by Sally Peck, The Telegraph, June 13, 2018
If you’re planning a trip to London, there are fantastic parks in which to picnic, world-class museums to visit, and attractions aplenty in the capital - here are a few that will cost you £5 or less. But if you want to head off the well-trodden routes to traditional entertainments, try these:
1. Secret garden
Brimming with seasonal splendor and ample hiding spots, Brockwell Park’s Walled Garden is one of south London’s greatest green spaces. If you visit on a Sunday (check) you can wander the bustling community garden, where you may find tours of the beehives underway, and where you can wander the orchards and remind your children of what chard, rhubarb and artichokes actually look like when they’re growing. Make a day of it and visit London’s only working windmill - Brixton Windmill - where you can buy flour (note: this tends to be open the second weekend of every month, but check in advance).
2. For dogs’ heads and picnics
The eccentric Horniman Museum in south London is a twofer: it offers collections in anthropology, natural history and musical instruments that will lure all ages - particularly memorable is a collection of dogs’ heads, floating sans bodies in a display on breeds. And outside there’s a lovely park in which to picnic and frolic, plus a small urban farm, and an on-site cafe with many child-pleasing options.
3. Think outside of any box
Art meets science at these volunteer-led sessions in Lambeth. Many of the workshops are aimed at local children, but plenty are open to all, and they’re free. Workshops are aimed at either primary or secondary school aged children, and involve anything from “tinkering with motors” to coding. Visit Institute of Imagination for more information.
4. Neasden Temple
Built using traditional methods and strone, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, located at the end of the Jubilee line, is a short trip to an authentic Hindu temple. Admission and guided tours of this, Britain’s first authentic Hindu temple, are free, and the on-site restaurant serves vegetarian fare.
5. Riding high
You’ll get a better view of Richmond Park or Wimbledon Common if you gaze down from your trusty steed. Wimbledon Village Stables takes riders - young, old, expert, novice - along the fashionable high street to the wilds of south-west London.
6. Low-key tea
There are plenty of traditional places to have tea in London. But you and your children may also find those rather stuffy. For delicious cakes, quality tea, and the tantrum-muffling bustle of a Mitteleuropean coffee house, head to the Delaunay, in Covent Garden. Perfectly placed for pre- or post-theatre treats, this is also a fine place for dining.
7. Monkey around
If enthusiasm has swung away from visiting zoos, young people still get up to plenty of monkey business, and one of the best places in town to let out excess energy is Go Ape, in Battersea Park. Though if you’re visiting London in the summer, a more central spot for guaranteed exhilaration is the under-visited Archbishop’s Park, home to the fastest city-centre zip-wire, moments from South Bank, until October 1.
8. In surgery
Any budding surgeons should head to London Bridge, to The Old Operating Theatre, the birthplace of surgery. Explore the mediaeval-looking implements that saw in the early days of surgical work, and various sizes of forceps that look… exactly like those you may encounter these days on the NHS.
9. Free play
Everyone knows about the Diana Playground near Kensington Palace so, while it’s fun, it’s always crowded. Instead, go east for an altogether more dream-like playspace at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Tumbling Bay, a playground in the north-east of the park, has rock pools, sand pits, tree houses, and wobbly bridges built into the natural landscape. There’s a good cafe and, if it’s hot, you can cool off in the jets of water. If you must, Westfield is nearby. Shop before you play.