I have held off doing a review of Clarence Park in St Albans for a while now. I knew they were planning on completely refurbishing their playground. Well, it finally opened today and it was worth the wait! When you think that St Albans already has a fantastic playground and splash park at Verulamium Park the kids of Hertfordshire really are very lucky!
The playground area is fenced off, with plenty of facilities near by and there’s lots of green open space for a picnic or to play games. It’s right next to the train line so if there are any train fans out there then they’ll probably like it too! The toddler and older children’s areas are separated, but that doesn’t feel like it matters here. The equipment that is most suitable for older kids is concentrated in one area and there’s so much to keep younger ones entertained they won’t really care!
The designers of the new playground at Clarence Park have been very careful to ensure the equipment is as inclusive as possible. There is quite a lot packed into what started to feel like a small area, and that’s probably my only criticism. That said, the new playground was busy when we visited Clarence Park to do this review, but it didn’t feel excessively busy. There was also quite a high turnaround of visitors (the weather was a bit pants) so it quietened down relatively quickly.
The equipment for younger children
Sometimes you find that equipment for younger kids can be a little bit boring. WELL NOT HERE! Where to start? There’s a teletubbies hill / tunnel / slide combo – although it was a little bit slippy in the rain. The fitness trail is designed for little kids to be able to do with minimal help. Plus there’s lots of cute little things like ladybirds and toadstools to clamber on.
Like rockers? Well you’ve got your pick here. There’s a massive group rocker as well as a ladybird one and a third one. I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to be?? The one in the middle – any ideas? Because you’re right next to the train track there’s a train and ticket office for role-play. Smallest Child wanted me to get in the carriage at the back. Yeah, that wasn’t happening!
Other highlights dotted around include a wooden horse & cart, trampoline, bug spotters, puzzles and a sensory path. Oh, and a wooden throne to sit upon and gaze down on your subjects (aka Mum and Dad!)!!
The playground at Clarence Park includes a lot of elements that pay homage to the history of the park and St Albans in general. The bandstand is one of those elements. It’s an exact replica (I think) of the bandstand that’s in the park, except this one has musical instruments for the kids in. There’s drums, what I think is supposed to be a steel drum and some chimes. These were a massive hit with Smallest Child and she kept going back to them time and time again.
Swings & zip line(s)!!
How many different kinds of swings are out there? I have no ideas, but I suspect that the playground at Clarence Park has them all! There’s a giant rope swing, nest swing, accessible swing, toddler swings, sling swing, parent & toddler swing and normal swings. Then there’s the triple swing roundabout!
I thought this would be big enough for Smallest Child but it really is for probably under 3’s. She got stuck when I was trying to get her out. Another mum came over to help me, which became a bit comical when we were trying to maintain social distance at the same time as wrangling a 3 1/2 year old out of a swing that seemed to think it’s a Chinese finger trap. Honestly, the harder we pulled, the more it sucked her in.
The zip lines here are epic. And the s isn’t a typo. It’s a double zip line. I’m actually going to add a caveat to that – there’s a possibility that it’s a bit too good. The zip line at Clarence Park playground has got a lot of a kick to it. I saw a couple of adults having a go on it and I swear at the end they were practically horizontal. It jerks you back with a really strong force and I also saw a couple of kids fall off. I’d suggest using with a bit of caution until the kids get used to it. Also, as it gets used more and more, it might slow down a bit.
The sand pit has always been one of the most popular parts of the playground at Clarence Park. I’m really glad they included one with the refurb. There’s a little play frame in the middle, although I think that maybe they missed a trick here. It would have been great if the frame included some chutes etc for the sand like you have at places such as Thrift Farm. Hidden in the sand are some fossils for you to find. At the moment apparently the sand is a bit too deep for people to actually find them BUT as the sand starts to go AWOL and people know where they are I’m sure they’ll become popular.
I asked the staff about the buckets and spades that were provided today. I wasn’t sure if they were only there because it’s opening day but apparently they’re here to stay. As they get broken / lost they’ll be replaced so don’t worry if you do forget yours. It’s probably a good idea to take your own just in case though.
As I mentioned earlier a lot of the playground equipment at Clarence Park is accessible. There’s the swings that I’ve already mentioned as well as a level access roundabout. The sand multiplay tower has large ADA stairs providing a large bottom step set to best height for users to transfer from a wheelchair to steps. There’s lots of sensory materials and activities throughout the playground. There’s also a wheelchair accessible play frame for the kids as well.
The picnic tables in the playground area have an extension to the end so that they’re fully wheelchair accessible. A large section of the playground is on that foamy wood-chip stuff which makes it easy to get around on as well.
The big kids equipment
Whilst I’m sure the older kids will be quiet happy playing in the sandpit and bandstand, there are certain elements that are more suitable for them as well. First up is the MASSIVE rope bridge. It’s supposed to mirror a pedestrian railway bridge and it’s about 6ft off the ground! I’ll have to go back with the boys and update this review of the Clarence Park playground. There’s no way Smallest Child was going up there!
The cricket pavilion is a great play frame for older kids (although Smallest Child at 3 1/2 was able to climb up onto it). The slide on this thing is super fast and has bumps along it which apparently give you a bit of a numb bum. I’m not speaking from personal experience – I’m fairly sure mine won’t fit!
There’s also monkey bars, another play frame, a swingy-dangly thing and of course the zip line and swings.
The rest of Clarence Park
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this review of Clarence Park is purely about the new playground. There’s actually a fairly decent park here as well. It’s mainly just green space, but there’s plenty of it and it’s nice to have a little wander around. According to the sign there’s a sensory garden, but I didn’t have time to explore it. It took me about 20 minutes to convince Smallest Child that it was indeed lunch time and we needed to leave the playground!
Our Clarence Park & Playground review
The new playground is brilliant. Yet again I’m left feeling jealous that Aylesbury doesn’t have anything this cool. St Albans has two great new playgrounds now! I do worry slightly about that zip line, but of course it’s been safety tested etc. The sandpit is such a big hit with the kids, but actually this is a good playground for a range of ages. It might be nicer if it was in a bigger area, so the equipment was a bit more spaced out, but that’s not really a big thing. You can tell that a lot of thought has gone into the design of this playground, and the kids love it.
Parking / How to get there
Address – 1A Clarence Road, St Albans AL1 4NF
There is a small car park on site. It’s free for 3 hours (you’ll still need a ticket though). Up to 5 hours is £5.40, up to 24 hours is £10.90. Long-term parking isn’t supposed to be cheap because it;s so close to the train station. I’d recommend walking if you can.
In the park, near the playground. They’ve recently been refurbished and, for park toilets, they’re not bad.
Cafe on site. Plenty of space for picnics.
What else is nearby?
St Albans has so many free and cheap things to do! There’s Verulamium park, St Albans Museum & Gallery and St Albans cathedral. SAVE 10% ON THE ST ALBANS TREASURE MAP TRAIL USING THIS AFFILIATE LINK AND THE CODE FREETIMEWITHTHEKIDS
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook