Today I’m continuing my campaign to out some of the more hidden kid-friendly areas in Guildford.
Latest victim: Onslow Village Recreation Ground.
Have you been recently? Like, since last year when refurbed it to look more more like a set from a Tarzan movie? Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, it’s disappointingly short on apes… but it is now lovely and rustic and boasts a big ol’ sandpit with platforms and pulleys and all sorts.
Just remember to go armed with a bucket and spade for maximum fun – though be prepared for these to become the world’s most unlikely bartering chips as older children close in and offer to trade your toddler a stick for them, like some sort of tiny, dodgy used-car salesmen. I had to step in and retrieve Eva’s spade from a little boy who was playing pirates with it (as you do!), after much pointing and many desperate looks from her. I was polite about it, but I still felt like a right old fun-spoiling sh*tbag. Surprised he didn’t make me walk the plank!
Spade-theft aside, Onslow Reccy also has a nice self-contained area for tiny tots, complete with bouncy sheep on springs, and a mini Jungle-Gym with the sort of non-threatening slide that you can leave an 18 month old to clamber over without your heart leaping into your mouth every ten seconds.
The swings in here are those odd short ones that seems to swing at double speed without actually managing to be any fun – but that’s okay, given Eva is way more interested in breaking out of the tot’s area at every opportunity and leading me expectantly to the zip wire in the bigger kids’ area. And, yes, we have been on it – for that, read: me holding her precariously on a small plastic disc and running up and down like a maniac. Be aware that it’s muddy around this area though – my friend’s little girl slipped and got up looking like she’d had a run-in with some particularly flatulent cows.
Apart from these delights, there is a tunnel to run though, various wooden contraptions to climb, and the world’s most hair-raising kid’s slide – one of those wide metal ones that catapults you off the end at about 100 mph (er, not that I tried it, or anything….).
Then, of course, there is the park itself, a flat open space that is well suited to child-friendly pursuits such as kite-flying, or dog-spotting – and a public toilet near the Wilderness Road entrance if your little person gets caught short (you can park in this area also, though it is quite small, and make sure you don’t do your car an injury if you’re taking the very tight turn up the slope towards it). There is even a little Arboretum lurking in the vicinity, though it has been some time since I ventured in to this bit. I do remember some wood carvings that I’m sure Eva would enjoy though, so it’s on the to-do list for next time.
As you know, I am not averse to a spot of grub, particularly after a breeze around the park and Onslow Village delivers on this front too. If you amble down to the parade of shops opposite the village hall, you will find the Wilderness Cafe. This is of note not just because it is pleasant, peaceful and usually easy to find a seat, but because they have a little child-friendly area with books, toys a little table and chairs. Eva spent a good few minutes watching mesmerised as an older little girl read Peppa Pig books in this area. She actually didn’t notice when her fish fingers arrived, and that’s saying something! (to that point, they have a children’s menu with the option to reduce the portion offered for toddlers, which is handy).
Me, I picked up the menu and flicked straight to my usual: the Tuna Melt panini. If you’re a bit partial to gherkins and capers, friend, this is the one for you! (Obviously it helps to like tuna as well!). Then I followed up with one of their Chocolate Tiffins, which are deliciously chewy as if they’ve had Rolos mashed through them or something. (I must remember to ask proprietor Lee if that is actually the case!)
There is baby changing in the cafe, and generally the sort of laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere that makes this a relaxing place to enjoy an unhurried snack with your mini-me. That gets a thumbs-up from me.
So there you go: Onslow Reccy, and Wilderness Cafe. Parking around Onslow Village has a four hour limit, but that should see you right for a mad run alongside a zip wire and a chewy chocolate tiffin. I kinda wish we lived a bit nearer Onslow Village, now, but it’s worth the drive if you’ve some spare hours to kill.
NB: note that Wilderness Cafe is closed on Sundays. More details on their Facebook page. It sometimes still comes up under its former name of Molly’s so don’t be too confused!
Onslow Village Recreation Ground, Wilderness Road, Guildford, GU2 7QP
(The address below is the nearest Google could give me to the park itself)