NHM Readers Recommend: Best Places to Visit Santa with a One-Year-Old

In November 2018, a NHM Reader asked: “Where are the best places to visit Santa in the Basingstoke area for a 1 year old? I’ve seen loads of places advertised but don’t know where is recommended?”

Thank you for all your responses, they are listed below in no particular order.

Please bear in mind that listings may change in subsequent years, but hopefully they will still be a good base point for your own research.

All opinions are the readers own and are not that of NHM.

NHM Readers Recommend: Best Places to Visit Santa with a One-Year-Old

Wendy said, “Proteus would be well worth a visit at that age, then I would just do festival place for the present and photo op, your looking at £10 minimum for almost all other Santa’s.

Charlotte said, “4 kingdoms is always brill have taken my son since he was a baby and now he’s 4.”

Samantha said, “We took our 9 month old last Christmas to the Santa in Festival Place. Did the job and you didn’t pay for all the other bits. On reflection, perfect for the age but probably once they hit 18 months plus you’d be looking for a bit more of an ‘experience’.”

Mary said, “At Proteus the show is interactive and sensory, made especially for little ones. You move around the space so little ones aren’t expected to sit still for long stretches. Here’s a link: http://www.proteustheatre.com/whats-on/the-magical-christmas-toy-shop Santa will feature but it’s very gentle and not a one on one grotto experience.”

Joanna said, “Active tots is good but is just outside of Basingstoke.”

Becky said, “We went to Miller’s Ark. Our little one was a little young at 8 months but the doggie there made her day!”

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My Experience: Coeliac Disease, 18 months after diagnosis

I know several of you have commented that my personal posts have been quite negative for the past few years. This isn’t exactly a positive post either, so please stop reading if that’s not your bag.

Coeliac Disease – 18 months after diagnosis

I’ve already blogged before about how I find the run up to Christmas to be really tough.

This year it’s feeling tougher than ever before.

Miss NHM was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease at the end of May 2017 when she was 6 years old, and whilst she’s doing really well I am struggling with it.

At this time of year EVERYTHING involves food.

There is the school disco with hot dogs, crisps, drinks and sweets. The Brownie end of year party with pizzas, cake and sweets, the class Christmas party with party food, making biscuits to tie in with this terms subject, the fundraising cake sale, the Christmas lunch, Christmas play dates at other peoples houses, the end of term party…

It ALL involves food. Oh and squash of course because she can’t have Robinson’s squash as it has barley in it so we have to double check what she drinks too.

Miss NHM is actually really good at checking things herself but she’s only 7 years old and she can’t be expected to check everything, although she is getting really good at asking if something is gluten free or not.

I have to check Every. Single. Thing. that she eats or drinks.

At this time of year it is utterly draining and relentless.

Coeliac Disease is a lifelong auto-immune disease for which there is currently no cure, that is triggered by eating gluten. I’ve mentioned before about how cross contamination is a really big issue when you are a Coeliac. It’s awesome that gluten free food is becoming more widely available but having to explain to people, and remembering to explain to people, the risk of contamination, that one single crumb will mean that Miss NHM is sick for a month, is exhausting.

It takes Miss NHM about a month to get over being poisoned. It affects her health, her emotional well being, her studies, her sleep. It affects everything.

It’s getting to the point where I have to say to some people in our lives that every time they poison (gluten) her they increase her risk of stomach cancer in later life. Which is so frustrating when Mr NHM and I work so very hard to ensure that she isn’t poisoned.

Recently Miss NHM was poisoned (glutoned) by a member of our extended family, even though I provided all of her food for the visit. As a result of Miss NHM’s immune system being compromised by being poisoned, she then caught a stomach bug which has taken her much longer than a “normal” child to get over. She’s very pale and very exhausted, not least because gluten free carbs don’t have the same amount of energy in as “normal” carbs. We are hoping that she recovers in time for Christmas.

We now literally have no one we can trust to look after Miss NHM that can look after her properly. I have some wonderful close friends who have offered so that Mr NHM and I can have a break but Miss NHM suffers from anxiety at being left with others because of everything that has happened too her and my lovely friends already have enough to deal with in their own families.

When I went public about Miss NHM’s Coeliac Disease earlier this year, another Coeliac parent commented that this disease really shows you who your real friends are. This is so very true for us. We’ve noticed that we don’t get invited to as many things as we used to. This might be because we are getting old and miserable (facepalm) but I also think it’s because people are just too scared in case they poison Miss NHM. Which I totally understand it’s just hard to cope with sometimes.

