Sunday, 29 June 2014

The 3Foot People Festival

This week Chelmsford Cultual events very kindly invited me and T along to the 3Foot People festival. We really enjoyed the event last year and were excited to hear about the move from Central Park to the much larger venue at Hylands Park. The festival, the largest of its kind in the UK, has been growing in popularity every year and this year was a sell out weeks before the event. 

3Foot People Festival
A Cardboard Castle
I think the move to Hylands Park was a hugely successful one. With more space, the set up of the various tents and activities seemed to flow much more naturally through the different zones and it was much easier to find things as they were stated on the map. There was also so much more space for families to sit down, have picnics and generally enjoy the atmosphere. More space also meant that there were more options for food and drink in comparison with last year. I’d opted not to take a picnic purely because I didn’t have a buggy and didn’t want to carry anything! We enjoyed lunch in A-Canteen and I paid less than I thought I might have to and was pleased with the quality of the food. 

There was a larger range of things to do this year and even though we crammed a lot into one day, we certainly didn’t get to do everything. All of the usual baby and toddler classes were there giving taster sessions of their classes but there were plenty of activities that you wouldn’t normally get to do. It was also nice to see that some local charities were represented there. 

Highlights of the day included watching an Alien theatre show, which included huge amount of audience participation, playing with everyday objects at Natural Foundations, getting involved with the arts and crafts tent, crawling through cardboard tunnels in the Lightbox tent and of course getting T’s face painted. The face painters were fantastic and the dragon that T demanded was amazing. 
3Foot People Festival
Dressing up!

Another positive change to this year was to the program given out on entry to the festival. The centre fold had a timetable of everything that was happening, which meant that it was much easier to see what was happening and to plan your day around some of the bigger events, like the the shows and story telling in the main tents. 

On a practical note, parking was easy and very well planned and marshalled. Queuing to get in did seem to be an issue but I think the introduction of sending out wrist bands with the tickets meant that the process was much quicker than it potential could have been. Toilets were plentiful and clean and there was no litter anywhere thanks to a team of staff who were regularly seen patrolling the event. 

(My only problem with the whole day was the cost of ice cream - £2 each seemed very expensive. But to be fair the ice creams were the same price at our recent trip to Diggerland)

A really fantastic event that made me proud to live in Chelmsford. Well done Chelmsford City Events - can’t wait for next year!

Chelmsford City Events are looking for feedback to make next year’s event even better. You can complete a feedback form here and be in with a chance to win a family ticket for 2015’s event. 

What was your favourite part of the 3Foot People Festival?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Win a Family Ticket to Latitude!

Mumsnet Suffolk has organised a fantastic competition to win 2 x Latitude weekend tickets (adult) and up to 3 x Latitude weekend tickets (child) in conjunction with Latitude Festival - the most family friendly and eclectic of all, held in the beautiful surroundings of Henham Park close the the famous Suffolk Heritage Coastline.

Latitude was names the Best Family Festival of 2012 and has a huge array of family-friendly activities available for children and parents alike from Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th of July 2014.

Arranged around the banks of the central Latitude lake is the incredible Kids Area, where children are entertained all day and into the night with everything from pond dipping and star gazing to crafting funky headdresses, French knitting and pizza making workshops, to sticker art, sculpting willow branches and giant model making.

There’s also theatre to watch and take part in, including a performance of The National Theatre’s The Cat in the Hat! Books play a key part for Latitude Kids with Suffolk Libraries and Macmillan’s Children’s Books bringing along The Gruffalo! A real hive of activity, it’s the place where children never want to leave and parents wish they could stay!

The Inbetweeners’ Teen Area is for kids who may be too old for the Kids Area, but still want to get involved. Teenagers can enjoy taking part in music, media, fashion and technology workshops, or tackle wildlife survival skills and assault courses suspended in the trees.

In terms of accommodation, families can choose to stay in the Family Campsite where like-minded people, early morning activities such as Family Yoga and face painting and easy access to the Kids Area are guaranteed.

