I’ve always known it was there, and have even spent some time walking through it, but a few weeks ago I rediscovered Andrew Haydon Park. Have you ever noticed the picturesque little waterfall hiding at the west end of the park? Or watched the radio-controlled sailboats race on the pond?

It all started with a leisurely stroll ’round the pond with Girl the Younger, when she decided to break her habit of sleeping through absolutely anything (except, of course, ‘the night’), and needed to be fed. It was one of those lovely, mild, post-heat wave days in August, and we found the nicest nursing spot in town: a bench just off the beaten path, facing the river. So there we sat, a soft breeze playing on our faces, I nibbling on my leftover Moxies asparagus-and-goat-cheese pizza; she nibbling on, well, her lunch. It was all so gosh darn perfect that I was compelled to rush home and throw together a picnic dinner for Daddy and Girl the Elder.

The park sports three play structures, two near the middle of the park and a water play park at the east end. Elder (at 20 months) enjoys the larger play structures, but they are definitely designed for the older kids (some of whom tend to run rough-shod over stray toddlers). The water park is sized better for the younger set, and also has washrooms near by.

The landscape is dominated by two large ponds, encircled by paved (read: stroller friendly) walking paths.  These are perfect for a leisurely stroll or a run, and have links to the NCC path network.  I found the paths great for some of those early post-baby outings, when you’re not sure how much walking you are up for (or how much time baby will spend happily in stroller) – you can park in the middle of the park with plenty of pathway available, while keeping within an easy striking distance of the car.

The big event in the park is Canada Day, but the Nepean Concert Band also performs at the bandshell bi-weekly on Wednesday evenings, from June to August (Damn! Maybe next year). Other groups perform there as well – our picnic was serenaded by a Christian sing-along group (who were nothing if not enthusiastic) – but darned if I can find a schedule. The Rideau Nautical modellers and the Ottawa Area Model Yacht Club are out on the pond Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 until 2, and Wednesday evenings from 6 until 8, and have always been more than happy to talk whenever I come by.

And finally, there’s the wildlife.  Girl the Elder loves to point out the geese (her first sign after ‘milk’ was ‘bird’), and there are plenty to be had – thankfully the pathways get cleaned periodically.  On our last walk, we treated to a gray heron (?) sighting at the end of the east pond.  And me with nothing but a camera phone – I won’t let that happen again.