Outdoor Play the London Way – 4 of London’s Best Royal Parks

There’s no hiding from the facts – outdoor play is essential for your child’s health and development. Health pundits and child development experts up and down the country are ramping up the pressure on parents to get kids away from screens and out into the fresh air, and any park ticks all the boxes.

Whether you’re living in London, taking a day trip to one of London’s impressive museums or visiting London’s West End for a theatre show, scheduling in a bit of kids’ outdoor play could prevent your day turning into a family nightmare. A little bit of fresh air and exercise for the children might be just the ticket to make the rest of your day run a little more smoothly. What’s more, if your kids are old enough, you get to sit back and relax with a coffee, while they do all the running around.

[L]ondon has some amazing parks and playgrounds on offer. If you’re planning a trip to London, check out the park nearest to your destination and factor in some time for outdoor play. Or if you live in London, you can always give your regular park a rest for the day and explore one of London’s best Royal Parks. Making a day of it with friends and taking a picnic makes a simple, but fun day out.

We’ve picked the best bits of four of London’s most famous Royal Parks, along with playground info and transport links, to help you make the most of your family day out.

St James’s Park


If you’re in London visiting Buckingham Palace, Westminster or the Imperial War Museum, then it would be rude not to nip into St James’s Park. Highlights include Horse Guards Parade (a trip to this part of London wouldn’t be complete without catching the Changing of the Guard ceremony), the Blue Bridge spanning the lake, the Tiffany Fountain and the park’s famous resident pelicans at Duck Island. You might catch feeding time in the afternoon if you’re lucky. The park has a restaurant and various kiosks to keep your caffeine levels up and the kids’ hunger pains at bay. Closest tube stations are Westminster and St James’s Park.

The Regents Park


What’s not to love about Regent’s Park? A trip to London Zoo or Madame Tussauds can be rounded off with a wander in the Park. Boasting the largest outdoor sports facility in London, there are plenty of open spaces for ball games, Frisbee or even a game of rounders. You might like to check out the magical Open Air Theatre, which runs some shows suitable for kids over the summer months (you’ll need to book in advance). There are no less than four children’s playgrounds, as well as boat and pedalo hire on the main lake. There are plenty of food and drink options too. The central eatery will give grown-ups a chance to wander through Queen Mary’s Gardens showing off London’s largest collection of Roses. Baker Street and Regent’s park tube stations will take you south side. The Zoo, situated at the north east side of the park, is within walking distance of both Camden and Regent’s park tube stations.

Hyde Park


There are three playgrounds in Hyde Park, with the largest one nestled on the southern boundary (handy if you’re in London exploring the Natural History Museum, The Science Museum or taking a trip to Harrods). Recently updated, the playground features a new hill fort, a jungle area and new play equipment to encourage socially active play. Also, check out regular events such as the Royal Gun Salutes and Winter Wonderland (Christmas time attraction with ice-skating, circus, fun fair and a giant big wheel). The boating lake has traditional rowing and pedal boats for hire, plus the UK’s first Solar powered shuttle boat. There are a variety of cafes and restaurants, and the closest transport link to the playground area is Knightsbridge tube station.

Greenwich Park


A must if you’re south of the river visiting the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark. The park itself boasts the Royal Observatory Greenwich and The Meridian Line (no childhood is complete without standing one foot either side of Longitude Zero). It’s a hilly park so it’s a great way to wear the kids out by marching them up to the observatory, where there’s also a café. In addition, there’s a deer park with viewing points. The playground is set at the bottom of the hill in north-east corner of the park, next to a small boating lake. The closest transport link to the playground area is Maze Hill railway station, but the park is also within walking distance of Greenwich railway station and the Cutty Sark DLR.

Have a great day out!

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working with Harmony at Home, an agency that is proud to count many of the UK’s most experienced, reliable and professional nannies and childcare providers on their books.

Featured image: At a scenic duck pond in Central London near Buckingham Palace are some unusual residents — the famous pelicans of St. James Park, living thousands of miles from their usual habitat DG Jones (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
St James’s Park Neil Howard used under Creative Commons license
Hyde Park Gary Rogers (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Greenwich Park, Royal Observatory Greenwich and National Maritime Museum in the Snow © moleitau (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

CabbieBlog-cabThis is a sponsored guest post for which CabbieBlog has received a fee. Proceeds from these articles help keep the wheels turning on this site offering free content for anybody with an interest in London. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

Down Your Alley: Grotto Passage

In modern times we tend to hear of grottos only at Christmas time; secluded corners of departmental stores and large toy shops where white bearded gentlemen in long red cloaks hide away to enchant children of every age.But although that nature of event is more generally found about the streets a little to the south of here; Rudolph never pranced in the gardens of Grotto Passage and it is unlikely that Father Christmas ever knew of its existence.