Family, teen and child tickets are on sale now!


Enter here.

"Which theatre company is putting on The Cat in the Hat at Latitude Festival?"

The competition will run from Wednesday June 25th to Midnight on Tuesday July 7th 2014.

Terms and Conditions
The editors decision is final.

NB child tickets are for ages 5 – 12 (parents can of course bring small children under 5 free), so teens won’t qualify for the free child tickets but could go under one of the adult tickets.

The editor retains the right to redraw the prize should the winners fail to respond to our email within 36 hours of the competitions end date.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Best Places to Watch the Tour de France in Chelmsford

The best places to watch the Tour de France in Chelmsford: 

The tour will be able to viewed at all points along the route but the points listed below include some of the special events being held for the event, along with viewing points nearest to car parks.

For more information about the route and timings click here.

Howe Street

There will be a pre-race event for children to decorate their bikes and then ride along a circular route. 

The River Farm at the Green Man (maybe it should be the Yellow Man as they have painted the pub yellow especially for the Toy!) will be holding a special event. Entrance is by ticket only and there is a competition running to win one of 650 tickets. 

You are encouraged to get into the spirit of the day and cycle to this amazing venue which is only 6 miles outside of Chelmsford!

Great Waltham

The Rose and Crown will be open at 9am for breakfast. The pub is on the road, which is closed at one end where it meets the route, it will therefore be a road side parking area. Weather permitting, we will be running a lunchtime and afternoon bar-b-q, with a limited outside bar, serving beer, lager, mineral water and soft drinks.

Refreshments will be provided in Duffries Close by local groups. 

Parking will be available at the Great Waltham Cricket Club.

Chignal Road

There will be a viewing area for people with disabilities on the junction of Melbourne Avenue and Chignal Road in Chelmsford. No booking is needed but you can reserve a space by emailing Disabled parking is available at Melbourne Park while there will be disable toilets adjacent to the spectator area at St Andrews Church, Melbourne Avenue. All day Parking will be available at Melbourne Park for £5 per car. 

Roxwell Road

There will be a screen in Admirals Park showing action from the Tour all day along with  live music, refreshments, cycling and sporting activities. It is only a short walk through Admirals Park to Roxwell Road where the Tour will pass along. 

Parking is available in the High Chelmer car park at a reduced rate of £5 for all day parking. 


A car park is also being provided for the Tour de France in Roxwell by the Parish Council. This will cost £5 per car and will be on the Recreation Ground on Stonehill Road and accessible from the South of Roxwell. 

Have we missed anything? Will you be watching?

Tour de France in Chelmsford

The Tour de France comes to Chelmsford on Monday 7th July. To help you make you make the most of this event I've put together some useful information about le Tour and what's happening in and around Chelmsford. 

Realising that not everyone will be able to get the day of work/school on a Monday, Chelmsford County Council has organised a family fun day on Saturday 5th July. This will be held in Melbourne Park between 10am and 4pm and promises to be a great day out for the whole family.

On Monday 7th July 13 miles of the Tour de France will pass through Chelmsford. First you’ll see the race Caravan, a procession of elaborate floats and vehicles that comes before the racing action. This will be followed by the riders, with the main group being known as the peloton. A detailed road map of Tour de France route can be found here and these are these are the timings for the Chelmsford section of the route: 

Hartford End11:55 1:47pm – 1:55pm
Great Waltham12:02 1:54pm – 2:02pm
Chignal Smealy12:07 1:58pm – 2:07pm
Chelmsford12:11 2:02pm – 2:11pm
Roxwell12:17 2:07pm – 2:15pm
Fyfield12:33 2:22pm – 2:33pm

The route enters the Chelmsford City area on the Felsted Road (B1417) just south of Hertford End before joining the B1008 for a few hundred metres and then passing through Howe Street, Great Waltham and the Parish of Chignal.

