Lunch with Your Bunch: Mister Magnolia’s, Ditchling, East Sussex

Whenever we go to Little Museum Visitors at Ditchling Museum, we head to Mister Magnolia’s for lunch. It’s relatively new and is named for the marvellous single-shoed protagonist of Quentin Blake’s book of the same name. The guy with sisters who play the flute, an enormous pet ‘brute’ and owls who have lost their hoot. (We’re impressed by the number of friends he can fit on his board when he goes for a scoot).

Vintage kids books my kid loves

Mister Magnolia and his scooter friends
Image via: Vintage Kids Books My Kid Loves

This is a café that is very pointedly for families, but is serene enough a place that you’d take your mum for a treat.  

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The menu is on the sparse side – just paninis, flatbreads and soup for grown-ups (the soup was store-bought not home made last time we went) and ‘toddler boards‘ of what we call ‘bits and pieces’ for kids – ham, cheese, bread, etc. That’s OK – who really needs any more than that? The prices are also entirely reasonable – £4.95 for the adult stuff and £2.50 for the toddler board. Reassuringly, they also serve booze.

toddler-board

It’s a warm place, with some enviable vintage styling going on – but without the precious attitude that can sometimes surrounds the old and the breakable. My son was allowed to play on the horse below, for example.

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A wooden play pen is lined with a soft, soft sheepskin for babes.

play-pen

Upstairs the ‘changing area‘ is an antique perambulator – the sort you’d like to have, but that would be entirely impractical for its lack of giant handlebar-hung caribiners and under baskets for the weekly shop. The sort I would hate to get poo on.

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For children there are small desks and a farm of plastic animals, some cars and pencils and (when last we went) old hymn sheets from the church’s Christmas carol service for drawing on. For adults, there’s coffee, coffee, coffee – in almost any format you fancy – and good cake.

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Mister Magnolia’s has various clubs – a baby morning, kids film club, homework club and arts and crafts. It also runs pilates for adults. There’s a big room upstairs that’s hireable for £10 an hour where you can do kids movie parties. And apparently there’s now a pizza oven in the garden, so they serve stone-baked pizza a couple of nights a week.

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My only criticism of MM really is the access to the stairs. A stair gate here would make the experience even more relaxing for parents like me, whose toddlers just want to go where they’re not supposed to.

But that’s where it ends. Go! It’s a super-nice, comfortable place to load up on the black stuff that we all so rely on. And it’s entertaining enough to keep your kids quiet while you do.

The Essentials

Drive: 19 minutes
Address: 1 High Street, Ditchling, Hassocks, BN6 8SY
Tel no.: 01273 846 638
Website: mistermagnolia.co.uk

Disclosure: 
I did not accept – nor was I offered – any freebies or money for this post. We stumbled across Mister Magnolia’s a few months ago and I felt it was value to share it with Little Lewes’s readers.

All Rain, No Pain PART 2: Drusillas Park, near Lewes, East Sussex

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The animal fair that is Drusillas Park

The sun is finally with us, but we live in the UK so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s March, not July. Not wishing to be the bearer of any sort of gloom, but it is spring, and rain is still a probable part of our lives.

I promised a three-post series of good places to go in the rain. Here is the second instalment. (Although this is faintly ill-timed given the sunny day outside today!). If you’re interested in seeing the first, it’s about the Booth Museum and is here

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There are lots of free activities and challenges for kids at Drusillas

Whether you’ve been to Drusillas or not, you may raise an eyebrow at my suggestion that it’s good for a rainy day. Let’s be clear, I am not talking thunder and hail. But the reason this is being touted as a good rainy-day option is because it is.

I know because when Drusillas treated a friend and I and our four children to a family ticket last October half term, the only day we could go was a (very) wet Friday.

If you only have time to read this far and then look at the pictures, I’ll let on that we all had a ball. Read below (past all the info) for why.

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Deserted swingboats in the rain in washed-out pastels

Of course it goes without saying that Drusillas Park is also fabulous for a day of sunshine. And everyone knows it, so you can expect crowds.

A benefit of going when it’s overcast and drizzly is that you will likely have the place almost to yourself (look at the pictures, I’m not kidding). No one wants to spend this kind of money on time spent outdoors in the rain. 

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Where are the crazy crowds of kids?

