Sorry, that was a slightly deliberately misleading title. We’ll talk about the decline of the Great British pub another time. In fact, I’ll get my husband to write it while I work through my gin cabinet. No, of course I mean your local park. Have you heard of ParkLives?
Running right through the year, ParkLives is putting on all sorts of activities and events at hundreds of parks and green spaces up and down the country. The aim is to get families, friends and individuals to try out something new, meet new people, and have a bit of fun. Go on, mentally tot up how many parks are in walking distance of your house, I bet there are at least three, and I double bet that at least one of those has some sort of community engagement programme.
The only downside is that each event costs £1,000 per head. OF COURSE NOT! Everything is free, and there are some absolutely brilliant events to choose from. This activity finder will show you the activities closest to you, in calendar form. Once you spot something you like, it takes seconds to register and then book a place. Some events don’t even need you to do that, you can just turn up.
The activities include sports and fitness (so things like Zumba, Tai Chi, Buggy Mums, Nordic Walking and so on), but also some wonderful arty, crafty events such as graffiti workshops and messy play, plus some lovely community-focused things like litter picks and gardening. The central theme is that they’re all outdoors and, as I mentioned, they’re all free to join.
I thought I’d see what was going on locally to me (humble Southampton hoodlum innit) over the Easter Bank Holiday, and there were loads of things in the events calendar. I plumped for the Easter Eggstravorganza* Egg Hunt at my nearest park, St James. It’s one of my favourites as it was redeveloped a few years ago with lottery funding and it’s clean, spacious and generally lovely. It also has coffee, ice cream and toilets, so it’s practically a holiday.
Off we trotted, with both girls only mildly feral from being tanked up with chocolate for three consecutive days. We picked up an egg hunt map, which had two different routes on, before the eldest started a determined chorus of “I’m huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuungry”. While she inhaled a tactical picnic, I had a chat with David from Active Nation, who organised the event. He told me that by July, they’ll have welcomed around 2000 people to their free events in Southampton alone. I assumed it all wrapped up towards the end of the summer, but actually, activities carry on all through winter too. The most popular event in those cold, wet months? Buggy Mums. I always knew we were a hardy bunch.
But anyway, let’s not worry about winter yet. Most of my baby and toddler groups shut up shop over the summer so this is perfect for young families who may have a few spare mornings or afternoons to fill, but not much in the way of pennies. Entertaining the troops for six weeks is not cheap, and the array of stuff on offer is absolutely brilliant considering that everything is free.
As well as the actual egg hunt bit, there were loads of things to do, including some stalls, fairground organs (*hence the jazzy title) and a bouncy castle. It was lovely to see the park so full and even more lovely to see that my own children weren’t the only ones experiencing a Grade A sugar crash. Oh, and did you know that a baby rabbit is called a kit, and not a bunny? Got me a little chocolate egg, did that.
Why not show your park some love this summer and have a crack at something new?
-SJW April 2017
Disclaimer: I’d like to thank Coca Cola, ParkLives and Active Nation for telling me about these events, so that I could write this promotional post. Please note that I was gifted some retail vouchers as a reimbursement for my time, but all views and opinions are my own. For more detail about my work with brands, please see my Disclosure Statement.