Having said that we have often been overwhelmed by how understanding and supportive people can be. Many of our friends have been wonderful about it. Other parents, who we have never met before, have gone out of their way to organise food and birthday cakes and birthday parties, to ensure Miss NHM doesn’t feel different or miss out. This has restored my faith in humanity on a number of recent occasions.

There are more good things. Miss NHM doesn’t know any different because this is really all that she’s known. She also suffered with “brain fog” pre-diagnosis so there are huge gaps in her memory from when she was younger. She is so good when she’s offered things that have gluten in, particularly by children at school who hand out home made goodies on their birthday, and will always give them to her teacher.

Her school have been absolutely amazing, soooooo much better than The Prison. Her class recently went on a school outing and the teacher went to the same place a week before, to scope it out and ensure that Miss NHM wouldn’t be poisoned. Her teacher has also ensured that all of the ingredients for their recent class baking were gluten free. The Brownie Ladies have also been absolutely fantastic. There are lots of activities which involve food at the Brownies but they always review every item with me in advance and I’m not expected to go and get alternatives for them.

It’s just tough at this time of year. Christmas seems to be ALL about food. It’s great that we can get more gluten free alternatives than we could even at Christmas last year but it’s making people aware of the risk of cross contamination which is the real challenge and explaining just how serious it is.

At the moment, the beginning of December, I am literally living for the 21st December, when Miss NHM breaks up for the Christmas holidays and Mr NHM and I have two weeks off work. We get to relax and know that we don’t have to constantly check all food and drink. We are hoping to brave it to the two local restaurants that we feel safe that Miss NHM won’t be poisoned at (both are accredited restaurants with Coeliac UK). We won’t be seeing any family this year because it’s just not worth the drama or stress of Miss NHM being sick for ANOTHER month.

So yeah, this isn’t a positive post but this is my life at the moment. NHM is a blog that’s supposed to be a bit about my experience of being a Mum and this is my current reality.

I know that come January we can heave a sigh of relief that we got through it and we won’t  have to really worry about food until July when the end of the academic year starts. And we have much to be thankful for, not least that it normally takes 12-13 years to be diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and Miss NHM was diagnosed in under 3 years.

If you are struggling at the moment, for whatever reason, just know you are not alone.

Thanks for reading to the end ;-).

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AlphaBetty Adventures: Christmas 2018 Sessions

Dear Mummies,

I am just getting in touch to let you know that I have released the dates and times for my Christmas sessions. I will be running a the following sessions in December. Please get in touch by email if you would like to book a place as spaces are limited. For more information is on the facebook page.

Gruffalo Session

Anna Wrapping Paper

5th December Frozen session 2.15 – 3.15pm @ Oakridge Hall for All £10 for 2-5 year olds

5th December Frozen session 3.30 – 4.30pm @ Oakridge Hall for All £10 for 3-10 year olds
Olaf Marshmallow Making

19th December Gruffalo’s child 1.30 – 2.30pm @ Oakridge Hall for All £7.50 for 2-5 year olds.

I look forward to seeing some of you there.
Lee-Anne
alphabetty_adventures@hotmail.com

Making Gruffalo Faces

Mixing Forest Colours

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NHM Readers Recommend: Best Places to See Christmas Lights

In 2017 a NHM Reader asked “Can you ask the group where best place to drive to see lots of Christmas lights as our road only has two including us”. 

Obviously these may not be the same in following years but they give you some ideas to investigate.

Thank you for all of your responses, listed below in no particular order:

NHM Readers Recommend: Best Places to See Christmas Lights

Brackley Way

Rachael said “Brackley Road does an amazing one”

Wendy said “We drive to Brackley Way”

Helen said “Brackley Way are awesome. Done to raise funds for charity and he gives out chocolate to the kids as well.”

Sandhya said “South ham, being a bit biased here… lovely one in brackley way. We went there to see it today.”

Sue said “Brackley Way. They raise money for charity every year. It’s awesome”

Collette said “…brackley way”

Gabriel Park

Wendy said “…Gabriel Park”

Sherfield Park, head towards Sherfield Park Community Centre

Joanna said “Sherfield Park is usually good”

Natasha said “I second Sherfield park!”

Wendy said “…and Sherfield park”

Michelle said “Sherfield Park definitely – they do “Light up sherfield park” so there is a competition, weekend of 16th/17th is the judging weekend”

Louise Nhm said “We went out last year during the judging competition and it was AWESOME!!! Videos of Father Christmas from one window to another, real snow spray and some amazing Christmas displays! Highly recommended!”

Homesteads

Helen said “…Otherwise Homesteads residents usually have lots of nice lights to look at.”

