Tag Archives: Family

A stay in SoCo

Somewhere in the northern wilds of Wiltshire and Somerset a hot new area is emerging, SoCo, or South of Cotswolds is, whisper it, beginning to outshine its chic northern neighbour…

The green arc around Bath’s eastern side, where the West Country ends and the Wolds begin has long been neglected by travellers who zip through heading south for Devon, north to the Cotswolds, or straight through to Bath, Bristol and beyond.

But not anymore. This lush green, properly rural corner of the country has had a noticeable influx of not-so-muddy boots hot-footing it out of the city and into this bucolic, arty no-mans-land.

The tiny towns of Bruton, Frome (which boasts swanky private members club and hotel Babington House on its doorstep) and Bradford on Avon, all have a historic grandness about them, while also remaining just the right side of quaint to be thriving, interesting towns to live in and not just visit.

A wave of galleries, hotels, foodie producers, restaurants and cultural outposts has been putting this hot spot on the map.

Hauser and Wirth Somerset


Most recent, and notable, is contemporary art space Hauser and Wirth (www.hauserwirthsomerset.com), on the edge of Bruton in Somerset, which is home to Pearl Lowe and Danny Goffey. Drive out of the town and you’ll easily miss this farmhouse and its barns that have been converted into a world-class gallery. Outside, Subodh Gupta’s giant gleaming milking pail bucket, a Louise Bourgeois spider and the gently swaying Piet Oudolf-designed gardens (he of New York’s Highline fame) give away the fact that something altogether new is happening here.

Piet Oudolf meadow
Piet Oudolf meadow at Hauser and Wirth Somerset


It’s a cultural version of Daylesford in Gloucestershire, a daring and brave mix that includes a shop, four galleries, landscaped sculpture gardens for outdoor walks; and a truly fantastic restaurant and bar – the Roth Bar and Grill. The simple but brilliant, unpretentious food is a sort of Ottolenghi meets gastropub hybrid. The pulled pork and coleslaw ciabatta was lip-smackingly moreish; chicken with rosemary roast new potatoes kept the children happy; and the salad of butternut squash, kale and roasted tomato with spelt and goats cheese, that was meant to be the side dish, stole the show.

HW spider
A Louise Bourgeois spider looms over Hauser and Wirth in Bruton


The bar, meanwhile, is an oasis for cocktails, with a dizzying installation built out of local reclaimed materials by Dieter Roth’s son and grandson, Björn and Odder Roth. On Friday nights, locals take over – Reef drummer Dominic Greensmith and Goffey, now drummer for Babyshambles, are in charge of the music. Daisy Lowe has been known to DJ to a crowd that might include locals such as theatre director Cameron Mackintosh, fashion designers Pheobe Philo and Alice Temperley, film director Sam Taylor-Wood or property expert Kevin McCloud.


You can sleep here, too – Dursdale farmhouse, emblazoned with Martin Creed’s neon words “Everything is going to be alright” – can be rented by the week and sleeps 12.

At the Chapel in Bruton
At the Chapel in Bruton

Don’t miss Bruton itself either. This quiet town makes a big noise: stop for food, wine and a night at At The Chapel on the high street (www.atthechapel.co.uk). Owned by ex-Notting Hill restauranteur Catherine Butler, this bakery, wine bar, restaurant and micro hotel kick-started Bruton’s regeneration more than ten years ago. Stop for a morning cappuccino and you might spot Mariella Frostrup working on her laptop in a corner. Book in at Matt’s Kitchen, a supperclub in Matt’s house on the high street that operates three nights a week, or try Truffles French brasserie. There’s a natural, rustic florist, a rare-breed butcher, and organic grocers and a smattering of galleries and antiques shops – no wonder it’s been alikened to “Notting Hill back in the early days”.

The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)
The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)

To the west of Bruton and south of Bristol, The Ethicurean perfectly sums up the mood of the area – it’s a very hip eatery housed in the ramshackle glasshouse of a walled garden, where almost all of the produce is grown. Here country meets cutting edge – they make their own vermouth to go in their Negronis (which come served with a rhubarb swizzle stick), and pickle vegetables to sustain the kitchen the lean winter months. Bohemian, cool, and yet very low-key, it captures the confidence of the region – there can be very few parts of the country where you could open such a venture and succeed financially, to such acclaim. Inside there’s a mixture of yummy mummies, Bristolian hipsters, older artistic types and a few welly-booted walkers. We polished off a sticky toffee apple pudding washed down by a pint of the local Gorge Best beer before heading on to Frome.