This brings me on to my next important point: on trip to Drusillas you will have to spend money. I mean, really spend money. So my recommendation is that you save this for a really special treat and make a FULL day of it. Rain or shine. Go in the morning – there is more than enough to occupy them until tea.

And heed my tips to avoid your remaining money completely falling out of your pockets when you get there. 

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Into Drusillas we go…

THE ESSENTIALS

Drive: 14 minutes

Address: Drusillas Park, Alfriston, BN26 5QS

Tel no.: 01323 874 100

Website: drusillas.co.uk

Hours: Open daily, except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day; Winter: 10am-4pm; Summer: 10am-5pm (closing times are last admissions – park closes an hour later)

Price: This varies wildly depending on number of people entering, ages, and time of year. For the (rather complicated looking!) price grid, see drusillas.co.uk/times-and-prices but bear in mind these are only correct at time of posting (March 2014).

The day we went, we were kindly given a family ticket for two adults and two over-twos by Drusillas. This would have been £63.99. It is worth noting that the annual passes for Drusillas are a great saver if you plan to go more than four times in a year. They are priced at £59 per person (adult or child) per year for unlimited access.

There are also online deals to be found. Don’t bother searching anywhere else – Drusillas will not be beaten on price in terms of reduced entry to the park. Try the Online Price Squeezer, sign up for emails showing details of offers, or use Tesco Clubcard ‘Buy in Full Clubcard Deal’ tokens. All the details for all three methods of gaining discounted entry are here: drusillas.co.uk/discounts-to-drusillas

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A lamplit iguana in the covered area towards the start of the zoo

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Sunshine and Feeling Flattered (Or, It’s Spring and Little Lewes is Up for an Award)

Despite living in a house filled with the gloom of sickness right now, there are two reasons to be happy today.

First is the sun. It is shining and fantastic. I don’t think in all my life I have ever been so grateful for the arrival of spring. It means vitamin D and picnic teas in the park. It means that once again I can start taking pictures like this:

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And this:

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The second is that Little Lewes has been nominated for an award. I don’t know how, but it is up for Best Family Travel Blog at the MAD Blog Awards for Mums and Dads 2014. Sponsored by Parentdish, according to the site it is the biggest awards do for parent blogs in the UK. Fancy that!

Someone out there must have nominated Little Lewes for the long list. Whoever you are, thank you! You have made me feel more than a little flattered that my little blog about our little town has even a little chance.

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Chloe from Gannet and Parrot is up for Best Photography
Image via: gannetandparrot.com

Fellow Lewesian and friend Chloe over at Gannet and Parrot has also been nominated. She’s deservedly up for Best Photography.

If we both receive enough votes to make the top four in our categories, and the judges also think our blogs cut the mustard, we go to the final and have a chance of actually winning.

Nominations (actually votes) are open until March 14th. You can click here or you can click the button to the right (or below if you’re reading this on a mobile device) to nominate Little Lewes.

You have to plug in the URL of whichever blog you’d like to nominate as ‘Blog of the Year’ before you get through to a page with all the categories.

Gannet and Parrot is in the Best Photography category. Little Lewes is in the Best Family Blog category.

Thank you in advance for voting! If I win, we can all go for ice cream!

ice-cream

Perfect Guests: Donna Collins-O’Brien’s Preston Park, Brighton

Buried by deadlines a couple of months ago, I did a shout out for guest posts. I’ve had a couple of responses and am hoping more of these great posts will appear on Little Lewes as I continue to epically fail to keep it updated myself.

One of those kindly souls was Donna Collins-O’Brien, who is also a friend of mine. She has lived in Lewes all her life and is a great source of knowledge on the places surrounding it.

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to Preston Park. But after this perfect guest’s perfect post on it, I’ll be looking to rectify that. Thank you, Donna!

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DONNA COLLINS-O’BRIEN’S PERFECT DAY AT PRESTON PARK, BRIGHTON 

Preston Park is a firm favourite of my family’s for many reasons. I love that it’s nearby, it’s huge and it has something for all ages. It’s also free, both of charge and of stress (that one gets me every time!). Boxes ticked. Perfect.

