During the week, or life is routined beyond anything – work, dinner, bedtime story, bedtime, chores and/or more work, shower, bed, repeat. There is no breathing room. As a result our weekends are a complete free for all – one might be movies and PJs, another a big trip out … but in the main, there will be a park or playground in there somewhere. Mainly because all the parks and playgrounds we know have coffee, and if there’s a climbing frame it means Childe won’t be climbing on me. She has very sharp little elbows.
One of our favourites, and definitely worth a short drive, is Ruislip Lido.
Ruislip Lido was once called “London’s Lung” a magical little world of forest and lake within the M25: you cannot believe you are in suburban London once you turn off the main road and start to explore the acres of woodland, beach (yep, beach!) and even the miniature railway.
Part of 755 acres of semi-ancient woodland – the largest wood in London, the Lido itself is a vast man made lake (formerly a reservoir) with its own beach – a smooth section of sand at the water’s edge, peppered with climbing frames and slides. I don’t know who designed the play areas – or even if they were designed as such, as they seem to have just been chucked down randomly – but they work. Although swimming is strictly prohibited, there is plenty to do and you can easily replicate a day by the sea if the weather is good: there is a ‘splash zone’ for children to paddle and get wet in (with changing rooms provided), picnic benches and an extensive set of playground equipment. It can get pretty rammed! If you’re not there for the splash zone, a cooler day is often just as nice (and less overcrowded).
For those without kids or who want a more sedate and peaceful experience, the paths through the wood are accessible and well maintained. It is incredibly peaceful with no roads to be seen or heard – just bird song and the occasional voices of people calling their dogs, kids and other halves! I have never found it too secluded when visiting alone. There are frequent benches and some overhang the lake for a picturesque lakeside experience.
I’m not going to pretend I have time to create a lavish picnic out of Enid Blyton or off some Pinterest board. But for the frequent days when even a tub of hummus, some breadsticks and a cheese sarnie is too much to rustle together, Ruislip Lido has this covered with three options. First, a small coffee kiosk has recently opened on the walk to the beach (and there are usually ice cream vans). For proper meals, the old carvery pub has recently been replaced by a Stone House pizza and carvery pub, catering to a wider range of ages and tastes. There is waterside dining and both indoor and outdoor family areas (likewise, quieter areas too). On the beach side, San Remo offers a full cafe menu including great hot meals. We often use this in spring and autumn as an alternative to a chilly picnic.
Last but not least there’s the Lido Railway. Staffed by volunteers, it’s the UKs largest small-gauge passenger railway and is even included on TFL’s journey planner – albeit hidden away! With return trips for under £5 it is both a pleasure and a useful way of getting all your coolers and chairs to and from the beach area. They do Christmas and Easter specials for young families too! I’ll review the Santa Specials in Autumn when I have recovered psychically from the last one (hundreds of under fives LOVING IT. It really is great. Mainly if you’re under five.).
Ruislip Lido has plentiful parking (it’s pay and display, and seasonal – high season is £5 for a whole day – and you get 3 hr free if you eat in the Stonehouse). For public transport, it’s on the H13 bus route, which runs from Ruislip tube station. Nearby, the high street is great for charity shopping and the historical Great Barn at the top runs frequent food and craft markets – so there is definitely scope for a full day out around Ruislip whatever your age and interests, although on a fine day it is easy to unwind from sunrise to sunset at the Lido itself!
Where do you go for peace in your city or town?
(This content is an updated version of a post from my previous blog).