What?: Tranquil waterside nature reserve whose existence would go all but undiscovered were it not for the eye-catchingly angular mustard-yellow pontoon that marks its position on Regent’s Canal between Granary Square and St. Pancras Lock. Designed by the Finnish Institute in London, this floating platform consists of a series of covered triangular alcoves and an unfenced deck where older children can sit and bird- and duck-watch, or toe-dip if they’re feeling especially brave/keen to contract an illness. Viewpoint, as it’s called, is accessed via a set of fairly steep wood-chipped steps and, since there is absolutely nothing stopping them from hopping into the canal at the bottom, I heartily recommend you attach tinies to a set of reins or a sling – provided you’re not actively trying to lose them.
This former coal yard is not massively buggy-friendly unless you happen to be in possession of a particularly heavy-duty off-roader or some kind of tank – and even then you’ll have to abandon it at the top of the hill to access the pontoon. The extensively wood-chipped paths combined with the myriad steps, hilly terrain and the fact that the wide expanse of open parkland will make garden-deprived urban children inclined to gallop around like headless chickens make leaving any wheeled toddler-transit equipment at the ramp-accessible visitor centre advisable – although, be warned, you do so at your own risk.
The two-acre site is protected by the London Wildlife Trust and staffed by a team of green-fingered volunteers who are tasked with conserving the unique urban habitat as well as running on-site educational sessions for young people. Some of the volunteers’ personal stories have even been scribbled onto the large wooden leaves that are dotted around the site, and which also feature information on the various species that call this petite paradise home. The public dipping pond allows little ones to get hands-on with the various watery creatures that reside here, with nets and trays available to borrow. Meanwhile adults can kick back on one of the park’s copious benches and ponder how they’ve never stumbled across this verdant oasis before, and why they couldn’t have discovered it pre-offspring.
Where?: Located at 12 Camley Street, the park is tucked behind St. Pancras Old Church and is a seven-minute walk from King’s Cross St. Pancras (Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, mainline, Eurostar).
Best Bits: With any luck the park’s restful ambience might rub off on your mini mob, if only for half an hour or so.
Worst Bits: The visitor centre smells a bit like hamsters.
Facilities: Toilets; self-serve tea and coffee; cafe serving vegetarian food on weekends from spring to autumn; step-free access to the visitor centre; children’s activity sheets.
Would We Come Back?: Yes but we will definitely be ditching the waddler wagon at the door next time.
Bab spots coots from the Viewpoint pontoon on the edge of Regent’s Canal at Camley Street Natural Park, King’s Cross.