25 + Of The Best Playgrounds in London and Essex

I think this year is going to be the year of the playground. With inside play areas and entertainment not fully open enjoying these great and free playgrounds is a great way to entertain children. I am lucky to have lots of playgrounds near me in Loughton, but sometimes we want somewhere a bit more special where we can happily spend a few hours, or even the whole day, so I have pulled together a list of brilliant playgrounds London and Essex that are worth travelling to. 

All of these playgrounds have something a bit special about them and are highly rated by my family and other local parents. They are all free entry, but there may be charges for parking and some of the activities. Many of the parks include other attractions including splash parks, skate parks and boating lakes (subject to seasonal opening and Coronavirus restrictions).

It is worth checking the locations websites or social media before visiting due to Coronavirus closures. 

A child playing on an infinity bowl in a great playground in London and Essex
There are so many great playgrounds in London and Essex, these are the ones we think are the best.

25 Plus Of The Best Free Playgrounds In London & Essex

1. Baddow Hall Park, Chelmsford, CM2 7QT

The playground in Baddow Hall Park contains a couple of climbing frames and some swings, but the real highlight is the BMX track. There is also plenty of green space and a wild flower meadow. There are no toilets or car park on site.

2. Barking Park, Longbridge Road, Barking, IG11 8UD

Barking Park has a great play area which is mostly sand based, but there is plenty to explore. A splash park (open April to September, prebook 90 minute sessions, check their website for current prices and information), boating lake with pedalo hire (weekends, public and school holidays April to October), hard courts, skate park, cafe and toilets. Plenty of friendly squirrels around and birds on the the lake including geese, swans and heron.
Car park and street parking available. 

3. Battersea Park Children’s Playground, Battersea, London, SW11 4NJ

In the south-west corner of Battersea Park is a great playground with areas for different ages from toddlers upwards. The 3 playgrounds are all next to each other with separate areas for toddlers, juniors and a more challenging adventure playground for children 8 to 12 years. Understandably given it's location in one of London’s favourite parks this playground can get very busy. There is a Go Ape next to the playgrounds.
There are kiosks in the area serving refreshments as well as a café. Toilets are located in the café as well as on the other side of Go Ape.

Playing in Battersea park playground in London
Battersea Park has great play areas for all ages

4. Bedfords Park Playground, Broxhill Road, Havering-atte-Bower, Romford  RM4 1QH 

When you turn into the entrance of Bedfords Park from Broxhill Road there is a long drive to the far end of the car park where you will find the playground. The wooden play structures are nicely designed with activities suitable for different age groups. A short walk away towards the Discovery Centre is an enclosure where you can see Red Deer. There is also plenty of green space to run around in this 215 acre parkland.
Toilets are available in the Discovery Centre and the parking is free.

A view of the wooden play structures at Bedfords Park playground
Bedfords Parks Playground

5. Belhus Woods Country Park Playground, South Ockendon, Aveley, RM15 4XJ

The play area at Belhus Woods Country Park has a number of outdoor percussion instruments as well as wooden climbing frames, slides, swings and a sand pit. You can borrow story bags free of charge from the Visitor’s Centre (when open) which contain books, activity sheets and den building kits.
There are toilets near the car park and visitors centre.
Car park charges currently £2.20 for an hour up to £5.50 for over 3 hours.  

6. Castle Park Playground, High Street, Colchester CO1 1UG

 The main playground in Castle Park is near the café, a short walk from the Colchester High Street park entrance next to the castle. There is also a second playground (Kings Meadow playground) on the far side of the park. The main playground is suitable for toddlers up to age 12 and includes swings, climbing frames, slides, zip wires and a sand pit with a pirate ship.
A café and toilets are close to the play area. There is plenty more to explore in Castle Park include a boating lake and Pitch and Putt
Parking (chargeable) is available in the numerous city centre car parks including Nunn’s Road, Priory Street and Osbourne Street.

7. Clissold Park Playground, off Church Street/ Green Lanes, Stoke Newington N16 9HJ

There is a good range of play equipment for all ages at Clissold Park, some of which is on sand. Activities include: slides, a climbing tower, various climbing frames, swings and more.
As well as the play area Clissold Park has an aviary, goats, fallow deer, a river, fountains, hard courts , skate park and toilets. The Paddling Pool is currently closed and there are plans for renovation, but no completion date has been announced. As well as the café and refreshments kiosk in the park there are a great range of family friendly food places a short walk a way in Church Street.
Parking is limited so public transport may be the easiest option. If you are visiting for a short period the nearby supermarkets have the largest car parks.