[T]o find Santa’s Grotto from Baker Street Station cross to the south side of Marylebone Road and walk down Baker Street. Cross Porter Street and in about 135 yards turn left into Paddington Street. Cross Chilton Street and continue past the gardens. Grotto Passage is about 65 yards on the right just before Marylebone High Street.

The Passage has its foundations in less seasonal entertainment and owes its origin to one John Castle, creative artist and entrepreneur. After a Royal acknowledgement of his superior skill when he presented the King with an intricate replica of his Arms in shells, Castle was invited by Sir Robert Walpole to construct a grotto in the Royal Hospital garden at Chelsea.


Newspapers published glowing reports on his achievements raising him overnight to the status of famous. One day in 1738 he was aroused by a vision of thousands of people queuing to view his work and it became apparent that his rise to celebrated heights could be used to advantage by opening a gallery and charging the public to view his creations. His dream came to fruition when he leased a one acre site of pasture land on the west side of Marylebone High Street where he erected wooden sheds and tents for the exhibition of the numerous elaborate displays of shell-work.

At a few pence entrance fee Mr Castle’s Grotto took off with immediate success. The show received a boost in popularity after a spontaneous visit by members of the Royal Family, which also provided an ideal opportunity to double the entrance fee.

As John Castle was getting on in years when he rose to celebrity status, he enjoyed only a few years of fame before extinguishing this life in 1757. The Grotto continued to attract a diminishing crowd but without the leadership of its creative master the sparkle behind the attraction had gone. It soon became unviable and closed in 1759.

That sparkle never returned to Grotto Passage and today it lies as a cramped corridor where the only creations on view are Kathleen House at numbers 1-4 and the plain fronted and rather insignificant building of the Royal British Legion Club. Despite its lacklustre it is not an unattractive passage, but on the other hand it is not really attractive. Branching from Paddington Street through a hole in the wall, the Passage continues on an undeviating path to Garbutt Place, named after William Garbutt, the first Town Clerk of Marylebone when it was made a Borough in 1900.

CabbieBlog-cabMuch of the original source material for Down Your Alley has been derived from Ivor Hoole’s GeoCities website. The site is now defunct and it is believed Ivor is no more. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.

Cockney not spoken here

Some places in London the indigenous populace is almost non-existent.

Your Dad might have dragged you these tourist destinations when you were young and nowadays you cannot dissuade your out-of-town friends when they insist they be taken to the ‘real’ London when visiting.

These tourist hot-spots mainly serve two functions. First they bring in much needed money keeping the Capital functioning.

[B]ut secondly, and more importantly, they serve to Hoover up tourists ensuring that the best that London has to offer is relatively empty for us to enjoy.

Madam Tussauds

The most popular tourist hot-spot is that waxwork emporium on the Marylebone Road. Thousands queue outside waiting for a chance to take a selfie with Michael Jackson or David Beckham, not with Rolf Harris who curiously is now absent. Those possessed with forward planning have even stumped up extra to bypass the queue, little do they realise the highlight of the visit is mingling with others while standing in the most polluted place in London. With three-and-a-half times EU limit for nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas linked to asthma, lung infections and other respiratory problems the Baker Street Marylebone Road junction has no equals, it’s a chance to really take home a long lasting London souvenir – emphysema. The last time Tussaud’s was worth a visit on a wet Sunday afternoon was over 10 years ago to experience the London Planetarium, this now houses the dubious 4D superhero experience.



If getting down and dirty with London’s traffic is your thing, a ride in a rickshaw ticks all the boxes. With an exhilaration of an Alton Towers ride, experience travelling up one-way streets against the prevailing traffic and luxuriate in the knowledge that your transport of choice is the most expensive in the western world. Occasionally drunk Londoners might be found hanging for dear life from one of these vehicles, but the frisson of fear is lost when inebrated.

