Park life – a tour of Southampton and surrounding area

This guest blog is written by my friend Vanessa Baldwin

When the November lockdown hit in 2020 and everything closed again (except playgrounds!) my family decided to make it our mission to try as many new parks within our local area as possible.  George age 5 and Kate age 2 were excited at the prospect of discovering somewhere new every week.   We made sure we had good wellies and waterproofs and off we went! 

I know visiting park during lockdown/Covid 19 is a very personal decision and we decided we were happy with the risk, we usually go early on a weekend morning and often have the parks to ourselves.  We are excited to share our park life finds with you all!

1. Archery Recreational Ground SO19 9ER

Archery recreational ground featured a small play frame, swings, zip wire and several other apparatuses.  The kids liked the park very much but unfortunately it was burnt to the ground in an arson attack.   We do hope they rebuild it to its former state as it was a great park for a quick visit.

2. Bow lake Gardens SO50 6JL

This is a fairly new park in a new housing development.  Parking is ok but it can be busy at the weekend. This park was a HUGE hit with the kids and we have been back several times since our first visit.  The climbing frame with slide is perfect for all ages and has several ways up with varying degrees of difficulty. There was another standalone rope climbing frame with a frame they could sit in at the top.  The Swings and round about were also well used as were the stepping stones (these also made a good seat for mummy).  However the highlight of this particularly trip was the trampoline.  As it has been raining heavily there was a lot of water underneath it and when they jumped it came up through the trampoline.  George and Kate thought this was brilliant and were extremely disappointed when we subsequently returned, and it had dried up; It was apparently much more fun that when it splashed them!!

3. Chase About SO18 2ND

My 2 call this the colourful park as everything is painted in wonderful bright colours.  We found parking tight but doable on nearby streets.  The wobbly 4×4 was bar far the thing the kids played in most along with the zip wire.  There are 2 climbing frames, one with a slide and a short ropes course.  Kate insisted daddy try out the 2 different seesaws with her and we all went on the ropes thing (don’t really know how else to describe it but see picture) but be prepared for it to squeak a lot! The round about was very fast so make sure they hold on!

4. Daisy Dip SO16 3LR

Previously an old, run down park the Friends of Daisy Dip have been instrumental in turning this into an amazing castle themed park with something for everyone. This brilliantly thought out play ground has a small and large play frame with platforms, bridges, slides, treasure chests, ladders, rope ladders and more. There is a separate rope climbing frame with varying difficulties, several different swings, the vomit inducing spinner bowls, round about and rocking spring dragon and horse.  We could barely haul the kids away from this park and if it wasn’t for the lure of lunch they would have stayed far longer.  We will definitely go back.

5. Fleming Park, SO50 9NL

Fleming Park, SO50 9NL

There is free parking at the Leisure centre, but the closest parking is on Passfield avenue.  Lovely little park with a large sand pit, see saw, swings, play structure with slide, pyramid ropes climbing structure and another park next door with more things for older children.  There is also a small skate park. In the summer (Covid permitting) there is also a great outdoor paddling pool here too. It was just Kate and I checking out this park but she had a lovely time showing dolly all around the park.

6. Fryern Recreation Ground SO53 2LE

This park offers plenty of space to play in.  Kates favourite feature was the big music player which she went back to several times for a good boogie.  The tyre swing proved another big hit (there were normal swings too) and George mastered the ropes climbing frame quickly much to his delight.  There is a large climbing frame and small slide and a roundabout. Both kids nearly made themselves sick on the spinner bowl but wouldn’t get out! There is also the recreation ground to explore but we didn’t get any further than the very muddy puddle which apparently was better than the park!

7. Grantham Green SO50 5EY

My sister told me about this little park that is popular with her 2.  She walks but we easily parked on a street next to the park. The park is divided into 2 areas, one is better for younger children than the other.  One half features a zip wires, a rope climbing frame, trampoline, swings and blue wobbly stepping stones connected by ropes that George managed to get stuck in and had to be extracted by daddy.  The other area has a perfect Kate size climbing frame with slide, seesaw and more swings. George and Kate concluded their cousins were right that it is a good park

8. Hatch Farm SO30 3AL

Another new park on a new housing estate and what a brilliant find! We again found a parking spot easily on a nearby road and the kids ran to the park when they saw it.  The play structure is fantastic and provides a multitude of challenges for various ages; Kate was reluctant at first but mastered it quickly.  The kids had the usual go on the swings but we gave up on the roundabout as unless you are the hulk it is pretty impossible to push.  The wobbly skate board (as named by the kids) even got daddy playing on it and the boys challenged themselves to the various balance beams/rope walks/board walks.  Kate served ice cream from the shop and George solved the maze in record time. This park is definitely an all rounder and friends who have subsequently been have enjoyed it too.