8. Coram’s Fields Playgrounds, 93 Guildford Street, London WC1N 1DN

A short walk from the British Museum you can find Coram's Fields which is a large enclosed space designed for under 16s and no adult can enter without a child. You can’t see into this large courtyard like space from outside which makes it a little mysterious (I say as an adult who walked past for years before I had a child I could actually go in with). Once inside there are separate play areas for different age children which are well spaced out, but as an open space it is fairly easy to see across from one area to another if you have older children playing at a distance.  There are grass areas, football pitches and a sand pit as well as a splash park in summer months.
The site did have some farm animals, but they are currently being housed elsewhere.
Coram’s Fields has toilets and a café (although the café is currently closed to due Coronavirus).

A colourful playframe with slide for preschoolers in a sand pit at Coram's Fields London
One of the preschool play areas and sand pit in Coram's Fields London

9. Diana Memorial Playground Kensington Gardens

The Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens is inspired by the story of Peter Pan. It has a large pirate ship as it’s centrepiece as well as a sensory trail, teepees and small boats to play on surrounded by sand.
While this is a free playground entry is restricted to children under 12 and adults. They are currently limiting numbers so queuing may be necessary. Food is not currently permitted in the playground (probably to limit how long people stay in there). The water features are currently not in use.  

Some wooden boat structures in a sand pit a Diana Memorial Park in London
Some of the smaller play structures at the Diana Memorial Playground from Me, Him, The Dog And A Baby

10. Great Notley Country Park, Braintree, Great Notley, Essex, England, CM77 7FS

Great Notley Country Park has is a long play trail which will definitely burn off a lot of energy. Parts of the trail are closed for renovation in early 2021, but there is still plenty to do. At the far end of the trail there is a large sand pit which is fun way to spend time however there are no toilets near here. We take a travel potty because there is NO WAY you can make it back to the toilets from here with a recently potty trained toddler.
I like that there are various things to explore and play with hidden away all around the park which makes exploring even more fun.
There is a large car park near the Visitor's Centre which includes a café and the toilets. The car park currently costs  £2.20 for 1 hour going up to £6.50 for over 3 hours.

A large sand pit playground at Great Notley Park in Essex
The large sandpit play area at Great Notley Park is at the far end of the play trail

11. Greenwich Park, Greenwich, London SE10 8XG

If you are visiting Greenwich with children then stopping by the playground in Greenwich Park will be a highlight on a sunny day. Found in the North-East corner of the park different parts of the playground are suitable for toddlers through to older children and there is a sandpit too next to the toilets.
If you can persuade your children away from the playground and up the hill to the Royal Observatory  then you will be rewarded with amazing views. There aren’t any refreshment vendors right next to the playground, but I would recommend checking out Greenwich Market for great food and taking it to the park to eat.
There is limited pay and display parking around the park so public transport is advised. The playground is near Maze Hill station and plenty of buses run along Trafalgar Road which is a short walk away. 

A child on a climbing frame at Greenwich park, just the top is shown because it is busy
Greenwich Park has great play areas for different ages and a sandpit

12. Hanningfield Waterside Park, Hanningfield Reservoir, South Hanningfield, CM3 8HX

The Waterside Park at Hanningfield Reservoir has a fairly new playground as well as cafe, toilets, gift shop and free car park. The playground includes wooden structure climbing frames, swings and slides.
If you fancy a walk you can park at the Waterside Park and walk clockwise around the reservoir to the Essex Wildlife Trust Hanningfield Reservoir Centre and the Wind in The Willows Sculpture Trail (a map is available from the Visitors Centre when open for £1). Alternatively you could drive between locations as they both have free parking.

A view from the entrance of Hanningfield reservoir playground showing 2 large climbing frames with slides, swings and more
Near Hanningfield Reservoir there is a great playground with plenty to entertain toddlers to tweens

13. Harlow Town Park, Harlow, Essex, CM20 2QG

Harlow Town park has several play areas with the newest located near Pets’ Corner (a small, but free farm). The larger play areas are 5 to 10 minutes walk from here (child speed), it has a good range of equipment for all ages including a large climbing tower. There is also a paddling pool in the summer. There are several car parks (paid) and it can get busy in good weather. Pets' Corner is free entry, but prebooking is now requested to control visitor numbers. Even when closed they normally have some animals in the paddocks which can be seen.The toilets are near the Pets’ Corner play area. Toilets are near Pets' Corner.
There is a nearby chargeable car park in Schools Lane (Nettleswell Cross car park) but if that is full and you don’t want to drive around looking for street car park there is a bigger car park on the other side of the park near Harlow station.

