I'm a working mum writing about life in Edinburgh (and anywhere else we go) with two curious, adventurous, and imaginative children. Visit my blog at www.linzertortes.blogspot.co.uk. Follow me on Twitter: @LinzerLaw
Published October 9th 2012
This is another hidden gem of a park in Edinburgh's New Town. Much like Barony Street Garden, it's tucked away so you almost wouldn't realise it was there.
A trail of russet-gold autumn leaves leads you down into George V Park
The park is full of hidden little treasures, including a fascinating history dating back to the 19th century, when it was known as the Royal Patent Gymnasium at the Royal Crescent Park. It was opened in 1865, and it sounds amazing. It had a giant see-saw for 200 people, a rotary boat called The Great Sea Serpent, and The Patent Velocipede Paddle Merry-Go-Round. I don't think I ever would have left this park. That was in the summer. In the winter, as if people couldn't be satisfied by the summer's activities of a Patent Self-Adjusting Trapeze, a Compound Pendulum Swing, and the Prince Alfred Wreck Escape, the frozen pond was lit up with coloured lights, and bands serenaded skaters.
Don't believe me? Here's the evidence from an information board inside the Park.
People always say that they don't make them like they used to, but in this case it's true.
Sadly, the Royal Patent Gymnasium no longer remains. It was built out of timber, and successive winters caused it to degrade until it fell into disrepair and was dismantled to make way for....no, not a park yet. First came St. Bernard's Football Stadium.
St. Bernard's Football Team took their name from St. Bernard's Well in Stockbridge. Their early years were very successful, and in 1932 27,000 people watched them beat Hibernian. Sadly, the advent of war disrupted games and their last match was played in 1942. The stands were finally dismantled in 1947. The only remaining evidence of their presence here is a gate in Royal Crescent, which used to lead down to the stands but is now the back way into a local office building's car park.
The Park went through a few more iterations until it reached today. It has fallen in and out of disrepair and is only in its current condition thanks to the work of the Friends of King George V and Scotland Yard Parks. And they have worked hard to make sure it is a pleasant and beautiful space for locals to use.
The Park has three distinct sections.
First is the grass, paths and seats of the Western end. This end is popular with dog walkers, and office workers eating their lunch. In the spring, the cherry blossom trees rain down a beautiful dark pink snow. In the summer, people bring barbecues and play rounders on the grass while sausages and burgers sizzle on the charcoal.
Head through the paths to find benches and grass to sit on.
At the edge of the Eyre Place side of the Park there is a play park that's suitable for younger children. It's gated so that the little ones will be safe from dogs, and has a good selection of equipment.
This is the playpark for younger children. There's plenty of different things for them to do, and it's all on soft woodchip.
There are some interesting extras on the apparatus that appeal to children, including binoculars on the climbing frame. My two girls used to pretend that they were pirates, and the younger one still hasn't quite grown out of this game.
There are two kinds of swings, so while you push the little one, the older one can get on with things themselves. There's also a climbing frame that looks boring to me, as an adult, but always has kids scrambling all over it.
Sometimes they use the inside as a den in their games. Looks fun!
The final part of the park, before the tunnel that leads out into the cycle network, is the older children's play park. It's been reworked a few times since we've been going, but the slide has always stayed the same. Which is good, because the slide is a much-loved feature among all the local children we know.
I must confess that I have slid down the slide a few times more than is seemly for a mother of two.
As well as the slide, there are more swings, a climbing frame that's also a roundabout, and a balance beam. Over by the old Scotland St. tunnel, where the train used to screech down from Princes St. there are some new additions of a basketball court and a clever, concrete table tennis table. There's also a shelter to sit in and eat sandwiches when it's raining. If you're feeling brave you can go right up close to the tunnel and peer in. It is awfully spooky.
We had no need of the shelter when we went because it was an absolutely glorious autumn day.
And then, finally, when you're finished in the park, you can walk through the refurbished Rodney St. tunnel to nearby Tescos and get a drink after all that hard work running, sliding, and playing. It might not have a Patent Compound Pendulum Swing any more, but you can still have a lot of fun.