The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, which manages tourist attractions and sports centres along a 26-mile stretch of the River Lee (usually spelt ‘Lea’) in Essex and Hertfordshire, is offering special activities to families in the east London area. Children starting their summer holidays can now take part in a variety of fun and exciting activities such as BMX bike riding, tennis and hockey at special summer holiday prices.
The LVRPA are offering a huge choice of affordable sports programmes to keep children occupied during the long six-week break. You can choose from hour-long taster sessions in four types of cycling, one-day sports activity camps and training sessions for cycling, hockey and tennis, as part of the Olympic legacy events being hosted at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, Newham, east London – to encourage children and adults to make sports an important part of their lives. The Authority also has other events running in Hertfordshire, Essex and Leyton – all within easy driving distance. Visitors to the Home Counties sites, near the leafy park that straddles the River Lee, can also experience water rafting, kayaking, rambling, boating, pony treks, farms and ice-skating rinks in a friendly and natural setting, perfect during these long summer days. Interested parents are encouraged to book places early as spots are limited.
At the Lee Valley VeloPark at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, would-be Bradley Wiggins, Laura Trotts and bike-mad kids generally can try out different styles of cycling at the specially designed park and courses. You can choose from holiday clubs specialising in BMX, mountain biking, road or track cycling. Children will learn to build their confidence on two wheels and also learn how to safely handle their bikes with adult supervision. They will be pumping their pedals and tackling berms on the BMX track, developing the control of a road bike on the flat and how to execute safe climbs and descents on mountain bikes. They can even discover the secrets of velodrome racing, just like the UK cycling team. Prices start from £4.00.
If you are looking to keep your kids occupied the whole day, both the VeloPark and the nearby Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre are organising sports activities day camps at £30 per child per day. Inspire your child to be the next Olympian by enrolling them on the camp where they will get to enjoy a fun-filled day trying their hands at three Olympic sports – BMX, tennis and hockey – in the former home of London 2012. With the help of experienced coaches, kids can learn the basics of these sports and help them pick up the skills that could make them into future Olympic champions. The Day Camps are open to children of all ages.
The Hockey & Tennis Centre are also offering tennis-only sessions to inspire kids in the spirit of that greatest tennis tournament of all, Wimbledon. The centre has both outdoor as well as indoor courts so you do not have to worry about the unpredictable British weather. The centre has four indoor courts, which can be hired from £15 per session. If you want to feel the wind in your hair, you can book one of the six outdoor courts from only £8 per session, whether it is for a gentle knockabout or competitive matches that would make Nadal or Sharapova sweat. The courts are available for use seven days a week. Kids can also join up on a special five-day ‘mini tennis camp’ for indoor tennis. With experienced coaches from the sport and a different focus in every session, the camps are an easy introduction to this masterful sport for young ones aged from five to eight years. The mini tennis camps run from Monday to Friday, 10.00 am to 12.00 noon and cost £55 per participating child.
After a healthy session at the tennis courts, you can visit local attractions in Stratford and the Olympic Park. Highlights include the ‘Tumbling Bay’ playground, picturesque open spaces perfect for picnics and leisurely walks, the London Aquatics Centre, the Arcelor-Mittal Orbit – which resembles a hookah pipe and is Britain’s tallest sculpture – and the Copper Box Arena. Shoppers can visit the nearby brand-new Westfield Stratford City E20 and Stratford Shopping Centre, while culture vultures can travel out a bit to visit the kid-friendly Discovery Centre and see performances at the Theatre Royal. Stratford DLR, Tube and bus stations are close by, enabling links to all parts of London and beyond.
If you love horse-riding, have a go at the leisurely pony treks at the Lee Valley Riding Centre in Leyton, a short bus ride away from Stratford. Enjoy the great outdoors and meet like-minded pony enthusiasts while trekking through the meadows alongside the River Lee. The event is open to all families with children, regardless of any riding experience. The friendly and relaxing sessions are also a chance to learn about horse-riding, including handling the reins, to learning how to halt, steer and walk alongside your noble steed. The sessions cost £25 per person.