The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)
The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)

Nearby Frome is a thriving indy town, packed with quirky boutiques, arty spaces and a bit of new age dream catcher thrown in for good measure (well we are a stone’s throw from Stonehenge and Glastonbury after all). The Archangel makes a great pit-stop, and if you want to swoon about in luxury, nowhere does it better than Babington House – the original country outpost of private members club Soho House and the brand’s first hotel.

A little further north in Bradford on Avon there’s a great mixture of shops, galleries and places to run about. The kids will love the country park; we played pooh sticks on the footbridge over the river, and the wandered up to Fat Fowl – a great all-day bistro with jazz on a Sunday and an upstairs play area to occupy the kids.

Old Manor

Just outside the town is the Moonraker (doubles from £135 B&B, www.moonrakerhotel.com), a laidback manor house that feels more like a friend’s rambling house party than a hotel, with higgledy rooms and a restaurant that’s headed up by Matthew Briddon who champions a home-grown farmhouse approach to fine-dining. The pea guacamole with Bath cheese and pancetta served with parsnip crisps and home-made pork scratchings made from the hotel’s own pigs set the tone for a delicious evening followed by the best night’s sleep. Rooms are relaxed and homely and furnished with antique furniture, home-made flapjacks, and local scented candles from Bradford-on-Avon. “When we came here a couple of years ago it was a real gamble,” says owner Tudor Hopkins. “But in that time we’ve seen it change so much, things are just exploding and there’s a real buzz about the area – and we’re getting busier and busier.”

Chef Matthew Briddon in Moonraker's walled garden
Chef Matthew Briddon in Moonraker’s walled garden

For now, thanks to it’s unique location off the beaten tracks of the Cotswolds to the north and the West Country to the south and west, SoCo has managed to retain an authentic, cool vibe, unaffected by tourist coaches and corporate chains. And that’s just the way the locals – and the cognoscenti who do visit – like it.


This article appeared in METRO on 13 April 2015


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Easter egg hunting with the National Trust 

What better way to enjoy the first days of spring than on an Easter trail at a National Trust property – best of all, little ones get a Cadbury’s egg at the end

Over the past two years we’ve done several of the National Trust Easter trails – it’s a lovely way to enjoy a walk and keep the children interested, plus it gives them something to do in order to get their chocolate treat, which I quite like. Here are just a few of the events happening this Easter at the National Trust…


Sheringham Park, Norfolk

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 10am – 4.15pm*

Wander through Sheringham Park this Easter and discover a woodland garden with miles of stunning coastal views. Follow the Cadbury Easter Egg Trail amongst the early flowering rhododendrons and camellias and look for signs of spring. Once you’ve eggsplored the park and solved all the clues you can collect your yummy Cadbury chocolate Egghead prize.

Price: £2.30

For more information, please call 01263 820550



Studland Beach, Dorset

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 10.30am – 3.30pm

Celebrate Easter at Studland with a Cadbury Easter Egg Trail along the beach and through the nature reserve. Studland village was the inspiration for Toytown in Enid Blyton’s Noddy books, while the sandy beach, heathland and dunes are home to many fantastic creatures, including rare reptiles, deer and seabirds. This year the Easter bunny has also paid a visit, so why not follow the bunny footprints and solve the clues to find your Cadbury chocolate Egghead prize? Have fun with all the family this Easter on the sheltered, sandy and safe four miles of unspoilt beaches which are ideal for making sandcastles and enjoying some watersports.

Price: £2.50

For more information, please call 01929 450500



Enchanting forests and wild woodlands


Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 10am – 4pm

Ancient woods, rolling hills and wiggly footpaths make Ashridge Estate the perfect place for exploring this Easter. Follow the clues on the Cadbury Easter Egg Trail and see if you can answer the questions to earn yourself a yummy Cadbury chocolate Egghead reward. Exercise your eggsplorer skills and don’t forget to look out for lots of exciting wildlife along the way.

Price: £3

For more information, please call 01442 851227


Gibside, Tyne & Wear

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 11am – 3pm*

Gibside is so close to Tyneside but a million miles from city life, and this Easter there’s plenty planned for all the family.  A real wildlife haven, the estate is home to some very rare animals, including red kites and red squirrels. Who knows, you might even spot these incredible creatures and their friends whilst exploring on the Cadbury Easter Egg Trail. With big open gardens and parklands to explore, you might also find some Cadbury chocolate Eggheads at the end of the trail.