The day this post’s pictures were taken, my toddler was at nursery. It was half term and I took the chance to have a girls day with my six-year-old daughter and her friend. We drove to Preston Park and, unencumbered for a day by a buggy and nap routines, went fully with the flow while embracing a rare dry day in February.

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Getting there

It took us 15 minutes by car. We parked easily on the side road parallel to the park. Charges are reasonable (found on the website) – £2 for four hours.

You can also get the train to nearby Preston Park Station, changing at Brighton. The station is approximately 10 minutes’ flat walk from the park.

Websites

Preston Park: brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/leisure-and-libraries/parks-and-green-spaces/preston-park

Preston Manor: brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk/Museums/prestonmanor/Pages/home.aspx

St Peter’s Church: stpetersprestonpark.co.uk

Friends of Preston Park (for a little history): friendsofprestonpark.org/?page_id=103

Why we love Preston Park

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Lunch with Your Bunch: The Cow, Seven Dials, Brighton

On Monday, I posted a couple of photos of The Cow and a ‘HIGHLY RECOMMENDED‘ comment on the Little Lewes Facebook page. It received a lot of views – and likes – and one reader has already eaten there with her kids. Since not everyone following the blog is on Facebook, I thought it worthy of a short share here.

That day, we met some mates and did what I suggested on Little Lewes in the ‘All Rain, No Pain Part 1′ post from a few days back – the Booth Museum and Dyke Road Playground.

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Neon signage at The Cow
Image via thecowbrighton.co.uk

Famished and feeling deserving of a treat (it was the first day of half term, after all), we walked to Seven Dials and found The Cow.

This is a craft beer pub with a part Americana/part Brit feel. There’s neon-lit signage, but there’s also a smidge of Farrow and Ball and tartan in places. I like the parquet wall and the huge tromp l’oeil one papered in black and white to look like a real bookcase.

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Bookcases that are not bookcases at The Cow
Image via thecowbrighton.co.uk

The pub has space – a must – and is super accommodating. We retreated to the back and spread out, pushing tables together. There were high chairs, crayons and colouring-in print-outs (outlines of monsters for the kids to give whatever faces they fancied).

The staff were friendly, working around our different food/drink needs and returning to us often to see if we were OK.

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Book Review + Competition: ‘Make Faces’ by Christopher Harrisson and Abigail Burch

book-cover

The cover of ‘Make Faces’ by Christopher Harrisson and Abigail Burch

It’s book review time again. And, as with our review of ‘Paper Play’, you can share this via various social media channels (see bottom of post) and win a copy of the book!

Despite the sunshine on Sunday, we still had a couple of hours at home to kill while my younger one napped. Now my older son has started school, I have to grab these opportunities for quality time together.

For us, suddenly, everything is about Star Wars. This, I can live with – there’s some good life lesson stuff in there. It’s also all about Samurai Jack, a graphi-cool animated series about a time-travelling Japanese character.

I only tell you this by way of some background to some of my son’s responses to/drawings on certain pages of ‘Make Faces‘.

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A bitter lemon and the against-instructions odd couple

‘Make Faces‘ by Christopher Harrisson and Abigail Burch is another book published by Lewes-based Ivy Kids – part of Ivy Press.

It is an activity book like the last book we reviewed. The pages are full of opportunities to add crazy mugs to all kinds of people and things – notes and coins, fish, monsters, stamps etc.

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‘Terror at the Bowling Alley!’

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All Rain, No Pain – PART 1: Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton

HELLO. Sorry for the silence. I am still alive. I am just very (x 1000) busy. I’m freelance and work-wise, currently the sun is shining. So I’m just making a little hay right now.

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But it feels like my working life is the only place this is happening. OK, now about this rain… IT SUCKS! Hands up who’s sick of it?

So because I am stacked, but because when I am with my children our lives seem to be constantly about ‘what can we do in this rain’, I’m putting together a quick couple of posts about er, what we can do in this rain.

I’m doing three places for a rainy day. With the caveat that they are all places where if the rain pauses in its relentless decent for even half an hour, there are instant outdoor spots to hit.

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This is the first part. Two further posts will follow.

BOOTH MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

THE ESSENTIALS

Drive: 15 minutes (though do get the train, it’s so easy)
Address: 194 Dyke Road, Brighton, BN1 5AA
Tel no.: 03000 290 900
Website: brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk/Museums

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