The Cable Car (Boris Buoys)

Thames Cable Car

This ride designed on the back of an envelope by the unlamented Mayor is designed to take you from a spot you’re unlikely to visit to a destination you have no reason to seek out. Along the way you experience a bird’s eye taste of being hit by a fast moving jet. Aircraft take off from London City Airport their pilots aiming their craft directly at you. Not a cheap thrill but you are comforted by the knowledge of re-experiencing the sight of the Silvertown scrap yards on your return trip.

Tower of London and Tower Bridge


For just under £100 you can take your family to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, admission to the Monument is thrown in for good measure. It’s not the London Bridge erroneously thought by many a tourist, but Tower Bridge and by London’s timeline, almost new – opening as recently as 1894 when the Prince of Wales really did open it. Look out at the Tower for some of the poorest pointing to brickwork found on the planet (presumably the craftsman felt the executioner’s axe). After having the Crown Jewels stolen in 1671 by the appropriately named Colonel Blood who flattened with the crown and stuffed into a bag, and shoved the orb down his breeches, while attempting to saw the sceptre in half. No such opportunities now exist, a moving walkway (remember to stand on the right please) glides you effortlessly past these regal artefacts.

Fish and chips


Londoners seem to live on a diet from the sea’s bounty. Oysters were the poor’s fast food of choice in Georgian times, now – apparently – it’s cockles, whelks, winkles and jellied eels. The most popular seafood dish is fish and chips. Now there are many excellent purveyors of the national dish, Masters Super Fish in Waterloo Road or the Seashell in Seymour Place especially after nearly burning it down. So why do all our tourist go to an expensive and indifferent restaurant in Covent Garden? Described by an unknown critic as ‘the best in London’ cod and chips for two will set you back just shy of £40, but you do get tartar sauce thrown in.

M&M World


Time was when England had a thriving confectionery industry. The philanthropic owner’s benevolence would give their workers housing, health care and recreational facilities. Then along came the large conglomerates that after purchasing the factories moved manufacturing to Eastern Europe and closed down the ‘candy’ plants. So why is it that in Leicester Square there resides 35,000 sq ft given over to overpriced Smarties? Given that London’s M&M World is the only one of its kind in Europe it has made it the must-see destination for tourists, completely ignoring the sublime Fortnum’s a short walk up the road.

Fish and chips ssrtleu/Flickr Creative Commons)
Rickshaws Taxi Leaks

The London Grill: Caroline Shenton

We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.


[C]aroline Shenton is an archivist, historian and former Director of the Parliamentary Archives. Her first popular history book, The Day Parliament Burned Down, was published to rave reviews in 2012 and beat Alistair Campbell, Andrew Marr and Nick Robinson to win Political Book of the Year. Her new book is a sequel, Mr Barry’s War, telling the story of the Victorian rebuilding of Parliament, against all the odds. She tweets @dustshoveller.

What’s your secret London tip?
Comfy shoes and/or blister plasters.

What’s your secret London place?
Malplaquet House on the Mile End Road. An astonishing feat of restoration, as well as a giant cabinet of curiosities.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
It used to be gum on the pavements but now it’s becoming vapeing.


What’s your favourite building?
The Houses of Parliament of course! Whether you like politics, art, architecture, history, royalty, treason, suffragettes, a good day out, or a cream tea, there’s something for everyone.

What’s your most hated building?
Euston Station. What a disaster. Here’s hoping it will soon have a stunning makeover like King’s Cross.

What’s the best view in London?
From the far end of St James Park, looking towards the roofline of Horseguards and the towers of the Palace of Westminster. The wheel of the London Eye completes a perfect scene.

What’s your personal London landmark?
The old Public Record Office in Chancery Lane where I began my career as an archivist. It’s now King’s College Library.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
Bleak House by Dickens. Who can resist a book that starts with a dinosaur lumbering up Holborn Hill in the fog?

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
I quite like slumming it in the St Pancras Renaissance lounge with a fish finger buttie and a glass of fizz. Another fabulously restored building.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Slapup breakfast at the Regency Café. To Westminster Hall to admire the greatest medieval roof in the world, then a walk round St James Park, saying hello to the pelicans. Book shopping around Cecil Court and Piccadilly. Lunch at Barrafina then an afternoon film or theatre. Drinks in the Oxo bar admiring the view of St Paul’s at night and finally dinner at Maroush on Edgware Road.

Art Deco in London

Art Deco is definitive style movement that spanned the early part of the 20th century and reached its peak in the boom of the Roaring 1920s and the depression of the 1930s.

The name comes from the French Arts Décoratifs which in turn originated from the great 1925 Paris exhibition, the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.