Price: £2.50 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01207 541820




Hidden historic houses


Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 10.30am – 4pm*

From Iron Age forts, to colourful heathland, water meadows and even a Roman road, there’s a lot to see on the Kingston Lacy estate. With acres of beautiful gardens and parkland to explore including a kitchen garden with resident pigs, you can have a great family day out. See if you can solve the riddles and clues on the Cadbury Easter Egg Trail and claim your very own Cadbury chocolate Egghead. Don’t forget to pop by the restaurant to try out the home-made cake and prize-winning scones to feed the little eggsplorers at the end of the day.

Price: £2.50 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01202 883402



Attingham Park
Attingham Park

Attingham Park, Shropshire          

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 10am – 4pm

Set alongside the rivers Severn and Tern and surrounded by stunning views of the Shropshire Hills, Attingham’s Easter egg trail takes families on an exciting adventure through the grounds. The Deer Park, walled garden and acres of wooded parks around Attingham House are home to loads of exciting wildlife. Come and meet them all this weekend on a wild and wonderful Cadbury Easter Egg Trail with eggscellent family activities and solve the clues to win your Cadbury chocolate Egghead prize.

Price: £2.50 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01743 708162 




Glorious gardens to explore


Mount Stewart, County Down

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 12pm – 4pm

As one of the Trust’s the most inspiring and unusual gardens, there’s a surprise around every corner at Mount Stewart. This Easter, the Cadbury Easter Egg Trail takes families on a huntthrough the beautiful woodland areas and Lake Walk. Find out more about Edith, Lady Londonderry who created the garden and discover more about her passion for the outdoors as you journey through the different worlds she designed. Along the way uncover the secrets of Mount Stewart Gardens before collecting your yummy Cadbury chocolate Egghead prize.

Price: £1 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 028 4278 8387


Nymans, West Sussex

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 10.30am – 3.30pm*

There’s no better way to explore this romantic house, garden and ruins, with beautiful woodland set in High Weald than taking part in the Cadbury Easter Egg Trail. Discover hidden corners and secret paths of the beautiful spring garden; just don’t forget to claim your Cadbury chocolate Egghead at the end of the trail.

Price: £2.50 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01444 405250



Wray Castle
Wray Castle

Characterful castles


Chirk Castle, Wrexham

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 11am – 4pm*

Step back in time and discover 700 years of mystery and intrigue whilst following the Cadbury Easter Egg Trail at Chirk Castle. Crammed with surprises along the way, the trail will lead families down into the dungeons and everyone will need to have their wits about them to avoid being put in the stocks before claiming their Cadbury chocolate Egghead prize.

Price: £2.50 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01691 777701



Wray Castle
Wray Castle

Wray Castle, Cumbria

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 10.30am – 4pm

This Easter make a splash and visit Wray Castle nestled on the shores of Lake Windermere and discover turrets and towers fit for a knight in shining armour. Have fun exploring this quirky building, solving clues along the way in order to claim your Cadbury chocolate Egghead prize. Or for the really adventurous, head out into grounds and track down the clues hidden around the estate.

Price: £2 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01539 433250


Wimpole Hall
Wimpole Hall

A little out of the ordinary


Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 10:30am – 4.15pm*

Wimpolena, the Wimpole goose, heard that there were some Cadbury chocolate Eggheads to discover around Wimpole Home Farm. She was in such a hurry to find them that she lost some of her feathers in the gardens. Help her find her feathers to spell out the magic word, and she might let you have some of the Cadbury chocolate Eggheads she’s looking after.

Price: £2 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01223 206000



Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Village, Wiltshire

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 5 – 6 April, 10.30am – 4pm

Lacock Abbey, with its cloisters and woodland grounds is an ideal place to explore and at this year’s Cadbury Easter Egg Trail you can explore the stars too. Famous resident Fox Talbot, who is best known as the inventor of the photographic negative, loved gazing at the planets. You will be following in his footsteps as you hunt for egg shaped planets and discover fascinating facts about other worlds before collecting your Cadbury chocolate Egghead prize.

Price: £1.50 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01249 730459


Fountains Abbey
Fountains Abbey

Biddulph Grange Garden, Staffordshire

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April 2015, 11am – 5pm

Run around a garden full of exotic plants collected from around the world, hunting high and low, under rocks and in trees for the hidden eggs. This year’s Cadbury Easter Egg Trail will take you on a global journey from Italy to the pyramids of Egypt, a Victorian vision of China and a re-creation of a Himalayan glen. Discover them all and you can find the Easter bunny who will be waiting with your delicious Cadbury chocolate Egghead as a prize.

