NHM Readers Recommend: Free holiday activities for families 2019

In July 2018, a NHM Reader asked: “Do you have a list of free activities over the holiday which includes older siblings?”

Thank you for all your responses, they are listed below in no particular order. All opinions are the readers own and are not that of NHM.

NHM Readers Recommend: Free holiday activities for families 2019

Jools said, “Basingstoke children and families page has loads of free stuff or very inexpensive including things at Westside cc, viables community centre, Popley fields and Streetz which happen across Basingstoke and caters for older children. Things on every day mon-fri.”

Vicky said, “We did pets at home workshop. Had booked both girls in, who are 6 and 9, but my 9 year old backed out my my 6 year old got to hold a rat, bunny and guinea pig which she loved then there was a small activity box to take away with you. There were mainly younger ones but only half an hour and free! You do have to book online though as max of 12 kids. The lady was very knowledgeable.”

Becky said, “Good question. With a 4 yr old and a 12 year old it is difficult to find things on offer that allow both younger and older children.”

Louise said, “Blackberry picking?” Also check out the free sessions at your local Apple Store. They do educational sessions twice a day that you can book on for free. 

Rebecca said, “Hobbycraft do lots of free craft activities which both kids might like. Included slime making today and you take home the slime you make, that is good or bad depending on how you look at it!”

Hannah said, “We took our three (eldest 10/youngest 3) to the splash pad in popley (Chineham Splash Park) today….they all loved it and didn’t want to come home. Normally I struggle to entertain the 10 year old but he came away having had the most fun and asked to go back. Best bit was it costed nothing!!!!! The library are also running various craft bits too.”

Kate said, “A trip out to local woods (such as Micheldever) to go exploring?”

Hannah said, “Check out viable community centre as they have lots going on at the mo.”

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NHM Reader’s Experience: Children with Additional Needs, 5q14.3 deletion

Thank you very much to the NHM Reader who has written today’s post. It’s a very brave thing to write about and she’s done a brilliant job. 

NHM Reader’s Experience: Children with Additional Needs, 5q14.3 deletion

I have spoken to Louise a few times about how we can raise awareness about children with additional needs so I agreed to write a post.

I am keen for my daughter and children like her to be included, respected, accepted, encouraged, supported and loved. Hopefully raising awareness helps with this.

I have a beautiful daughter with a rare chromosome disorder. That rare it is only seen in 1 out of 120 million people !!!!

I believe there isn’t anyone in Basingstoke with the same condition, so thought it was worth explaining. I will start by describing my daughter’s story.

When she was born in April 2015 and as far as we knew she was “normal”, weighing a healthy 8lb 8oz, passing all tests & was absolutely gorgeous.

We joined the standard classes & groups making mummy+baby friends at each one. Everything was lovely for the first few months. Then between 4-6 mths a few things started playing on my mind, why is she not doing so well as the other babies ? I put most of it down to the fact she was the youngest and everyone kept telling me….

“all babies are different”

“she will get there in the end”

“all babies learn at different rates” etc

When she got to about 7 mths things became more difficult. Taking her to classes & groups started to become a struggle. Simple questions from other mums upset me, even like the standard opening question “how old is she?” I used to panic straight away thinking they were asking as they noticed how little she could do. But it’s the most common asked 1st question. The list was also getting long of all the things she couldn’t do which she should have really done much earlier e.g. roll, sit unaided or crawl. So I went to the GP who agreed a referral to a paediatrician was needed.

We had to wait till she was 9 months to get this appointment. So we enjoyed our 1st Christmas together as a family of 3 and carried on as usual. We also attended a lot of her friends 1st birthdays which was difficult as they were all walking or at least standing and walking with a parent. Whereas we were getting excited as she had just mastered a roll!

When we saw the paediatrician and we stated her short list of current milestones he referred us straight away for tests, bloods were taken that day and an MRI scan booked. The following month she had her MRI scan. Such a scary and long day at the hospital but she handled it so well. She is a placid and content person.

All her tests and MRI scan came back negative. The paediatrician just said they were waiting on the genetics team to get back to him. Everything sounded fine – Big sigh of relief. She then had her 1st birthday in April. She had 2 parties and we had a little holiday in Butlins. Our 1st family holiday. She couldn’t go on most of the rides or enjoy the parks but we had a nice time. She loves the water and the pool there is great.

