One of our favourite parts of being in the UK was the amazing parks that are found in every single neighbourhood. We just don’t have parks in Bali – most schools have some outdoor play equipment and there are big indoor play centres that you can pay for the pleasure of letting your little ones blow of some steam on noisy, bright, and probably filthy inflatables, but we just don’t have the well-maintained parks with safe play equipment that are everywhere in the UK. (If you happen to be in Ubud there is actually ONE outdoor play park in Sayan but it’s still got nothing on the British parks).
We headed straight out to Jesmond Dene on our first morning. This is a beautiful wooded valley on the outskirts of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, close to where my brother lives and where we were staying. I have fond memories of exploring the dene when I was a child myself and I jogged there regularly when I lived in newcastle. As well as the walks through the wood and along the stream, there’s also a free petting zoo and play park called pets’s corner. Maya loved it. She was basically in heaven and this pretty much set the tone for the rest of the trip where we would head out 3 times a day to explore the local parks of wherever we were (Newcastle, Leeds, Derbyshire, Dumfries).
Seeing Maya enjoy these amazing play spaces was the first time I started to second-guess whether Bali really is the best place to bring up kids. Here we have rice fields and jungles and rivers to explore – it’s certainly possible to be free and wild and spend the whole day outdoors but it comes with challenges such as the heat, snakes, mosquitos and mangey dogs and my kids will often request a visit to one of the aforementioned yucky indoor play areas rather than frolicking in the rice fields (which is only really possible for a couple of weeks after harvest time anyway).
Sometimes I start imagining our life in an alternate universe where the kids don’t whine and go to bed early because they’ve been out playing in the fresh air all day (Maya was in bed and asleep without fuss by 8pm most nights during our trip, a huge contrast to the “let them play until they drop from exhaustion” bedtime routine that rules in Bali, and I’m sure all the playing in parks helped) and we have weekend picnics in the summer and snowball fights in the winter.
I know it’s easy to take things like free parks for granted when it’s what you’re used to but it really is a privilege to have free access to safe, well-maintained outdoor spaces with play equipment for kids. My mother in law would not believe me that all these parks did not have an entry charge when I showed her the photos.
Our favourite parks:
Jesmond Dene, Newcastle upon Tyne
Roundhay Park, Leeds
Markeaton Park, Derby
Dock Park, Dumfries