One unusually sunny spring day, Mama was rather regretting deciding to check out Coram Fields, a mysterious child friendly oasis in Bloomsbury she’s been hearing about for quite some time now.
This was because we were stuck in a traffic jam. Sometimes Mama should really overcome her preference for the bus instead of the tube, and when you have to get across central London of a weekend just after a fire has closed down one of the major road routes is one of them.
Anyway. Coram Fields, Mama thought, was going to have to be very good indeed to make up for having to exhaust all of her travel games and endure our well rested inability to sit still quietly for at least half an hour longer than was absolutely necessary.
The park sounded marvellous, of course. The land was originally part of Captain Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital for abandoned and homeless children. When the hospital was relocated at the beginning of the 20th Century, the area was due to be sold off but instead became this charitably maitained public park, aimed at keeping London’s kids amused and in the outdoors. You can’t even get in, in fact, without a child in tow. I expect that’s why Mama brought us. I sometimes think she only ever brings us so she has an excuse to go to interesting places.
Thus there is a good variety of play equipment spread out in small play areas dotted around the edges of Coram Fields. Big climbing frames, slides and zip wires. Small climbing frames, rocking horses and swings. You can scamper from one to the other for quite some time.
The whole park is not quite as big as the name ‘Fields’ implies, but what’s good about it being only somewhat larger than the other squares which are such a feature of this part of London is that it is relatively easy to keep an eye on your children, even if they should choose to splinter off in different directions. Even better is that there is only one exit, and this is even manned by a security guard intent on keeping out any adults who have turned up unaccompanied by kids.
And there are animals, which practically guarantees success in my Terrific Big Brother’s eyes. Chickens in a large coup, a couple of goats in a pen, some rabbits and a cage full of budgies. Quite enough to provide animaltastic diversion and thrills, especially the chickens, who were obligingly active.
Calling it a city farm, which the Coram Fields website does, is pushing it in Mama’s opinion, though. We’re not *that* urban that we don’t know that a farm means that there has to be a cow and a pig. One of each will do.
Best of all in my opinion is the giant sandpit! With just enough working water exuding bits of equipment to make sure there was a socking great puddle in the middle and running water to splash about in. Oh joy! Oh frabulous day! WATER PLAY! LOVE!! IT!!!
Mama did not say. What she did say is, ‘FOR FUCK’S SAKE’ (in her head).
‘Look’, she mentally continued, ‘yes, children like mucking around in water, of course they do, and in the height, the absolute height of that rare thing, a glorious summer’s day, it’s wonderful to be able to let them run about the parks which double as London’s personal outdoor space, get wet, and then, and this is the crucial bit, dry off quickly in the baking hot sunshine. But,’ this is where she gets a bit ranty, ‘for about 360 days of the year, what actually happens is your children get sopping wet and then they also get cold and miserable pretty quickly too. London is big. Travel is slow. Nobody has a car in a nearby car park with some spare trousers in the back. Nobody wants to shlepp a change of clothes across the capital. What in GOD’S GOOD NAME possesses the London park designers to think that water play in this climate is a good thing, PARTICULARLY in a public space which must surely have only minimal local residents for whom popping back home for a new jumper is doable?’
So the visit descended a bit of bad tempered wrangling at this point. Well, Mama was bad tempered. We were enjoying ourselves hugely. She made us take off as many clothes as she could without risking hypothermia in what was still, despite the sun, the slightly chilly spring weather, and then kept shouting from the sidelines every time it looked as though we were about to forget ourselves and dampen the rest of our outfits.
Needless to say, Mama was largely unsuccessful in keeping us in any way dry. But that’s OK. She *likes* carrying round dripping cardigans for the rest of the day and holding us under the blow dryers in the toilets to stop us moaning about being cold.
In the end Mama decided that the only way to tear us away from the enticing sandpit area was to take us to the café in the corner of Coram Fields. And this certainly restored her good cheer, mainly because it served pancakes, which Mama thinks are an excellent alternative to chips for a meal on a family day out. And there was coffee, of course. That always makes her somewhat more able to face the difficulties childcare throws up.
Mind you, it would also be a great place for a picnic. The large square of open ground in the middle is just begging for blankets and thermoses. If, of course, you do not mind adding them to your overfilling bag along with the changes of clothes.
