Photos: Southampton Children’s Pleasure Park, a love letter

Photos: Southampton Children’s Pleasure Park, a love letter

by Sally Churchward.

For generation after generation of children brought up in the city, the Children’s Pleasure Park in Southampton Sports Centre has been a brightly coloured, joyous presence. From days out spending tokens on round abouts and trampolines to birthday parties with as many ‘goes’ as you can fit in to a couple of hours, with time out for cake, untold cherished memories have been made here.

And likewise, for generation after generation of parents and carers, it’s been a welcome source of a good value day out with the enormous bonus of not involving lengthy travel time. You can even extend your trip with a visit to the playground next door or with a quick a round on arguably the south’s most metallic crazy golf course.

Nestled in a corner of the Sports Ground, the pleasure park is an unexpected delight for anyone not already familiar with it. Every square inch (it feels very pre-metric here) is vividly decorated, from a green haired plaster beauty adorning a palm tree to a bin given an upgrade with the addition of a turret, turning throwing away your (obligatory) lolly wrapper into making a delivery to a magical princess’ castle. It’s a friendly place, from the owners to a charming dog, who will come and sit with you if you want her to. It’s brilliantly retro – it feels like it’s always the 1985 here – and has a magical DIY vibe. This is most definitely not a slick theme park and it isn’t trying to be. It’s a labour of love, and as such, it’s hard not to fall in love with it.

The park was opened in 1976 by Donald and Betty Salter and is now run by their children Andrew and Garry Salter. In recent years the park has suffered multiple arson attacks but has been rebuilt and now is as bright and delightful as ever, even boasting the recent addition of a swan ride.

With rides costing a token each and said tokens available at the bargain rate of £10 for 16, it remains an excellent value day out, with an extra bonus for NHS staff, with three free rides per child every Thursday in the school holidays.  The park is now open every day, from 10.30am to 5pm. Rides and attractions include a helter skelter, trampolines, a large bumpy slide, a (lengthy) train ride, chairoplanes, three roundabouts and swing boats, while attractions for adult include spotting all the decorations and adornments that have been squeezed in, not to mention enjoying a sit down on one of the many benches while your children head for the trampolines bounce away the sugar from their lollies.

For more information, visit the park’s website:



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