Tomorrow sees the start of the Canary Wharf Winter Festival which, in previous years, has been a great hit with everyone in my household from the youngest to… er… me.
It runs from Tuesday 16 to Saturday 27 January 2018 and it’s free. There are as many as 33 light sculptures (often combined with music/sound) located throughout Canary Wharf. In my experience, here’s the best way to enjoy some or all of them.
Work out what you want to see and a route that lasts a toddler-friendly period of time
For me, that means not seeing all the sculptures. Or not in one visit anyway. I tend to look for ones that are interactive, big or interesting in another way. I’ve only had a quick glance through the programme, but here are some that stand out.
No 1 – Sonic light bubble. Just look at it!
No 10 – Pixels. Illuminated blocks you can build with.
No 31 – Intrude. Giant rabbits? I don’t need to know anything more. I’m there.
No 32 – Sunlight graffiti. Make graffiti using light – yes, okay then.
Make your way to Canary Wharf as darkness falls. (From about 5pm – it’s extra fun for toddlers to be out ‘late’).
There are a whole ton of places to eat or pick up snacks (For more info, click here).
If there’s a blue sky over London, I can’t think of a better place to be than the Walthamstow Wetlands – Europe’s largest urban wetland – which opened to the public only a few weeks ago. There’s something incredibly heartening about being encircled by huge skies, and seeing the sunlight cast reflections onto the reservoirs, rivers, channels and streams that run through the reserve.
And it’s not just for walkers, birders or fishing enthusiasts, it’s a fine place to be as a family with toddlers. The principle paths are stony, so although I’m sure they get muddy from time to time, they’re also a good bet for pushchairs and scooters. There was one section where we needed to carry the pushchair up some stairs to walk on the bund of the reservoir, but I noticed an accessible path has been constructed – it’s just not yet open.
Walthamstow Wetlands get the seal of approval from my four-year-old who passed her verdict (‘beautiful’) and is keen to return. So are the rest of us. We only walked round a small part and it will be interesting to see the whole reserve change through the seasons. On our first visit, we spotted a heron, but we’re already looking forward to next year’s ducklings, goslings and cygnets. If you have binoculars for your little one, be sure to bring them.
The old Engine House has been beautifully restored and there’s a nice-looking cafe inside as well as a viewing point and what looked like a spot to eat your own sandwiches. The cafe had a long queue when we visited, so I can’t tell you what the food tastes like, but it looked pretty appetising.
As the website advises, the car park is small. If you can, you’re better off coming by train, tube or even by bike up the Lea/Lee valley.
It’s free to visit and open 9.30am-4pm (October-March)
Why it’s the shiny scales of a dragon catching the sun as the season turns from summer to autumn, of course.
You can meet said dragon, or even run along her, at Bob’s park at the back of the Bromley-by-Bow centre. Even though this is very much our manor, I’ve never before visited this lovely little park with the baby and the three-year-old. There was a great deal for them both to enjoy.
Bob’s park is another of the smaller local parks that might get overlooked with the Olympic Park and Victoria Park not far away, unless of course you live in a neighbouring street at which point it becomes a godsend. It’s locked at night, which keeps it relatively litter-free. It’s also clearly loved…
There’s a small fruit and vegetable garden that’s well tended. There’s a small playground split into two for smaller and older children which has some interesting equipment including a wobbly, wooden balance beam. And there’s a dragon.
There’s also plenty of green space to run about. And there’s a cafe in the Bromley-by-Bow centre for refreshments (Open Monday-Friday 8.30am-3.30pm – check here).
Bob’s park has a nice feeling about it – like a secret you’re pleased to discover. You can access it from Bruce Road or St Leonard’s Street.
We’ll be going back.
In case you’ve missed the others, this is the fourth post in an occasional series featuring smaller local parks and playgrounds which you may have passed by, but never visited. So far, we’ve covered:
It’s been raining all day today, but it’s got to stop soon – hasn’t it? If it doesn’t, this weekend may be best spent crafting an ark, but if by any chance the sun is shining, perhaps you’ll want to head to Springfield Park E5 for Disco Loco’s free festival for families.
It’s all happening between the toddler-friendly hours of 11am and 7pm – you can expect live music, theatre, comedy, food and a bar. Or alternatively, the chance to dance, laugh, eat, drink and have fun.
This is the third post in an occasional series featuring smaller local parks and playgrounds which you may have passed by, but never visited. So far, we’ve covered Rounton Park, Bow and Victory Park, Stratford.
If you live nearby, these are the places you go to once, twice, three times a day sometimes when you need to get your toddler out into the fresh air – to use up some energy or get a change in mood. You really depend on them.
This time, we’re obeying the urge we’ve had for some time to investigate the rather fantastic slide that can be glimpsed to the right, near the Greenway, from the upper deck of the bus on the way to Stratford shortly after Bow Flyover.