lechyd Da! to Mumsnet Gwent and Kate Humble

This week, our South Wales Editor spent the day with Kate Humble at her working farm, Humble by Nature. After retiring from the head post at the RSPB in 2013, she’s thrown herself into life on the farm, and with her husband Ludo Graham, she’s created a truly special offering. Visitors are welcome to drop in for the day or to stay and learn about farm life. Even sleep over!


Kate Humble Supports Local: Read it here

It’s another great feature, brought to you by Mumsnet Local.

Mumsnet Local serves 180 individual communities in the United Kingdom, bringing you the best local advice “for parents, by parents.” So check in with us for life at home or if you’re planning a trip. Our Local Editors are friendly and knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions.


Allons Le Tour!

Cambridge / Londres

Stage 3 of this year’s Tour de France will speed through our streets on Monday, July 7th before whizzing off to France via air transport. We’d had a rather fanciful thought involving a tardis, though.  .  .

stage 3 tour

Full route details online at www.letour.fr

Beginning in Cambridge just after Noon, le Tour will arrive in Redbridge and Waltham Forest in the early afternoon, criss-crossing the boroughs on the way into Central London. The promotional caravan–get your free Tour gear–arrives in Epping New Road from approximately 1.05pm followed by the race at approximately 2.40pm. The route continues down Woodford New Road, through the Whipps Cross roundabout, and onto Lea Bridge Road into Leyton via Orient Way then on to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, through East London and into Westminster, where Stage 3 ends.

Best viewing points in the order that the race will reach them:

  • Epping New Road (Roadside, E4)
  • All Saints Church in Woodford Wells (Inmans Row, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 0NH) is opening its doors to the community for the duration of the event (café, toilet and TV screens) as well as family activities on the green.
  • Whipps Cross roundabout—large television screen to watch the race, Waltham Forest council-run activities
  • Lea Bridge Road (no facilities, roadside viewing)
  • Leyton Green
  • Baker’s Arms junction

If you’re watching from Epping New Road or Woodford New Road, be sure to check in at either of these spots:

  • Woodford Wells Club in Monkhams Lane (IG8 ONL) is welcoming the community to bring picnics, make full use of the club’s facilities and its newly refurbished club bar.
  • The Larder at Butler’s Retreat, 12 Rangers Road, Chingford, E4 7QH Click here for their menu.

Watching at Whipps Cross Roundabout or Lea Bridge Road?

Alfred-HitchcockWalk down to the friendly Sir Alfred Hitchcock Pub and Restaurant (147 Whipps Cross Road, E11 1NP). Full facilities are available and the manager is preparing a warm welcome for racegoers, including a BBQ! Unless, of course, it rains. . .  Do expect a lovely cream teas and the manager’s Tour specials–fish and chips, steak and ale pies. Full kids menu available.

And if sitting in the afternoon sun leaves you needing a little peace and quiet, take a break and visit Hollow Ponds Boating Lake, row a boat or sit in a shady spot. Just down from the Sir Alfred and opposite. Snacks and drinks available at the outposts, minimal facilities.


A bit further afield, the Duke pub in Wanstead is super family-friendly and is the perfect spot to head to for an early supper after a full day. Plenty for the kids to do there.

Le Tour’s official web site is www.letour.fr.

Plan ahead and make it a great day out!

Check out our Mumsnet Local partner sites whoa re also hosting Le Tour 2014:

Off to See Matisse’s Colourful Cut-Outs


The Snail, 1953

The famous shapes of Matisse’s Cut-Outs are at the Tate Modern! This is the largest collection of them shown to date, in fact, with 120 or so of the Cut-Outs to enjoy.

The vibrant colours and shapes should really be engaging for children, so we’re thinking it’s definitely worth a visit. The folks at the Tate are expecting this and have prepared some material for the wee ones’ visits: read the The Tate Kids Blog here. Already, some enthusiastic young fans have sent in photos of their own Matisse-inspired creations to the blog.

We are learning to use scissors carefully around here, so the transition to home should be a good and useful one. Cutting, sticking, and positioning paper into sought-after shapes seems like something we could all get happily stuck into.

This will be my first trip to the Tate with children. I’m thinking of starting at St. Paul’s Cathedral and taking a walk across the Millenium Bridge on the way to the museum.  I’ve always liked that journey.

Matisse, the Cut-Outs runs from 17 April – 7 September 2014

Adult £18 (without donation £16.30)
Concession £16 (without donation £14.50)
Help Tate by including the voluntary donation to enable Gift Aid
Additional booking fee of £1.75 (£2 via telephone) per transaction applies
Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian)

Making Time to Play

acting bugsCapturing the twinkle twinkles of childhood can sometimes seem a low priority in the grand scheme of parenting. But often, it’s that magical element of play, introduced at the right moment, that can elevate a sad or grumpy mood or stop a brewing tantrum, even encourage a penchant for creativity or a lifelong love of the arts. But we can forget all of that with the stress of parenting, working, living, and the many many other things that occupy our mental space. We grown ups can–and do–forget how to play.