The Clarke Estate, near Elmwood Parade shops

Lianne said “The Clarke Estate usually has quite a lot of houses all done up”

Buckland Avenue

Collette said “Buckland avenue”

Oakley

Collette said “…Oakley!”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Daytime Carol Services

I had a question last year from an NHM Reader which may be useful this year too: “Do you know what daytime carol services are being put on in the area this year? 6:30pm seems to be normal but that’s a bit late really.”

Many thanks to the NHM Community for your responses, listed below in no particular order:

NHM Readers recommend daytime carol services

Naomi said:

I don’t know about carol services generally, but Winchester cathedral has a fab crib service on Christmas Eve, it’s usually mid-afternoon and children can go dressed up as an angel, shepherd or other nativity character. It’s lovely.”

Heidi said:

Sherborne St John church has a children’s carol service at 4pm ish one Sunday before Christmas but I’m not sure what date yet…”

Rebecca said:

“There will be a carol service at Christ Church Chineham. There will also be a crib service on Christmas Eve.

Rebecca also recommended Christingle at St Gabriel’s at 5pm

Kath said:

Brighton Hill church near Asda used to do a Christingle service mid afternoon I think, and possible Oakridge Methodist church might do an early service

Gillian said:

“The Crib Service at Christ Church on Christmas Eve is at 4.30 pm”

Caroline said:

St michaels church in town centre has a lunchtime carol service usually in the week leading up to Christmas and also a children’s nativity story service (with dress up) at 5pm on Christmas Eve.

Allison said:

St Mary’s, Eastrop usually has a Christmas Carol Extravaganza for children on Christmas Eve at around 4pm and a 10am Christingle service earlier in December. Website is updated regularly http://www.stmarys-basingstoke.org.uk/upcoming-events/

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NHM Readers Recommend: Favorite Christmas Movies

Last year, I asked the NHM Readers “What are your favorite Christmas movies for young children?” 

The responses are listed below, in no particular order:

NHM Readers Recommend: Favorite Christmas Movies

Santa Clause the Movie

Claire S said “Santa Claus the Movie in our house.”

Honor said “Santa Claus”

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Diana said “Muppets Christmas Carol”

Rebecca said “Muppets Christmas Carol!”

Sarah said “Muppets Christmas Carol, for children young and old!”

Sue said “Muppets Christmas carol”

Helen J said “Traditionally I watch A Muppets Christmas Carol every year on Xmas Eve….I will be introducing this to my 2 year old”

Arthur Christmas

Claire K said “Arthur Christmas on Netflix at the minute!”

Helen B said “My son’s is Arthur Christmas”

Vicky H said “Arthur Christmas”

Kelly said “Arthur Christmas”

Sue said “and Arthur Christmas”

Kate said “Arthur Christmas”

The Polar Express

Carolyn said “‘The Polar Express’! ….it gets played all year round in our house!”

Ruza said “Polar Express”

Honor said “or polar express”

Miracle on 34th Street

Helen B said “My daughter is miracle on 34th street”

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jessica “Nightmare before christmas”

Elf

Vicky M said “Elf”

Jo said “Elf!!!!!”

The Snowman and the Snowdog

Wendy said “Snowman and the snowdog

Ghostbusters II

Wendy said “and my 3 year olds favourite Ghostbusters 2”

The Great Escape

Susan said “Great Escape!!!”

Saving Santa

Sian said “My 5 year olds favourite last year was Saving Santa. Looks like it’s going to be the favourite this year to”

Home Alone

Lisette said “Home alone”

Rise of the Guardians

Kate said “Rise of the guardians”

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs @ The Anvil, Basingstoke – 13 Dec 2018 – 6 Jan 2019

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs @ The Anvil

Thursday 13 December 2018 to Sunday 6 January 2019

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s off to Basingstoke you go for this year’s traditional family pantomime at The Anvil: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

When the Wicked Queen’s magic mirror declares that Snow White is the fairest in all the land, the evil Queen wants her out of the way.  Snow White escapes to the forest where she meets seven little friends.  But the Wicked Queen doesn’t give up, and with a poisoned apple in her possession she tracks down Snow White …

Taking the title role of Snow White is Dani Harmer, best known as CBBC’s Tracy Beaker, and playing Muddles is Chris Pizzey, who was such a hit in Jack and the Beanstalk at The Anvil in 2015.  And once again Chris will also be directing the panto, and is planning lots of fun, magic, mayhem, and laughs.

