When the sun is out, it’s great to get outside, especially with the kids. Sometimes the garden is enough, sometimes a local park, and sometimes you just want somewhere a little bit more special.
We loved Verulamium Park in St Albans when we visited and would highly recommend it for a great family day out. Just half an hour from London (and not far from the city centre, which is well served by rail), it’s absolutely huge (100 acres). That means there’s space to play games (there are a number of football pitches with nets, plus netball and basketball courts, and lots and lots of green grass), enjoy the playground and splash park (for younger kids), and of course, sample some ice cream! There’s also a rather beautiful ornamental lake, complete with swans (of course) – although, be warned, that the lake doesn’t smell as good as it looks…
The park is also more than just a gorgeous green space – with a magnificent view of St Alban’s Cathedral. Named after the Roman City of Verulamium, you can still see (and read about) the City walls. Plus, if you fancy a bit of culture, you can take a trip to the Verulamium Museum.
Even if you decide not to do that, you should pop into the hypocaust (a sort of ancient central heating system) and see the remarkable, intricate, Roman mosaic, laid on top of it. They are both are around 1,800 years old.
The hypocaust was discovered in the 1930s by Sir Mortimer and Tessa Wheeler, and it and the mosaic have been left in their original location (thought once to have been part of the reception of a large town house). It’s really worth visiting, as it takes about 10 minutes and is free, but is also really special – this isn’t something you see in your average park! When you visit, do look for the one mosaic square that was laid slightly wrong – at a 45 degree angle to the others.
Verulamium is lovely for just walking around. The River Ver, which flows through it, is actually quite unusual – it’s a chalk stream fed from an underground lake, and this means that if you walk along the path of the river, you may see all sorts of unusual wildlife.
The park does have a few kiosks for buying snacks and also a restaurant. However, we went to the local waffle house and really enjoyed our delicious waffles (especially the garlic butter and hummus one). Be warned though – the queues were huge (we left Brian with a newspaper, to stand and wait for 45 minutes). You can’t book on weekends……
All in all, we’d highly recommend a visit to Verulamium, a park with a difference. The only negative was that it was extremely difficult to park our car, so it might be wise to get there early and spend the day enjoying the outdoors with no parking stress.
Find out more about the park here.
Another lovely places for the summer