It enters West Chelmsford on the Chignal Road for approximately one mile before turning right onto Roxwell Road leaving Chelmsford via the A1060 as far as the Hare Public House. It then follows country lanes via Roxwell, leaving Chelmsford towards Willingale and then on to Epping.

Road closures will be in force from 8am -5pm so you need to leave plenty of time to reach your selected viewing point. 

Click here for the best places to watch the Tour in Chelmsford.

Check out these other blogs covering other stages of the Tour:
Redbridge and Waltham Forrest 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Danbury Mission Toddler Group

For a lot of parents, the prospect of a toddler group can fill them The Fear. A hall full of under fives running rampage whilst parents struggle (or in the worst cases don't bother!) to control their over excited children - no-one's idea of a fun morning! 

Like many parents, I've been to a a number of different toddler groups, couldn't find one that was the right 'fit' and almost gave up on them. That was until I found the toddler group at Danbury Mission Church. The group is run by members of the Church on four days of the week and everyone is welcome regardless of their own personal religious beliefs. 

I started going to the toddler group on my own on a Tuesday morning and I could not have been made to feel more welcome by Jane, Janis and Lisa. They regularly man the slide so parents can actually sit and enjoy their coffee! There are plenty of toys, including an area just for babies and there is a different craft activity every week. Story time is also held every session - the children all know this is the time that they get a biscuit (or two!) and so as soon as the mat comes out they all run to sit down. The session before Christmas is also fantastic with lunch instead of story time and then a visit from Santa himself. The reaction of the children last year brought a tear to my eye!

I love this toddler group and am changing the days my son goes to nursery as he misses going now he is doing a second day. Every time we walk past the Church he asks if we are going to toddler group! 

So if you are thinking of quitting your toddler group - keep trying! You will find one that is the right for you and your children. 

If you are interested in joining the Danbury Mission toddler group so contact them first. They have waiting lists for some days but groups tend to see a lot of change in September as children start school. 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Get Involved With Mumsnet's Better Miscarriage Care Campaign

Today Mumsnet launched their 'Better Miscarriage Care' campaign. Mumsnet are asking politicians to pledge to improve miscarriage care, based on the principles in the Code, by 2020 - the end of the next parliament. Mumsnet have made the following suggestions about how you can get involved in the campaign:

"Please ask the three politicians who can make this happen Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt), Andy Burnham (@andyburnhammp) and Norman Lamb (@normanlamb) - for their support by tweeting them and asking them to support #bettermiscarriage care.

Health trusts can make changes to the way they treat their own patients, and some trusts already provide brilliant care, but the only way to ensure good care for all is if the politicians at the top take personal responsibility to improve the care women receive.

Don't use Twitter? Please send an email to the politicians who can make this happen:

We need to ask them to include a promise in their next manifesto to make miscarriage care better. Accounts of personal experiences are particularly effective for explaining why we need their support, but we've included some suggested text below to start you off.

Dear xxxx,

I know you'll be concerned about the care received by women who miscarry so please let me know you're backing Mumsnet's campaign for better miscarriage care. I'm asking you to include a manifesto commitment to improve miscarriage care for all women by 2020."

Mumsnet Launches Campaign For Better Miscarriage Care

Today Mumsnet, The UK's biggest website for parents, has published the results of a survey into patients’ care and experiences following miscarriage. Around a quarter of a million women miscarry in the UK each year – about one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage – but the statistics published today show that the treatment and support women receive fails to meet their needs or measure up to official national guidelines.