The Anvil, Basingstoke.
Snow White
Christmas Panto 2018.
Photograph By: Sean Dillow.
www.TheBigCheesePhotography.co.uk

Dani Harmer was born in Berkshire and is one of the biggest stars of children’s television having played the lead role of Tracy Beaker since she was 12 years old.  She also had her own hit shows Dani’s House and Dani’s Castle.  She joined the line-up for Let’s Dance for Sports Relief in 2012; the following year she appeared in Strictly Come Dancing, reaching the final with her partner Vincent Simone.  She took part in the national Strictly tour partnering Pasha.  Dani is much in demand as a panto performer and is delighted to be coming to Basingstoke to play Snow White for the very first time.

The Anvil, Basingstoke.
Snow White
Christmas Panto 2018.
Photograph By: Sean Dillow.
www.TheBigCheesePhotography.co.uk

Chris Pizzey is best known to youngsters as Mr Stephen in the hit television show The Basil Brush Show, and Gerald Smedley in The Sooty Show, and for roles in CBBC’s Planet Ajay and The Sarah Jane Adventures.  Theatre includes most recently playing Randall Shuck in the Olivier nominated The Comedy About A Bank Robbery in London’s West End.  He has performed in and directed many pantomimes over the last 20 years and Anvil Arts is delighted that he is returning to The Anvil stage.

The Anvil, Basingstoke.
Snow White
Christmas Panto 2018.
Photograph By: Sean Dillow.
www.TheBigCheesePhotography.co.uk

The Wicked Queen is played by Kirsty Sparks, who has appeared in Me and My Girl, CATS, Starlight Express and Saturday Night Fever.  She also works as a choreographer and most recently worked for ITV’s Girlfriends.

Chris Warner Drake is the handsome Prince.  Chris is currently appearing in Chicago and has appeared in many musicals including Hairspray and Starlight Express.  Films include Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Jack the Giant Slayer.

The dame is played by seasoned panto performer Jamie Steen who has a wealth of experience in theatre, musicals and cabaret.  As Nursie, Jamie is looking forward to sharing his/her medical and fashion advice with the people of Basingstoke!

Join the Wicked Queen, handsome Prince, and seven mischievous dwarfs for a huge portion of festive fun.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will have lavish sets and sumptuous costumes, a mix of up-to-the-minute pop songs along with old favourites, great gags and plenty of audience participation – perfect for keeping the whole family entertained during their Christmas treat.

The Anvil, Basingstoke.
Snow White
Christmas Panto 2018.
Photograph By: Sean Dillow.
www.TheBigCheesePhotography.co.uk

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will run from Thursday 13 December 2018 to Sunday 6 January 2019.

There is a relaxed performance for those on the autistic spectrum and with other disabilities on Wednesday 2 January at 2pm.  There is also a BSL signer at the 6pm performance on Tuesday 18 December.

For more information or for tickets, call the Anvil Arts box office on 01256 844244, or visit the Anvil Arts website anvilarts.org.uk.

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NHM Readers Recommend their Favorite Father Christmas Visits

In 2017 I asked the Friends of my “Louise nhm Smith” profile on Facebook “which Father Christmas “visit” would you recommend that you’ve been to this year and why would you recommend it?”

Many thanks for your responses, listed below in no particular order:

NHM Readers Recommend their favorite Father Christmas visits

Marie said:

4 Kingdoms Adventure Park is good but it gets more expensive every year (you do get a lot for your money though).

Finkley Down Farm is good alternative that is a bit cheaper.

Helena said:

We’re going to 4 Kingdoms Adventure Park for the third year running. So much for the money and the 2hr Christmas experience is different every year.

Paultons Park is very good but the same every year and very expensive for a family. The whole park is open but most of the best rides are shut. They’re both by booked ticket only.

Kelly said:

Breakfast with Santa at Wyevale Garden Centre is really good! We’re going for the second year running. Would highly recommend”

Rachel said:

If they just want to see Santa Conkers Garden Centre is good

Vicky said:

We’re doing brekkie with santa next week at Sherfield on Loddon Garden Centre

Personally I’d avoid santa in Festival Place there’s no magic or mystery as he’s in full view! Saw a preschool girl open up a pressie, was a cheap looking very small book!

Leah said:

Unfortunately I’ve booked my 2 to do to Festival Place this year. The train has gone & for £4.50 each child it doesn’t seem like there’s much for them this year (a walk round the icy forest, a snowball fight with the elves (!) & a visit to Santa. I’m quite disappointed tbh & think I’ll avoid after this year.

Wendy said:

We’re off to Henry Street tomorrow to see the real one…they have the best Santa’s.

Then we do the 4 Kingdoms Adventure Park one just before Christmas, they feed their elves sugar and E numbers all year round then let them out to do the Santa experiences.

