Let’s Explore: Walthamstow

13th June 2019

It feels only natural that ToyDrop’s series of family-friendly travel guides starts in the place we call home. London’s first Borough of Culture, Waltham Forest, sits at the North East corner of the capital, with the city and countryside both on its doorstep. As a family, we’ve not known anything else so I’m totally biased when I say it’s amazing. But with brilliant places to eat, play, shop and explore, plus a sense of community I never experienced in my previous eight years in London, I can’t think of any other borough I’d prefer to live.

Maybe you want to move here? Or just need a base for the weekend? Here’s a guide to the best spots for family fun, in collaboration with my lovely neighbours @lucybegent@lobellaloves_jo @in_stow_gram, @this_e17_life and @wordstoreldn

SEE/DO

You can’t visit Walthamstow and not see the William Morris Gallery & Lloyd Park. It’s often the only reason people come to be honest. The gorgeous Georgian villa is where the interior designer lived, and the much-loved park behind it is his old back garden. It now houses a free museum, two decent coffee shops, tennis courts, green gym, skate park and a brilliant playground where younger kids could play all day.  

On Saturday mornings, the adjacent Grow Wild opens its doors too. Head down for slightly terrifying but ultimately really fun outdoor play sessions.

If you’re in the sit-on-the-bench-and-watch-them-play camp, check out Greenleaf playground. It’s much smaller and there’s a secure gate to get in and out so there’s no way they can leave your sight. Always good to have in your back pocket.

Epping Forest and Walthamstow Wetlands are brilliant if you need more space to run wild. We’re right on the edge of both here and you can find walks to suit all ages. My one recommendation here is to take wellies even if it’s sunny. There’s ALWAYS puddles and mud to jump over/in.  

Raining? Kids bouncing off the walls? Head to The Feel Good Centre where you’ll find soft play and trampolining for all ages (just check session times) or Yonder for rock climbing, which they can start from as young as three years old if accompanied by an adult. They also do yoga if you need to unwind and decent coffee for the opposite.

If you’re visiting in June, pick up a map for the E17 Art Trail, which has taken place every year since 2004. It’s a series of free exhibitions, open houses, artist studios, performance, workshops and talks by our residents and shows just what an incredibly creative community we’re part of. Even just walking around the streets, you’ll get a sense it with poetry boards in people’s front gardens, unique street art and the wonderful knitted garden.

For the history lovers amongst us, check out the Pump House Museum and Vestry House Museum & Gardens. They’re both free and give a few nice insights into the Victorian era, particularly if you’re into technology, transport and industrial history. The Pump House Museum is only open on Sundays though so watch out for that one.

SHOP  

Not only is Mother’s Hub a venue for the best mother and baby groups around, but its beautifully-curated selection of childrenswear, toys and books is perfect if you need a last-minute gift for a little one. Word is also great for this. With three rooms – one for kids, one for adults and one for plants – it’s a real test of character to leave empty-handed.

Our humble village SPAR has won a bunch of awards for being generally awesome. Featuring a pop-up hot food counter, fresh, locally-baked cakes and a well-curated selection of produce throughout, it’s the perfect place for grabbing milk as well as ethical skincare and eco-friendly nappies.

You can buy nice wine at SPAR but I’d recommend taking the short stroll up Orford Road to In Vino Veritas instead. Their range is excellent and recommendations are always spot on. If you can find a babysitter, you can sit in for a drink too. Their intimate, candlelit space at the back is great for a nightcap, especially with their resident pianist in session.

EAT

You can’t go far wrong here with places to eat. We’ll often start the weekend at Buhler & Co, where a delicious feast of veggie and vegan grub awaits. Get there early for a table (before 10am if possible) as they don’t take bookings. There’s a couple of simple, balanced options for kids, with books and toys in the back room to keep them entertained.

The sandwiches at Wynwood Art District are another favourite. We pretty much lived on them when we were renovating our place a few years ago but they’re also great when there’s nothing in the cupboard at the weekend. Pick one up on your way to Lloyd Park in the summer and that’s lunch sorted.

While I’m on the subject of sandwiches, don’t miss Froth & Rind. These guys make the kind of toasties you’ll dream about forever. In an epic cheese dream kind of way. They make great coffee too.

If it’s 9am, you’ve been up for approximately four hours already and the only thing to get you through is coffee and fresh air, head to The Magistrates. As the name suggests, they’re based in Walthamstow Magistrates Court, right next door to the impressive Town Hall. With plenty of grass to play out on and ride-on toys to keep the kids busy, you can (almost) leave them to their own devices while you refuel.

If your little ones are as pizza-obsessed as ours, you’re in the right place. SodoYard Sale and Sourdough Saloon at Dog & Duck are just a few of our favourites. They even do surprisingly delicious vegan options for the saintly.  

For something a little more formal (dinner with the in-laws/date night/getting the cocktails in etc) check out Eat17. It’s owned by the same heroes that run the legendary SPAR and has arguably the best chicken burger in London. I don’t eat chicken so can’t confirm this but have it on good authority.

When burgers come into it, there’s a new contender in town. The Collab opened this spring and is a welcome addition to the Walthamstow food scene. I was excited about its THREE(!!!) types of veggie burger but meat-lovers will be in bloody heaven. Their kid’s meals are really thoughtfully done, and as its a taproom too, it’s a great alternative to the pub if you’re meeting friends.

Talking of pubs, we can’t move for good ones. The Bell and The Castle always get my vote. Both super family-friendly, they serve amazing food all day and two of the best Sunday roasts you’ll ever eat.

Words by Anna Whitaker // Illustration by Eleanor Stevenson

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