Become one with Nature at a Grow Wild messy-play-in-the-playground session

What?: Grow Wild was one of those sessions we’d kept pushing further and further down the to-do list because both the location and timings were so bloody awkward. Our friends Kerri and Sprog (see Kerri’s Seven brilliant cheap/free nature sessions to try with your toddler, which includes this one) do this one on the regular, and while admittedly they tend towards messier, more outdoorsy activities than we’d usually be comfortable with, this one always sounded pretty special. Kerri had warned me that both phones and photography were banned from Grow Wild and the manager, judging by his photo on the website, didn’t look like the kind of guy you’d want to mess with (he’s actually lovely), which had also put me off because I’m ridiculous and need photos of everything I do or it didn’t happen (also for the blog but mostly I just really like taking photos).

Anyway we managed to drag our bums out the house at 8.45 one Tuesday, which I was really impressed with myself for (even though we’re going to have to pull that off every single day when Babu goes to nursery in September). The entrance to Grow Wild is through this really cute little door that looks like a treehouse, which just instantly sparks joy. Once we’d paid and signed in (I had to borrow money because I’m crap at carrying cash) we headed through the cute door and were greeted by manager Chris, who was helping a group of kids to climb up a tower of pallet crates and then launch themselves onto a crash mat. Babu had a couple of goes at this before deciding she wanted to explore a little treehouse in the corner, which she immediately got stuck up and had to be rescued from (by me, with a giant baby – who got kicked in the head – strapped to me).

Next Babu decided she wanted to go down the giant tunnel slide, but couldn’t fathom how the approach to it could be on the other side of the playground. In fact the slope up to the slide is on such a gentle incline it snakes around almost the entirety of the playground, with a lovely peaceful little painting station positioned halfway round (you’re free to paint the actual wooden structure of the climbing frame if you’re so inclined). Some people dragged squares of carpet up the slide to cushion their fall, but Babu preferred to make a weird sawing noise as she slid across the ridged surface (it seemed to be made out of an underground water pipe) than enjoy a comfortable ride.

Babu’s other favourite activities included sitting in the play teepee, racing toy cars down a slope and arguing with her mates about whose car was whose, and painting a lot of stuff brown, although she wasn’t massively up for the water-play activities (never is – I used to get really freaked out about sharing water with other kids when I was a toddler and I’ve almost definitely passed my neuroses on to Babu). The toilet facilities – which have been much more of a consideration for us since we had a baby and toilet-trained Babu, so suddenly it’s about finding a clean toilet and a changing table, rather than just a patch of floor where Babu can stand while I whip off the old nappy and stick on a fresh one – were much nicer than I’d expected, so that was pleasing. And I was naughty and took some photos, because not taking them was making me stressed (I know I’m insane).

Where and When?: Grow Wild is located inside Lloyd Park on Winns Terrace in Walthamstow and is a 15-minute walk from Walthamstow Central tube and Overground stations. Regular sessions run every Tuesday 9:45-11:15am and every Friday 1-2:30pm. A family session runs on the second Saturday of every month 10am-12pm (includes speech and language drop-in), and a Dad’s Club runs on the last Saturday of every month 10am-12pm and includes breakfast.

Best Bits: I loved how free the kids were allowed to be in this session, plus it’s mega cheap.

Worst Bits: No photos is just annoying. I completely get why they do it but as a blogger it’s a pain in the bum.

Facilities: Buggy parking, step-free access, toilet facilities.

Cost: £2 per child then 50p for siblings for the regular sessions. The family club costs £2 per child and £2 per adult, and the Dad’s Club costs £3 per adult, £3 per child and 50p for siblings.

Would We Come Back?: I suspect so, but probably for the afternoon session.

Babu decorates the adventure-playground structure at Grow Wild, Lloyd Park, Walthamstow.