Now that the holiday season is over, there seems to be far fewer reasons to leave the house. If the winter blahs have truly set in, tell the kids to turn off the TV and head to London’s lovely Greenwich Park. It’s a glorious spot in summer, of course, but don’t dismiss a visit during the colder months, too. This month, Greenwich’s long expanses of grass are a perfect walk for the family — and Greenwich’s many other sights make for great spots to stop for a warm-up if you need one.
Head towards the Saint Mary’s Gate entrance. Stand there and try to absorb the immense green expanse; at 183 acres, it stretches as far as the eye can see. Tell the kids that Henry VIII used to hang out in this Royal Park and hunt deer. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some of these dark-eyed, sun-dappled creatures, as well as up to 70 different species of birds and even Pipistrelle bats – Britain’s smallest bats, weighing the same as a 2p coin.
Tiptoe into the quiet and aromatic herb garden, one of the park’s sunniest spots, where the kids can find everything from parsley to marjoram by sniffing around the pretty fountain. Heading clockwise now, duck into the National Maritime Museum to learn about the history of Britain at sea. Let your little ones run around on the giant atlas covering the floor. They can chase each other from country to country like international spies.
Head back outside to the big sundial and see if the kids can figure out what time it is, as other families cheerily paddle by on the nearby boat pond. Next, hit the Queen’s Orchard, where you wander among apple and quince trees on the verge of growing their springtime greens.
Head up the hill along a steep path to the top of the park, where the beautiful Flower Garden grows – one of the horticultural showpieces of Greenwich Park, dotted with cedar and tulip trees. Is it time for an ice cream yet? Take the kids to the Pavilion Café, where you point out a dove-cot with a weather vane showing the naval war hero Admiral Nelson peering through his telescope.
It’s time. Time to go? Almost, but first, it’s Greenwich time. You simply can’t leave the park without getting a family photo on the famous etched Meridian Line that runs across the courtyard pavement of the Royal Observatory. When you think about it, you and your kids are standing at the centre of the world. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.