Many of London’s parks have fantastically imaginative adventure playgrounds that will keep the brood happy for a whole day. Check out our pick of the capital's best below.
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Adventure playgrounds in central London
The children's park on this beautiful walled garden site is simply the best for miles around. There's an enormous sandpit and all sorts of toddler climbing frames, plus an adventure playground for the older kids.
This commemorative play area is easily the best bit of Kensington Gardens for a child. A huge pirate ship on its own beach takes centre stage (take buckets and spades). Beyond this lies the tepee camp.
Note that there are likely to be queues at popular times, and if you'd rather not wait you can head to the nearby Hyde Park Playground. Refurbed in summer 2014, the more modest space includes a 'jungle area' where kids can get up close to nature, as well as conventional attractions like a slide and nest swing. It is located on the southern boundary of the park between the Serpentine and South Carriage Drive.
Adventure playgrounds in north London
Clissold Park opened a new wheels park, all-weather table tennis table and basketball area early in 2011 - the surrounding landscaped hillocks making a great viewing platform from where families crowd around to watch the stunts on sunny days.
The children's playground here will keep kids amused for hours. There are fast slides going into the sandpit and really tricky climbing equipment to challenge older children, plus lots for toddlers to enjoy. Kids of all ages also love the enormous wooden structure adjacent to the playground.
The children's playground at Highbury Fields in Islington is popular, combining old-fashioned thrills (such as a circular train requiring Flintstones-style propulsion, and an excitingly long, steep slide) with more recent additions, such as the flying fox and giant, web-like climbing frames.
Highgate Wood has an excellent and well-equipped playground, complete with sandpits, climbing equipment of various levels of difficulty and a zip wire that gets very busy at peak times. Great thought has gone into providing fun and challenges for the various age groups, and there's a separate area for the under-fives to call their own.
Parliament Hill sports a state-of-the-art adventure playground, still looking spanking new after its award-winning refurb. The imaginative equipment is designed to challenge children rather than keep them boringly safe, and there's also a huge and popular paddling pool.
Adventure playgrounds in south London
The playground in Brockwell Park is a favourite, with its aerial slide, massive sandpit and sections for different age groups; nearby are the duck ponds and the huge new paddling pool. A revamp is due to continue anytime soon.
The park's adventure playground is superb, with plenty of original and imaginatively-built features. The climbing structures, slides and high climbing nets present unusual challenges for children aged 5+, and there's a separate area for younger kids too.
Just over the road from the Horniman Museum (SE23) is the Horniman Triangle playground. This was completely revamped in 2009 with a massive circular sandpit, a climbing boulder with a giant spider and rope ‘web’ attached and lots of other interactive sand-play additions. There’s a new café onsite too.
Adventure playgrounds in east London
The idea behind this community project was to create a space where children can take controlled risks while they are playing – and Glamis Adventure Playground must be one of the few playgrounds in the country where children are actively encouraged to build and light a bonfire. There’s an amazing climbing structure, as well as swings and slides, and a vegetable garden to get grubby in. Indoor activities include arts, crafts and cooking. The playground won Adventure Playground of the Year 2007 and there’s a play-scheme organised during school holidays.
The Children's Park here is the place to head for a colourful and imaginative space that has a rope slide, scrambling wall, complicated climbing frame, swings and a see-saw, as well as a dedicated area for under-fives that includes a vast sandpit.
Opened to the public in April 2014, the new children's playground on the southern side of the park is ungated and very much open to visitors of all ages. It’s not easy to make us wish we were seven years old again, but Tumbling Bay pulls it off. It’s a truly awesome-looking area, packing in swings, slides, stepping stones, sand and water play, and a big treehouse with rope walkways, as well as squashy orange hills and a climbing wall to conquer. Energetic kids will spend hours here. Exhausted adults will find it conveniently close to the outdoor tables at the Timber Lodge café.
Vicky Park is wonderful for youngsters: the V&A Playground is equipped with swings etc, and the fantastically designed Pools Playground encourages creative play. Victoria Park is seeing multi-million pound improvements in preparation for London 2012.
Adventure playgrounds in west London
The history of Holland Park, one of London’s finest green spaces, makes an interesting tale for history buffs and horticulturalists alike. The park surrounds a Jacobean mansion, Holland House, named after its second owner, the Earl of Holland, whose wife was the first person in England to successfully grow dahlias. In the 19th century, Holland House became a hub of political and literary activity, visited by Disraeli and Lord Byron amongst others, but was largely destroyed by bombs during WWII. These days, dahlias are still grown within the 55 acres of Holland Park, which also houses the Japanese-style Kyoto Gardens with its koi carp and bridge at the foot of a waterfall. Not to be missed for families is the playground, with its extensive climbing equipment, zip wire, giant see-saw and tyre swing. There’s also a fenced-in separate play area for younger children. In summer, open-air theatre and opera are staged in the park.
Queens Park has a giant sandpit, a paddling pool (resurfaced in 2010) and patrolling wardens, and plans are afoot to give it a naturalistic makeover when sufficient funds have been raised.
Kids are well catered for with a nature trail and four play areas which feature a paddling pool, a rope and post fitness circuit and an adventure playground with fort-style climbing frames, slides and a popular basket swing.