Last week we took a trip to Morden Hall Park (in Morden, near Wimbledon). We went by car and, admittedly, it was quite a trek. We normally go by tram from Beckenham and it is really quite a pleasant journey. However, this time I wanted to take a trip to a scrap store in Tooting for any last minute holiday club ideas and needed the car to put any of my finds in. As we were that side of London anyway, we thought we would make the most of the afternoon and went to the park for a picnic afterwards.
Morden Hall Park is a National Trust park located on the banks of the River Wandle in Morden, South London. The river meanders through it and is spanned by various bridges (meaning lots of opportunities for Pooh sticks!). The estate contains Morden Hall itself, and a large number of other old farm buildings, some of which house the café, the shop, a second-hand bookshop and an exhibition space! It is free to enter and park and, because it is a National Trust property, you know what you are getting in terms of café food and shop contents! Further down the road there is also a city farm which we visited a couple of years ago.
We have been to this park a few times now as my sister-in-law used to live in Wimbledon. But this is the first time that we have remembered to take fishing nets for pond dipping, and A and E were desperate to use them!
Once we got there it was most definitely lunchtime, so we found a spot under a tree and I covered myself in insect repellent (the jungle formula type – I did not fancy adding to the 15 mosquito bites that I got at our previous picnic)! We ate quite quickly as they were desperate to get in the water.
After the picnic we headed to the rose garden. The rose garden is a beautiful area which houses over 2000 roses. It is also the best place to get into the river so is full of families playing! The river is very shallow here and the banks in some places have been fortified to allow easy access.
We started with a bit of paddling and dragonfly/damselfly spotting (I can’t remember which is which, my memory is like a sieve). A got straight in like the other boys and girls but E was a bit nervous to start with. Once he saw A he cheered up slightly, and then I just plunged him in (terrible mother I know, but I knew he would love it so just wanted to get him in)! They scooped water with their bucket and poured it out, caught water from the mini waterfall, used their nets to see what they could find, and explored the bottom of the river with their hands. A even practised her balancing skills by walking along the wall. This made me slightly nervous (by which I mean it turned me into a quivering wreck, and I became one of those annoying mothers who wouldn’t leave their children alone – but it was slippery so I feel my reaction was justified)!
It didn’t take E long at all to feel comfortable in the water, and soon he was off wandering amongst the reeds along the course of the river. Obviously when I say river, it really is just a very shallow, slow moving stream at this point in its course. As long as children are supervised at all times, they are perfectly safe! We spotted so many dragonflies/damselflies, and they came so close that I was worried they might actually land on me; I really am trying to be better with insects as I want my children to really love them and not be scared like me, but some things (like touching them or having them on me) are just a step too far at the moment!
The river kept them amused for absolutely ages, and I am sure they would have stayed all day if they could have. But D is not too keen on water so we decided to go for a short walk to keep him happy too! There are so many lovely walks in the area, but we decided to walk through the wetlands to try and find a few swamps to use their nets in. On the way we needed to cross quite a few bridges and just had to play Pooh sticks at every single one!
Once we found some swamps they stuck their nets straight in. The swamps were actually quite dry because of all the recent hot weather, but we still found a few things of interest.
As we walked along we spotted more dragonflies/damselflies and A and E found any opportunity to climb!
We headed back to the main park for an ice cream and stopped at a different part of the river on the way. This was a lot more open and under the shade of a tree, but rather than come out onto grass, the ground was quite dusty, so they got filthy!
We ate our ice creams in one of the wild play areas, and as they were quite tired by this point I brought out our lovely game supplied for free by the Woodland Trust as part of our tree party pack. We found a twig for the spinner and some stones to use as counters and I introduced A and E to their first traditional board game (it is based on Snakes and Ladders). A was more interested than E!
After that A decided to use the straws from our tree party pack to make a butterfly and a dragonfly (the insects we had seen during the day) by adding different types of leaves. I thought this was very clever of her!
A then asked for more things from my bag, so I took out the tree spotter guide and a pen and we went round the small area that we were in to see what we could find. I was amazed to find almost everything on the list!
We had another brilliant afternoon at Morden Hall Park and we didn’t even make it to the play park. Result!
*Some pictures courtesy of my husband! So there are pictures of me for a change!