9. Hitingbury Recreational Ground SO53 5NP

We parked in the car park and walked over to the Rec.  The park opens out to a large rec which we told the kids there is no way they could run round in 30 secs.  Naturally they heeded the challenge and we got 5 minutes peace!

There is also a skate park further down that had we known about we would have taken our scooters with us.  The park itself has the usual climbing frame, swings, trampoline and rockers but it provided the kids with an hours of entertainment.

10. Itchen Valley SO30 3HQ

Itchen Valley is another of our go to parks.  With plenty of (pay for) parking it is a short drive and plenty to do.  The play trial provides plenty of different apparatus to challenge the kids and there are 2 parks to choose from.  There is also a new area with a mud kitchen and shop. The park near the café is definitely more suited to younger children but both mine still love it.  The bigger park has plenty of variety for the older ones but never to be up spurred by her older brother, Kate got stuck in to.  We went after it has been raining and it was so wet and muddy but the puddles added to the kids enjoyment.  The kids got so wet we went through 2 sets of full waterproofs each and 2 sets of clothes.  They went home wrapped in blankets in just their pants!  They still talk about the puddle park now and think it should be a permanent feature.

11. Lakeside Country Park SO50 5PD

This country park offers walks round large lake, a little train (when working) and an old amphitheatre the kids can run around to their hearts content, as well as a park. To get to the park you have to walk anti clockwise round the lake until you see a path and set of steps to your right.  These take you up and over the railway track (look out for trains), through a gate where you will see the park.  You can also access it through the Lakeside estate.  There is a car park at Lakeside that is free at weekends.  The kids always like this park.  The little wooden train is well used for journeys into the past, the swings take them to space and there are several climbing frames of varying difficulty to keep them occupied.  There is a balance beam and little stepping stones to challenge their balance and a little trampoline which usually causes arguments about who is the better bouncer!  In better times we usually make a day of this and take a picnic and wave to the train as it goes by.

12. Leah Gardens SO50 9QX

This hidden little Gem is tucked away on a new estate.  Between the swings, climbing frame, trampoline and play structure this park is small but perfectly formed.  Parking is easy on nearby streets.  The kids have requested this one a few times.  Bonus is Costa is still open for takeaway and is a 4-minute walk away!

13. Mayfield park SO19 9HL

We loved this park and is great particularly for pre schoolers.  There is a car park right outside it but as the gate leads straight onto the car park, we were extra vigilant.  The large spitfire playframe provided hours of entertainment for George and Kate could not decide between the trampoline, small play structure or playhouse so darted between all 3! They also whooshed their way down the zip lines and argued over which side of the sea saw and roundabout they wanted to go on.  We have re visited this park on numerous occasions and the kids haven’t got bored  yet.

14. Mill Gardens SO18 3AJ

This small but perfectly formed park is perfect for pre schoolers with parking on adjacent roads.  However George played perfectly happily here for over 2 hours.  The climbing/play frame has several simple ways up and a slide down.  There are several swings, a round about, trampoline and a tunnel to crawl through.  However mine climbed on top and jumped down; this kept them occupied for at least 45 minutes!  There is a climbing wall (which I am also told is great to play sea monsters with as you can out your arms through it!), as well as  wood stepping stones and a wooden rope walk.  Bonus is that it is opposite Haskins so when the café is open again we can stroll over for a sneaky lunch out. 

15. Newlands Close SO53 4PD

The kids were thrilled there was another wobbly 4×4 and daddy took them on a drive along both bumpy and smooth roads.  Swings were plentiful and the round about was very fast.  2 different play frames provide varying challenges with the reward a of good slide at the end.  A skate board type thing (don’t know its real name!) proved mummy’s nemesis and daddy had to come to the rescue.  There is also a little track running throughout the park which is perfect for scooters.  We parked on a residential road adjacent to the park without issue.