At 13 months old we went back to the paediatrician and were given the devastating news that she had a rare chromosome disorder. 5q14.3 deletion. What even is that?!? Let’s ask the doctor, but even he couldn’t tell us much about it as he hadn’t come across it before. He downloaded a leaflet which explained the condition & sent us on our way.

Reading the leaflet I was in flood of tears…..

“May not walk till much older if at all”

“May never talk”

“prone to autism, epilepsy, hypotonia etc etc etc”

I was numb. Trying my hardest not to get too upset or stressed as I was 5 months pregnant. I knew I needed to be strong for my unborn child and also be there for my little girl who that same day had further blood tests along with Mummy and Daddy to see if we had passed her this. As if I didn’t feel guilty enough as it was.

We went to see the genetics team in Winchester. Finally, someone can answer our many questions. What did we get, the same leaflet that was given to us at the paediatrician appointment. However, we also found out that within her 5q14.3 deletion she was missing an entire gene – MEF2C. We later found out this is a commanding gene and explained many things.

At 17 months her baby brother was born. As I had to have a c-section the 1st 12 weeks we had visitors every day and a few people supported us so well and I will be eternally grateful. Then followed some of my loneliest & darkest days of my life. It was winter. I struggled to leave the house with both babies as I couldn’t carry them at the same time. The visitors became few and far between and the days were long and hard. Then the 2nd birthday invites started to roll in. I felt pleased that she was still being included but also extremely anxious about the fact that she was VERY different to her peers now. She was still a “baby” & they were all clearly “toddlers” running around, jumping, laughing etc whereas she could not even stand or crawl.

Now she was a little under 2 years old and her little brother started crawling at just 4 months old. I knew 1 day he would overtake her in milestones. But I had not yet prepared myself.  She had been trying all year to master crawling and he picked it up in a few days. I was honestly depressed. But also felt guilty that I couldn’t be happy for him as I was grieving for her. How bad a mother am I!!

However with each passing milestone he achieved, for instance walking at just 9 months I could then be happy for him. The 1st one was just hard. It seemed to come so easy to him with very little effort. Why is life so unfair? To make some children work so hard for what many people take for granted. I may never hear my daughter say she loves me and that is the hardest thing with all this. I can cope (well possibly my back can’t) with the physically side of this. But if she never talks, that will slowly break my heart.

At 2.5 years she got a place at an amazing special needs nursery. She also has lots of equipment now like a stander, a supportive chair and a walker. Within 3 months at the nursery she was doing well and started crawling!!! It’ss about 1 year since then and I still stop whatever I am doing to watch her crawl as I am still overwhelmed and emotional to see it.

She still continues to amaze me all the time. She can almost now stand unaided and is trying so hard to pull to stand up. She loves music and water so we are very grateful we get to do both at the amazing Bluebells facility in North Waltham which is funded by the charity Sebastian’s Action Trust.

If you are reading this and think or know your friend or family member has a child with additional needs, I would encourage you to reach out to them. They just want to feel supported and to be included and treated the same as anyone else. Empathise and listen if you can. But they certainly don’t want pity though, that is very different.

I often wish I had an easier life. But if that meant giving her up (or indeed giving up on her) I soon stop wishing that. I am blessed to be given my daughter. She is unique, loving & so special. She puts a smile of my face every day.

Some things I do that help. Some are much easier than others, some I don’t do all the time and some you may need help with

  1. I don’t compare her to others
  2. I don’t think about what she should be doing at her age
  3. Applied for financial help – Disability Living Allowance
  4. Contacted local help for support and advice hampshiresendiass@coreassets.com
  5. Tree tots. This is a coffee morning. Run every term time Wednesday 10-12. For parents of pre-schoolers
  6. I try to have separate time to concentrate on each child (when possible). My children couldn’t be more different and need/want very different things from me
  7. To not be afraid to ask for help. I need to get better at this myself.
  8. Me time. I don’t get this often, but I try to ring fence some pamper time or catch up with friends
  9. Seek support from charities (Like the above-mentioned Sebastian’s Action Trust)

Also Family Fund give grants (up to £500 per year) according to child’s needs

  1. Find Facebook groups with people who have the same or similar condition. I am on a few groups like this 1 in particular are like my extended family even if the group is only 300 people and are all over the world. This means if I am not sleeping and want to vent someone in Australia for instance will chat with me
  2. Find places that offer child free or carer free. 