I recall a moment in one of my favourite films, Finding Neverland. J.M. Barrie, played by the most wonderful Johnny Depp, sits in the theatre among the patrons watching the premiere of his latest play. They are displeased. And he reminds them that it is a play. It’s a profound moment in its simplicity: stop overthinking and overexpecting and just enjoy what’s in front of you.

The connection? Well, sometimes, I need to remind myself to play with my children or to let them play and not worry so much. Among the many many words of advice I received when I became a mother was the very simple “enjoy your children” from a dear friend. This week, I made the connection a literal one.

Enter Acting Bugs, run by actress Samantha Seager. Originally from Manchester, Sam has been a Wanstead local for many years now; she started Acting Bugs (for preschoolers) and Diddy Bugs (more sensory-based and for under threes) in 2012.

sam seagerSam has acted for grown-ups and for kids, most notably on Coronation Street and CBeebies. She created the classes to encourage active storytelling in family life: a worthy cause. During the class, parents and children are meant to interact, given the dramatic prompts by Sam. These include verbal prompts to imitate animals, or a runner bean, or play pat-a-cake. These also include physical prompts like puppets or a giant canopy / magic carpet. So there’s a lot of hopping, jumping, whisker-twitching, body hugging–playing, essentially, and acting, as Sam might say, like “silly sausages” for the better part of an hour. If you’re going to be reserved about it and not play along, you might miss the whole point. And all of the fun.

As this was a one-off for us, I asked a parent who’s been coming for a while. For Bella’s mum, Acting Bugs is helping her daughter to have confidence in herself, something we all wish for our children when entering the world. Though the class uses some props, Sam mainly relies on the parents and children to use their voices and bodies to express ideas. This focus on the body and all it can do is perfect for confidence-building in children. My outgoing three-year old engaged with the activities instantly and my very shy two-year old was happy to do a little here and there. I thought the Spring Chicken song and dance were really fun. Apparently, I was caught doing that in the garden this afternoon.

The class takes place in the hall of Wanstead’s beautiful Christ Church, which has a charming garden. The hall is roomy (lots of space to run around and play) and has loads of stimulating natural light. An amazing venue for an afternoon of imaginative fun.

In addition to the classes, which are offered in Redbridge as well as nearby in North and East London, Sam offers inspiring and imaginative nursery and library sessions and story-based parties for children aged 2-7.

Mumsnet Local – Redbridge is happy to provide further information about Acting Bugs. Click on the link or find it under Things To Do > Classes > Preschool Classes > Drama.

We also list drama club and acting classes for children of school age and by other providers, so please contact us if you can’t find what you’re looking for!

At Tumbling Bay Playground in the Olympic Park

I now see what everyone’s raving about. We visited the Tumbling Bay Playground at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park at Stratford this weekend. It’s in our neighbouring borough of Newham, so just a short ride on the train. And yes, it’s totally WOW. Agreed.

Beautifully landscaped, the architects have taken pride in preserving the natural riverside environment as you walk up to the play area, which has been thoughtfully designed for kids of all ages: Sandpits, water play, climbing, a rope bridge, slides, and loads of green space to run and play. There’s plenty of space to picnic, or you can have a meal at the Timber Lodge cafe, which shares the play space.

The walk up to the play area is full of very picturesque views of the river and London in the distance. Modern art is playfully placed all around (see photos), and there’s a poetry installation at the Playground. We saw a poetry potter’s shed last Sunday with free workshops for the kids. And it’s just really cool to be in the Olympic Park.

We took a wrong turn on our way and ended up at the London Aquatic Centre. Another WOW! I’m booking in a swim for us next week. It’s easy to use during the week and busier on weekends. But as my 8-year old nephew said, “You’re going to swim in the pool where Michael Phelps swam? WOW!” The Copper Box also is now home to an amazing gym. We saw people playing table tennis outdoors.

Here’s some more WOW from the Park. For pics of the Playground, see the link to the web site, below:


The view down to the river. One of several large spherical sculptures. The Park is full of modern art like this. During the Olympics, this space was used as a picnic area.



Nearly there. . . a final hill of daffodils before we reach Tumbling Bay. Just there is the Athlete’s Village. These are privately owned flats. More are being built just behind the play area. Lucky local residents!


A nice welcoming entrance to the play space, keeping the all natural theme.


