Britain Update 39 - Archive
1. A New London Playground
2. UK Destinations: Swansea
3. London with Children
Welcome friends, its time to put the kettle on, settle into a comfortable armchair, and enjoy the best of Britain with Britain Update. But before you do, please take the time to forward this newsletter to someone who loves Britain as much as you do.
David Ross, Publisher
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Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground
A Memorial to a Princess and a Magnet for London's Children
by David S. White
"Mermaids!" said Peter..."And there are pirates." "Pirates," cried John, seizing his Sunday hat, "let us go at once." -from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The search for Peter Pan's pirates is drawing long lines of London's children to Kensington Gardens where a new playground evokes the memory of two of Kensington's most famous residents-the unlikely pair of Princess Diana and Peter Pan. Opened in July, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground features a pirate ship, a water play area and teepees, along with conventional swings and slides.
Nearby Kensington Palace was Diana's official home and the star-crossed princess often sought anonymous refuge in Kensington Gardens. The Diana Memorial Playground is on the site of an earlier playground donated by Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie.
But it's the playground, not the memorial or literary connections, that attracts kids like no other place in Kensington Gardens. The two acre site is dominated by a fully-rigged pirate ship seemingly grounded on a beach. Children can climb a hidden passage between the galleon's three decks and even try to refloat the ship by moving sand out of the ballast. The park's beach cove (watch out for the crocodiles!) is a water play area where kids can search for the imprints of fossils and even a mermaid's tail.
When visiting children tire of the pirate ship and cove, they can move on to the treehouse camp and call each other using the park's "tree-phones ." Then it's on to the Native American teepees, or maybe a stop in the Movement and Musical Garden to make music, or at least joyful noise.
The Peter Pan theme continues into the park's restroom facilities, located in the "Home Under The Ground." Don't remember your Peter Pan? This was where the Lost Boys lived. Now that the playground has been inaugurated by London's children, the lines should subside somewhat and make the Diana Memorial playground a recommended stop for families visiting the city.
Kensington Gardens are essentially a western extension of Hyde Park. Together, they form a massive green expanse stretching from the backyard of Buckingham Palace all the way to Kensington Palace. Other highlights here are the gardens around Kensington Palace, a model boat sailing pond, a seasonal restaurant, areas for kite flying, and a puppet theatre. The parkland is ringed by Tube (subway) stops-to reach the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground use High Street Kensington station (Circle and District lines) on the south or Queensway station (Central line) on the north.
David White is the father of two, a frequent London visitor, and author of LET'S TAKE THE KIDS TO LONDON. For more information on the book, check out his website at http://www.KidsToLondon.com.
UK Destinations: Swansea
Swansea (the name relates to the Viking invader Swein Forkbeard, who came calling here in the late 10th century), is set in the beautiful Gower Peninsula of South Wales. The Gower Peninsula was named Britain's very first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in recognition of its fine, sandy beaches and rugged coastline. There are easily accessible footpaths along most of the coast, providing spectacular views. If your tastes are more athletic, Rhossili, on the western edge of the peninsula, is a popular surfing centre.
In the Victorian era, Swansea was known as "The Brighton of the West". The Victorians flocked to Swansea, and turned the quiet seaside village of Mumbles, on Swansea Bay, into a major resort. A bicycle path runs from Swansea to Mumbles pier, a distance of under 5 miles. Mumbles is (in)famous for its nightlife, but there are more serene attractions; the crumbling ruins of 13th-century Oystermouth Castle, for one, and the 56-acre Mumbles Hill Nature Reserve for another.
Swansea Castle, in the heart of the city, was built sometime prior to 1116 by Henry of Beaumont, first Earl of Warwick. The original motte and bailey castle has long disappeared, to be replaced by the "new castle" which dates to about 1300. The castle was originally intended to be an administrative centre for the marcher lords of Gower, but after Edward I subdued Wales, the site lost its strategic importance, and was later sacked by Owain Glendower. The castle fell into disuse and by the late 18th century was turned into a debtor's prison. In Victorian times various parts of the castle were used as a town hall, poor-house, market house, store cellars, a blacksmith's shop, a Roman Catholic chapel and a dovecote.
The Swansea Museum in the Maritime Quarter is the oldest museum in Wales. It tells the tale of the city, its natural history and archaeology. The nearby Maritime & Industrial Museum is an extremely popular family attraction featuring historic boats and ships, a working 19th-century woollen mill, and vintage and antique motor vehicles of every description. You can also learn about the world's first passenger railway, which made the run from Swansea to Oystermouth in 1807.
Swansea is linked inextricably with poet Dylan Thomas, and there are several trails through and around the city linking sites associated with Thomas.
The Clyme Gardens is famous for its spring display of rhododendrons and azaleas, but if you prefer more unusual plants you won't want to miss the pyramid-shaped Plantasia, which houses over 1000 varieties of rare and unusual plants in a tropical environment.
Inkermakers Guide to the Gower
That's all for now. Until next issue, let me remind you that laughter is contagious. Be a carrier.
David Ross, Publisher, Britain Express