It’s the last few days of the magical treasure hunt set across the whole of central London. Track down jars and sculptures from artists and noted people including Buzz Aldrin, Steven Spielberg, Sir Quentin Blake, and um, Simon Cowell. Find your maps and trails here
Part of the London Design Festival, the spectacular Curiousity Cloud installation at V&A is delightful and delicate. 250 mouth-blown globes, each with a laser-cut foil, embroidered insect nestled within, hang, gently clinking in a darkened room. As visitors approach, the insects come to life… Go and see it for free at the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room, but be quick, it disappears like a wisp on September 27. More here
It’s a hot and sticky time in London right now, and the heat might start to feel oppressive. Time to dig out your swimsuits and towels, and find somewhere to cool off. Here are our favourite places to get wet in the summer.
*Wonderful, fresh water swimming pond, Of Soil And Water is now open. Set in the heart of King’s Cross, you’ll splash and glide in cool (very cool – this pool is unheated) water with a view of cranes, trains, and building sites. A wonderful experience, but book your tickets now -they’re going fast! More here
*Jeppe Hein’s fantastic aquatic sculpture Appearing Rooms has appeared yearly at the Southbank Centre since 2007, and is an absolute must-do each summer. Take towels and a spare change of clothes (or swimming costumes) and combine your free sploshing with an event at the venue (there’s tons on for the Love Festival this summer).
*Brixton’s huuuuge Brockwell Lido pool (50m long!) is a gorgeous, art deco wonder. It’s been totally made-over, so the changing facilities are slick, and the restaurant is absolutely lovely. Go on a sticky summer evening for fewer queues and lower prices. Peak prices adults £5.75, under-16s £3.40, under-5s free.
*The elegant Edmond J Safra court at Somerset House springs to life when its water jets are switched on each morning. It’s a great place to cool off in the centre of London. If you’re going to one of the venue’s staggeringly good art workshops, and it’s a hot day, be sure to pack a change of clothes! From spring to autumn 10am-11pm.
*Granary Square is a great place for toddlers to run around and have a splash. There are usually deckchairs for parents too. Don’t forget to download the app that enables you to control the fountains or use them to play a game of snake (only available 8pm–10pm). Round the corner is brand new Lewis Cubitt Square, with more elegant arching jets (still great to run through), which is home to street food market, KERB.
*The Diana Memorial Fountain, in Kensington Gardens is a modern, slick water feature that kids adore dipping their toes into. Teething problems with children, water and slippery granite have now been ironed out, and this is a great place to chill on a blazing hot afternoon. Be sure to take a stroll across the park to the Memorial Playground afterwards.
*However, if it’s really, really hot, you might want to immerse your sweaty kids in cold water. In which case, forget the Memorial Fountain, and head south across the park to the Serpentine Lido. It’s a bargain £4 for adults, £1 for kids, and under-3s go free. There’s a paddling pool for small sardines.
*Right in the heart of the West End, surrounded by towers and concrete, there’s an outdoor pool. The aptly-named Oasis Sports Centre is a council-run haven right next to Covent Garden (it’s a great place to swim after you’ve been for a heavy-duty shop). Thanks to nearby office workers, it gets really crowded at lunchtimes and in the early evenings in the summer, so try to hit it early or on a Sunday. Kids swim for £1 at all general sessions.
There are thirteen green Cabmens Shelters left in London, dotted around London as Grade II listed buildings. These shelters were set up in 1875 for cab men as a sort of ‘drive-thru’ to have a warm meal without having to park their cabs. These shelters still stand around London, parked at the original taxi spots. Find them at Embankment, Hanover Square, Kensington Road and Warwick Avenue and see if you can count all thirteen!
If you live in Muswell Hill, cross the Millenium Bridge regularly, or wander around East India Docks, you may have spotted, or even walked on the art of Ben Wilson. Ben finds ugly old spots of chewing gum, and makes them beautiful, creating miniature landscapes, abstract patterns, and even tributes to dead cats. Once you know about his art, you won’t be able to stop yourself looking for it. Why not head out on a family chewing gum painting trail? More pictures here
We’ve spotted frogspawn in our local pond! It’s come very early this year, but the jelly-like substance is definitely being produced. Kids are fascinated by the stuff, and no wonder, it looks positively alien. Collect some if you have space outside to keep at home (follow the instructions here), or keep an eye on a batch in a park nearby. Perhaps you could track the spawn’s progress daily; watch as the little black dots grow bigger and bigger, eventually hatching into tadpoles. Then see the transformation from wiggler to little frog. More about frogspawn here