A survey of over one thousand women shows:
  • Half (46%) had to wait over 24 hours for a scan to determine if their baby was still alive, with one in five (18%) waiting longer than three days .“When I asked how much longer it would be, I was told I was taking up their time.” A Mumsnet user
  • Half (47%) were treated alongside women with ongoing pregnancies. “I sat with other ladies who were still pregnant and waiting for scans… seeing their happy faces tore me apart.” A Mumsnet user
  • A third (31%) of those who miscarried at home following a scan were not offered any pain relief, or adequate pain relief. “I was under the impression that miscarrying at home was the easy option. It certainly is not easy. I have been in agony.” A Mumsnet user
  • 58% of respondents wanted counselling, but only 12% were offered it . “I had to wait six months to get counselling and lost six months of my life as I was not   coping with the loss.” A Mumsnet user
  • 56% of respondents wanted further medical care but only 26% were offered it. “The hospital said they’d ask a health visitor to contact me. That was two months ago; nobody has been in touch.” A Mumsnet user
  • Only a quarter (23%) spoke of their experience to friends, and only 13% told wider family. When I felt ready to talk, I didn’t have anyone ready to listen.”  A Mumsnet user

In 2012, NICE guidance on the management of miscarriage stated that miscarrying at home (known as ‘expectant management’) would be the default clinical response for women undergoing miscarriage before the 13th week of pregnancy, but today’s results show this policy is leaving women without the support they need. 
  • Only 15% of women who miscarried at home following a scan felt they had the right support, information and pain relief to manage. “I was told, over the phone, to ‘just sit on the toilet and hopefully it will all come out’.” 
  • 11 people were asked to store their foetus at home prior to further tests on the embryo. “[I don’t want to] catch my miscarried embryo in a urine sample pot at home, keep it in the fridge overnight if necessary, then take it on the train (two hours) for genetic testing.”

Mumsnet users have developed a five-point Miscarriage Code of Care, which calls for straightforward improvements in the treatment parents receive:

1. Supportive staff

GPs, Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) and A&E staff should be trained in communication techniques (including things NOT to say to women who are miscarrying), basic counselling skills and the psychological effects of miscarriage. Follow-up appointments and/or counselling for those who feel they need it should be routinely offered after miscarriage.

2. Access to scanning

Access to scanning facilities in the case of suspected miscarriage should be easier. This could mean Early Pregnancy Assessment Units (EPAUs) opening seven days a week and/or portable ultrasound and trained medical staff being available in A&E and gynaecological units at all times as standard. Those who are miscarrying naturally at home should have the option of a scan to check that there are no ongoing complications.

3. Safe and appropriate places for treatment

Women undergoing miscarriage or suspected miscarriage should be separated from women having routine antenatal and postnatal care, or women terminating an unwanted pregnancy. EPAUs should be sited in hospitals' gynaecology, rather than antenatal, departments or next to A&E departments, to ease women's referral route. Waiting times in confirmed as well as threatened pregnancy loss, but, in particular, for women who need surgery, should be kept to a minimum and not be spent in antenatal or labour ward. 

4. Good information and effective treatment

All women experiencing miscarriage should receive clear and honest information, sympathetically delivered. Women should be given information about all the available management options - expectant, medical and surgical - and should be able, clinical considerations allowing, to choose the method of management that best suits their circumstances. Women miscarrying at home should be offered appropriate prescription pain relief. In the case of miscarriage occurring in hospital, doctors should discuss with the parents what they wish to happen to the foetus (i.e. it should not be disposed of routinely without prior consultation).

5. Joined-up care

Community midwife teams and GPs should be informed immediately when miscarriage has occurred, and subsequent bookings and scans cancelled, to avoid women who have miscarried being chased by HCPs for 'missing' pregnancy appointments.ppropriate places for treatment

Women undergoing miscarriage or suspected miscarriage should be separated from women having routine antenatal and postnatal care, or women terminating an unwanted pregnancy. EPAUs should be sited in hospitals' gynaecology, rather than antenatal, departments or next to A&E departments, to ease women's referral route. Waiting times in confirmed as well as threatened pregnancy loss, but, in particular, for women who need surgery, should be kept to a minimum and not be spent in antenatal or labour ward. 

Many of the Code’s points are included in best-practice guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Department of Health, but the research shows that, too often, this guidance is not being implemented.

Mumsnet is now asking the Secretary of State for Health, the shadow Health Minister and the junior Health Minister to commit to improving miscarriage care during the lifetime of the next parliament.

