Kids learn a lot from living in major cities, but the biggest thing I’ve noticed from my own children growing up in London is that they learn to be citizens of the world at a younger age than I ever did in suburban Texas. They see people and space in a more relaxed and peaceful way than I did. There’s very little concept of being territorial and there’s always an understanding as to why people constantly come and go. It’s a character trait that is hard to articulate, but a joy to watch be naturally cultivated in your children.
However, I often mourn the lack of space they have to explore. But Lauren, they have the entire city of London! Hah… yeah, right. Ask any parent in London and they can tell you that trips to the famous museums are few and far between. Why? Because kids are in school during the week, and when they are out, they’re way too crowded. The truth is, it’s just hard to give kids the joy of wandering around the backyard for hours on end doing weird things here.
Tyler and I try to offset this by driving out to Richmond Park as often as we can on the weekend. Even if it’s just for an hour, it’s worth the 25 minutes in the car. Parking is typically easy enough, and we bring a thermos of tea, a packed lunch and the kids’ wellies so they can get as dirty as they possibly want.
Richmond Park is a massive, 2,500-acre expanse of nature preserve that stretches through the western suburb of Richmond. It’s free to visit, it’s gorgeous and you’ll see deer. So. Many. Deer. Each time we go, we see at least 75-100. It’s so wonderful.
And it’s a place you can go in London and have endless space. You can make trails, you can build wooden houses, you can have a picnic, you can walk your dog, or you can practice riding your bike on paths without busy commuters rolling their eyes and dodging out of your path. You can have all the space you need for whatever, and it is so lovely.
Our family tradition is to head to Gail’s for cinnamon buns and coffee first and then cruise out for the late morning and a picnic lunch when the energy levels start to dip. Then we pack up and it’s nap time on the way back to the house. It’s actually one of my favourite little days out because it’s always so fun and everyone is always so happy. Definitely, a win-win for the whole family!
I would recommend going with a car. Honestly, without one you’ll walk for a long time and little legs would get very tired. (Maybe you could bring a scooter?) But if you live in London and are desperate for some time out… head to Richmond Park. I won’t say the idea bowled me over when we first moved over, but now with a full-fledged family: I get it. It’s a sanctuary in the middle of London, and it’s a great family day out!
RICHMOND PARK | OPEN 7:30-16:45
By Tube: Richmond Station, National Rail or District Line (then catch the 371 or 65 buses to the pedestrian gate at Petersham)
Find more of my favourite places to go with kids in London here in my Little London section.
*images original to Aspiring Kennedy