I'm back, after a summer of neglecting my blog, I've eventually got around to writing an actual post. We had a great summer, went to lots of places, have thousands of photos clogging up my phone and memory card, loads of ideas for blog posts, but it is just so hard to find the time to actually sit down and write them. Especially now I am no longer a lady of ... leisure doesn't sound right... more like multiple nappy changes and cold cups of tea, as i'm now back at work! Mr Sprog is on paternity leave, looking after the kids until Christmas, so expect blog posts devoted to craft beer and Fifa to be uploaded soon.
So back in August I finally got around to visiting Shiremoor Adventure Playground. My sister had mentioned it to me a while ago, she had said they had toys, scooters etc, but I couldn't really picture it. Well when I got there it wasn't what I was expecting. There is a certain 'rough around the edges' element to it, and it reminded me of Byker Grove in that it has a youth club feel to it. There is sooooooo much to do, and I think older kids would adore it. As a parent to a toddler and baby I was slightly horrified about how big some of the equipment looked, but I feel the same when I watch kids on skateboards, or free jumping or whatever other fun kids have whilst putting themselves in danger.
But what is is? Even after visiting i'm not sure I can adequately describe it. A youth club and park? There is a huge wooden frame, a massive sandpit, some terrifying rope swings, an allotment with chickens, a pool table, a basketball court, roller-skates, scooters and on the hot day that I visited there was the biggest paddling pool that i've seen too - but I'm guessing as it took me so long to write this post that won't be there any more.
What it is though is FREE, which is amazing for what they have on offer. It's also staffed, and you have to sign in, so it shouldn't ever get too busy to the point of it being over-capacity. They are only open at certain hours (specific times at the bottom of this post) - afternoons after school, but during the day on weekends and school holidays. They are also closed until 13th September 2016 due to maintenance. What is also great about it, is that they run some sessions specifically for children with disabilities and their carers.
It's based within a housing estate, there are a few car parking spaces outside, but most were disabled spaces. There was lots of on-street parking close by though. You enter the playground via a building, and sign in with the staff member who greets you. I was given an information sheet with a map of where everything is, and opening times etc.
We headed straight outside and saw the massive wooden play structure. This was home to the (parent's worst nightmare, kids dream toy) huge rope swings, lots of ramps and look out areas. There was also lots of other equipment - some the type of stuff you see in most parks, but others were really quirky. Like the carved wooden head that kids were using to somersault off onto a big crash mat, and two story playhouses which had tables and chairs in there.
There was an urban feel about the place, some areas of the park had been decorated with bright graffiti, which looked really good. There was a giant sandpit under most of the wooden structure which my kids loved and as well as the usual buckets and spades, there were huge tyres in this area. There was a large toddler area, with a slides, toys (most of these were a bit tired looking, but didn't put my toddler off) and a wooden boat. What was slightly frustrating about the toddler area, was that it wasn't completely enclosed. There were a few small spaces under the wooden structure where my toddler happily explored, leaving me holding the baby and contemplating crawling after him, or trying to guess where he would pop out in the main play area and meet him there.
There was loads for older kids, I don't think that these pictures really show just how high some of the structure was. Especially the rope swings, where you could swing from three differing height platforms to the other side. There were crash mats around some of the other high structures which kids were using to practice their jumping and gymnastic moves.
There were two story play houses, and a tipi for kids to play in. The stairs in one house were so steep that I had to abandon the baby on the floor at one point to help my toddler get down. Of course after crying for me to get him down he was trying to get back up there 5 minutes later - toddlers!!!
There is loads of sports equipment to use, a basketball court which had scooters nearby so my toddler tootled up and down, rarely having the opportunity to scoot in such a big flat area, a snooker table, and loads of pairs of rollerblades lined up for people to use. There was also the big paddling pool, which even had a small slide attached.
Something else I wasn't expecting was the allotment. They had a couple of chickens, a duck and loads of planters where they were growing some fruit and veg. There was a gorgeous willow tree arch on the way to a small pond area too. The below section of photos show some of the nooks and crannies that my toddler loved running through, but that left me a bit on edge whilst I was there. There were so many places that he could run off through and I would be left looking around in a circle unable to either spot him, or work out how I could get to him. Brilliant for him, absolutely fine for older kids, but a bit stressful for me.
Cafe and Toilets - The cafe is run by volunteers. It is so cheap with teas and coffees being only 60p and toasties starting at 50p. I didn't eat or drink whilst I was there (too busy on high alert for a runaway toddler) but saw lots of people had hot dogs and toasties. The toilet area was massive, you could easy fit a double buggy, or 10 in there if you needed.
Overall I was pretty wowed by what I found. It was massive, you could easily spend the whole day there, the staff were all lovely and friendly and it was FREE. I'm not sure that I'll be rushing straight back, as I think that it is probably better for older kids, or if you have a toddler like I do better to go when they can have your undivided attention so can chase them through any holes they head down, rather than having to look after a baby at the same time.
I think it is perfect for slightly older children, and know that i'll just have to have a word with myself to calm down about all of the 'risks' as they get older, I dread the day my kids want to use the high rope swings, but know they'll be having a great time. I loved all of the equipment they could play with such as the scooters, roller skates, and the basketball field.
Website: North Tyneside Council
Cost - Free