Mind you, the fact that you almost certainly do not live close to Coram Fields means that it is, for a London park, really rather uncrowded. Don’t get me wrong, there were enough kids there on the weekend we went to make it a cheerful place to rock up and find some new friends. Playgrounds are boring without some other children after all. But considering how rammed some of the parks get on a Saturday and Sunday, Coram Fields is a haven of tranquillity.
Yet it is also very close to some interesting tourist attractions. Most notably, it is just up the road from the British Museum, but nearby there are also the very interesting Grant Museum of Zooology and the Petrie Archaeological Museums belonging to University College London, and the Soane Museum and Huntarian and the Operating Theatre museums too. With the exception of the British Museum, these are all smallish and not going to take more than a couple of hours to visit. Coram Fields is exactly the sort of place you want to have up your sleeve to make it worth braving London’s public transport system to see them with kids, which you should really, because they are great.
Mama recommends taking in Coram Fields first. Normally she saves the things we like for last, as a sort of compensation for suffering through cultural appreciation. However, she discovered that a lengthy stint in Coram Fields perfectly softened us up for good humoured tolerance of her desire to show us glass cases full of things. Or perhaps that was the pancakes. Either way, we had a good time.
Just beware of the water.
This is what the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has to say about well dressings of the English Peak District.
Address: 93 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1DN
Opening: 9am to dusk.
Admission: Free, but bring a child or you won’t get in.
By tube: Nearest tubes are Russell Square (Piccadilly), King’s Cross St Pancras (Northern / Victoria / Circle / Hammersmith & City) and Holborn or Chancery Lane (Central).
By train: King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston are all within walking distance.
By bus: Bus stops are about a 10-minute walk away. Nearest buses are the 17, 45 & 46 at Gray’s In Rd or the 7, 59, 68, 91, 168 & 188 at Russell Square.
By car: No. Just no.
15 thoughts on “Coram Fields, Bloomsbury, London”
Sounds like a lovely day out, and that sandpit looks amazing! #PoCoLo
I’m with you on water play. When the kids were younger I never remembered a towel or anything. I’d say they’re old enough to know better now but a couple of weeks ago my 10 year got saturated whilst messing in the jets at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park. A good 2 hours later via the underground and train and we could still wring out his socks at home! #pocolo
Looks like a fun park and even nicer that it wasn’t crowded. Not just an urban problem. Number of times I’ve not brought change of clothes and had children sitting in the back of the car either soggy or without some of their clothes, after water play – I cannot count. #CountryKids
I keep a spare set in the car permanently. Except, of course, when we’ve used it up and forgotten to replace them, which happens in the dead of winter, of course.
Argh tried to reply via phone and it failed! We frequently visit Coram Fields and have done for many years due to its proximity to Gt Ormond St Hospital which we visit (far too) frequently. I can assure you the water play area is only ever filled in hot summer months (and not even routinely every summer) the rest of the time it is drained and full of kids on scooters 😉
I hadn’t thought about what a great resource it must be for Great Ormond Street. More kudos to the park.
But I think you are talking about the paddling pool, which was indeed drained. It’s possible that the sandpit waterworks were supposed to be turned off too, but at least one wasn’t. Hey ho – the kids loved it!
Thanks for persevering with the commenting!
Now this looks like a perfect place for a child to visit, I can understand the adult reservations though, did I tell you about two of mine playing about and managing to fall into the Serpentine last time we were in Central London, just half an hour before we were all due in the Royal albert square? They were marched off to Kensington high street for some rushed and expensive new clothes that left us broke and carrying a soggy bag of shopping to the the famous Hall. There is always a drama with kids and water and certainly no keeping them out, it doesn’t improve with age either I sorry to report! I loved your tale of water and fun and the park looks well worth a visit. Thank you for sharing with me on Country Kids.
Fabulous story. We have only lost (temporarily) two scooters to the Serpentine. I am sure it is only a matter of time though…
I keep reading and hearing (and intermittently writing) about Coram’s Fields, yet despite having my very own child to ensure entry, I still haven’t been. I rather like the idea of combining it with the mummies in the British Museum (terror or delight for a two-year-old? I should test this) especially if there are pancakes. I will bring many spare clothes though, as I am entirely with Mama on this one and my daughter is frankly rubbish at being even mildly chilly. #countrykids
With spare clothes, you should have a blast!
Aww this is the reason why we always have 2 sets of clothes for my son at car everytime we go out anywhere. Such a lovely place to visit =) #pocolo
I look forward to the day when I can insist they carry their own spare pants.