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Free to Run

A little freedom does our kiddies good...

This is where I grew up. Grass, trees, sky and mountains. And more than a few creeks to wander and animals to meet. Growing up on a farm meant that when we weren't in school, we were free to wander. I wish I could say that I was one of those kids who spent every spare minute outside (I wasn't). But, I did have my fair share of freedom and outside time.

That time and freedom to do as I wished provided a nice break from the usual--time which wasn't 'programmed'...

Now, raising my children in London--and realising the benefits of a bit of that freedom I experienced as a kid, I'm always on the lookout for spots near the city (30 mins to an hour by transport) where we can give our kids a little more lead than they're used to.

In many cases, this is as simple as my husband and I sitting on a log at the edge of the forest as they scamper and play about within close other cases, it's a gigantic patch of green grass where they're easily visible from a distance. Of course, the list of scenarios is never-ending and the considerations and scale change at every age, stage and circumstance.

We live in Southeast London and have amassed a few nearby favourites:

  • Petts Wood Circular: An old favourite, it's easily accessible by public transport. This one includes streams, bridges, sheep, horses, a patch of heath and a lovely little patch of forest.
  • Dulwich Park: Of course, any in and around Dulwich are very familiar with this well-loved greenspace. There are large expanses of green space and no cars, so this one's perfect for when they need a bit of independent play and freedom. Our kids' favourite spot is the 'climbing tree' near the cafe. It's a little well-loved shrub with a patch of ground protected by the tiny tree's canopy. Another favourite is the American garden (with rhododendrons).
  • Brockwell Park: On a sunny weekend, this one's a zoo...but any other time, you can easily find your own patch of green hill to settle on. Our kids love to play in the tree circle near the Herne Hill entrance. They often pretend that the logs are planes or trains and make up stories as they go. We find the playground in Brockwell Park stressful because of all the hidden nooks and crannies--so, best head for the hills and valleys.
  • Horniman Museum: There's much more to this campus than a bit of green space, but we do love the grounds of the Horniman as an independent play space. Situated on a hill, you can easily keep an eye on the littles from a perch nearby. The only niggle is that the Horniman is so fab that it can be very busy both mid-week and on weekends and this may add a dose of stress to the adventure.
  • Morden Hall Park: This park is loaded with features and experiences. Wetlands, gardens, rivers, meadows, a manor's got it all. Of course, the meadows are best suited as an independent play space and there's a particularly lovely log and climbing tree which comes to mind, as well.
  • Richmond & Bushy Parks: Richmond Park hardly needs an introduction. Deer, huge acreage, mature trees, meadows, patches of forest. It's hard to beat. But nearby Bushy Park does give it a run for it's money. Just pick a patch of green well clear of the roads and settle down for some peace and quiet. And keep an eye to the sky--this one's teaming with parakeets. 
  • Wimbledon Common. Our favourite patch of green within this park is along the horse path leading from the Wimbledon Village end of the park. Here, you can spot ponies as they trot through and give the kiddies a bit of freedom to explore.
Next time the sun shines, pick your favourite for a nearby dose of sun-soaked freedom. Okay, maybe we're being a bit optimistic for Autumn, but you never know.

Have other favourites we haven't mentioned here? Let us know: k[at], @bumbleboxuk


Bumble Box kits are designed to bring families together. We catch animals' footprints in the sand, give the trees a shake to see what's living in there, host a Family Olympics, plant a fairy garden, race homemade boats in the get the drift. Together, we'll make it through your family-time bucket list.

Have other favourites we haven't mentioned here? Let us know: k[at], @bumbleboxuk

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