Wild Kingdom at Three Mills Island

What’s the score?

A ‘natural’ playground designed to sit gently within the landscape of this little island on the River Lea, Bromley-by-Bow (just south of Stratford High Street and the Olympic Park).

The playground frames part of Three Mills Green – a circular recreation ground open to the public all year round. The Wild Kingdom is a beautiful collection of elements, carefully installed around existing trees and earthworks, with plenty of opportunities for imaginative play.

Tell me more…

The Wild Kingdom nestles between the Three Mills Walls River and Three Mills Green on Three Mills Island (phew a lot of ‘mills’ in that sentence!). The playground was designed to give kids ‘a taste of natural play in the heart of East London’. It was one of the first legacy projects created by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, since it sits within the Lea Valley Regional Park just a stone’s throw from the Olympic Park.

Three Mills Island is a fascinating place, and the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority reckons there have been mills here since Saxon times. One of the mills – House Mill – is the largest tidal mill in the world (the water wheels are no longer working, but it is regularly open for visits). Records from the 16th century show the mills ground flour for local bakers. By the 17th century they were grinding grain, which was used to distil alcohol. The mills were major suppliers to the gin palaces of London and later gin was even distilled on the site itself (yum!)

But back to the playground (!) ….

it’s generally fairly quiet here, so kids feel they are roaming a wilder space in the city, climbing up and down the banks and fallen trees. The designers cleverly used elements they found here, like old logs and granite blocks, to tie the playground into the landscape. They also added new features like hammocks, trampolines, beams and ropes to create more intrigue. Where possible, new elements are intertwined with old e.g. a rope balance beam is suspended between two existing trees.

You can’t see the whole playground in one view and this gives kids a sense of exploring and uncovering the different play areas as they go. There are lots of nice touches, for example, the planting was done with play in mind, including plants like burdock and wild teasel, which have seed heads that kids can pick and incorporate into their games.

All in all, there are lots of opportunities for open-ended and imaginative play here. There is even a little wooden stage for youngsters to perform – or in Wilf’s case – to pretend it is a platform for his imaginary train!

  • A trip to the Wild Kingdom would work well in combination with:

Great for …

  • picnics
  • football on Three Mills Green
  • imaginative play
  • a playground with a more ‘rustic’ feel

Facilities …

  • No toilets
  • Picnic tables
  • There is the Millers House Cafe in the nearby House Mill, but it is only open certain times in Spring/Summer months so check in advance or take a picnic. There is a large Tescos 5 minutes walk where you could get supplies.
  • Table tennis tables (bring bats and ball!)

Access …

Buses and walking are the easiest ways to get here. The 448 and 108 buses stop at Tescos, which is a 5 minute walk away (follow Three Mill Lane across the River Lea, past The House Mill and take the left up to Three Mills Island).

Alternatively the 25 and D8 buses stop at Bow Flyover, from where it is a 5 minute walk down the banks of the River Lea to Three Mills Island. If you are using a buggy be aware that the river bank can be a little rough and the area around the Three Mills has cobbled paving.

You can also get to Three Mills Island on the DLR but you are looking at more of a 15-20 minute walk. Nearest stops are Bow Church, Abbey Road, Stratford High Street and Pudding Mill Lane.

Find out more …

Visit Lee Valley has more information

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