Beanies – Croydon

Beanies Croydon

Once upon a time I owned too many records (actually I still do) so often made the trek to Croydon – taking some of those records to the famous Beanos – a huge second-hand record store which was over several floors. Eventually Beanos closed and reopened as a cool shop called Stuff which had loads of local businesses inside, though that only lasted a short time. Fast forward to a year or so ago and word started to spread that Beanos was set to be a place for children and was set to be re-named Beanies – who then opened in June 2011.

Considering how close we live to Croydon, it’s taken a while for me to get to Beanies which is bad of me – but after getting upstairs and having a look around I have to say, it’s fantastic! There’s little things which could be improved (I’ve already suggested to Hina that they get some insulated coffee cups to use for upstairs – the coffee stays warm and it’s less likely to spill!) but not the kinds of things which would spoil the experience.

Beanies have all kinds of things going on too – on Wednesday afternoons there was a cinema, where you could take your babies – and they showed all the John Hughes films (this is another reason I can’t quite work out why I didn’t go) in a child-friendly environment. They do yoga, football lessons, Sing & Sign, they sell Barefoot Books and have loads of classes – basically, if there’s something Beanies aren’t doing I’d be surprised. They’ve even had a Swishing Party – for kids – Little Swishers. Oh yes, they do knitting and crochet mornings too, baby massage, yoga…

There’s a cafe downstairs which is really reasonable, and plenty of space for buggies. There’s also second-hand clothes and toys which are worth a look. Upstairs is the soft play area where there are toys, toys and even more toys as well as some dressing up costumes – suitable for up to 5 years. You pay £5 if your child is  1-4 (up to their 5th birthday), adults go free. If your child is over six months but under a year then it’s £2.50. There’s settees everywhere, Ikea highchairs around and plenty for your little ones to do; it’s a fabulous place.

We haven’t made it up to the top floor yet but I’m guessing that’s where the cinema is – which is by the way, free if you have some food there or £3 otherwise.

Quack Quack Moo are coming to Beanies – a brand we’re very aware of after meeting them at the Brighton Baby Show – and to celebrate on October 11th there’s a whole day of activities – including meeting Peppa Pig. Alas I’ll be at work, but all the info is here – plus they’re offering 50% off the Barefoot Books range which I’m quite tempted by – having been a Barefoot seller in the past… see, they’re not just limited to daytime – there’s an evening do there, going from 7pm until midnight. Heck, I could get the bus home afterwards!! This is like a night out! (I’m a bit excited)

If you’re in the Croydon area please support Beanies. They’re not too far from the main shopping area, they’re all really friendly and helpful – there’s membership available which pays for itself if you plan to go more than three times a month (and it gets cheaper over time too – a year costs £90 – so that’s 18 visits). The cafe is free and child-friendly (though be aware, it’s a cafe so there’s hot drinks around). They even have little toilets for kids – no locks on the door – for the first time ever H and I went into our own cubicles which I was more than a bit proud of (and she felt like a proper big girl!)

Beanies do deals via Groupon as well, so keep an eye out – there was a fantastic deal recently to have your party there (yes they do parties too!) – so keep an eye out.

To sum up Beanies, it’s a place created by mums for mums – they know the kind of things you want and need, and it’s all there over the three (or is it four?) floors of the building formerly known as Beanos. It’s kind of weird and good (and a bit sad too as I miss the old shop) sitting in the area I’d take my CD singles and 7″ singles to sell and it’s now a huge soft play area my daughter is benefiting from – and we’ll be back for more. Plus you get to meet other local mums – I wish Beanies had existed while I was on maternity leave as I’d definitely have spent lots of time there!

Beanies Website

Beanies on Facebook

Beanies on Twitter

A Cheaper London – Diana Memorial Playground

We had a fairly frugal day this time, what with payday looming at the end of the week. A quick trip to the Natural History Museum, then a wander through Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens, where the Diana Memorial Playground lives.

We had to queue as it was busy and they don’t want it too overcrowded – but got in quickly. The actual playground? It’s fantastic. A massive wooden pirate ship lives in the middle with various rides and places – all designed for little ones (there’s even an under 3’s area which H quite enjoyed amongst some obviously over 3 children) and going up to the age of twelve.

Diana Memorial Playground

There’s swings, slides, teepee’s and pretty much anything you can think of. Near the pirate ship are a few fountains where your kids can roll up their jeans, take their socks off and splash around in water and do some water play safely.

There’s signs around the playground – which point out that while the playground does follow all EU safety regulations, that it’s recognised children need an element of risk to learn and progress – and that children should be supervised at all times (which is sensible enough information!) – but as one review I read said, if you lose your child, just head to the pirate ship in the middle – they’ll more than likely be in there.

I really liked how it was fenced off from the rest of the park – so you can’t just get in or exit – making it a safe envoironment and also how there were areas for everyone – you don’t have to be the best climber to enjoy your time there.

The Diana Memorial Playground is free of charge to get in – and is approximately five minutes walk from Queensway or Bayswater tube stations. For more information please visit the Royal Parks website.