The view across to the Athletic Stadium, which will reopen in 2015 for the Rugby World Cup and then be home to West Ham United’s football team. Next to it is that thing. . . er, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which you can still climb for a view of the Park.


Yes, there was a lot of tumbling at Tumbling Bay. . .

How to get there: Many people cycle to this park, but if it’s not local to you, then you can easily take public transportation. From Stratford International rail/bus/tube, it’s a 15-minute walk (through Westfield and then out on the main road) OR two stops on bus route 388 to the Copper Box stop.

Tumbling Bay Playground’s web site: http://queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/the-park/attractions/tumbling-bay-playground

‘Splosh’: A Theatre Taster for Under 5s

“Hip, hip hooray” for this lovely, bubbly show! The Sixth Sense Theatre Company is touring the country with its production of ‘Splosh!’, a short musical play for audiences aged 2-5 and their families. We were lucky to have four shows in Redbridge, on 13th and 15th March. (You can watch a taster of the original 2012 production here.) And thanks to the folks at the Redbridge Drama Centre, live theatre for this age group looks to be a reoccuring offering. Hip, hip hooray!

SploshA bathtub, aptly named ‘Mr. Bath’, is the centrepiece of this 30-minute production. It’s his birthday and his friends, Zak and Ellie, are trying their hardest to make it a happy one, despite the appearance of one Slippery Sid the bath sponge. In the live show, the audience sits on bath mats in a semi-circle around Mr. Bath. There’s a little live music–Zak strumming the mandolin whilst sitting in the bath–and loads of action. Children are encouraged to join in to help Zak and Ellie find Little Duck, elude Sid the Slippery Sponge, and celebrate Mr. Bath’s birhday.

It is high drama in the most commonplace of settings, the family bath. And this is the point of it really. As the Theatre Company intends, ‘Splosh!’ uses “multi-sensory design, music and puppetry to help children and families explore communicative play at bath time.” My girls have been talking about it for days now. My older daughter, three and a half, was completely engaged in the action, and though it was a little too much excitement for my shy two year old, she is asking for Mr. Bath now all the time and walking around the house with the little book she was given at the end of the show. This is a booklet of activities and fun things we can try at home to prolong the Sploshy fun.

This was our second ‘multi-sensory’ adventure this month–last week we saw Spitalfields Music’s excellent production, Musical Rumpus. Though these productions were quite different in nature–one traditional storytelling with classical music and the other a noisy, modern kiddie drama–both have brought a three-dimensional sense of art to my children (and to me), experiences which will go a long way towards their appreciation for drama, storytelling, human action, participation, and creativity. In short, really good stuff!

Singing and bubbles: A date with my baby

Spitalfields Music brought their Musical Rumpus show on tour to libraries in our neighbouring borough, Barking and Dagenham, this month. It’s a show made just for babies and toddlers (0-2 years of age).

Comprised of six actors and a few more cast members to keep stirring up the action, the Musical Rumpus took place on a colourful floor-level stage, the audience seated on comfy cushions and sheepskins (there’s a reason why. . .) all around. Handel’s Acis & Galatea was played live on cello, violin, and flute and enacted for the sheep (. . .played by the children in the audience).

If that sounds a little confusing, it’s not meant to be. This art really is for the children. You really just have to believe that and let these folks take you on the journey.

spitalfields music

charming, natural, amazing: ‘a multi-sensory, interactive opera for babies’

The actors were amazing at interacting with the children, getting them engaged and involved with beautiful sounds–mellow chimes, soft voices, a little sing-along. Not a push as with most children’s entertainment, just the gentlest of invitations to listen, smile, and be a part of something magical.

As Liesl sat in my lap, hardly venturing past the sheepskin at her feet, the gentle grasp of her hand told me all: it was wonderful for her. And for me. Time well spent this morning.

From the Spitalfields Music website:

Our opera series for 0-2 year-olds hit the road again in March 2014 as we head on tour to libraries and community venues in the London Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham and Newham with a brand new adventure set in a world of mountains and lush green fields.

A sleepy giant strides through the fields, in search of a space to rest; meanwhile a young water nymph tries to make rain, although things don’t quite go according to plan. Join these characters on a journey through a mysterious world of giants and mountains, sound and colours that will leave you and your baby enchanted. Handel’s rustic and much-loved opera Acis and Galatea is transformed into a multi-sensory, interactive opera adventure for babies and toddlers to listen, touch and explore.

Musical Rumpus creates early experiences of opera and adventure for babies and toddlers. Taking celebrated baroque operas and re-imagining their stories and music specifically for the youngest of ears, we give children the opportunity to explore sounds, instruments and objects throughout the performance including a specially-designed free-play session.