16. North Stonham SO50 9RA

This is definitely one to visit and has been made for both older and younger children in mind.  There is a sand area that has 2 little houses that Kate took up residence in.  There is a huge slide which the kids climbed up and slid down to for well over 30 mins.  The numerous swings, stand up see saw and the sprawling climbing frame we also well used.  We have been back a few times so this one is definitely a winner. Parking can be found on side roads fairly easily.

17. Pirelli park SO50 5SQ

This brand-new park is built out of cable drums and parking can be found on near by roads.  It is brilliant for slightly older children; not that this stopped Kate following George up the huge rope climbing structure.  It also features several slides, climbing wall, roundabout, swings and steppingstones made of cable drums. If you have kids that love climbing, then this is definitely a good park to visit.

18. Sky Woods Road SO53 4HR

This secluded park isn’t obvious to find but worth the challenge.  We parked in Barn Pierce, crossed over the main road (Sky wood Road) to a little cutway, followed this down and the park was just on our right.  George held on for dear life on the round about as this one was very easy to push!  The trampoline was popular with both of them and the small and large play frames were perfect for younger and older children respectively. George did the puzzle and hopscotch like a pro and Kate, George, Peppa and Dragon tried out the clever 2 or 4 person seesaw.  Mummy and daddy tried the stand up seesaw which the kids loved watching and they also had a go. The one and only downside to this park was the lack of baby swing but there was a large bucket swing little ones can easily go in for a gently swing.

19. Somerset Avenue, Harefield SO18 5FR

A friend told me about this park and I am so glad she did.  After parking on the road the kids tore off to the park.  The planners have really used the limited landscape of this area to maximise and incorporate as much as they can into this park.  There is a ground level boardwalk which incorporated huge great old tress which the kids loved running around.  The big and small climbing frames were great for our different ages and they both took numerous turns on the zip wire and large slide. Kate and George loved the musical instruments and put on a performance for us; they took it very seriously.  They both had a go on the pendulum swing but preferred the ‘normal’ type swings.  However as there were so many trees in this park we actually played hide and seek for most of the time we were there.  The big old tress on the hill made a perfect hiding place for mummy!

20. Southampton Common, SO15 7NN

We had heard fantastic things about this park and it didn’t disappoint! There is parking at the common (free on weekends) but it gets very full very fas;, however there are roads nearby you can park in. The kids zipped fast down the zip wires, played in the sand and climbed up and down on the 2 wooden play structures.  My little feral Kate decided she didn’t want to wear shoes and then spent 30 mins climbing up down the slid barefoot in November! There are also swings and in summer I believe there is water play too.  We have now been here a few times so definitely a hit. Remember to take a bucket and spade with you!!

21. St James Park SO15 5SD

A hidden in plain sight gem this provides a great variety of equipment for plenty of fun.  The Huge play frame was a bit of a challenge for Kate but George helped her navigate the various rope bridges and platforms to reach the huge slides.  The zip wire was too tall for our 2 but would be fine for more daring or older children.  There were the usual swings, trampoline and spring seesaw but also a little shop/playhouse and play frame with a slide for the little ones, plus another tube slide. The unique feature to this park was the ‘paper’ as Kate called it.  It was like a wobbly bridge you could walk across.  Both kids (and big kid) really enjoyed running back and forth balancing on this. Again, we managed to park easily on adjacent roads but I think there might parking restrictions at various times of the week.

22. Weston shore parade SO19 9NU

George spotted this one when we went to RVCP and was desperate to go; there is a car park nearby.  The kids had a ball in the wrecked pirate ship and it was great for playing hide and seek. George surprised me with just how confident he was with his climbing and of course wanted to fly into space on the swings.  Its also right on the beach so great for rock skipping and a bit of kite flying if the wind is up.

Published by Nay Dawson

Hello and thank you for reading my blog. I'm married to Jon and live in Southampton with our two girls. I work with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. In 2019 I set up Passion for Evangelism a network of creative, public female speakers. I'm a Trustee for the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation raising essential funds for disadvantaged Black British Students. I'm also a Trustee for Friends International helping welcome International students to the UK. In response to the war in Ukraine I helped set up Ukraine Connect matching refugees and hosts across Europe

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