Paultons Park/Peppa Pig World

We left London for a couple of days for a trip to Peppa Pig World. I’ve had quite a few friends go there, so knew what to expect – although I think we could have been better prepared as I can see now why they do the two-day tickets with an overnight stay deal. We didn’t have the time for two days so got done as much as we could in one without completely exhausting ourselves.

Firstly, don’t let the fact that there’s only seven rides at PPW make you think you’ll do it all in a morning – there’s a LOT to do. We managed to get on three rides quickly by being in the park by 10am when it opened and getting on to what we thought would be the busiest rides. Actually in retrospect we chose rides that could take lots of people so had a quick turnaround.

Miss Rabbit's Helicopter Ride at Peppa Pig World

First top tip – plan to go on Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Ride or the Balloon Ride as the park opens – they take the least number of people per turn and (especially with the helicopter) are slow getting you on – you’ll avoid long queues and can get onto the other rides quicker.

We went on George’s Dinosaur Ride first which was brilliant – H loved it, and we were on within five minutes of getting there. Our second ride was Grandpa’s Little Train – again quick to get on as it takes so many people at once. You can fit four people in a carriage.

George's Dinosaur Ride at Peppa Pig World

Second top tip – if only two of you can make it onto a ride that’s good, as you might get a queue jump when they need two people to fill a carriage – most people were in groups of three or four.

Third top tip – take a picnic or snacks if you can – food is expensive and I wasn’t that impressed with it. It was edible, so I’m not complaining. There was loads of space to have picnics and no signs telling you that you can’t sit in the eating areas like some places.

There are loads of characters from Peppa Pig which walk around the park that you can have your photo taken with – so keep your eyes peeled. There’s also Peppa’s House and the School House where you can take a photo with the characters and stand and have a picture with Peppa and her friends (and Madame Gazelle) for free.

Peppa Pig World

Fourth top tip – they do photo passes – for £20 you can get four photos around Paulton’s Park rides – quite a good deal if you consider you’re paying £8 for a single print. There’s a lot of opportunities too, and had we known we’d probably have done it (I couldn’t see anything mentioning it on the Peppa side).

I spotted loads of kids with stickers and their parents phone number on it in case they got lost. We didn’t get one or find out where it’s from, but that’s a great idea.

The Peppa Pig Shop is huge and full of Peppa things. A friend compared prices with Amazon and found that everything was identical which is good – as in, they’ve not bumped the prices up. There’s something in there for everyone, and no I didn’t get a Mummy Pig t-shirt… (I may have bought Daddy Pig socks for someone though…) There’s a stand outside the shop where you can throw two balls into a bucket, and win a ridiculously large Peppa related toy. We lucked out and Shaun won one within two throws. I tried one – it’s not easy. We saved ourselves around £25 there, had we bought the toy.

Grandpa Pig's Boat Trip

Fifth top tip – entrance to PPW – it’s quicker (and cheaper) if you buy a ticket in advance. If you only plan to do one day it may work out cheaper to book accommodation seperately – we saved a bit of money doing it that way.

We were approached to do a little interview for the PPW website while we were walking around – H answered (very quietly) two questions and got a free Peppa book and a puzzle on some paper which impressed us – especially as we don’t have that book. Whether it’s actually used or not is another matter… I suspect not though.

The toilets are excellent – they have those dual seats – the kind which lower for smaller bottoms – I’ve never been anywhere which does this – Paultons know there are lots of kids there, and it’s the little touches like this which make me warm to the place a lot – it’s a family park and families are catered for – even in ways like this. I didn’t spot whether Baby Changing was in Male and Female toilets, or just separate – but I’d like to think they’ve done the right thing anyway.

There’s a rollercoaster just beyond PPW, and H went on – and had a fantastic time. I was stood watching equally terrified and excited, and relieved when I saw her laughing. There’s a lot of height restricted rides, but also quite a lot they can go on outside the park. There’s also a little train which goes around some of the park (not all of it) which is fun too, and a good sit down.

Peppa Pig World

In addition to rides, there’s various animals and birds around the park – we caught the penguins being fed as well as having a wander around the birds section and gardens. There’s also a dinosaurs display which is pretty good.

Play area-wise there’s enough for little and big kids, areas you can sit in the shade, and really so much to do that we’re going to have to go back to do the rest – when it isn’t the school holidays.

There’s some Peppa Pig World competitions running over at their official Facebook page which we’ve not had much luck with just yet.

I know I had more to write, but I can’t remember what, so for now we’ll go with this and I’ll add updates when I do.

Sacrilege 2012 – an inflatable Stonehenge on tour – by Jeremy Deller

Fancy bouncing on a life-size replica Stonehenge for free?

Check out Sacrilege 2012 by Jeremy Deller quick – they’re touring parks all around the country, but it’s almost over.

We went yesterday in Cheam Park – and although it had to be deflated due to high winds for a while, it was soon inflated again (as it’s better for Stonehenge to be up).