If you are in a similar situation or would like me to explain any above points further please do get in contact with me via Louise ! If you don’t want to reach out to me, please reach out to someone. Thank you for reading to the end !!

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NHM Readers Recommend: Swimming crash courses 2018

In July 2018, a NHM Reader asked: “I was wondering if you know of any local crash swimming courses for children?” 

Thank you for all your responses, please be aware that listings may change over time but this should still be helpful as a basis for your own research. All opinions are the readers own and are not that of NHM.

NHM Readers Recommend: Swimming crash courses 2018

Joanna said, “The sports centre do crash courses.”

Sarah said, “Bluefins at Cranbourne.”

Becky said, “My daughter has just done a crash course at the Sports Centre and she really enjoyed it.”

Karen said, “I recommend the Sports centre too.”

Andrea said, “We go to Bluefins at Cranbourne.”

Amanda said, “Aquadrome and tadley pool both do intensive courses, so five days a week for one week at a time. They learn faster as there’s no gap to forget things. Highly recommend.”

Ruth said, “We did it for our eldest, age 7? over a half term and he hasn’t looked back – Joanne is brilliant.” (Sports centre)

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NHM Readers Recommend: Support groups for babies with additional needs and epilepsy 2018

In August 2018, an NHM reader asked: “Are there support groups or meet ups for babies with additional needs and epilepsy in the area.”

Thank you for all your responses, please be aware that listings may change over time but this should still be helpful as a basis for your own research. All opinions are the readers own and are not that of NHM.

Support groups for babies with additional needs and epilepsy 2018

Wendy said, “May be worth asking Spotlight UK if they know of any others.”

Debbie said,HPCN Basingstoke Share Together  is a Facebook group which may help.”

Colleen said, “There’s Barntots SEN at Viables too. I second Debbie’s suggestion to ask on HPCN Basingstoke Share Together .”

Shirley said, “Hazie Days run by Marti Hayes .”

Louise said,  “New epilepsy group starting 28th August please do come along for a coffee and chat”

Clare said, “Yes! Lovely bunch of people supported by amazing staff  Tree tots at the Firvale centre in Rooksdown.

Every Wednesday 10-12. Term time

It’s free. Sensory room can be accessed. 

Aimed at 0-5yrs but some mums come by selves whilst children at nursery etc. Happy to answer any questions or meet you outside on 1st time trying it.”

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NHM Reader’s Experience: Rectocele Surgery & Recovery

Thank you very much to today’s NHM Reader who is sharing some of her experience, especially with such a private subject. I really hope this post helps at least one Mum get the support that she needs.

Rectocele Surgery & Recovery

‘Some things are best kept private’ was something I truly believed. Until I faced major surgery, in an intimate area following seemingly a nice quick birth without complications some years ago.

When looking for stories about what it’s actually like to recover from pelvic floor surgery the web is polluted with tale of mesh, slings, multiple surgeries and failure.

Here’s my story, still ongoing, just one surgery, which involved lots of stitches and ‘designer vagina’ jokes but, how my life is changing as a result of this procedure.

This could have been kept private but given how it’s hard to talk about your lady bits openly, I decided to share my journey.


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A NHM Readers Experience: Cranial Osteopathy

Thank you VERY much to the NHM Reader who has shared their experience of cranial osteopathy today. Hasn’t she done an awesome job!! Hopefully this post will help lots of other new parents!! 

If you have a unique parenting experience that you would like to share with other NHM Readers, in the hope that your experience might help others, please email me your text and pictures to NorthHantsMum@gmail.com. 

What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial osteopathy is not different to osteopathy, it is the name given to a subtle and refined approach to osteopathy that follows all the principles of osteopathy, and it is used throughout the body not just in the head. The name cranial osteopathy simply refers to the fact that it includes the structures inside the head. 
Cranial osteopaths use a highly developed sense of touch to feel subtle changes of tension and tissue quality in the living anatomy of the whole body, and to diagnose areas of strain or dysfunction. – Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy

NHM Reader Experience of Cranial Osteopathy

I write this not as an expert in Cranial Osteopathy but from the perspective of a mum of three.

