I often wonder how many post pubescent voyeurs crack on to the mother-and-baby scene, because there is a fair amount of free breast viewing to be had! Maybe there is something sacred about a lactating breast that is *ever so slightly* asexual. Like beautiful angels or amoebas. Nevertheless, it is a relief that mothers across London do not generally have to suffer under the prying gaze of perverted boob spotters. I always marvel at the effectiveness of female group mentality in social situations where there is a primordial undercurrent of vulnerability. Women go to the loo together, and apparently they also choose to meet up for group breastfeeding.

I sound disparaging, but I am not. It is only that it’s been two years now since I was in their place, so it’s definitely my turn to be smug! Anyway, I digress. I meant to focus on writing a review of Bertie and Boo, a delightfully colourful cafe on the corner of Ramsden Road and Balham High Street, but I just caught sight of a nipple and it sent me into a reverie…

I meant to say that the beautiful home made cup cakes here are delicious, and they serve a selection of hot and cold sandwiches, as well as a selection of teas, coffees and smoothies. There is a comprehensive children’s menu at a not-too-exorbitant price. It is extremely popular with local mums and also with their children, because they have a reclaimed vintage car from a fairground ride on their deck. Watch out for terrible two-year-olds fussing over whose turn it is to sit in the four different drivers’ seats as you duck for cover from the next table’s infant’s milk reflux.

I like coming here, and so does my son. It’s pretty in a shabby chic kind of way, with its stripy wallpaper and polka dot crockery and worn down reclaimed school desks-for-tables. It has received high accolade from publications such as Time Out, and the owners have a birthday party delivery service. But it can get pretty crammed with pushchairs, it’s not particularly cheap and it’s right on a pretty busy road.

I wish this place was larger and served a more varied menu, but I am grateful for its existence. It cannot be denied that it is a very pleasant little coffeery and cakery, and it imperceptibly twists my social behaviour so that I feel like ‘one of the mums’ whenever I visit. I always feel slightly unnerved when I spot customers without children coming here for a coffee. I find myself frowning at anyone who dares light a cigarette on the open deck. Think of the children!!! It makes me question their motivations. If you don’t have kids, why would you come here? Are you hoping to see boobs?

162 Balham High Street, Sw12

Underground: Balham -Escalators and Stairs

Overground: Balham – Lift

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Well, this is another well hidden secret I feel ashamed not to have shared earlier.

Deen City Farm is pretty damn awesome.

I am a mum and a bit of a hippy tree hugger at heart, I know. But this place is free, open pretty much every day, and just a lovely place to have a picnic, especially if you do have a young family… But it’s sweet even if you do not.

Set completely inconspicuously in even more of a weird surrounding than Merton Abbey Mills, the city farm is very endearing. Run mostly by volunteers, they home a wide range of animals. On a day’s visit you will see peacocks, chickens, turkeys, ferrets, rabbits, ponies, horses, alpacas, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, geese, and other wildfowl. There is a basic cafe onsite, but you are welcome to bring your own picnic to the many benches in their picnic garden.

The farm is also home to many community projects, focusing on sustainability and regeneration, and contains a garden created in collaboration with local school children. This garden includes, among other things, a maze and a mud hut with beautiful mosaic flooring, all made with reclaimed materials. It is a delight to see all the little children running through the sprinklers on hot days, as it is to see many take their first pony ride for £1,00 every weekend.

The farm is placed on the edge of a segment of the Wandle river that runs through Merton Abbey Mills through to the beautiful RHS Morden Hall Park, and therefore somewhere vaguely between Colliers Wood and South Wimbledon Stations, but it has its own free car parking, family friendly toilet facilities, and a small town atmosphere that makes you forget you are in London.It also homes a  very popular riding school, but another highlight is the opportunity visitors get to help feed the animals at designated intervals during the day.

I really don’t know of any other places in London like this(which is why everyone needs to share here), but it’s just so flexible… And so cheap too. And lovely. AND educational. I can’t think how else my son would have a regular contact with so many different animals as we live in a flat! Parents, I urge you to try.

I am shocked and horrified at my negligence of this very worthwhile little blog! If only I knew 3 years ago what I know now… Which is the entire purpose of letting you know.

One place that is screamingly obvious by its absence is the delightful little gem that is Merton Abbey Mills.

As the name suggests, it is one of the only remaining parts of Merton Abbey, and is in possession of London’s oldest working watermill. You would be forgiven for not knowing it was there at all, because its surrounded by ugly ugly ugly light industrial-y buildings, a huge Sainsbury’s Hypermarket,  and under the shadow of one of Britain’s most infamous buildings, the office tower of Colliers Wood, affectionately nicknamed by my friends as ‘Gotham City’. But fear not.

Abbey Mills has been a complete life saver to me on many occasions, particularly during the Summer months. Around the mill is an array of quaint low rise buildings which almost make you forget you are in London. In some of these buildings you will find many independent arts and crafts shops, as well as bookshops, vintage clothes, tattoo and piercing studios and a lovely music shop. In others you will find restaurants and cafes providing a variety of cuisines, including Thai, Italian, Brazilian, Caribbean and Belgian. There is a traditional family pub called The William Morris, and on the weekends an art and crafts gifts fair, as well as a farmer’s market. The variety of pretty eateries makes it a good contender for a nice quiet evening date too!  And last but not least, the abbey mills also have a small theatre which puts on a number of productions, including pantomimes.

