Top 5 spots for an afternoon walk with the kids
I love meeting new families and capturing memories for them in my fun outdoor family photo shoots. There are so many amazing locations nearby in south west London and Surrey that make a beautiful backdrop to your portraits, we really are spoiled.
I find I am shooting more and more family photo sessions outdoors these days – growing families want to remember ALL the stages of childhood and heading out on location gives kids the freedom to explore and be themselves!
Now that spring is here and we are starting to enjoy some warmer weather, I have been on the hunt for some fantastic new locations to take families to. The bluebell season is in full swing and while all that beautiful spring blossom may have gone, there are still plenty of opportunities to get back to nature for a stunning family photo shoot.
Living in London (albeit the suburbs), it’s refreshing to get outdoors and take a walk in the woods and you don’t have to drive far to feel like you’re in the countryside.
Favourite spots for a walk with the kids
Here are a few fabulous locations that I’ve been checking out that are well worth a visit if you’re looking for an afternoon walk with the kids:
Radnor Gardens, Twickenham
A popular spot on Twickenham Riverside, Radnor Gardens is a lovely place to go for a short walk with small children. You can stroll next to the Thames, wander among the ancient weeping willows, or sit quietly in the peaceful rose garden. For such a small open space it offers a surprising variety of backdrops and is perfect for a family picnic on a warm spring or summer day, with plenty of trees offering shade if it gets too hot.
Radnor Gardens has plenty of history and is home to an 18thcentury gazebo and a Gothic summer house, and if you go exploring you may just find a plaque marking a ‘Remarkable High Flood’ in 1771. In fact, when there’s been lots of rain and the river is high, the gardens are still prone to flooding today!
There’s also a well-maintained children’s playground that’s perfect for when your little ones need to burn off some energy and a small seasonal café if you need a dose of caffeine and a slice of cake while they play.
After a few visits these past few weeks, I’ve still only just scratched the surface of what this expanse of picturesque woods, ponds and heathland has to offer. There are paths that lead you all over the woodlands, where you’ll find bluebells and ancient trees, along with shallow streams and hills to run up and down.
It’s home to tons of wildlife, including rabbits and deer, which we spotted bounding across the woods during our first trip.
On an excursion with a friend on one of April’s colder days, we even saw a lady wild swimming in Black Pond wearing just a swimsuit and cap. She emerged from the water looking invigorated – her skin red from the cold to match her swimming cap! Having dipped a toe in the water, I can safely say I won’t be going for so much as a paddle this side of August, but if you have a dog, I’m sure they would love it! Needless to say, I encourage families to bring along their furry friends for outdoor sessions, because they are part of the family too.
Frensham Ponds – Little and Great
For a taste of the beach, without the drive all the way to the South Coast, a shorter route down the M3 and towards Farnham takes you to the beautiful Frensham Ponds. Ok, it’s not quite the seaside, but you can still feel the sand between your toes and dip your feet on a warm day (though check the water quality first as there can be high concentrations of algae, making it unsafe). We headed there with some friends on a breezy Saturday afternoon, and strolled along the man-made beach – the kids digging holes and leaping from the boardwalk onto the sand, while we soaked up the views of the water beyond the reeds. There are also areas of open heathland with paths winding around the stunning yellow gorse bushes, and a sandy beach. It would offer a stunning backdrop not only for a family photo shoot, but for an outdoors maternity session to celebrate pregnancy.
Frensham Little Pond offers something different, with woodland to explore, and ridges to climb. The reeds around the pond present a beautiful backdrop, and I can only imagine how beautiful the heathland is in summer when the purple heather is out.
A section of the beach there was closed for filming when I visited, as the ponds are a popular filming location. A set was being built on the sand, with thatched roof huts, to look like a village. A short walk round leads you to more open areas of beach and you can easily circumnavigate the whole pond with small children in tow. I saw several families out for the afternoon, and the sandy paths are definitely doable with a pushchair. In fact, there’s a special family trail of 2-2.5 miles that takes around 1-2 hours and offers views over the lake and plenty to explore.
As an added bonus, once you make it all the way round, there’s the National Trust Tern Café at the end where you can get hot and cold drinks, scones and cakes. I resisted the temptation to treat myself to a chocolate brownie, but it took all my willpower! Frensham Little Pond is a popular spot for birdwatchers, and there’s even a hide at the café for watching the activity on the water, so bring your binoculars if your little ones are into wildlife as there up to 90 species to spot.
There is also a toilet at the café, which is good to know if you’re potty training and worried about getting caught short.
Top tip – to make sure the kids don’t spot the café at the start of your walk, you might want to park at the car park to the east (the little one you reach first on Priory Lane from the A287) and pick up the trail from there and do it in reverse.
Parking is £4 per day at the weekends or free for National Trust members. There is a café and toilets at both sites.
Sunbury Walled Garden
If a long walk is too much for little legs, and you just want somewhere super safe for small children to play and be able to explore freely, head to the delightful Walled Garden in Sunbury-on-Thames. It’s easy to miss on the route along the river from Hampton to Shepperton but well worth a visit. As the name suggests, ancient walls surround this lovely, manicured garden, so it’s easy to keep the children contained while you enjoy this peaceful spot. With beautiful flower beds, rose bushes, and a stone lion statue as its centrepiece, it feels like an escape from the hubbub of daily life and has toilets, so you don’t need to worry if your toddler suddenly has an urgent need to go. It’s also home to a lovely café with plenty of seating indoors, with views over the garden, and the Sunbury Embroidery Gallery is worth a look too.
You’re unlikely to spend a long time here, but if the grandparents are visiting it’s the perfect spot for getting out for an hour somewhere new and maybe grabbing a bite to eat, too.
Having grown up in Whitton, a lot of my childhood was spent playing in Kneller Gardens and exploring Crane Park, both on foot and on my bike. Less well known Crane Park offers a convenient getaway from the hustle and bustle as it’s right on our doorstep and stretches from Meadway in Twickenham (opposite the entrance to Kneller Gardens) to Hanworth Road.
I’ve introduced it to many of my clients for child and family photo shoots and they are often amazed at how peaceful it is, after telling me they had no idea it even existed!
As well as once being home to the notorious gunpowder mills, a nature reserve has been created next to the old Shot Tower in the middle of Crane Park on the Hounslow side.
As the name suggest, the river Crane runs through the park and there are many makeshift stepping stones in the river where children (and probably adults) have gone before. It’s a great place to head in the summer with a little net for pond dipping – I fondly recall finding tadpoles and all sorts of other creatures on excursions during the school holidays when I was a child.
With a proper path that takes you from one end to the other, and the option to go off the track, Crane Park is fabulous to explore, even with little legs. I’m planning to go back soon, to check out the nature reserve on foot.
Where do YOU like to spend time as a family?
I’d love to hear all about your favourite places to go when you want some fresh air and a taste of the countryside, even in London. Who knows? We might even find a fabulous new beauty spot to add to my growing list of lovely locations for a family photo shoot.
And if you’re thinking it’s about time you got round to a family photo shoot with your (not-so-little-now!) children, then get in touch today because there’s no time like the present and my diary is filling up fast. Don’t be that mum who never gets round to it and is full of regret when she suddenly realizes her children have all grown up and she never took the opportunity. Your family is unique and changing all the time and what it looks like today deserves to be celebrated.