Hylands Park: a perfect day out

April 20, 2017 by Ray Morgan

Hylands Park: a perfect day out

Sometimes, when you have exhausted the abundance of the local area, you want to go a bit further afield. Beach? Tick. Chalkwell Park? Tick. Priory Park? Tick. Library Gardens? A hundred times tick.

A colleague of mine told me that Hylands Park in Chelmsford is great for kids - he has two little girls, and recommended it as he said my nephews would like it. I suggested it to my sister, and we packed up the car with lunch items, cakes, drinks, and toys.

The kids - 1 and 3 - napped in the car, so my sister and I could have a good old catch up, albeit soundtracked by a children's nursery rhyme album that we somehow kept on. We were there in 20 minutes, and all the V Festival memories from 16 years ago came flooding back. I said things like "I used to meet my friends by that tree!" and "It looks different sober" etc.

We parked up, which was free, and I bought a cup of tea from the little cafe. They earned points for having soya milk (how I judge cafes now) and my sister and I drank tea and ate cake while the boys charged about on the grass. We paid a couple of quid so they could maraud on a bouncy castle and burn off some energy and we could continue our chats. The boys shrieked with joy and I remembered that blissful hilarity of wobbly walking on a bouncy castle.

Then, onto the main event. The huge, fort-like adventure playground. Massive wooden structures loomed out of the gated park, meaning little legs couldn't run out into the car park, and no dogs were allowed giving it a protected environment. This was definitely the coolest adventure playground I'd seen. Enormous net swings big enough for four people. Forts, towers and rickety plank bridges. Wide sweeping slides and battlements large enough for adults to go on holding smaller ones' hands. I've been to places like this before, but there's always that panic of not being able to quite see where your designated kid has gone. Here, you can climb up the ramps with them and toddle with them, looking out upon the scene together. It's really cool.

My sister and I took the classic split of "you make sure one child is safe from a 10ft fall, I'll chase after the other" and both boys had an amazing time. The eldest bombed about fearless, deftly scaling huge ladders which would make my knees wobble. The youngest seemed happiest a) playing peek-a-boo with me in and out of the archways on the fences, and b) climbing in and out of a tiny bunker underneath a tower. Seriously he amused himself like this for about 20 minutes, before my sister said the magic words "Time for a picnic!"

Again, the picnic area is dog-free and fully fenced in, so the boys stampeded about clutching sandwiches and box drinks while we stayed classy on picnic benches. At one point, the one year old clambered onto someone else's blanket and made a grab for their food, but everyone was friendly and in good spirits.

The day got better and better, this place is seriously enormous. We went for a long walk, past horses in stables, to a cafe that sold ice cream, to manicured gardens, to feeding ducks and fish in a pond, and still with huge expanses of pure open fields for the kids to run about in. It had everything we wanted for a day out, and best of all, it was all free. Apart from 50p for a bag of duck food, which was a steal as it provided great fun for the eldest boy while the younger one had a sleep in the buggy.

We didn't even make it to the lake because the boys were starting to get to that slightly overtired stage of the day, so we headed back to the bouncy-castle-and-cup-of-tea area by the car park to round off the fun. A day out bookended by bouncy castles, tea and flapjacks can only be a winner.

We were all sunkissed and pleasantly tired on the drive home, and both my sister and I had more than hit our step target measured by our fake FitBits. A perfect day out only 20 minutes away, I couldn't recommend Hylands Park more.