Price: £2 (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01782 375 533



Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire

Cadbury Easter Egg Trails, 3 – 6 April, 11am – 4pm

Families will have to work together and leave no stone unturned in the search for giant eggs at this Yorkshire World Heritage Site. Hunting for giant eggs around the magnificent ruins, getting your face painted then eating a chocolatey Cadbury Egghead prize is all in a day’s work for a busy Eggsplorer on this exciting adventure.

Price: £2, with a shorter route for little legs this year (normal admission fee applies)

For more information, please call 01765 608888



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10 of the best welly weekends

Grab your Barbour jacket, pull on your Hunter boots and get outdoors for a bracing winter walk – and you can reward yourself with amazing grub and a gorgeous room for the night at the end of it

There’s nothing more exhilarating on a frosty, clear winter’s day than a country walk over fields and hills, and given you can burn up to 400 calories an hour on a good hike, it’s little wonder the likes of Jessica Biel, Matthew Mcconaughey and Reece Witherspoon are fans. Aside from the amazing views, fresh air and vitamin D, our favourite walks include a welcoming inn at the end, with a roaring fire and delicious dinner. So pack your wellies, kids and dog, and make a weekend of it, as we’ve found the best places to enjoy a rural, rambling escape.


The Milk House, Sissinghurst

This rustic-chic pub and restaurant with rooms is brilliantly located just across the fields from Sissinghurst Castle in Kent (it’s a pleasing 30-minute ramble away). Welly boots and dogs are practically uniform at this timber-framed building. All exposed beams and open fireplaces, there’s a lounge-y bar with comfy leather sofas and a more formal 9though still relaxed) dining room with a menu that sources 80 per cent of its produce from within a 20-mile radius. The four bedrooms are a tribute to Farrow and Ball and the local theme continue with a range of bath products from Kent, too.

Doubles from £90, www.themilkhouse.co.uk


Woolley Grange, Wiltshire

This homely small manor hotel welcomes families and dogs – if you haven’t brought your boots, you can borrow one of the many pairs lined up in the entrance hall. And if you haven’t brought your dog, you can even borrow the resident King Charles Spaniel puppy Rex and take him for a stroll around the grounds or over the fields down (or down the lane if you’re pushing a buggy) to Bradford on Avon, or head even further a-field to Ilford Manor which is surrounded by hanging woodlands and then walk back along the river.
Rooms at Woolley are eclectic and homely, combining antique furniture with modern design, while the relaxed lounges are the perfect place to warm up with a hot chocolate after a long walk.

Doubles from £120, www.woolleygrangehotel.co.uk


The Lord Crewe Arms, County Durham

With properly hearty, country food – think shins, hocks, and shanks of meat – Simon Hick’s modern British menu is as robust and humble as this 12th-century former Abbots Priory. Delightfully understated, but in a very stylish way, this pub with 12 bedrooms is warm and welcoming – grab an armchair in the enormous inglenook and settle in with the weekend papers and a pint of Lord Crewe Brew before heading out to the hills. The pub sits at one of the highest points on the North Pennine Hills and is surrounded by heather-clad walks, but fishing and shooting are also available if you really want to give your Barbour a workout.

Doubles from £105, www.lordcrewearmsblanchland.co.uk


Askham Hall, Cumbria

Askham Hall makes a very glamorous home from home – owner Charlie Lowther and his wife Juno have renovated and transformed his family home, a Grade I-listed manor house, complete with a medieval tower, to create a 13-room hip-yet-unpretentious hotel with history. The rooms are relaxed yet grand; a winning cocktail of antique beds, dinner-plate showers and jaw-dropping Lake District views. Sitting in the middle OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof the 70,000-acre Lowther Estate, you’re literally surrounded by walks, from challenging fell climbs to a gentler walk across the estate to the George and Dragon pub in Clifton where most of the food is sourced from the estate itself, or a potter around the Hall’s romatic gardens and woodland and into Askham village.

Doubles from £150, www.askhamhall.co.uk.


Wild Rabbit The-Wild-Rabbit_Stylesight6

The Wild Rabbit, Kingham

Since opening last summer this immaculate pub with rooms, owned by Lady Bamford (the brains behind nearby Daylesford Organic), has recently won Michelin Pub of the Year. Behind its alluring honey-hued Cotswold stone walls and sage green paint, the handcrafted interior has antique furniture, stripped walls and open fires – while the menu stocks artisan ales and wine from small vineyards. Expect thoroughly stylish, and seasonal, food such as pot roast partridge or cacao nib crusted venison with girolles, celeriac and figs. While this may be the poshest pub in Britain, it is also surrounded by fields and farms – dogs are most welcome (they even provide dog beds for free). There are walking maps to borrow and you can hoof it over the fields north to Daylesford Organic to visit the spa, farm shop and restaurant there. Chipping Norton, Burford and Stow on the Wold are all close by.

