It’s hard to walk along any Wandsworth street before 9am without encountering a hoard of children on Microscooters. Nevermind expensive 4x4s, they must be the number one means of transport for the school run in the borough.
We’ve had the three wheeledmicroscooters since my kids were able to walk but our 7 year old son has been hankering after a two wheeled ‘big boys’ version for a while.
Unlike the three wheeled version, microscooters two wheelers can be neatly folded in half making them small enough to easily stow away in a cupboard. The temptation to reclaim a bit of space in our hallway was to strong to resist so we decided to get one for him.
He isn’t the most naturally co-ordinated boy (he still occasionally trips over his own feet!) so we were a bit worried about how easily he’d make the transition from 3 to 2 wheels as it obviously requires better balance. We needn’t have been though as he picked it up really quickly – presumably the years of using the three wheeled microscooter helped here.
After a quick practice in the garden, we were ready for the park, accompanied by our 5 year old on her faithful maxi-microscooter.
He loved it and so did we. The fact that you just have to release one button to fold the scooter in half makes it very easy for an adult to carry which is a great boon in London. You can easily take it with you on public transport and it’s small enough to be left in most museum or art gallery cloakrooms. We had a particularly good time scooting along the South Bank although it will be a while before he’s ready to join the bigger kids we saw doing tricks on theirs at the skatepark!
Microscooters has a wide range of two wheeled scooters starting at £74.95 and you can order from their website here.
Discolsure: microscooters gave us a Micro Bullet scooter (usually costing £99.95) for the purposes of this review but that hasn’t influenced us – all opinions expressed are honest and accurate.
I’d spent all day trying desperately to get my 5 month old son to take a bottle. I needed him to take it because I was 8 weeks pregnant. I’d fallen pregnant accidentally but after the initial shock had subsided, I was over the moon. However, breastfeeding one baby while growing another was more than my body seemed to be able to cope with and I was horribly morning sick and exhausted. I remember so clearly how elated I felt when at about 6pm that evening my son finally gave in and drank formula for the first time.
Then I went to the loo and discovered I was bleeding. Not a little spotting, a lot of blood.
My husband came straight home and stayed with our son while I went to A&E to find out what was happening. I was frantic. Something was very, very wrong. I needed to see a Dr quickly.
Of course, it was Friday evening and A&E was already starting to fill up. So I took my place in the waiting room and tried to tell myself everything would be alright.
Almost two hours later, I was seen by a nurse who was kind but explained that, it being a Friday evening, there was no-one available to scan me. She did a pregnancy test (which still baffles me) and told me to go home and come back on Monday. My first baby had been induced early at that same hospital after a series of emergency scans all carried out over the weekend revealed he wasn’t getting enough blood supply. So I knew they could do scans over the weekend.
I explained this to the nurse and asked whether there was any way I could avoid having to wait all weekend panicking about whether I’d miscarried or not. Again, her manner was very kind, as she explained to me that yes, emergency scans could happen on the weekend but that this didn’t count as an emergency.
What? Here I was losing my baby and she was telling me it wasn’t an emergency. How could that be?
Patiently, the nurse explained that when I’d come in late in pregnancy with problems I’d been seen straight away because something could be done. At 8 weeks, whether I was miscarrying or not, there was nothing they could do. So I didn’t qualify for their limited scanning resources.
“Go home. Try not to worry. C ome back on Monday and we’ll scan you and see if you are still pregnant.”
That was it. Condemned to a weekend locked in the bathroom monitoring the bleeding and sobbing while my husband took our son for long walks in the park so he didn’t have to see Mummy upset.
First thing on Monday I was back – not in A&E but in the hospital’s Early Pregnancy Unit. Again I had almost a two hour wait, this time with the added pressure of it being in a room full of happy couples awaiting their routine scans. By now I knew the news would be bad. Having to listen to people discussing whether to find out their babies sex, hoping they weren’t having triplets, wondering what colour their baby’s hair would be, just reinforced how much I had lost. I tried not to cry because I didn’t want to ruin the moment for them.
Then the scan. No heartbeat. No more baby.
I’d spent 2 days in the bathroom already and couldn’t face any more. I wanted the process to be over. Apart from anything else, I had a 5 month old baby to look after. I couldn’t spend up to 2 weeks bleeding and in pain. I asked for an ERPC but was told this was not an option.
“Go home. Wait. If the bleeding has stopped after 14 days wait another week then take a pregnancy test. If it hasn’t come back.”
That was it. No counselling, not even pain killers.
It was all so horribly routine for the doctors. 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. They know this and there is nothing they can do to change that or save the pregnancies.
BUT what about the mothers?
The doctors could definitely help us. Not by saving our pregnancies, but by supporting us through their loss both physically (by giving us pain relief and the option of surgical intervention to speed things up) and emotionally via counselling.