If this summer is proving a bit on the hot side for you, why not cool down with some ice-skating at the Lee Valley Ice Centre, also in Leyton. There are daily public skating sessions or for the newcomer, the Ice Centre has special classes to learn the basics from skating experts. Ice-skating costs £8.90 per child, which includes the price for hiring a pair of skates.
For families able to travel beyond the M25, the neighbouring counties of Essex and Hertfordshire have some exciting events being staged by LVRPA over the summer. The Lee Valley Park Farms in Waltham Abbey are offering full days of fun where children can get up close and personal with farmyard animals such as ducklings, sheep and even exotic wildlife like tamarin monkeys and meerkats. After bonding with animals, children can also let off some pent-up excitement at the nearby Hilltop Adventure Zone, where they can have tonnes of fun “aiming for the sky on the giant jumping pillow, whizzing down the slope of the toboggan run in a squidgy donut” before riding a tractor to the site’s operational dairy farm where they can learn where our milk and cheese come from. Parents of Peppa Pig fans have a special treat on the 30th July 2014. Tickets to the farm cost £8 per child, but you can get a 10% discount if you book online.
Waltham Cross’s Lee Valley White Water Centre is recommended for those who want a soaking wet adrenaline rush. This venue played host to the canoe slalom events at the London Olympics of two years ago and is now the permanent home of the Team GB Canoe Slalom team. Children on the summer break can have a go at basic canoeing on the centre’s manmade lake for only a fiver, in one of their special ‘Go Canoeing’ courses. The braver children can take part in a hot dog session, rafting or hydrospeeding the onsite rapids, for that ultimate foamy thrill chase. If they don’t fancy getting wet, that’s no problem. The less aquatically-inclined are treated to seeing paddlers in action and daredevil rafters tearing up the waterways at the Olympic-grade course. The white water events cost from £30 per person and there are age restrictions for some of the more demanding water sports.
If you want to feel a splash without going at full speed, there are calmer water events at the Lee Valley Boat Centre in Broxbourne, a sleepy commuter town deep within Hertfordshire. Only ten minutes’ drive from the valley’s White Water Centre, it is the perfect place to enjoy some gentle boating and a relaxing day out for tired parents and children. There are a choice of rowing boats, motorised vessels and pedalos all available for hire. Both centres are situated in the 1,000 acre Lee Valley Park, where there are opportunities for chilled-out picnics, nature walks or just some peaceful ‘me time’.
If you wish to find out more, ask about courses or available places, or to make bookings/reservations, the following are addresses and the official Lee Valley tourism website. All information made available in this article was provided by publicity from the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.
Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre
Eton Manor, Leadmill Lane, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London E20 3AD.
Tel: 08456 770 604
Lee Valley VeloPark
Abercrombie Road, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London E20 3AB.
Tel: 08456 770 603
Lee Valley Riding Centre
Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7QL.
Tel: +44 (0)20 8556 2629
Lee Valley Ice Centre
Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7QL.
Tel: +44 (0)20 8533 3154
Lee Valley Park Farms
Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 2EF.
Tel: +44 (0)1992 892 781
Lee Valley White Water Centre
Station Road, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, EN9 1AB.
Tel: 08456 770 606
Lee Valley Boat Centre
Old Nazeing Road, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, EN10 6LX.
Tel: +44 (0)1992 462 085
“School’s out, have fun in the Lee Valley” – Lee Valley, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (leaflet)
“2014-07-12 16.57.39” – Vijay Shah, Half-Eaten Mind, Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/110818734@N02/
“File:Lee Valley Ice Centre.JPG” – Danny Robinson, Wikimedia Commons [via geograph.org.uk] (15 April 2007) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lee_Valley_Ice_Centre.JPG
“File:River lee Country Park.jpg” – LeeValleyRegionalPark, Wikimedia Commons (16 December 2009) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:River_lee_Country_Park.jpg