Doubles from £135, www.thewildrabbit.co.uk

Bar area and dining room, Bel and the Dragon, Churt, Surrey BelDragon_churt3

Bel and the Dragon Churt, Surrey

Less than an hour from London, but a welly’s throw from the National Trust-owned Devil’s Punch Bowl – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offering incredible views, this fabulously-restored country inn has 14 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar – complete with a cosy lounge with an open fireplace and an inviting sofa. The new pizza oven and chalk-topped tables are proving a huge hit with families, while the josper grill (for the juiciest steaks) and wine served by the magnum – you just drink what you can – keep grown-ups more than satisfied.

Doubles from £95, www.belandthedragon-churt.co.uk


Ockendon Manor, Sussex

Surrounded by the South Downs National Park, this Elizabethan Manor House welcomes guests with a roaring log fire and a cosy, wood-panelled bar. Set in nine acres, and with the South Downs Way, Wakehurst Place and Sheffield Park all on the doorstep, you’ll be spoilt for choice for walks. And at the hotel, you can spoil yourself in the state-of-the-art spa and at the Michelin-starred restaurant.

Doubles from £179, www.hshotels.co.uk/ockenden-manor-hotel-and-spa


The Gunton Arms, Norfolk

You can’t get much more rural than a 1,000-acre deer park, which is where you’ll find this eccentric-yet-unpretentious pub and B&B owned by an art dealer and interior designer. The buzzy restaurant and bar, headed up by chef Simon Tattersall, who worked with Mark Hix, attracts north Norfolk’s finest, from muddy booted walkers and farmers to artists and landowners alike, who come to watch Tattersall cook over a vast 16th-century open fireplace. As you’d expect from a deer park close to Cromer – venison, crab and seafood abound. Just the thing after a misty country walk.

Doubles from £95, www.theguntonarms.co.uk


The Grove, Pembrokeshire

Between the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the Preseli Hills, the boutique Grove hotel, and its award-winning restaurant makes a chic retreat after a wild winter walk. Nab one of the fire-side seats in the lounge a snuggle up with a spicy glass of red wine and a great book. Book the Winter Warmer package and the hotel will pack you off in the morning with a walker’s hamper containing a flask of traditional Welsh cawl and tasty bites to keep you warm and toasty on your walk. Then head back to a roaring log fire, a soothing bath with a box of Wickedly Welsh chocolates and a full body massage courtesy of The Grove’s In Room Spa before delicious candlelit meal beside the fire in our award-winning restaurant (£200 per person per night).

Doubles from £165, www.thegrove-narberth.co.uk


The Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall

There can be few more rugged or wild corners of Britain than the Zennor peninsula in Cornwall, and after a bracing walk, through cow fields, out to the tip of Zennor Point, you’ll be more than ready for a pint of real ale by the fire in the bar. This is pub-grub at its best and most local, from the ham hock terrine to the venison stew, even the soda bread with locally-churned butter is lip-smackingly good. Rooms are cosy but charming, with brilliant beds – you’ll feel so at home that you won’t want to leave. Dogs are welcome and wellies are practically obligatory round these parts.

Doubles from £110 – or book the fantastically good value Winter Escape: £130 a couple for dinner, bed and breakfast, Sunday to Thursday. www.gurnardshead.co.uk


This article appeared in Metro on 26 January






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Baby specialists from birth to the 1st birthday

You’ve read the books, done the antenatal classes and booked your birthing pool – but what about after the big day? Our essential guide to all postnatal specialists and experts will help you with everything from tackling tongue-tie to weaning with ease.

Parenting classes

It’s probably the toughest (and the most rewarding) job you’ll ever do, yet no one actually trains you to be a parent. Luckily there are classes and workshops out there to help prepare you, inspire you and fill you with confidence about the wonderful, exhausting and exhilarating adventure ahead.

