Norwich's best play parks according to family who have reviewed hundreds
- Credit: Danielle Booden
A young family has hit the road with one mission in mind: find the best play park in Norwich.
The Brien family wanted to cut the legwork out of sourcing a great day out for other parents around the county and began reviewing parks.
Naomi Brien said the idea came from travelling around parks in search of a good one when their son Stanley turned two.
Since then they have reviewed hundreds of open spaces.
The mum-of-two explained: “We just enjoyed trying out lots of different spaces and after each trip we would upload some photos onto my personal social media.
“People would then start to contact me and ask where we had been, how we found it, what the facilities were like and similar questions, so I would pass on the details of the park and a little review.”
The family found they were getting these requests more often than not after they had visited a new play park.
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Naomi, who is a community nursing assistant, said: “I was getting all these requests for information across my personal social media accounts, so we decided that as it was something we all really enjoyed doing, we would keep it all in one place.”
This is when they created the now very popular Facebook page called ‘Norfolk Play Parks’, which has gained thousands of likes.
The page was getting so much interaction that the Briens found themselves travelling further afield to help give detailed reviews in more places.
Naomi said: “When we first started Stanley was only a toddler, so we did find that a lot of parkers were for slightly older children.
“We did a lot of research and it was a challenge to pull together a list of parks that would be suitable, fun and engaging for toddlers.”
The family have since found that lots of local families are using this to plan their days out.
Naomi, who is married to electrician Sam, said: “With limited details available we often find that we have to drive round in circles to find these parks, and then when we find it, we publish it on our map.
“The map is linked to Google Maps. Sam, my husband made it so that people can open the link and see all the parks we have been to and what we thought of them.”
However the family always try to keep their reviews positive and say they never want to "shame" parks.
The mum, who travels in to the city for parks from North Elmham, said: “If we go to a park that we haven’t enjoyed, rather than our usually review, we will upload photographs and then we tend to state the facts such as where it is and what equipment it has, we won’t give a park a sparkling review if it’s not true for us.”
Now Naomi and Sam have a new addition to the family - five-month-old Sebastian.
Naomi said: “We can visit anywhere between three and six parks in a day, however, if there is one that we have been really quite keen to visit we will block out the entire day to spend there.
“But if you go somewhere a bit further afield, we will try to do as many as we can in the area.”
The pair feel the work they do is very important so are keen to keep doing it for as long as their lives allow.
Naomi explained: “Some children need certain criteria to keep them safe, if the child is young or neurodivergent they may need someone that is fenced.
“Some neurodivergent children like a certain piece of equipment and it can cause a big problem if once they arrive the park doesn’t have that, so we’ve been told our reviews really help these families.”
What are the top ten Norwich play parks according to the Briens?
Coming in at first and second place are Eaton and Waterloo parks.
These are both easily accessible from the city centre and are well known and well used by locals.
Third place on the family's list goes to Costessey Library – with wooden, traditional equipment next to a big open field, this a nice park for playing and a run around.
Fourth place on the Briens list is awarded to Sloughbottom.
The NR3 park has a lot going on with football fields, basketball courts, a BMX track, seating areas and a nice play park.
Fifth position goes to Henderson Park which has a skate park, playing field, running track, gym equipment and a rock-climbing wall and much more.
The Brien’s top Norwich picks for sixth to tenth spots are:
The Brien’s top five criteria for a good park:
Naomi and her family have visited hundreds of parks all over the county and in doing this they have come to learn their own criteria for what makes the greatest parks for them.
So, they have shared their top five criteria that makes the best play parks:
- Well maintained: If a park is kept clean and in good repair, it’s usually a sure sign that it is safe and well loved by other families.
- Fenced-in play area: Parents with young or neurodivergent children are often made to feel a bit more comfortable when they know that the park will be enclosed.
- Something different: An unusual piece of equipment, a bike track or surroundings that can be explored make it fun.
- Variety of equipment: Not just swings and slides.
- Picnic benches: Parents will then have a base.