Thursday, 14 February 2013

Kensington Gardens


At my NCT “Early Days” course last week, a mother of a 7-week-old baby revealed that she goes on daily 2-hour outings to Regent’s Park to run up the hills. Let’s take a moment to consider the words ‘daily’ and ‘run up hills’. Never right in any context, but for a mum of a 7-week old baby? I literally had to sit on my hands to stop myself throttling her.

Anyhoo, it got me thinking about how important park life is to new mothers, especially incompetent ones like myself.

In many ways parks are perfect outings for incompetent mothers. For starters there’s tons of room, so little risk of crashing into anything (as a kindly lady in Notting Hill delicately put it last week, “You need driving lessons for that thing, love…”) And if you need an emergency breastfeeding session, there’s plenty of benches to plonk yourself down on. Yes, it might be pissing it down and you’ll probably be cosying up with the local nutter (or the slightly unnerving “Pigeon Woman” if you’re in Kensington Gardens), but at least you can get your screaming baby fed without suffering the disapproving looks of cafe diners or fellow Tube passengers.

I live right next to Kensington Gardens, the northern gateway to Hyde Park – the biggest green space in central London. While it's a stunningly beautiful park even in winter, the facilities are not great. For example, at the northern end there are toilets with baby change facilities in the disabled toilet. But as far as I can see, they're permanently locked. There's a button next to the entrance saying 'Push for Assistance'. Well I did, but assistance did not arrive. 

In the summer, it's a great place to picnic, but in winter the eating opportunities are slim picking. For some reason the Royal Parks closes its stall by Lancaster Gate so you're pretty much have the choice of the sausage stall next to High Street Ken or the posh and hopelessly serviced Orangerie at the Palace. Neither is ideal for a new mother, who usually likes the option of a warm sit down (sausage stall is al fresco) and walls that don’t endlessly echo the potential screams of a newborn (Orangerie is echoy). Still, The Lido and the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen is a short walk away and both offer good step-free access for buggies. But regardless of this - and most importantly - the park offers new parents an opportunity to get out of the house, stretch the legs and hopefully knock out the littlun with a good dose of the closest thing we have to fresh air in London.

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