Founded by Sarah Ockwell-Smith with the idea of creating calmer babies and happier parents, Baby Calm offers classes and workshops for new parents (including Michelle Heaton, Strictly’s Brendan Cole, and Ray Quinn). The Mother and Baby Class is a four-week course for new mums that covers colic, baby massage, feeding, fussiness and crying, sleep and parental confidence. Other short workshops include sleep, calming and weaning. Classes across the UK. www.Babycalm.co.uk

In London, Surrey and Sussex, The Parent Practice offers confidence-boosting classes on positive parenting, fostering independence in your children, how to be in charge without being over-controlling, and how to keep calm. www.Theparentpractice.com

After realising how many courses focus on preparing the birth but not beyond, BabyNatal started up the Practical Care workshop covering all the basics of baby care, safety, what to buy from buggies to reusable nappies, and how to calm your little one, that can be taken after or before birth. They also run dedicated classes for dealing with twins. And for those that didn’t take antenatal classes, the New Parents Group is a four-week course exploring sleeping, feeding, calming and anything else you need to know. Classes nationwide: 01780 479183, www.babynatal.co.uk.

The NCT Postnatal Early Days courses give you the chance to explore different approaches to parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other local mums and dads. You’ll gain parenting skills, feel confident about the decisions you make for your baby, and gain support and encouragement from others. 0300 330 0700, www.nct.org.uk


Lactation consultants

Sore, cracked nipples, mastitis, thrush and trouble latching on – breastfeeding isn’t always as ‘natural’ or straightforward as you might like. Not all babies are born ‘naturals’ at feeding and mums have to learn how to feed too.

Seek out help and support – it will help you get feeding established and dispense any worries you might have about, how much, how often, and how long you should be feeding.

Your first port of call should be your midwife and your local health centre and health visitor – they will run weekly baby clinics where you can weigh your baby but also ask any feeding questions.

For something more social that also offers expert advice, try a Baby Café. There are Baby Café drop-in centres in most regions of the UK that are open to all pregnant and breastfeeding mums, and you can take your partner or mum along with you if you want, too. Run by midwives, health visitors and lactation consultants, most are open once a week and offer coffee tables, comfy sofas and play areas for accompanying toddlers and inquisitive crawlers. Locations range from children’s centres to church halls and community centres and they are great places to pick up tips and advice from experts and support and reassurance from other new mums. www.thebabycafe.org 

The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (www.abm.me.uk, 0300 330 5453) also has a list of local breastfeeding support groups across the country.

If you’d rather look online, the La Leche League has stacks of free info and advice (www.laleche.org.uk), as does the National Childbirth Trust (www.nct.org.uk). Lastly, the website www.breastfeeding.co.uk also has a breastfeeding helpline 0300 100 0212.

If you’d like a private consultation with a lactation consultant – after all, not every new mum wants to practice breastfeeding at a semi-public Baby Café or in the rushed environs of an NHS baby clinic – then you can find one through the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain (www.lcgb.org), where NHS, private and voluntary consultants across the country are listed. Most will come to your own home to provide support and advice to help get feeding established.


Cranial osteopaths

Often referred to as baby whisperers, cranial osteopaths are trained to feel very subtle, rhythmical shape changes in body tissues and to release stress and tension throughout the body and head in an extremely gentle way.

And while you might not think a baby could be stressed, the process of birth can both physically and mentally take its toll on babies’ bodies.

Sometimes the way that a baby is born might make it harder for that baby to turn its neck and feed well; their heads can get squished into odd shapes, especially if forceps or a ventouse are used; other babies may be traumatised by a very quick birth that causes them to be extra sensitive. Even problems like colic, trapped wind and sleeping difficulties can be soothed by the healing hands of these experts.

Visit www.cranial.co.uk to find out more about how cranial osteopaths can help babies and young children and to find a list of local cranial osteopaths.

The British Osteopathic Association (www.osteopathy.org) also has a directory of osteopaths – look for ones that specialise in infants and babies.


Best Tongue-tie treatments

At least one in ten babies are born with a tongue-tie, where the piece of skin that connects the underneath of the tongue to the base of the mouth is too tight, causing some babies problems with breastfeeding or to take in too much air when bottle feeding.

The sooner it is diagnosed the less discomfort you, and your baby, will suffer. Getting the tight skin un-tied is a quick, simple procedure, called a frenectomy. Most hospitals will want you to be referred by a midwife, health visitor or GP, which can take a week or two and some will only treat breastfed babies, while private clinics can see your baby and treat them instantly for between £100 and £200.

The Association of Tongue-tie Practitioners was set up last year to increase awareness about the condition and to support parents of babies with tongue-tie. Their website, www.Tongue-tie.org.uk, has a directory of private and NHS clinics that offer tongue-tie division.