I’ve got an eight year old, a four year old and now a three month old. My oldest had colic and reflux, my second had silent reflux and my newbie had very bad colic. I’m not sure whether everyone’s minds erase the hard bits of when they’re newborn so that you want more, or if it’s just me, but when my youngest came along, and started suffering from colic, the memories all came flooding back!

It was horrendous to see this sweet, little, placid thing be in extreme pain with her tummy; she would look at me like ‘please make this better’ and it would break my heart. We tried every colic medicine we could, one of which helped a tiny bit but did not get rid of it.

Evening after evening I would be pacing and rocking, trying to help my baby feel better. One night at 1 in the morning I decided to research what could help her, someone suggested a cranial osteopath could help. Reading more into it I saw it said that a stressful birth and c-sections can contribute towards colic and that cranial osteopathy could help. Not going to lie, I was sceptical… how could this help with my baby’s colic? Desperate to make her feel better though I booked a session.

The following week I arrived and had the first consultation. The lovely lady told me that my LO was very stiff around one side and this was probably from being in that position in the womb, this made sense to me as she was always looking to one side and hardly ever upwards. When she felt her, she said the fluid around the brain was supposed to be a smooth motion but it was ‘crashing’ against the side that was stiff. She sat with her hands barely touching my baby for about 20 minutes and told me she was hopeful it would help. However, for 15% of babies it doesn’t work, and if that was the case not to come back – I appreciated she said this as she clearly wasn’t after my money.  She said hopefully it would go away and that I’d see changes within 24 to 48 hours which should last a couple of days, and then would probably go back to normal colic.  She also said that if there was a change, we should come back for another session the next week, and that with two more sessions it would be a permanent change.

I went away thinking ‘wow that was an expensive half an hour when it didn’t look like she did much!’ That day was awful… she was beyond unhappy until 7.30, but she did two horrendous nappies which was very rare as she normally couldn’t poo! The lady had told me this would happen… she also settled much earlier that evening, but I assumed it was because of how she’d been awake and unhappy since 11 in the morning! The true test would be the next evening.

The next day after every feed, my LO burped much louder and easier than normal, something else the lady said would happen. Then the time where she would normally be beside herself came and went with a happy baby that wanted to eat, play and then sleep. That night she fed about 6.30 then to my absolute shock slept until 1, had a quick feed then went back down beautifully until I had to wake her at 8.30 for the school run!!! I couldn’t believe it, it must be a fluke, but no it continued for four days.

My baby was no longer in pain and was not waking continuously for milk to try make her feel better. Like the lady said the colic came back so I couldn’t wait for the next session. She did exactly the same thing – which looks like she’s not doing anything! After the first day of her clearing her system again I had a happy, content baby who either slept through the night or woke once for a feed… This lasted for 6 nights. I then had her last session and the lady told me that would be it and she should be fine now. I couldn’t really understand how this was possible but she was right!

It’s been three weeks since her last session and since then my baby doesn’t have colic anymore. I can honestly say it’s been money well spent. I couldn’t have even dreamt how much of a difference it would make. I thought I’d share my story as I wish that someone had told me about a cranial osteopath eight years ago… it would have saved a lot of heartache and pain with my other two children. The lady said that the NHS is looking into funding an osteopath to work in postnatal wards so that every baby born can be looked at, she said if that happened it would stop so many babies being in unnecessary pain. I hope this happens as it feels like a miracle and would help so many babies and their carers.

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NHM Reader’s Experience: Sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS)

Thank you very much to today’s NHM Reader who has shared some of her experience to benefit others.

NHM Reader’s Experience: Sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS)

I am a mum of three kids and in the past few years have been really struggling to cope with their moods and the noise they make. I have now worked out why I have been feeling as I have and thought I’d share this with you because it might help others, too.

All three of my kids were very much wanted and planned and we were so happy when each of them was born. What I didn’t anticipate though was how much their noise and physical demands were going to challenge me. It got worse over the years and in the end I felt I was in a constant state of anger and that I never fully calmed down – I went from 0 to 100 in 2 seconds over very small things.

By now, even happy noises from children other than my own put me on edge immediately. I was very unhappy about this and shed many a tear in the evenings – and in the daytime because I had also got so very emotional – and complained to my poor husband. He tried to help but couldn’t really understand.

