Touring the Playgrounds: Frolicking our way through England’s jungle gyms

This post is the ninth in our “England 2015”:/news/category/travel/england-2015/ series.

At Trafalgar Square

In our trip-planning, Jon and I had discussed our philosophy of travel, specifically what efforts must be made to guard against the overextension of our children. “We’re here to have fun,” we said. “We won’t be able to cram everything in, and we want to have some blank space in our days for spontaneous moments.” This developed into a clear policy: No more than two major activities each day. This guideline allowed us to tackle some delightful adventures as well as protect time for spontaneous experiences and frivolous excursions — including impromptu stops at a variety of playgrounds.

Compared with some kids, Lucy and Rosie are actually quite content to sit around on their duffs. But I thought it would be worthwhile to look for places where they could just be kids, where they wouldn’t have to worry so much about being polite and quiet. So we kept our eyes open for opportunities to play — and we were rewarded with some pretty amazing playgrounds.

In Greenwich, the girls stretched their legs in a gorgeous setting while I sat on a park bench and read. Being in the middle of reading Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree series, Lucy and Rosie got into some creative play, assuming the various personas of Silky, Moonface, and The Saucepan Man from that delightful and fantastical set of books.
A playground in Greenwich.
Climbing in Greenwich.

Jon took this playground opportunity to walk a few blocks back to a statue of Admiral Nelson in order to document Lucy’s enduring observation that he lost his hand in battle “just like Luke Skywalker.”
Admiral Nelson.
The force was with him.

After visiting the British Museum on another day, we stumbled upon a playground (complete with a zipline) in a busy city area. Coram’s Fields housed London’s first orphan hospital in the 1700s and, when the hospital relocated in the 1920s, became the site of London’s first public children’s playground.

The girls were enticed by the zipline, but it took them a few minutes to master their shyness and jump in with the few English kids already at play. We finally left after I started sneezing uncontrollably — from the seedpods of the unknown English tree dropping all around us? — and after Rosie had acquired a handful of splinters and a twisted ankle. But even Rosie agreed — they were worthwhile casualties of fun!

At Coram's Fields.
Children playing on the playground means the parents get a moment to snuggle. (Never mind the construction zone behind us!)

Rosie and Lucy fondly remember a tiny little playground just blocks away from the flat where we stayed, found on our second day in London. We spent twenty minutes or so here, exploring while Jon finished the glorious and meaty English breakfast our girls refused to eat. (They chose a package of imported-from-Chicago fruit leather instead.)
London playground.
They need bumper stickers that say, “I’d rather be climbing.”

We frolicked about in a few non-traditional playgrounds as well — there was a happy evening climbing on the lions at Trafalgar Square.
Trafalgar Square

And who could resist the giant Jenga set displayed on a green space next to the train station in Bath?
A giant jenga set in Bath.

In Wiltshire, Jon and the girls explored a country playground (complete with real horses) just yards away from the home of Teresa, our host.
real horses!

And although we didn’t spend very much time in it, we had to pose on the wooden train playground near the Jane Austen House Museum — a special photo for our train-loving grandfather.
A train near Jane Austen's house.

All of these diversions did take time, and that meant that we needed to skip some interesting sights and experiences. But in the spirit of abundance, we learned to say with confidence: “We’ll just have to do that next time we’re in England.”

Read the next post in our “England 2015”:/news/category/travel/england-2015/ series: The Four Things: Focusing at the British Museum.

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