Did you know that there are 45 play parks in Brighton and Hove? Scattered across the city, in various states of repair, often clustered together in areas busy with families. We all have our favourites, but it’s always good to try somewhere new. It was from looking online for information about other parks for us to try, that I discovered the councils page and their big map of park locations. However there wasn’t much information available for many of the parks, though the ones with “friends of” groups often have facebook pages with some photos and information. So I’ve set myself a challenge, we’re going to visit every one of the 45 parks over the course of the summer and write them up here for you, dear readers!
We’re spoilt for choice here in Hove. For the longest time Wish Park was our destination of choice. l liked that it was fully enclosed and had lots for younger children to do (besides the sand pit), but recently Big S has been asking to go there less often and when we do go there, he doesn’t seem to be enjoying the play equipment as much as he once was. I think he’s in a slightly awkward in-between phase where their climbing frame and bigger equipment is too big, but the baby stuff too simple.
Instead, he has been asking to visit Stoneham Park, in Poets Corner.
Stoneham park used to be rather uninspiring, but it was updated a few years ago and the new equipment is excellent. It has two main areas, one fully enclosed for the younger children and one open to the main park for older kids. There are also football courts fenced off (so you don’t have to worry about your little ones getting a football to the face), a basketball court, picnic benches and the all important place to warm up and get a hot drink; The Hive Cafe, but more on that later.
At four, Big S likes bits of both play areas. We usually start out in the younger kids section, so Little D can have a go on the swings and a toddle about, without me having to worry too much about older children bumping into her.
There’s a surprisingly large amount crammed into a fairly small area, without it feeling cramped and busy. Big S loves the small climbing frame. It’s a really nice bit of play equipment, with sections to travel along, up and down on.
Little D loves the slide and I can easily reach to lift her straight to the top of it and hold her hand down too. She can toddle around the edges of the frame, watching her big brother clamber about, so it keeps both of them occupied (for a while, at least!)
Next to that are the ubiquitous springy ride-ons and one of those spinning tea-cup things that make me feel queasy just watching let alone using! Big S got stuck on it the other day, every attempt to push himself up to get out, only served to further propel the thing around! So perhaps a watchful eye on any pre-schoolers trying it out might be wise.
Behind this a series of balance beams and some bushes with well-trodden paths through, perfect for racing chasing, den making and hide and seek. If I ever lose sight of Big S for a second, I can pretty much guarantee this is where i’ll find him. He’s all about dens right now, even making them in the shopping trolley at the supermarket out of my coat! So give him a bush to hide inside and he’s in heaven.
The swings are next to this; two baby style and two regular. They’ve got a nice length of chain on them, so you can actually get a bit of momentum up and not have to constantly push. The baby seats are a nice size too; Little D at 15 months fits them really comfortably and feels good and safe swinging quite high in them (shouting “weeeeee” as she goes).
In front of the swings is the sandpit, with climbing frame. It has a range of scoops on chains for bringing sand up to the frame, with tunnels for then pouring the sand back down. The steps up to the frame aren’t small, so younger children can’t get up there, making it much less stressful with small children playing in the sand. It’s a nice size sand pit, but the design of it, a raised box with a wide wooden edge, can be a bit hard work with toddlers; I’m forever chasing after Little D as she decides to try and look over the edge of it, face first towards the drop to the floor! It is nice having the wide wooden edge to sit on though, even if I do always end up with sand all over me.
The tunnel is the thing that really makes the younger kids play area stand out for my kids. Both absolutely love it and will happily spend most of the park visit crawling back and forth, chasing and hiding and “raahing” at the entrance to get a big amplified sound back. Big S loves the hill atop it, cheerfully yelling that he’s the king of the castle every time! On our last visit, him and his friend sat and had their picnic on the stones on top. There’s a good bit of grass around the tunnel, giving kids somewhere to run around and burn off even more energy.
There’s also a row of benches and a picnic bench next to the tunnel, giving you somewhere to sit down and rest, or have a picnic lunch. Plus two more benches by the climbing frame and sandpit.
There are two gates in and out of the younger kids section, both just swing gates with chains on top so easily operated one handed with a buggy in tow. Exit the gate and you’re in the main section of the park, by the football cage. Around to the east is the older kids play area.
Again it has a main climbing frame, which snakes along ending up with slides. Sadly some of the slides have been removed since I took the photo below, presumably due to safety issues, but hopefully they will be replaced soon.
There’s a net based climbing frame next to this (in the foreground of the above photo), a roundabout (one of the inset into the ground ones) and a long row of swings, ending with a basket swing.
As well as the two play areas, there is a caged, tarmac football pitch, a small basketball court, an assortment of picnic benches and what looks like a small stage (presumably for productions/shows in the park in the summer?). By the entrance at the eastern end of the southern side there are 3 small wooden pigs, that Big S loves to sit on.
Being based in a residential area, the park is bordered by many walls, some of which have been artfully graffitied to bring colour and interest to the park. In the last week, a freestanding wall inside the park has had a new mural added by Waleska Nomura, an artist from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The mural is part of an ongoing project entitled “Spreading the Love and Positive Energy to the World”. When we popped in the other day she was working on the second side of it and I believe it should be finished by now. We’ll have to pop back and check it out soon.
There are toilets on the side of the Hive cafe, however they are part of the cafe not the park and as such are only open when the cafe is open. There is no disabled toilet sadly and it’s pretty tricky to get a buggy up and in to by the toilets as they are up steps and around a corner. I’ve managed to bump the buggy in to by the cubicle door when Big S needed an urgent wee, but it wasn’t easy. There’s no changing table, though you could probably squeeze a change mat on the floor if you needed to.
Unusually Stoneham Park is a completely dog free park; dogs aren’t permitted in any part of the park, not just the kids play areas. So if you have a child that is nervous of dogs (or are yourself) it’s a great park to come to. It also means that you can let the kids run off into the grass without the ever present worry of dog mess that you have at some other parks. Occasionally people do ignore the signs and bring their dogs into the park, but in all the times we’ve visited I’ve only seen this happen maybe once and we’ve never come across any dog mess.
The park has a very active “Friends of” group, that organise lots of events at the park and work pretty tirelessly to maintain and improve the facilities. There is a farmers market once a month at the park and other events on throughout the year. There have been some reports of antisocial behaviour at the park, some in the post-school rush with older primary aged kids and some in the evenings with (presumably) older teens and adults. The “Friends of Stoneham park” have discussed these issues at their regular meets and the police are involved in monitoring the park and catching the perpetrators of the problems. In all the times I’ve been to the park I’ve never seen anything worse than some noisy, overexcited tweens being a bit inconsiderate of other park users, but we do tend to avoid the post-school rush as my two children are so young and don’t enjoy the park when it’s very busy.
TLDR: For a city park in a residential area it’s a really good size park, there’s plenty of space to run around on the grass and paths through it, or scoot or bike around on the tarmac. The play equipment is varied and good for a wide range of ages and the “Friends of Stoneham Park” do a fabulous job of looking after the park and organising community events. If you haven’t visited Stoneham Park yet it’s definitely one to try.
Parking is a mix of permit and pay and display and the 49, 46 and number 2 buses all run along the Portland Road just south of the park. It’s also a short walk from Aldrington Station.
Look out for our review of “The Hive” cafe, located in Stoneham Park, coming soon!