Dr Peter Reynolds is a Neonatal Consultant at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals in Surrey who specialises in tongue-tie (01932 722678). Babies can be referred by a health professional, or you can also see him privately by contacting his PA on 01932 723499. His own website www.tonguetie.co.uk is a mine of information on the subject and can help you to decide whether your baby has the symptoms associated with tongue-tie.

Marion Copeland and Kate Battersby are Infant Feeding Specialist Midwives and lactation consultants at Southmead Hospital in Bristol (0117 323 3527), who accept NHS referrals for breastfeeding babies up to 12 weeks old. They will also see clients privately.

Mr Shailesh Patel, a Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at Kings College Hospital, Camberwell, London (020 3299 3350) now runs three clinics a week due to demand, referral is for breastfed babies only, through your health visitor, GP or midwife. Meanwhile St Georges Hospital in Tooting, London, has a rapid-access tongue-tie clinic every Monday – contact Catherine Milroy, Consultant Plastic Surgeon (020 8725 0007).

In Manchester, Mr Patrick Sheehan, Consultant Paediatric ENT Surgeon sees breastfed and bottle-fed babies with no age limit at the New Royal Manchester General Hospital and Manchester General Hospital Children’s Unit (0161 701 5039). Parents can go through their local healthcare provider or they also ask for a private patient appointment.

You can learn more about the condition and find a full list NHS tongue-tie division providers at www.nhs.uk/conditions/tongue-tie


Baby massage and yoga

Helping with bonding, relaxation and better sleep, improving digestion and colic, and relieving pain from teething, baby massage is good for babies and for mums, while baby yoga moves can also calm and reduce colic.

In London and Wiltshire, the girls behind the Calm Birth Calm Baby collective offer a range of baby massage courses from mums who are registered with the Association of Infant Massage. 07949 764105, www.calmbirthcalmbaby.com.

You can also find baby massage classes in your local area on the International Association of Infant Massage’s own website: iaimbabymassage.co.uk (020 8989 9597).

Hands On Babies are baby massage and baby yoga courses accredited by the Royal College of Midwives – find a class in your area on their website. 0845 017 6029, www.handsonbabies.co.uk.

YogaBellies offers baby yoga and baby massage courses in Glasgow, Northern Ireland and London. www.yogabaellies.co.uk


Baby sleep experts

Oh, what you’d do for a full night’s sleep right now? But should you try controlled crying, the pick up/put down method, gradual retreat, patting and shushing, the 90-minute rule or the no cry sleep solution?

The options are baffling and many tired parents give in to try and get at least a few hours of rest. If you’re at the end of your tether, there are experts out there who can help you to start a routine and get your baby through the night, while you get some well-earned kip.

The Sleep Nanny, based in Bath (though she will travel up to 100 miles or more to see clients), has helped everyone from celebrities to GPs and can offer phone or home consultations to help advise you on how to get your little ones through the night from £60. For closer to £1300 she will come and stay with you for two nights to establish a routine and advise you at home. It may be the price of a holiday, but she promises lasting results within a week – priceless. 0844 357 9913, www.sleepnannies.co.uk.

In London, Chris the Nanny, Chris Wandrag and Vanessa Crane, offer similar sleep training for babies and twins. A consultation and two nights assisting parents in sleep training their child costs £500 (twins £600), while night nannying – where you get to sleep through or go out for the night and leave all the baby stuff to them – costs £140 a night from 9pm to 7am. 020 8444 6316, www.christhenanny.com.


In the Manchester and Cheshire area, qualified paediatric nurse, health visitor and baby sleep expert with 20 years experience, Dawn Kelly has helped babies from four months old to children of 12 to get through their sleeping problems. Her consultations start from £180 and are tailored to your family’s needs and lifestyle – which means there’ll be no controlled crying if that’s not what you believe in. 07957 357324, www.sleepthroughdawn.co.uk.

For a tailored consultation and sleep programme to help train your baby or toddler (or older child) to sleep through the night, Millpond can help. They have seen everything from children that still wake to feed at night or that need rocking to sleep to those who will only sleep with a parent in bed or who struggle to go to bed on their own. Packages start from £75 and include free email support for the duration of the programme. 020 8444 0040, www.mill-pond.co.uk.

Lastly, if you have the budget, you could consider a night nanny to come and stay with you to deal with night waking and night feeds for as long as it takes. Night Nannies is the UK’s leading overnight maternity nanny service, ensuring you get a good night’s rest and your baby gets expert care and is gently trained to sleep better. 020 7731 6168, www.nightnannies.com.



When, how often and how much… starting solids can be a daunting prospect. But there are experts out there to make it easier.