After my miscarriage was complete, I fell pregnant again immediately because I felt I needed to replace the pregnancy I’d lost. During that pregnancy, I developed quite serious ante-natal depression. Would this have happened if I’d received medical help to deal with the emotional impact of the miscarriage. I don’t know but I doubt it.
Mumsnet has carried out a survey of members’ experience of miscarriage and it seems my experience is only too common. Here are some of the findings:
46% had to wait over 24 hours for a scan to determine if their baby was still alive, with 18% waiting longer than three day
Half were treated alongside women with ongoing pregnancies
A third of those who miscarried at home following a scan were not offered any pain relief, or adequate pain relief
58% wanted counselling, but only 12% were offered it
56% wanted further medical care but only 26% were offered it
Only 15% of women who miscarried at home following a scan felt they had the right support, information and pain relief to manage
While the loss of a pregnancy is, statistically, an every day occurrence, the medical profession needs to recognise that there is nothing every day about it for the woman miscarrying. Nothing at all.
That’s why I’m supporting Mumsnet’s campaign for a five-point Miscarriage Code of Care, which calls for straightforward improvements in the treatment parents receive:
Access to scanning
Safe and appropriate places for treatment
Good information and effective treatment
You can support it too, by contacting the politicians who can make sure improved miscarriage care gets on the parliamentary agenda. They are:
Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt – email@example.com or @Jeremy_Hunt
Labour Shadow Health Spokesman Andy Burnham – firstname.lastname@example.org or @andyburnhammp
LibDem Health Minister Norman Lamb – email@example.com or @normanlamb
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 here’s some suggested text 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 M umsnet’s campaign for better miscarriage care. I’m asking you to include a manifesto commitment to improve miscarriage care for all women by 2020.
Our discussion boards go into overdrive every year in the days leading up to and immediately following the announcement of primary school offers.
It is something every parent worries about.
So we asked Wandsworth Council to let us know what the catchment areas of the borough’s schools actually are at present.
Here’s the info they gave us. Distances are given as at the primary school offer date and may change by the start of term as offers are accepted and refused and the waiting lists move.
Furthest Distance offered under proximity
criterion (distances are in straight line metres)
all applicants within the priority areas + children outside of them areas with sibling priority up to a distance of 334m.
all applicants with sibling priority or within the priority area + children outside priority area up to a distance of 1269m.
all applicants with sibling priority or within the priority area + children outside priority area up to a distance of 405m.
Bilingual class – all applicants with sibling priority+ children living up to 566 m. Open places – all applicants with sibling priority + children living up to 875 m.
all applicants within priority area + children outside of it with sibling priority up to a distance of 474m.
all applicants with sibling priority or within the priority area + children outside of it up to a distance of 406m.
Bilingual class – all applicants with sibling priority + children living up to 1092 m. Openplaces – all applicants with sibling priority + children living up to 1468m.
Bilingual class – Applicants with sibling priority up to 995 metres. Open places – all applicants with sibling priority + children living up to 515m.
Undersubscribed Schools where all applicants were offered a place
Albermarle Eardley Falconbrook Granard Griffin Heathmere High View Hillbrook Mosaic Smallwood Southmead St Anne’s St Mary’s Catholic Battersea West Hill Westbridge
The borough’s faith schools are not included as they don’t operate on a distance basis.
What’s clear is that the real squeeze on places is confined to a few distinct areas.
There weren’t enough places in Earlsfield at all leaving some children without an offer of a place at all, and others with the prospect of having to travel to the Mosaic school which is currently sited on the Putney/Roehampton borders. The Council has now addressed this by adding an extra class to the intake at Smallwood school, Tooting this year (nearer but still not actually in Earlsfield). Next year a new free school will open on the old Atheldene site in central Earlsfield which should ease the pressure.
The other hot spot is the ‘Between the Commons’ area around Northcote Road. Honeywell’s catchment area is down to a tiny 182m and Belleville’s isn’t much bigger. By our calculations that means that unless you live in either of the two green circles shown on the map below – you are going to have to look elsewhere.
If you live on Chatham Road though, you are totally sorted!
Most of the area south of Broomwood Road, does fall within the catchment of Alderbrook and High View on Lavender Hill (just up from Clapham Junction) was undersubscribed so you will get a place there. Little consolation if you live on the same road as one of the best primaries in the borough but can’t get in.
We own up. We are guilty of more than a few of these. There was the particularly nasty incident with the toddlers, an upturned trolley and, sob, several smashed bottles of wine that has earned Ocado our custom forever. We can’t even remember how many times we’ve forgotten the school cake sale. Our children will never have a sound grasp of economics having watched mummy shell out £24 for a dozen cupcakes that their teachers then sell for 50p each. Middle class problems, indeed!