[A]rt Deco had a huge influence on all forms of design over the period – from fashion to film, from decorative arts to building design. Spanning the globe, the movement was unique and unashamedly modern. Some of the most incredible Art Deco architecture in the world can be found in London, and I’d like to share five of the capital’s best loved buildings.



If there’s an Art Deco jewel in the crown it has to be Claridge’s hotel. This beautifully designed building of the 1920s still has many of its original features and is one of the most stylish art deco buildings anywhere in the world. Its sweeping curves and bold lines give Claridge’s the unmistakable air of timeless elegance.

During the late 1920s, Claridge’s needed to modernise to keep up with the young wealthy set who dined, danced and champagne’d their way through the night there. Art Deco pioneer Basil Lonides was commissioned to redesign a few of the hotel’s suites as well as their restaurant. His magnificent engraved glass screens still adorn the restaurant today.

In 1996, Claridge’s underwent a major refurbishment and design restoration. New York based designer Thierry Despont, inspired by photographs from 1920s, reinvented the foyer area into modern Art Deco style – his centrepiece was the incredibly beautiful, up-to-the minute Dale Chihuly chandelier. David Collins was then commissioned to create the new Claridge’s Bar and in so doing helped the hotel step into the 21st century in a dramatically modern Art Deco way.


The Carreras Cigarette Factory

This extraordinarily massive Art Deco building in Camden, North London, originally built as a factory, is a striking example of early 20th century Egyptian Revival architecture. The building is 550 feet long, and is mainly white. Originally, the entrance was flanked by two enormous effigies of black cats but these were lost when the building was converted into offices in 1961. However, they were replaced during renovations in the late 1990s and can now again be seen outside the entrance.


Battersea Power Station

This iconic former power station, best known for its four-chimney layout, is one of the largest brick buildings in the world and has become one of London’s best-known landmarks. Its celebrity status was established after its appearance in the 1965 Beatles’ film Help!, and it also featured on the cover Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals.

Battersea Power Station is notable for its sumptuous Art Deco interior decor and fittings. Some of the interior walls are lined with grey Ribbon Napoleon marble and there’s Belgian Black marble fluting around the windows. Some of the ceilings still have the original Holophane light fittings and the interior also retains its original L-shaped control panel and walnut veneer furniture.

Largely unused since its closure in 1983, Battersea Power Station’s condition deteriorated to the point that English Heritage described it as ‘very bad’. However, as part of its redevelopment, luxury apartments are now being built. Two-bedroom apartments designed by architect Frank Gehry are priced at £1.39m, while homes are being marketed for £1.55m and upwards.

Work has already started on the chimneys which will be painstakingly dismantled and rebuilt to ensure they remain the iconic London landmark that they are. When the Power Station reopens in 2020, all four will be fully reconstructed and repainted.


Florin Court

Florin Court, on the eastern side of Charterhouse Square in Smithfield, London, has become one of the most well-known Art Deco apartment blocks in the city. Built in 1936 by Guy Morgan and Partners, this stunning Grade II Listed building has an elegant and curved façade typical of the period.

Refurbished in the 1980s to the designs of Hildebrand and Cricker, Florin Court now has 120 apartments arranged over nine floors. The building famously became Whitehaven Mansions, the fictional residence of Hercule Poirot in the BBC TV series.

One of the rarest apartments is on the second floor. It has two double bedrooms with built-in wardrobes and an attractive reception room with a one-of-a-kind Art Deco curved wall and window.

On the roof, there’s a newly-landscaped terrace with skyline views of the city, a swimming pool, sauna, spa and a gymnasium.


The Daily Express Building

Designed by Ellis and Clark Architects as the headquarters of the Daily Express newspaper, this wonderful Fleet Street building is another example of London’s exquisite Art Deco heritage. The unique exterior has a dramatic black façade with rounded corners in vitrolite and clear glass, with chrome strips.

In the flamboyant lobby, you’ll find an oval staircase, silver and gilt decorations and a stunning silvered pendant lamp. The furniture was, for the most part, designed by Betty Joel; Goldman Sachs now occupies the building.

Lloyd Wells; freelance journalist from London but living elsewhere – partnering with independent team of building professionals and scientists, Hutton & Rostron, for this and a few other posts covering London architecture.


CabbieBlog-cabThis is a sponsored guest post for which CabbieBlog has received a fee. Proceeds from these articles help keep the wheels turning on this site offering free content for anybody with an interest in London. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.