I researched many conditions that could explain just how I felt. Stress, depression, various phobias, even autism in female adults, but none of it really described how I felt. Until I came across “sensory-processing sensitivity” (SPS for short). People who are affected are called “highly sensitive persons”; their brains can’t filter out all the different stimuli that enter during a day and as a consequence they can feel greatly overwhelmed while the brain tries to deal with it all.

I have never been very good in noisy, crowded situations, I can’t stand the heat and I don’t like bright sunlight in my face. I also very much need my own personal space and I had started to make a connection between how these situations made me feel and how being with children made me feel.

And now it all makes perfect sense.

Before we had the children, I would either avoid situations that I found stressful (I have never been to a concert in my life and avoid going into busy town centres as much as possible) or I would have time to give my brain a break afterwards. When you have kids, that is often impossible and so the stimuli build up and up, leading to the feeling over overwhelm and even anger.

SPS is not an illness but rather a personality trait but just knowing why I feel that way has made my life much easier. I am still at the beginning of my own journey but I now try limit the amount of noise I subject myself to by, for example, wearing ear defenders at home even when it is not particularly noisy or taking five minutes in a quiet room when I have just sat in the car with the kids for half an hour, to give my brain that break it needs.

There is some useful information on the internet and, now that I know what to search for, I have found many blogs by affected parents. Not all have the same triggers as me, as all senses can be affected, but if any readers feel they are struggling with noises, lights, smells, crowds, etc or are otherwise very emotional I suggest they google SPS and highly sensitive persons.

If anyone feels the description of SPS fits them I would also be very happy to be contacted to exchange thoughts and ideas of how to cope with it. (please drop me an email at NorthHantsMum@gmail.com and I will forward it to the lovely lady who wrote this post).

NHM Reader Experience: Bladder exstrophy and epispadius

Thank you very much to the Mum who has shared some of her, her son’s and her families journey today.

It takes great courage to share something like this and she’s done a brilliant job.

Children With Additional Needs – bladder exstrophy and epispadius

If you met our son you would not know there is anything different about him, he is a fun loving, sport mad, confident 6 year old. However, he was born with a rare birth defect – bladder exstrophy and epispadius – basically his bladder was outside his body.

We ‘luckily’ found out during a routine 20 weeks scan that there was something not quite right, some specialist scans later our unborn baby had been diagnosed with a rare birth defect. Although it was difficult, knowing before birth made it easier for us to deal with, find the right support groups and get ourselves prepared.

When he was born within 12 hours he was taken to Great Ormond St Hospital for his first operation. This was particularly difficult for me as I could not be discharged from Basingstoke, due to difficulties during the birth and he underwent the surgery at 1 day old without me being there.

He underwent his second surgery at 23 months. This was harder to deal with for different reasons, he was now older, understood more about what was going on and didn’t like it when we left his room even for a few minutes.

As a baby there were few differences between him and his friends, everyone wore nappies! As time has gone on the differences are much more apparent. He is urinary incontinent and still wears pull ups. He deals with this really well and manages himself at school and when away from home.

It is hard for him as he is desperate to be like everyone else but as yet he has unable to achieve continence. He is fully aware of his differences and we hope that the challenges he faces over time get easier for him and eventually we will achieve dryness.

Treatment and prognosis for each child with this condition is different which makes it difficult for us to know what the future prognosis might be. We have regular trips to the hospital for biofeedback sessions (practice using the pelvic floor muscles) and further operations may still have to take place. Worst case scenario would be him needing a catheter and although this is not the ideal having seen children deal with this sometimes it seems the easier option.

We try on a daily basis to get him to do exercises and remind him to use the toilet but the bladder capacity and pelvic floor muscles are not developed enough.

We make sure that he has the same opportunities as everyone else and his condition should not hold him back from doing anything. The routine of school is good and he remembers to change, but as soon as there is a school trip or sports event we worry if he will remember and if he has all the supplies he needs.

Finding people that relate to our situation is hard as this condition is rare (approx. 1 in 70,000), but through the hospital and social media there are people we can talk to. Our support from hospitals, school, friends and family has been amazing, other children have been curious about why he is still wearing pull ups but no teasing has happened yet – this is something else we worry about as he gets older.