It started with Antic’s Tooting Tram, carried on apace with Meza, Tota and Soho House’s Chicken Shed and with ordinary looking semis like this one now being advertised for £1m + it seems Tooting is rapidly catching up with it’s Balham neighbours in the gentrification stakes.
The question is, is it middle-class enough yet for a Waitrose – the benchmark of respectability for the ‘yummy mummy’ class?
There have been rumours for months. Waitrose first denied this saying via Twitter in March that it had “nothing planned for Tooting in the short term”. But the rumours just wouldn’t go away and as recently as the end of April, Waitrose had to confirm that they “still have not plans in Tooting. Sorry to disappoint”.
Case closed then? Well no, because we received this leaflet from the local Conservative council candidates at the beginning of May.
So just days after Waitrose denied it via Twitter, local politicians are crowing about the new store. Have they got it wrong? Are they just referring to the rumours same as everyone else?
We sent Waitrose the leaflet and asked them what was going on.
Clear as mud then but we suspect something is afoot.
Lovely as Wandsworth is, it’s good to venture a bit further afield sometimes and we are lucky to be surrounded by some great attractions for kids. Here’s our round up of our favourites in the vicinity.
This museum in Forest Hill is perfect for toddlers. Housed in a beautiful Victorian building with interesting modern additions and set within 16 acres of gardens, the museum houses an eclectic collection that is sure to delight your preschooler. There’s an aquarium, natural history gallery, Britain’s largest display of musical instruments and the African world’s gallery with everything from Egyptian mummies to Africa’s largest mask. There are also two great displays designed specifically for children where they can get their hands on some of the exhibits including a variety of exotic musical instruments. The gardens are elegantly landscaped with amazing views right across London, ‘animal walk’ housing rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, ferrets, sheep, goats and alpaca, concerts at the bandstand in the summer and a music garden with giant instruments for little ones to play. The café does a good range of food with plenty of children’s options too. Best of all, entrance to the museum is free with just a small charge of £2 per adult, £1 per child to visit the aquarium.
Designed specifically for children, this lovely little theatre in Wimbledon stages an astounding range of performances for children throughout the year. Recent productions have included the Snow Queen, the Ugly Duckling and Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers and many more. As well as the main theatre, there’s a smaller theatre for toddlers where the children sit on cushions on the floor whilst the actors perform within reach of them. The building is worth a visit even if you aren’t watching a show, with a nice book corner, rocking horses and two storey playhouse in the small garden. The café is also very child friendly. Productions are very popular and often sell out well in advance so it is worth booking ahead.
The River Wandle meanders through this surprisingly tranquil former deer park in suburban Merton, owned by the National Trust. There are 125 acres of parkland including plenty of bridges from which to play ‘Pooh sticks’ and areas where children can paddle in the river or fish with nets. There’s a natural play area for children with large play house, zip wires, wooden beams and tree trunks to climb, former mill with waterwheel and a recently renovated stable yard which now houses a café and craft stalls. Once you’ve finished exploring the park, follow the trail along the side of the Wandle to Deen City Farm. This small urban farm and riding stables houses pigs, sheep, goats, alpacas, horses, poultry and rabbits with regular hands on petting sessions for children. Both are totally free to visit!
This Gallery is relatively small meaning a visit won’t last longer than your child’s attention span. Despite this the gallery houses some beautiful art with a focus on European old masters. There are regular activities and workshops for families to join in so your little ones can create their own masterpieces to take home too. The Gallery has a nice gardens o you can bring a picnic in warm weather. Entry is free for under 18s and just £5 per adult.
Just half an hour’s drive from the centre of Wandsworth, Chessington World of Adventures combines both theme park and zoo. It has a good range of rides for all ages from the sedate mono-rail and toddler rides to the exhilarating Rameses Revenge for thrill seekers. It’s the zoo that makes the park perfect for families with young children though as if it all starts to get a bit much, you can calm things down with a wander around the animal enclosures housing everything from lions and tigers to rabbits and guinea pigs. Tickets are cheaper if bought online in advance in which case admission for a family of four comes in at around £85.
Nature lovers will thrive at the award winning London Wetland Centre which has more than 40 hectares of created wetlands in the heart of a capital city and is the first of its kind in the world. With an interactive discovery centre and cinema, plus beautiful lakes, ponds, meadows and reedbeds, the centre is also home to a wide variety of wildlife including water voles, amphibians, bats, grass snakes, slow butterflies, moths and over 180 species of birds. There’s plenty to do even in bad weather although with a cafe and picnic the centre is definitely at its best in warm weather.