Hannah said:

We love Conkers Garden Centre, the guy always remembers my boys, and you get private space away from others to sit and chat to him. Someone did say the grotto wasn’t there this year though so maybe call ahead and check.

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Let it snow in Basingstoke town centre

Christmas is coming to the Top of Town in Basingstoke as it will be the only high street in the UK to be adorned with a vast array of specially commissioned window displays of snowy scenes.

Several of the independent businesses throughout the Hampshire town will be displaying bespoke vinyl decals of festive fun from today. There will be six designs in total yet each business will have its name incorporated into their one-of-a-kind Christmas creation by the artistic team from Snow Windows.

It is just one of the many festive events which will be bringing the spirit of Christmas to Basingstoke this year. It is being run by Basingstoke Together, the face of the Basingstoke Business Improvement District (BID). The BID’s aim is to help Basingstoke town centre to thrive by creating destination events, engaging with consumers and supporting retailers and businesses.

Lucy Boazman, Chief Executive of Basingstoke Together, said: “We’re really proud that Basingstoke has so much to offer residents and visitors who want to enjoy a truly festive feeling this year.

“Alongside picking up a bargain or two in the busy shopping period, we hope that everyone who spends some time in the town centre makes the most of the various opportunities to experience the spirit of the occasion on our doorstep.”

25 businesses in the Top of Town will be supporting the initiative to create a snowy spectacle along Winchester Street and the surrounds. The Snow Windows will be on display in time for a wide variety of festivities happening in Basingstoke.

Surya’s International Food and Newsagent on Church Street is one of the businesses who will be dressing their windows ready for Christmas.

Owner Kishor Patel said:  “We’re really looking forward to Surya’s wonderful snow window display being installed. It will give our store a welcoming feel and also hopefully encourage people to take the time to visit the top of town and admire the festive decorations.”

The array of festive events in Basingstoke this year include:

  • Nutcracker Trail – 16 November – 31 December: Take your children on a magical trail around Basingstoke to discover all ten of our Christmas Nutcrackers. Collect a Trail Book from various pick-up points around the town centre to be in with a chance of winning festive prizes.
  • Christmas Cracker Making Station – 24th and 25 November: Get crafty and join the elves at the Christmas Cracker Making Station in Festival Place. Fill your crackers with giggles, jokes and wishes to set your Christmas off with a bang.
  • Christmas street theatre – every Saturday from 24 November – 22 December: Head to The Malls to take in a wide variety of festive fun shows including Funky Santas and Giant Christmas presents.

  • The Night Before Christmas projection – throughout December: A special Night Before Christmas show will be projected onto The Willis Museum. Shows will be on the hour every day from 4pm.

Keri Ackling, of Snow Windows, said: “We have loved the challenge of creating bespoke and reusable decals on a much larger scale for the first time in Basingstoke. We feel that they will really create the ‘wow factor’ for the festive season – they are the perfect backdrop for your Christmas selfie!”

Find out more about Basingstoke Together by visiting https://www.basingstoketogether.co.uk

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NHM Readers Recommend: Where to get a Real Christmas Tree

Good Afternoon Everyone! I’ve had a great question (in 2017) from a NHM Reader: “We are looking forward to our first Christmas in Basingstoke and I wondered if you could tell me where I could get a real Christmas tree from?” TIA!

NHM Readers recommend: where to get a real Christmas tree

Stacey said:

West Green Fruits in Hartley Wintney do the best trees around in my opinion!”

Emma said:

I agree with Stacey! West Green Fruits – and it’s a nice experience too in their barn with a small selection of Decs to look at too”

Aimee said:

West green fruits!! Absolutely gorgeous trees and the Christmas barn is lovely!!”

Allyson said:

https://www.facebook.com/burcotfarmtrees/

Lisa H said:

We got ours last year from there. Def recommend.” https://www.facebook.com/burcotfarmtrees/

Lisa W said:

Elm Park Garden centre on the A340 just north of Basingstoke towards Tadley”

Skye said:

Yep this” Elm Park Garden centre

Rachel E said:

Burcot Farm has lovely trees. So many sizes to choose from and reasonably priced to.”

Rachel W said:

Elm Park Garden centre every time”

Lisa R said:

There’s a ‘pop up’, outdoor Christmas tree sales place down Roman Road each year – not sure when they start to set up from. I’ve not used them but go past them on the way to work!”

Hayley said:

The one on Roman rd as mentioned above … cheap and good quality – last well!”

Rebekah said:

Last year we decided to try Moles garden centre in Sherfield-on-Loddon. My husband bought it without seeing it out of the net. I was like why?!! But then we opened it and it was perfection! The best tree we’ve ever had.”

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