Tucked away in north west London, a little way before Metro-land begins to give way to the Hertfordshire countryside lies an unexpected taste of the seaside. On a hot summer’s day Ruislip Lido provides a scene that wouldn’t at a glance look out of place on the Med with a beach that’s teeming with families and sunbathers. We popped by for the Ruislip Woods Festival and to see the lido’s attractions and weren’t disappointed.
Our inland location means that visits to the beach are relatively rare. It’s a good 1½ hour drive from our home in South Bucks to reach the nearest coast, meaning bucket and spade fun is more often found at sandpits than the sea. However there’s somewhere closer to home that brings a more authentic seaside experience. We were looking for a different weekend activity when I spotted the Ruislip Woods Festival was taking place at Ruislip Lido; somewhere we’ve not been for some years and a completely new destination for Tilly. I tend to overlook heading towards London in favour of the rural shires but it’s fair to say that nowhere else nearby offers quite what Ruislip Lido does.
Originally a reservoir for the grand union canal before becoming a lido in the 1930s, left to decline in the latter twentieth century and finally revitalised in recent years, Ruislip Lido today offers a sizeable beach filled with play activities, two cafes and a wonderful miniature railway traversing the lake’s shore.
Our visit began with a visit to the Ruislip Woods Festival on the lido’s north shore. Owing to the popularity of the day we had to park some distance off Duck Hill Road and took the opportunity to stroll through the well kept substantial woodland to reach the event. The fair is a pleasant arrangement of entertainment inspired by the woods such as ferret racing, morris dancing, birds of prey, chainsaw wood carving plus plenty of stalls from local nature organisations and some essential food options. It’s a modest site but that makes it ideal to visit with a small child.
Tilly’s preferences for entertainment are notoriously fickle and unpredictable. On this occasion she unexpected enjoyed watching the vintage films being shown of Ruislip and boogying to the film’s swing soundtrack while we ate lunch. The Morris dancers were a hit (I’m beginning to think music may become a big theme in her life), the birds of prey less so. Once she’d been decorated at the face painting stall it was time to take the train.
The Ruislip Lido Railway makes for a good journey as it traverses most of the lake side from the cafe and car park at the north side to the beach on the south side, saving what would be a decent walk with a small child, necessitating a pram.
On arrival at our destination, the sight of the beach very much overrode any chance of getting Tilly to look at the railway’s open day, so we made a beeline to the playground by the cafe (which is run by the same people as at Black Park.) The beach is actually like one large playground with climbing frames dotted along its length. Children are certainly well catered for.
It was the hottest day of the year so far so the beach was very, very popular. We hadn’t come for a stay at the beach but I can see on a quieter sunny weekday it would make for an excellent destination. If you’re in north west London, SW Herts or South Bucks then do check it out next time you feel in need of some beach time.
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