Summer in the city.
It can be glorious, if you know where to head to. Here are some of my favourite places:
Somerset House, W1. Free admission.
Fantastic place to combine a visit to the water exhibition in the original cellars of Somerset House – very cool and afterwards enjoy running among the fountains in the courtyard. Families spend the day here and even bring towels and swimsuits and set up camp round the edges. There’s always an interesting exhibition on – at the moment Beryl Bainbridge’s paintings – fascinating insight into this writer’s life.
Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park. Free admission
This is the fountain that is not a fountain, but more of a man-made stream. It’s beautiful to look at, but also meant to be enjoyed. Sit on the grass with your feet in the icy water – or walk along the bed of this circular granite waterway. There’s been a great deal of sniping and criticism over the years about it being too expensive to build – and too slippery and slimy for kids to run in. But I think it’s fantastic. Of course you need to be sensible – it’s never a good idea to run in water – water on surfaces can be slippery. But if you are supervising young kids properly – on a hot day there’s nowhere better to be. It is in a tourist hot-spot so can get crowded. But if it does seem too much you are right on the Serpentine, either sit and picnic under a tree nearby or there are always the rowing boats.
Serpentine Lido – family ticket £10 (includes up to four children)
This has a grassy children’s area and large paddling pool as well as a roped off area of the Serpentine itself with a jetty where you can swim with older children. You pay to get in and can use both facilities but you may not want to take a baby or toddler into the Serpentine itself – you are swimming in a lake – not a swimming pool!
Kensington Memorial Park, St Mark’s Road, W11. Free admission
It doesn’t look that promising from the road, but walk to the far end and keep left and you will find two newly spruced up kids’ playgrounds for toddlers and older children – and a water park with rubberised flooring and all kinds of fountains, water “canons”, tipping buckets and wheels and so on. You need swimsuits and towels and bare feet. Be warned the water is freezing – it does have to be a very hot day – but children love it. And there is a cafe nearby selling ice-creams – or hot drinks if the kids do need warming up.
I hope these ideas will help you all keep the temperature down – and I will be updating this if I find any other cool places to hang out on a sweltering day. But do add other lidos, outdoor pools or fountains you’ve tried out. I’d love to broaden my horizons!