Friday, 31 August 2018

London on a Budget: The Regent's Park

We had a brilliant time on a Blogger jolly to London last week, travelling with Sn-ap on their new Bristol to London coach service. We were given a free trip, in order to try the service, but starting at just £5 per journey, it's pretty good value anyway. London can be very expensive, particularly with children, but don't let that put you off, there are free and cheap activities to be found in different parts of the city. This post explores the best of The Regent's Park, one of London's eight royal parks and shows you one way to visit London without spending the Crown Jewels!

The Regent's Park was named after Prince Regent who had quite the reputation, becoming known as the playboy prince, and later reigning as King George IV from 1762 to 1830. The park covers 197 hectares, including some pretty impressive sports facilities with free play areas and formal pitches available for hire. You can play a variety of sports, ranging from softball to lacrosse and there are even exercise classes to take part in throughout the day. All classes are drop in and pay, with a maximum of 15 participants per class. If you prefer less formal exercise, you can walk to the top of Primrose Hill, which offers fantastic views across London.

With most tourist attractions, the easiest way to accidentally inflate the cost is to be unprepared for inevitably hungry children. There are many eateries at the park, including The Regent's Bar and Kitchen, where you can get a small pizza for £5, but if you want to save money, it always pays to take a picnic. Helpfully, the park has groups of strategically placed deck chairs, removing the need to cart along anything to sit on. The cost is £1.60 per chair, per hour, but they only seem to count the time from when the guy-who-takes-the-money (ranger? park keeper?) spots you sitting there, so if he has just been around when you sit down, you might get some extra time. You can book your deckchair online, but I couldn't get any reception, so just waited for the man-with-the-cash-float to happen along. He didn't seem to mind. 

Once you've eaten and enjoyed a nice rest in the sunshine, pausing to watch the incredibly tame squirrels who might want to share your food, you can explore some of the other attractions the park has to offer. These include London's largest collection of roses (some 12,000) in Queen Mary's Gardens, all helpfully labelled with their names, so you can learn a bit about the different types along the way. There is also an impressive amount of bird life within the park, with 200 separate species listed as residing there. The Regent's Park is the centre for waterfowl breeding for all the royal parks, and the wildlife and waterfowl collection can be viewed from various points within the park, including the boating lake, which houses more than 650 waterfowl. It was very sunny on our visit, so the bird photos were very over-exposed, unfortunately, but this one gives an idea of some of the abundance and variety of wildfowl you can expect to see. 

Our favourite area of the park was the boating lake, which is a great place to relax and watch the geese, or hire a boat or pedalo for a while and enjoy a different view of the park. This children's pedalo cost £4 for 20 minutes and they had even smaller, hand-operated versions for those too short to reach the pedals! Adult boats start at £8.50 per half an hour. Tea and refreshments are available at The Boathouse Cafe. 

This post only details the areas of the park that we personally experienced, but there was lots more to see and do, including four play parks, formal gardens and even The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, which offers a wide selection of different shows. Tickets are bookable in advance and information on prices and availability can be found on their website. For more information on facilities and other details about any of the royal parks, follow the link to the royal parks website. 


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