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet Founder, said:

“There’s no escaping the pain of a miscarriage, but for this to be compounded by lack of treatment, pain relief, good care or just plain human kindness is completely unacceptable. We are calling on the three main parties to include a pledge in their manifestos to improve miscarriage care, based on the principles in our code.”

Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: 

“The Royal College of Midwives welcomes and supports the Mumsnet code of care which aims to improve care for women at a very difficult time. Midwives and other health professionals have an important role to play in supporting women and families through the physical and psychological impact of miscarriage. Kind, compassionate and empathetic communication around care and treatment is an essential step to support families. It is particularly important that there is effective communication between the hospital, GP and midwife to provide ongoing support or advice, as needed.”

Jane Brewin, Chief Executive of Tommy’s, said:

“Losing a baby is a devastating experience and our helpline hears from people every day who are struggling to make sense of what has happened to them and why. More research is needed to help us understand the causes of miscarriage so we can develop treatments that help save babies’ lives. We want families to know that they are not alone and that Tommy’s helpline is here to support anyone who has been through this heartbreak.”

Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of the national charity Infertility Network UK, said:

"Miscarriage is an extremely distressing, and often frightening experience and sadly even health professionals can underestimate the impact which a miscarriage can have.  Good support and access to counselling from sensitive trained staff who understand the emotional as well as the physical effect of miscarriage on both women and their partners can make an enormous difference to those dealing with the grief of losing a baby.  We hope that this campaign will lead to better care and support for everyone affected by what can be a hugely traumatic experience.”

To get involved with the campaign click here.

For more information on the campaign click here.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

What The Ladybird Heard at the Civic Theatre

Chelmsford for Families

What the Ladybird Heard is a show aimed at children aged 2+ and it has been touring the country. Last week it was shown at the Civic Theatre and, because he loves the book, I took T along for his second trip to the theatre. 

It is always difficult to know what to expect from a theatre adaption of a childrens' book. These books take 10 minutes maximum to read at bedtime, and that is when T is at his 'What's that?' best. (To think that I was worried about his lack of speech a year ago!). How are they going to to fill a 50 minute show? We'd been to see Peppa Pig earlier in the year and that had been really good but a friend had recently been to see an adaption of another one of Julia Donaldson's books and had been really unimpressed. 

What the Ladybird Heard

I needn't have worried! 'What the Ladybird Heard' is a really charming play which engages the audience from the very beginning of the play. Even before the lights had gone down the actors worked their way through the audience asking if anyone had seen Lanky Len.  This engagement continues throughout the whole play with the audience being encouraged to sing, remind the actors of all the animals in the story and, most importantly, finding the ladybird. 

The way that the animals were portrayed on stage was very clever. I had assumed puppets or costumes but they were actually made from stage props and it was really lovely to see the children get excited as the different animals came together and they realised which animals they were. The set was very true to Lydia Monk's illustrations and there were some lovely touches, with flowers growing around the door of the house and from the flower pots. 

Chelmsford for Families

After finding a 'new' actor to play Lanky Len, making the animals and lots of songs, the story itself only took up 10 minutes of the total running time. However the story was told in the same way as it was in the book. Fidgety children were then back and engaged with the story that they could follow as they do at home. 

It has been a while since I'd been to the Civic Theatre and on booking the tickets worried that I might have been too far from the stage for T to see everything that was going on. The Civic Theatre however has a very intimate feel about it and we would have been able to see the action from any of the seats. There were also plenty of booster seats available for children. 'Hugless Dougless', another well read book in this house, is on in October at the Civic Theatre and we will be going to see that too!

If your children (or you!) like 'What The Ladybird Heard' I would definitely recommend this play. It is the perfect length  for children and the actors work hard to keep them engaged throughout. 

'What The Ladybird Heard is' currently touring the country and will be in Southend in September. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Mumsnet Chelmsford is in the Chelmsford Weekly News!