A close up of a preschooler suitable climbing frame at Harlow Town Park Essex
Harlow Town Park has multiple playgrounds and a free mini farm (Pets' Corner)

14. The Highams Park, Henry's Avenue, Woodford Green, IG8 9RB

This park has great views over Epping Forest a play area for Under 7s with swings, slide and a climbing frame. There is a big lake to walk around and spot ducks as well as the occasional squirrel. There is also a café and toilets. Limited street parking available, most of which needs to be paid for.

15. Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 8FS

Hylands Park is the large estate of Hylands House. Often a location of festivals in the summer months there is plenty to explore, but the main playground has an amazing wooden adventure castle structure and is located near the Greenbury Way entrance. It’s a big playground with activities in the castle and fort as well as outside in the "hamlet" area for younger children. One of the sections of castle is fully inclusive and suitable for wheelchairs. This playground may be closed at times in the Summer when festivals are on.
There is a refreshment kiosk, toilets and picnic tables near the playground. On the other side of the Estate, nearer to the House, there is apparently a smaller playground with climbing frames, slides, ropes and a swing (although I haven't found this one yet). Parking charges were introduced in late 202. It isn't too far to walk from the playground to the Pleasure Gardens where there are lots of pretty flowers and a duck pond.

Hylands Estate Playground is designed as an accessible castle
The playground at Hylands Estate is castle themed and lots of fun

16. King George’s Playing Fields, Ingrave Road, Brentwood CM14 5AE

King George’s Playing Fields are in the middle of a significant redevelopment during which time parking will be limited. When complete (Spring 2022) there will be a new pavilion, splash pad, play area, cafe, changing facilities and sensory room.

The new play areas and splash pad are expected to be completed for summer 2021. The new toddler play area is complete and junior play area expected to be open any day now. There is also a skate park and formal gardens to explore. There are 4 car parks around the playing fields which offer up to 4 hours free parking.

17. Lloyd Park, off Forest Road, Walthamstow, E17 5JW

Lloyd Park behind the William Morris Gallery is a lovey park with a good playground, natural play area and sand pit. There is a nice mix of equipment for all ages including swings, slides and climbing frames. It also has a cafe, toilets, outdoor gym, skate park and formal gardens with a moat (and ducks). The skate park has a small section which is popular with little children on scooters.
There is small pay and display car park next to the main entrance on Forest Road (on The Bell side), but parking is limited to 2 hours and there are restrictions on all of the surrounding roads. Public transport is advisable. 

Climbing frames from wood and nets and Lloyd Park playground in Walthamstow
Some of the play equipment at Lloyd Park in Walthamstow

18. Promenade Park, Maldon Park Drive, Maldon CM9 5JQ

The playground at Promenade Park is a hugely popular attraction for children with a large pirate ship play frame, sand pits and other play equipment. The Splash Park next door is generally open from March to September for around £2.50 a session, there is another playground at the top of the hill, adventure golf (Pirates Bay) and a model boating lake. You can also hire a beach hut and visit the BMX track or skate park and go crabbing.
A new play area at the top of the park (near the museum) is due to be completed by May 2021.

19. Raphael Park Playground, Main Road, Romford RM2 5EB

Raphael Park play area is good with lots to climb on and swings. The park also has ornamental gardens and a lake to explore. There is also a café, kiosk and toilets next to the play area. Originally part of Gidea Hall Estate the park still has a number of historic features. 
There is a pay and display car park across the road from the main entrance, near Lodge Farm Park, although the playground is at the other end of the park so you may find street parking closer. 

Lodge Farm Park across the Main Road from Raphael Park also contains a playground and a miniature railway (closed until restrictions change).

20. Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, Mucking Wharf Road, Mucking, Standford-Le-Hope SS17 0RN

Situated on the edge of the Thames Estuary and with views over Mucking Flats Thameside Park there are plenty of birds, wildlife, boats and cranes to see. The play areas include a wooden boat and light house as well as a wooden assault course. 
The Discovery Centre, where there is a café, toilets and shop, is open Fridays to Sundays, but the reserve is open every day.
The car park is free (donations welcome).

21. Tumbling Bay Playground, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Olympic Park Avenue, Stratford, London E20 1DY.

