The Yarra Ranges isn't the first place you'd think of when you want a summer play location for your kids. Most towns outside the Melbourne metro region don't even have year-round swimming pools.
In Seville, in Melbourne's outer East on the Warburton Highway, a clever conversion of an old outdoor pool has resulted in a fun place for water play for young children.
The Seville Water Play Park used to be the outdoor Seville War Memorial Pool, built in 1956. When it had outlived its usefulness, the Yarra Ranges Council worked with the local community to develop the Water Play Park, retaining some of the features of the old pool.
The result is a great spot for parents with younger children who want to play in water, without having to worry about them being able to swim. It is designed to represent four different types of water environment: a mountain, with a spring on top; a gorge with flowing water and jets; a river delta, which is normally dry unless there is rain to provide overflow from the gorge; and a dry creek bed.
The mountain region, with a spring running from the top of the 'mountain'
The main play area is the gorge and mountain regions, though lots of kids like climbing through the boulders and tunnels of the delta and dry creek bed. The gorge has both water jets that go off at random intervals, plus shallow running water down the centre, fed by 'creeks' that run in from the sides.
Needless to say, the water is not constantly running all day; in the interest of water conservation there are two secret 'buttons', either of which have to be pressed to make everything start working. Once the water is going, it's a matter of trying to guess which jets are going to go off next, and when we visited there were lots of excited squeals when kids got caught by surprise. Sensibly, most of the play surface is rubberised, which takes into account the fact that kids always run where water is involved, not matter how many times you tell them not to.
On the day I went with my daughter, the place was packed. It's a funny location, on the corner of two busy roads, but it benefits from the fact that it's a site that has been established for many decades and has big, mature European trees to provide plenty of shade over nice green lawns.
Apparently the park was closed early in 2012 due to concerns about the water quality, but the Yarra Ranges Council has fixed this problem, and the smell of chlorine in the water confirms this.
On the downside, none of the shade actually abuts or covers the play area, so if you are on your own and have more than one child to supervise, you might want to bring your own shelter, such as one of those little beach tents. It gets very hot out in the open so please make sure you and your kids 'slip, slop, slap' and cover up.
The dry creek bed region - lots to climb on, over or through
There is also a small playground, pretty basic, and there are also picnic benches. The Yarra Ranges website mentions a BBQ but I couldn't see it.
There are public toilets which appear to date from the 1950s also. I can't comment on the men's toilets, but there is only one women's toilet, and it's in a state of disrepair. It's wheelchair accessible and at some point had a baby change table, but the local vandals have ripped that from the wall. The plastic toilet seat was missing. It was stocked with toilet paper and it did flush, but I couldn't get the tap over the basin to work. It's probably worth packing some emergency toilet paper and baby wipes or Wet Ones.
All it was lacking was the arrival of an ice-cream van, because unfortunately there is no cafe in the park and none in the adjoining Seville shops. In fact, there is no milk-bar in the adjoining shops so nowhere to get a drink or ice-cream unless you go to the petrol station on the other side of Warburton Highway. Someone is going to make a killing when they recognise the business opportunity.
All up, it was a really fun day for me and my preschooler daughter. She didn't want to leave - it was better than the local pool because she could play independently and socialise with other kids, which is difficult to do at a swimming pool. A recommended play spot for summer if you're in the area.
There are places to get drinks and food! IGA, the bakery, Subway for starters.
"A recommended play spot for summer if you're in the area" and are willing to chance getting gastroenteritis! I wouldn't take my kids there after a friend and her family got Gastroenteritis the day after playing there and the other families they went with did too.
Hi Kerry - thanks for the info re the food places, I was looking for something a bit more convenient for an ice-cream but I'm sure some people will find that info useful.
Regarding the water quality - I do note in the article there was a possible problem earlier in the year but the Council have dealt with it. If your friend has more recent concerns they should let the Yarra Ranges Council know ASAP. Just for the sake of argument, a group of families who spend a day together could just as easily get gastro from other sources, I know it goes around my daughter's kinder from time to time. However, you are free to avoid the park! We enjoyed it and had no health problems afterwards, and I would happily go back. A friend of mine lives locally and goes regularly and neither her family or the families she goes with have ever had a problem. :)
What a ridiculous comment. I spent three weeks on the mornington peninulsa over summer during a gastro outbreak. I didn't blame the beach for the outbreak, the e coli issue was tested and dealt with over 12 months ago.