I just wanted to share the piece that I wrote that made it into last week's Chelmsford Weekly News! Hopefully it will encourage some more people to our monthly meet-ups - it would great to meet some more Chelmsford parents.  

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Nana's Knickers

Like many parents of young children, bedtime is often my favourite time of day and I love the calmness of story-time. However I do get bored of reading the same stories every night so I was very excited to receive my review copy of 'Nana's Knickers'. 

Nana's Knickers

The writer, Nico Russell, wrote the book after being asked for new stories by his niece and nephew. He says 'Everyone thinks they could write a children’s book: plots are simple, characters are often one dimensional, and as long as there are bright colours and a giraffe involved somewhere, you should be on to a winner. But just like peeling a melon, writing a good children’s book is a lot harder than you might think. The process of postulation to paperback has taken me just over two years, and being children, they didn't hold back on any criticisms they had about my efforts along the way. Finally, and thankfully, the critics were happy.'

Nico approached an number of publishers, and whilst they were full of praise for the book, they felt unable to take a risk on a new author. So rather than give up, Nico set up his own publishing house, BlueFluffBooks, and has published 'Nana's Knickers' himself. 
It is obvious that a lot of time has been taken over writing 'Nana's Knickers'. My son (aged 3) really enjoyed it and actually sat still throughout, which is praise indeed and only something Julia Donaldson had achieved prior to this! The story takes the reader on a fast-paced and amusing adventure as Nana wakes up to find that her favourite pair of knickers have gone missing. On the advice of her grandchildren she retraces her steps from the previous day in an attempt to solve the mysterious disappearance.  (Spoiler Alert!) Nana finds her knickers and so the story also imparts the useful advice of retracing your steps when you have misplaced something to its readers. The rhymes in the book have been carefully thought out and aren't jarring as they can be in some children's books. However the rhyme of 'on' with 'scone' could prove to be a contentious one depending on whereabouts in the country you are.  (I would normally rhyme 'scone' with 'own'!)

I feel that the illustrations in children's books are just as important as the story in helping to capture the interest of children, and the illustrations in 'Nana's Knickers' are equally as vivid as the story. (I shall be keep my eye out for other books illustrated by Charlie Meyer.)  Colour fills every page and my son's current favourite phrase of 'what's that?' was a frequent interruption in the story as we explored each page. The detail of the drawings mean that with each reading children will find something new. 

I really would recommend this book and wish Nico every success with it. 

Click here to find out more about Nico, Charlie and 'Nana's Knickers'.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Natural Foundations

Natural Foundations

Natural Foundations are a not for profit organisation who believe strongly in the importance of child led natural play. They have recently started offering outdoor weekly sessions at St Andrews Park and Pudding Woods at Broomfield Hospital. I took T & L along to St Andrews Park to take part in a session and I was really impressed. 

Mumsnet Chelmsford

The sessions are easy to spot, with three colourful teepees set up in the middle of the park and Emma and Rachel are there to welcome you. There was a large picnic blanket set up with various containers filled with pasta (uncooked!), lentils, and porridge oats. The children had a lovely time pouring things from one container to the next and L (18 months) was just as happy as T (3.3 years) so the sessions are great for parents (or grandparents) with two under 5's. Emma and Rachel were also making 'clean mud' when we got there, and they encouraged all the children to help them make it before playing with it. (I will get the recipe for a future blog but it involved the grating of soap and tearing up of tissue paper - something my two do in the bathroom at home anyway!) 

It was a gorgeous day for our session and children were invited to take a basket and go for a walk in the woods to collect anything they found interesting. T didn't want to do this as he was too busy playing with the water and trying to make it flow down through some drain pipes whilst L was quite happy exploring the teepees! 

Mumsnet Chelmsford

The sessions run all through the year though, not just on sunny days, and Natural Foundations supply outdoor waterproof clothing so that everyone can enjoy the sessions all year round.  Sessions are £2.50 per child and you can arrive at an point in the session. They do ask that you let them know if you are coming to a session so that they know how many biscuits to bring!! Contact details can be found here.