There is lots to explore on the former main site of the 2020 Olympics including 2 playgrounds and water fountains to play in outside the stadium (running March to October). Our favourite of the playgrounds is Tumbling Bay to the north of the site. It contains a sandpit, water play, treehouse, swings and slides hidden amongst the trees.
Starting outside the Timber Lodge café (where you will find toilets) is the sandpit and continuing along in a line until the large wooden climbing frame which is great fun for older children. Younger ones may prefer to stay in the sand and water areas or head to the other playground near the stadium. Tumbling Bay Playground can be hard to navigate if you have a pushchair and it can be hard to keep a visual on children, it is definitely worth visiting with children age 5 and upwards though.
The playgrounds are a short walk from Westfields Shopping Centre and the interesting food places in East Village. We normally park in Stratford International car park or there are the Westfield car parks and public transport. If heading to the shopping centre there is also a nice playground outside Westfield between the shopping centre and Stratford International station.

A great wooden treehouse structure as part of Tumbling Bay playground at the Olympic Park in Stratford
Tumbling Bay Playground at the Stratford Olympic Park is great fun for children age 5 and upwards

22. Valentines Park Playground, Cranbrook Road, Ilford IG1 4TG

This large park in Ilford has a good size playground for children with lots to play on for all ages. There is also a boating lake, outdoor gym, 2 cafes, toilets and multi-use games area. There are ducks, friendly squirrels and other wildlife. Car park on site and surrounding roads.

23. Victoria Park Playgrounds, Grove Rd, London E9 7HW

There are 2 play areas in Victoria Park. On the west side near Grove Road is the V&A play area and sand pit which is a great area for preschoolers. On the far side of the park is a playground more suited to older children with long slides and big climbing frame. The play areas are mostly sand based. this second area is next to a fun splash pool (open in Summer months) and a café. If you can get away from the play areas there is also a boating lake, landscaped areas and skate park.
There is street parking around the park which is a combination of free and paid (it can get expensive), alternatively there are good public transport links.

A play house in one of the Victoria Park playgrounds in Mile End London
V&A Playground in Victoria Park, London. Image from post by What The Redhead Said

24. Wat Tyler Country Park Playground, Pitsea Hall Lane, Pitsea, Basildon, Essex SS16 4UH 

Edit: playground closed from 28th Feb 2022 until wc 23rd May (provisional date) while the play area is redeveloped as an inclusive play area with wheelchair access. Wat Tyler Country Park has a large adventure playground with lots of activities including large climbing frames suitable for toddlers and juniors, swings, 2 zip wires, roundabout, seesaw. In Summer months a miniature railway runs around the edge of the park. 
There is a café, toilets and shop. The park gets very muddy in places. There are various trails on the site including a sculpture trail, you can find the maps online.

25. Weald Country Park (Stickman Trail Playgrounds), Weald Road, Brentwood, Essex, England, CM14 5QS

Weald Country Park has 2 main playgrounds as part of the Stickman Trail. The best playground for younger children is next to the main car park and Visitor Centre. In this area there is also a deer enclosure, toilets, shop and the Wigley Bush Café. The shop sells duck and deer food as well as maps of the Stickman Trail.

There are 4 car parks around the site which cost £2.20 for up to 1 hour going up to £5.50 for over 3 hours. They advise the car parks tend to be full by 10.30am/ 11am on weekends currently and they will update their answering machine message (01277 261343where possible to advise when they are full. 

The Stickman Trail has various Stickman themed locations around a trail. These take you past the lake (with lots of geese and ducks) and around to a second play area. Most of the trail is better for children aged 5 upwards and while there are some footpaths it can be difficult with a pushchair when muddy.

Older children's play area at Weald Country Park is a big wooden play structure with slide
One of the 2 main playgrounds at Weald Country Park Stickman Trail, Essex

26. Wickford Memorial Park, Rettendon View, Wickford, Essex SS11 8JE

Wickford Memorial Park has a large playground with lots for all ages. Café and toilets. The park is 80 acres and has a small area of woodland to play, riverside walk and a more formal rose garden.
There is parking in 3 areas with Rettendon View closest to the playground. The others are on Highcliffe Avenue and Runwell Road.

I hope you have found this post helpful. I would love to know if you visit any and what you think. You might also be interested in my post about the best places to go with kids in Essex.

The Best Playgrounds in London and Essex with a child playing
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1 comment

  1. This is very helpful! My kids love to try new parks. I'm stopping by from the Flea Network. Fantastic blog!