I thought I’d start with a review of local facilities and work from there.
My most visited place on maternity leave was South Hill Park, It’s a Grade II listed building, housing a cinema, theatre, art workshops, dance studios, a cafe/bar and much more.
Pre Baby, I used SHP for yoga classes on a Wednesday night (until I broke my shoulder (not doing yoga I hasten to add) and the bar was frequently visited on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The centre has lovely gardens (recently revamped with a Lottery Grant) where you can picnic in nicer weather and so we’ve enjoyed using the park for many years.
Post-baby I am sometimes surprised at how often I visit (I managed fiver visits one week recently)! Twice a week there are Buggy Fit classes held around the paths at the front and back of the arts centre. I’ve been almost every week since November last year. The classes are not affiliated with the centre but the council allow the classes to take place in the grounds. Post Buggy-Fit we usually pop into the cafe for a cup of tea/ cold drink. It’s just a mile from my house (walking) so it’s an easy place to meet up with friends, and especially friends with babies. They also run a Bring In Baby Cinema showing once a week and do much more for older children, including dance classes, art workshops and more.
The restaurant/ cafe serves excellent food, including Sunday Roasts with huge home made yorkshire puddings and bottomless dishes of roast potatoes and vegetables. Sandwiches and flatbreads (especially the goats cheese and caramelised onion) and superb and the chips are hot, crisps and fluffy. The food is quire reasonably priced- The roasts are under a tenner and Sandwiches with chips come in about £7. They serve a good range of hot and cold drinks, although in the past I know the Ale hasn’t been very well kept and the alcoholic drinks are pretty pricey.
I was quite frustrated to find out in the last of my 51 weeks maternity leave that they do a hot-drinks loyalty card. I am a regular there and most the staff know my face so I was surprised to find this out and a bit disappointed that I hadn’t been offered one!
Out the back there’s a nice kids playpark- enclosed on all sides (which is handy as a lot of dog walkers use the grounds). It’s mostly covered in sand which even my one year old seem to enjoy digging in, and has a few play equipment items – a slide, some cute wooden pigs in the sand, a rocking horse and some squares you can jump on that make a funny sound. It could do with a swing but the park gets quite busy and there might be a perpetual queue!
It’s a really great asset to the local area. The grounds are well kept, there’s always parking and it’s quite central for those that want to walk or cycle, and well served with off road cycle routes.
I’ll be there tomorrow for buggyfit!