“ Address: South Gate / Harlow / Essex CM20 1AN / England „
If you live in Harlow, like I do myself, then The Water Gardens Shopping Centre will probably be somewhere that you have visited at least once as it is the place that most of the best shops can be located since its massive update. I love to shop therefore I know the facilities and vicinity quite well so here I am passing on my knowledge to you.
*About The Water Gardens Shopping Centre*
The Water Gardens Shopping Centre is out in the open with wide walkways and situated around lovely landscaped gardens and ponds, even a few minor water features. There are stairs and slops which means that it is great for parents with prams. No carrying it up the stairs for you.
If you feel you feet are getting tired, you don't need to worry as you will find a lot of benches scattered around the landscaped gardens which is particularly nice in the summer as you can sit down and have a chat with your friends/family in between shopping. Due to its outdoor location, the best time to go to the Water Gardens is in spring or summer as it actually almost looks beautiful (yes even in Harlow). It isn't so good in winter when it is chucking it down with rain and you are running from one shop to another.
*What are the Opening Times?*
The opening times for the Water Gardens Shopping Centre do vary depending on the shops and restaurants but as a brief overview they are as follows:
Monday - Friday 9am to 6pm
Saturday - 10am to 8pm
Sunday - 11am to 5pm
Bank Holidays - 11am to 5pm
Also, around the Christmas period, The Water Gardens are pretty good and the shops are open for late night shopping, handy for those who finish work too late to shop during regular hours.
*Will You Get Parked?*
With 1,200 parking spaces I should think that you will find yourself a space. There is the option of parking (if spaces) undercover or outdoor as the outdoor is directly above the undercover parking. There are a number of markers around the car park so that you can remember where it is you have parked, but to be honest it isn't that big so you should be able to remember.
The only time that you may perhaps struggle with parking is around the Christmas period or during the January sales as the place can be slightly busy around this time.
Parking at the Water Gardens is relatively safe. Ensure that you pay for your ticket as the traffic warden is often seen patrolling the car park and smiling as he places fines for those that have forgotten or intentionally not bothered. Don't let that be you!
Unfortunately the parking here is not free. In fact I happen to think it is quite a rip of for the shops that you get and this is probably my biggest gripe with the shopping centre. The parking is pay and display and the tariff's are as follows:
Monday - Friday
2 Hours - 80p
3 Hours - £1
4 Hours - £3
6 Hours - £4.50
9 Hours - £10
24 Hours - £15
2 Hours - £1.20
3 Hours - £2
4 Hours - £4
6 Hours - £6
9 Hours - £10
24 Hours - £15
The good thing is that parking all day Sunday is just 20p so my advice is to head over then perhaps and avoid being ripped off. You also only have to pay 20p between the hours of 8pm and 6am.
The Water Gardens are fairly easy to get to Lakeside is extremely easy to get to whether it is by car or another method of transport. By Car it accessible via the M11 (Junction 7) and the A414 passes through Harlow Town Centre. Follow signs for the town centre and you will see sign posts for it.
If you can't drive and need another method of transport, there is the train Harlow Station (Liverpool Street 40 minutes) is 1 mile to the North or the bus. For local bus timetable you can visit www.harlowride.co.uk.
Females and males are fairly well catered for at the Water Gardens. You have stores like Topshop and Topman, River Island, Dorothy Perkins, Next, Jane Norman, Evans, Matalan, Peacocks and TK Maxx. Quite a good number of shops for you to have a browse around I think you'll agree.
There are the clothes shops that I have mentioned above, some of which contain shoes as well as a Clarks.
There is a massive Asda located at the Water Gardens which is open 24/7. What more could you ask for? It is extremely handy to have as you can do your food shopping at the same time! Plus it has everything you could want or need (other than Tesco Chocolate Milk).
~Children's Toys and Entertainment~
At the Water Gardens you have The Entertainer, a large children's toy shop. I even like looking in here from time to time as you can often pick up board games quite cheap. There is also a fairly large HMV which sells a wide range of music, films and games.
~Sports and Outdoor~
If you are looking for anything to do with sport, then you have a very large Sports Direct at your disposal. Cheap and cheerful with the occasional good bargain thrown in as well as the opposite end of the scale, the overly expensive JD Sport.
When it comes to technology you have Asda which have quite a large selection of products and Carphone Warehouse. Not a great deal of choice but it is something at least.
*Places to Eat*
When I'm shopping I do usually tend to grab a bite to eat in between, even if it is just to fill a hole or rest my feet. There aren't a wide range of restaurants but there are a few. You Pizza Hut which is obviously great for pizza and pasta, Nandos if you want some peri-peri chicken (just make sure you don't have the extra hot sauce) and the Water Margin which is an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in a relaxed environment.
Alternatively, you can sit and grab a coffee and snack in Esquires. This is perfect when it is raining outside although it can get a little busy.
ATM's: There are numerous cash machines to use as there are two banks located at the Water Gardens: Abbey and HSBC. There are also a row of cash points that you can use along the wall of Asda.
*Is It Worth The Trip?*
This is a matter of opinion but for me, I would say only visit the Water Gardens Shopping Centre if you're in the area. I would definitely not recommend making the trip if you live further away as it simply doesn't have enough shops to warrant it. If you like to shop for designer, high end things, you are definitely looking in the wrong place. It is in Harlow after all! But it does have most of your high street stores.
Personally, I prefer to visit Lakeside or Brookfield farm for the simple reason that there is more there and although it is a fairly long drive in comparison, it is unquestionably worth it. The Water Gardens is great if you need general day clothes but I find that when it comes to looking for an evening dress or clothes for a night out, I'll go to Lakeside or Bluewater as the Water Gardens is a bit rubbish for these occasions. If you are in the vicinity then why not stop by?
I don't tend to enjoy shopping in my home town of Harlow as I always seem to come across someone rude, but the Water Gardens is a reasonably pleasant experience. All of the good high street shops that used to be located in the Harvey Centre however these are now located in the Water Gardens as they have acquired bigger spaces for their shops. It is very close to where I live (only a 10 minutes drive) therefore it is convenient for me to get to. It is well laid out with most things within reach: huge supermarket, fashion store for men and women, home ware and entertainment.
And if you can't find what you are looking for at the Water Gardens you can try walking along to the Harlow Harvey Centre or take a drive to the retail park fairly nearby.