Given the opportunity we would love him to be ‘normal’, but his condition will not define who he is but hopefully make him an even stronger character than he already is.

P.S. Please remember that not all disabilities are visible.

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Review 2018: Pots To Doodle Do

Thank you very much to today’s NHM Secret Reviewer! She’s done a fab job!

Review 2018: Pots To Doodle Do

First of all, I haven’t been asked to review Pots to Doodle Do by anyone – I’m doing it as someone who booked to make some Christmas baubles and was so impressed and pleased with the results I wanted to share!

I booked in to Pots to Doodle Do after seeing a Facebook post about making decorations for the Christmas tree.  I have a toddler and a 4 month old and having been to various other places to do such things previously I thought I knew what to expect…..

How wrong was I?? I was slightly apprehensive about dealing with paint and a toddler while no doubt having to feed the baby (always happens doesn’t it?!) but Tracey could not have been more helpful! In other places we’ve just been left with the items we’ve chosen and the paint and got on with it – not this time, Tracey put the paint on the toddlers’ hand and the baby’s foot, stamped it onto the bauble then cleaned them up.  Sounds simple but I’m sure parents will understand where I’m coming from……….

We then had access to a huge array of paint, sponges, brushes and stickers to let the creative juices flow.  We were given a booklet with some photos of previous creations to give us direction if needed and Tracey made sure everyone got what they wanted from the experience, around to help if needed, checked on us and the progress but we didn’t feel rushed at all – a delicate balance it achieve!

The finished products were collected a week later and are brilliant – well worth the effort and importantly not expensive.

The location in Cliddesden is fairly simple to find and there’s parking by the village pond.  Once inside it’s warm and welcoming, there’s hot drinks and snacks available to purchase and Tracey goes out of her way to put you at ease (I was terrified of my toddler and ceramics……..)  By far the best experience of all so far!

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Review 2017: Little Street – a unique play opportunity for little people

Thank you VERY much to the NHM Secret Reviewer who wrote today’s post and to Little Street for inviting us along to their re-launch event!




Little Street in Frimley is a role play centre for young children. It is a miniature version of a town, giving little ones the perfect opportunity to try out lots of different experience and careers!

Open 7 days a week, Little Street offer four 90 minute play sessions a day for little people to explore their little world. Pre-booking is recommended as numbers are limited to ensure the best experience for everyone attending. Little Street is suitable for children up to 7 and even has a play pen for young babies as well as bumbo seats available for use.

My daughter (19 months) and I were lucky enough to attend the re-launch event after a recent refurbishment which has made way for a brand new vets and an air ambulance. As well as the new areas children can take a visit to Chicco’s cafe or Belle & Beau Beauty Salon. They can do their weekly shop at the (very well stocked!) supermarket.

There is also a construction site, complete with rocks, bricks and diggers and the Starlets Theatre, which has an Ice Cream stall, stage, musical instruments and many fancy dress costumes. In addition to this there are a variety of ride on toys which can be driven around the road. The attention to detail in each room is amazing, with appropriate wall stickers and fantastic props including animals in the vets, make up and hair products in the salon and many familiar items in the supermarket!

My daughter was a big fan of the new air ambulance and was fascinated by the rotors on top. She also loved the supermarket and kept taking any trolleys that she’d found outside the shop back to it!

The staff at Little Street were very welcoming and did a fantastic job of keeping the place tidy (and as much as possible items in the right rooms!) without disrupting the children’s play. It is very clean and everything is in great condition, you can tell it is very well looked after.


The venue has a small café where you can purchase hot or cold drinks, cakes and healthy snacks.


There is some parking on site at the station for a small charge, or there is a car park a short walk away where you can park for free for 2 hours – ideal as the sessions you can book are 90 minutes.


Remember you and your little one will need to wear socks. Don’t worry if you forget as they do have some you can purchase when you get there!

It also has a handy buggy park – if you ask at reception they can give you a lock to secure your buggy in the shelter outside.

Rating out of 5

After wanting to visit Little Street for ages, we were so pleased that it lived up to and exceeded our expectations and we will certainly be going back in the future! It gets a fantastic 5 out of 5 from us!!

Disclaimer: This post is a review of Little Street. The NHM Secret Reviewers experience was supplied free of charge for the purposes of the review. She was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are her own.

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