I grew up near one of London’s big green spaces – Bushy Park, which borders Teddington and the Hamptons on the city’s southwestern corner. In this park I learned to ride a bike, built snowmen, played rounders in the summer as the deer looked on, and spent many a happy Sunday afternoon playing hide and seek amongst the bluebells and rhododendrons of the enclosed ‘Woodland Gardens’. However, it wasn’t until the last decade (now that I no longer live in the area) that I discovered the tradition of celebrating ‘Chestnut Sunday’ – the day in early/mid-May when the Horse Chestnuts (which line the main avenue) are believed to be in full blossom.
I remember driving through the park in May 2009 on my way to visit my parents. I was five months pregnant with JJ and it was a beautiful sunny day. Although the park is closed to traffic round about 12.30 when a big parade comes through, later on the gates open up again and this must have been the point at which I experienced the park like I’d never seen it before – packed with families picnicking under the trees, children laughing and playing and everyone just enjoying being outside for this early summer event. I thought to myself – this is how I want my family life to be – and I made a mental note to mark the day for future years.
In the intervening six years there have been several Chestnut Sundays washed out by rain, on one of which we managed a brief visit (I think JJ was either one or two at the time) but no playing out of the scene I’d imagined that sunny May day in 2009… until this year!
My lovely mum was good enough to put together a picnic for ten (!) as my sister and brother in law, nieces and even the hubster had a day off work to join us.
Unfortunately we managed to miss most of the parade which always includes classic cars, some American army jeeps (some of the US army were based in Bushy Park during WWII so those connections still exist), marching bands and the Horse Rangers (park-based pony club).
We are lucky that my parents live a stone’s throw from the park so we were able to walk there and back but the main events were a good 20 minutes walk away and we had been stuck in traffic in the run up to Hampton Court – obviously another draw on a sunny Sunday afternoon in May!
For the children there was a carousel and a few other fairground rides plus a ‘hook a minion’ stall. JJ was absolutely in his element, along with his 14 and 16 year old cousins. EJ wasn’t quite so happy – wanting to go on rides then bawling throughout the experience!
All in all we had a very enjoyable afternoon and I can now tick at least one goal off my bucket list!