Things worth knowing:

• Follow Sacrilege on Twitter (@sacrilege2012) – especially when the weather is bad, then you can get updates when it closes and reopens (if they have to).
• Even when it rains they’ll let you on – just in smaller batches so there’s more room – bear in mind it’s slippery though. We got a 10-15 minute bounce – though the second time was cut short due to high winds again (damn you weather).
• They said they can’t come back (if a showing is disrupted by weather), so persevere if you can – or find something else locally you can do if it is bad weather so you can get back quickly.
• There’s no secure storage for valuables, and you can’t take them on with you – so leave your most expensive stuff at home

I put together a little YouTube thing when it was being inflated the second time.

Check out their website too – there’s extra goodies – music and even a beard to print out and take with you.

Jeremy Deller is a genius. I’ve never seen so many happy laughing faces bouncing around on a huge great big bouncy thing. Apparently it’s available for hire too…

Sacrilege 2012 at Cheam Park

21 June – Carmarthenshire, Wales
24 June – Redruth, Cornwall
26 June – Exeter, Devon
29 June – Marlborough, Wiltshire
4 July – Southend On Sea
7 July – Flag Fen, Peterborough
11 July – Wakefield, Yorkshire
15 July – Gateshead – CANCELLED
20 July – Fishermead, Milton Keynes
21/22 July – Greenwich, London
25 July – Brent, London
28 July – Westminster, London
29 July – Sutton, London
31 July – Ravenscourt Park, London
1 August – Hampstead Heath, London
2 August – Clapham Common, London
4 August – Southwark, London
5 August – HIllingdon, London
7 August – Newham, London
9 August – Crystal Palace, London
10 August – Alexandra Palace, London
11 August – Christchurch Green, London
12 August – Lee Valley Park, London
18 August – College Green, Bristol
26 August – Belfast
9 September – Preston

Pecorama Gardens, Games and Trains – Beer

This is a super place. It was very toddler-friendly, very buggy-friendly and we lucked out with a sunny day. Pecorama is situated in Beer – and is well signposted too. Alas, we couldn’t find Beer Head which is somewhere close by, and going on the views from Pecorama is probably pretty ace too.

Pecorama has plenty of parking for free, and while it’s pricey to get in, under 4’s go free which is a good saving. We were given a voucher for discounted entry which covers us to the end of the year – and looks like it’s in partnership with some other local attractions, including the Seaton Tram (which looked fabulous but we didn’t have time) – so there may be deals to be had – check before you go just in case.

Beer isn’t too far from Lyme Regis, so you can find yourself right by the sea with The Cob (which still scares me) as well as this lovely line of beach huts.

Lyme Regis Beach Huts

There’s also lots of other lovely things we want to tell you about Lyme Regis – especially including Alice’s Bear Shop, which we will do soon.

So, Pecorama – you’ve got some really lovely things there – the Beer Heights Light Railway which is just the right size for adults and toddlers (downside – the tunnel gets a bit smokey, so be prepared with a hanky if you think you might cough!)

Pecorama Model Railway

They offer free face painting, and a man entertained us on stage (H wasn’t keen, she’s still a bit young though)

H face painted at Pecorama

There’s a huge play area complete with that nice soft concretey stuff so you don’t get too many bumps and bruises, and a train or two to play on,

Pecorama play area

as well as a really cool slide and an even cooler pirate ship (pirates are very much the in thing at the moment in our house)

Pecorama pirate ship

The outdoor cafe area near this play area doesn’t take cards, so make sure you’ve some cash! The large cafe does though, and has a really cool model train that runs around at the top – plus their cream teas are pretty good, though Shaun tells me that Dorset do different cream teas to Devon, apparently.

Pecorama view

 If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth a visit. We really enjoyed it – there was plenty to keep H occupied, the grounds were lovely to wander round and we definitely could have spent longer there. We didn’t pick up any Teddy Mac books (though should have), that also happen to be beautifully illustrated by Rikey Austin, the lovely lady behind Alice’s Bear Shop!

Pecorama’s website is here
Find them on Facebook here
or Twitter here

Tilgate Park

Rory and I took Isabella there a few weeks back on a glorious autumn day. It is a huge park with plenty of buggy friendly, paved walkways. There is also lots of grass lawn to run around on and picnic (when the weather is good). There is a small lake in the middle of the park with geese, ducks and black swans. There is also apparently a walled garden and other small themed gardens around the park as well as a cafe but didn’t get there ourselves. There is also a craft studio area where you can view people doing their handiwork.

There is an enclosed play area with lots of fun things to climb on, rock on, swing on, slide on or simply play on. Isabella took an instant liking to the giant slide (wide enough for adults without getting your bum jammed unlike the normal slides).

We also saw sheep there. There is apparently a nature centre with lots of animals including reptiles, farm animals, spiders, snakes etc. Free entry all round!!!

Don’t be caught with paying for parking in the main parking area. If you approach Tilgate Drive from the A23, there is free parking on the left hand side near the bottom before you get to the main parking area. Entry to park is free!!!

Well worth several visits as there is too much to see in one go! We’ve only done one visit so far with more to come!