The atmosphere is very family friendly, but not in exclusion of the single and younger among us; especially in July and August when a free open air music festival is held and the place gets pretty busy, yet never unpleasant. People come to sit on the edge of the river with a beer or two and listen to the dulcet tones of whoever happens to be performing at the time.

Another HUGE advantage of Abbey Mills is its close proximity to a number of  family friendly and cheap activities. It is within easy walking distance of Deen City Farm and Riding School, Eddie Catz and Morden Hall Park(which is possibly the nicest thing about Morden).

Underground: Colliers Wood – Escalators


What’s in a name? This place is set in the grounds of Wandsworth Common, surrounded by a playground, a bowling green, tennis courts, and a lake full of ducks and swans and such like. Even though the Common is inevitably emptier during winter months, this remains a firm favourite with local mums and their children.

 

Why? It makes the transition from being ‘child-friendly’ to actually making families their main clientelle. The cafe is spacious enough to accomodate a few pushchairs, but most people feel safe to park theirs outside. There are toys and books for the children and magazines for the grown-ups; adequate baby changing facilities; and to top it off, there are many baby and toddler-specific activities on during the week, such as Amanda’s action kids and a baby music class.

 

On  the adult menu, there are a variety of sandwiches and light meals, whereas the kids’ features all-time favourites such as fish fingers and baked beans, or dippy eggs and soldiers. There are also a variety of cakes and ice cream on offer. The coffee is inoffensive and in theory you can order wine and beer(though I still haven’t seen it happen – more on this later).

 

The service isn’t the warmest ever, but the staff do the job. There are children running around everywhere, after all. This place is guaranteed to be filled with mums and nannies. And while it most certainly hits the mark on child-friendliness, sometimes I personally find the whole ‘mummyness’ of it a bit cloying. I have never dared to have a beer in here, although maybe that’s just me. In saying that, it’s perfectly pleasant and extremely convenient for using the amenities of the common, so I come here all the time! If you can get past the drooling infants and debates on the merits of macrobiotic baby food, it really is a lovely place to meet up with friends while being confident that you won’t be frowned upon for parenthood.

 

Address: Wandsworth Common

Nearest Station: Wandsworth Common, no steps.

Baby Changing facilities: Yes

Licence: Yes

The Hope sits rather nicely at one end of Bellevue Road so that it is popular all year round as a watering hole for the people of Wandsworth Common. The presence of Michelin-starred Chez Bruce only a couple of doors down belies the fact that this is actually Tooting(something I am certain the smartly dressed residents would like to see overlooked). Yes, we are in Nappy Valley, but that is just why there is so much around this area that you can do with kids.

Bellevue Road itself is adorned with its fair share of toy shops and a Blooming Marvellous, and all sorts of smart outlets with posh and poshly priced home furnishings. Wandsworth Common is a wonderful place to come and feed the ducks, or make use of several playgrounds(including an adventure playground), or simply let the kids run wild with a football. Everything around here is so kiddy-friendly it might give a parent starved of adult company the heebiejeebies and the desire to sink a few beers.

 

This is why the Hope cuts such a nice balance. While it is very family-friendly, it is not vomit-inducingly so. It is a place where you can come with friends and a child or two before the watershed of 6pm and enjoy a wide selection of artisan beers and ciders, an extensive wine list, and an affordable, tasty menu. The crowd varies from young trendy things, older businessmen, locals, families, or sunkissed beauties in the summer who come in for a pint of Fruli.

 

There have been a couple of occasions when I have been there during the week where it’s been pretty empty and yet the service hasn’t been quite as prompt as I would have liked, but it is a solid contender. There is an outside area but it is precariously erected on the edge of a busy road, so it might be worth considering staying inside. Some may consider the decor a little insipid and gastropubby, but I like it. It’s pleasant. Nice wallpaper. Pretty Chandeliers and artfully worn down furniture. Room for the children to run around in during less busy times.

 

There is no Kid’s Menu but I find that there are always child friendly options in this well-loved local gastropub. It is a very popular venue for Sunday lunch,  with a wide selection of roasts and delicious high quality sausages, so it’s worth booking a table in advance.

 

Address: 1, Bellevue Rd, London, SW17 7EG

Nearest Station: Wandsworth Common (Overground, no steps)

No baby changing facilities, and a lot of steps to the Ladies’ from the main bar.

This blog has arisen from my frustration in trying to find suitable venues for daytrips with my son. While there are websites dedicated to children’s activities in the Big Smoke, there is no concise guide for the parent who wants to enjoy life and London without losing their mind. Say you want to meet a friend for a coffee and a beer and a spot of shopping on the other side of town. Where can you go, toddler-in-tow, relax and enjoy good food?

This kind of knowledge is generally passed from parent to parent through word of mouth. But what if you want to go somewhere you don’t know and the word of mouth is not available? Well, then you come here!!!

I will continually review places I know and hope that they come in use. Please send your reviews to professionalhousegirlfriend@yahoo.com. Any published reviews will be duly credited.

 

You might like to include some of these pointers in your review:

Baby Changing Facilities

Healthy food options

Whether there are escalators or lifts in the local tube station

Address

Outside Space

Whether there are any playgrounds and such like nearby.

 And yes, while the focus of this blog is utilitarian, it should still be pleasant to read. So have a little fun, be creative!

I look forward to reading your reviews and recommendations.