Dig out the pirate hats and eye patches and bring your little ones along to this fascinating museum full of interesting facts about the importance of the sea, ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people. With exhibitions on The Atlantic, Slavery trade and empire, Britons and the sea, and the High arctic, your little ones will never be able to look at the sea in the same way again! There are lots of family days taking place throughout the year, with storytelling, music, and drop-in workshops to enjoy.
Henry VIII’s palace is well worth a visit. As well as centuries of history, stunning architecture, beautiful gardens and an unrivalled location alongside the river Thames, there is also a surprising amount to please children. Actors roam the palace in character as Henry VIII or one of his many wives, you can take a ride around the gardens in a horse drawn carriage, visit the Tudor kitchens and get lost in the maze! There’s even a family room for under 5s with lego, books, dressing up clothes and soft play for when they need to let of some steam. There are some beautiful spots for a picnic and a large café with outdoor seating next to a large open grass area so you can enjoy a leisurely lunch whilst the children play within sight.
Just half an hour’s drive from Wandsworth in beautiful countryside, this farm is a paradise for preschoolers. It is a working family farm covering 25 acres with a wide range of farm animals, small animals and more exotic animals like llamas, alpacas and peacocks. You can watch a pig race, milk a goar, go for a pony ride, or take a trip around the site on a tractor. What makes the park so popular with children though is the addition of lots of great play areas, both inside and outside, which include such delights as electric ride on tractors, trampolines, a giant ‘jumping pillow’, sand pits, play houses, climbing frames, slides, swings and an indoor soft play barn. There’s a decent café but plenty of places for a picnic too.
Possibly the world’s most famous garden, Kew is definitely worth a visit. There are 300 acres of beautiful gardens running down to the river Thames. The landscape includes formal gardens, ponds, various ‘follies’ such as King William’s temple and the Pagoda and of course the iconic Glass Houses containing plant collections from around the world. Little visitors are not overlooked. They can explore a human sized badger sett, clamber around ‘Tree house towers’ outdoor play area for 3-11 year olds, walk amongst the treetops on the Xsastra Treetop Walkway and play in the botanical themed indoor play zone,‘Climbers and Creepers’.
We were invited to try out Clip’n’Climb which has just opened a short hop over the river in Chelsea.
Although they say the minimum age for children is 4, I was a bit nervous as my 4 year old’s particularly small (so short in fact that we had to get her school uniform made specially as she is still in 24 months clothes). I wasn’t sure she’d manage but she was up and away in no time.
The whole set up is very slick and super brightly coloured which draws the kids straight in. On arrival you get shown how to fit your harness and then given a short safety talk before you are led through to the climbing walls. As my kids are so little I went in with them, but there is a viewing gallery area with tea and coffee for parents of older children to relax and watch from (I was a tad envious).
There are lots of different climbs to choose from, of varying levels of difficulty, but all really well designed to make them fun for kids – a wall that looked like a screenshot from Tetris, one that looks like giant building blocks piled on top of each other, a beanstalk (which totally defeated me), an ice climb and my daughter’s favourite which had big colourful circles and easy hand and foot holds (christened the ‘Twister’ by her) as well as many more.
All climbers are totally safe as if you fall the belay system lowers you slowly and safely to the ground. It takes some getting used to though, especially the first time! Having merrily climbed to the top of one of the walls, it took me a good few minutes to work up the courage to just lean back and let myself fall and when I did my heart was pounding. Very exhilarating though and it seemed to be less of an issue for the rest of the climbers in our session. Kids were merrily throwing themselves off walls all around me.
It’s not for the faint hearted and my 6 year old son couldn’t be persuaded to give it a try despite often being found at the top of the climbing frame in the park. I’m sure if he’d given it a go he would have been hooked but his nerves got the better of him. His 4 year old sister had no qualms and was merrily zipping around the place from wall to wall and enjoying swinging on the rope on her way down.
Most of the other children in our session were a bit older (say 8+) and I think that they do need to be to really make the most of the climbing. Older kids have the opportunity to ramp up the excitement/fear factor with timed climbs, head to head climbing races and a vertical drop slide.
The piece de resistance is the ‘Leap of Faith’ where you climb up a huge tower before leaping off of a platform at the top and grabbing on to a monkey bar style hand hold in front of you (which can be cunningly moved closer or further away depending on the size of the climber). By the end of our one hour session in the climbing area, almost half of the children had become confident enough to give this a try. Really spectacular and mastering it gave them a real sense of achievement – plus they got to fly super-man like back down to the ground afterwards.
One of the things that impressed me most was the staff. Monitoring a group of over excited under 15s climbing the walls while their parents relax upstairs is no mean feat but they hit just the right balance of fun and professional. Serious enough to make the kids follow the rules but also whooping and cheering when they mastered something.
We will definitely be going back and not just because the 6 year old decided he really had wanted to give it a go after all within minutes of our leaving.
Fun, confidence building and great exercise – what’s not to like.