The NCT Introducing Solids course covers when to start weaning, purees and baby-led weaning, allergies and foods to avoid, as well as what to do about milk feeds. 0300 330 0700, www.nct.org.uk 

Combining cookery classes and weaning advice, Yummy Baby Group offers three different classes, in which you’ll prepare and cook meals for your little one, get all the advice you need, and come away with recipes and menu plans. Courses cover Stage 1 Weaning, Stage 2 Weaning, and Baby-led Weaning. In Berkshire, Surrey, London and the South East: 07872 030206, www.yummybabygroup.co.uk

Want to know more about baby-led weaning? The Baby Calm Baby-led Weaning workshop will give you the lowdown on the science behind it, ideas and options for foods when you’re at home and out and about, and how to make weaning as easy as possible. Across the UK: www.babycalm.co.uk

For a crash course in all things food-related, from equipment needed to vegetarian weaning, Parentskool in Brighton, Lewes and Haywards Heath, this one-day course comes with free online help for a month afterwards. 01273 620401, www.parentskool.co.uk.


The Baby Blues and PND

One in ten mums suffer from PND. While a degree of the baby blues and feeling tearful after birth is normal, a prolonged sense (more than two weeks) of feeling low, not wanting to go out, having a lack of interest or enjoyment in your baby, or feeling unable to cope and without motivation to do anything, could be signs of postnatal depression.

Talk to your GP or health visitor, they can help. Treatment can range from counselling, to anti-depressants, to Cognitive behavioural Therapy, but for many mums, just being able to tell someone can help to ease the burden.

The Association for Post Natal Illness is another good place to start if you want more information: 020 7386 0868, www.apni.org.

The National Childbirth Trust also has a postnatal helpline: 0300 330 0773.

To read about other real mum’s stories and share and seek support from other mums who have been through it, www.pni.org.uk is a must-visit site, set up by women who are current and past sufferers of PND. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.


 This article appeared in Gurgle magazine.

Family holiday? Top travel trends 2015

Want to know where to book for the year ahead? Read this ultimate family travel guide to where, and what, is going to be hot in 2015, from country weekends and mini breaks to holiday rentals and multi-generation escapes


Once all-inclusives meant ginormous resorts with bad buffets and dated entertainment, but in recent years the all-inclusive has been given a make-over. Think glammer, better quality and independent.
“New parents are increasingly keen for us to recommend the kind of small, stylish, independent accommodation they holidayed in before having children but with the added benefits of three meals a day and drinks included without succumbing to a typical package holiday hotel,” explains Sian Williams, founder of Baby Friendly Boltholes.

Country Kids Chestnut House


lla Pia, Tuscany
This 17-room house has the relaxed vibe of a home, but none of the cooking – Brit owners Kevin and Morag take care of all that for you and there’s a fully-stocked fridge, bar and coffee machine for any snacks in between that you can help yourself to. Seven nights from £1,070 in a family room which sleeps two adults, two children and has room for a cot.

Villa PIa
Villa PIa

Country Kids Chestnut House, Languedoc-Rousillion
You want the wild beauty of the French countryside, and the privacy and freedom of an apartment, but you also want a free drop-in crèche on tap, included activities like sailing, vineyard tours or tennis, a couple of nights babysitting, suppers, a pool with a bar, and a deli so you needn’t go out to buy delicious local food. That’s just the start of the options that are all part of the price at this luxurious small family retreat. Sleeps five plus room for a cot. From £3,500 per week.

Chestnut House
Chestnut House


Mas de Thau, South of France
This converted French winery opened last summer as a self-catering country estate. Your first supper and daily breakfasts are included along with a bumper welcome pack and a communal meal each Sunday.

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But unlike other self-catering holidays, this one comes with a daily maid service, two night’s free babysitting, a wine-tasting evening, kids club and crèche and a petting farm, a complimentary massage for parents and a blissful pool. Sleeps four plus room for a cot. From £1,200 a week.




The latest way to get back to nature – hug a tree, quite literally. Now you can play, stay and eat in amongst the tree canopy.

Alnwick Treehouse, Northumberland
This wooden turreted restaurant is reached by a wobbly bridge and trees can actually be seen growing out of the dining room floor. In the evening, it’s lit with candles for a magical, Faraway Tree experience that you’ll never forget. www.alnwickgarden.com

Center Parcs Longleat and Sherwood
The new two-storey, four-bedroom treehouses at Longleat and Sherwood Forest are a real Swiss Family Robinson affair, with wooden bridges and gangways connecting the different wooden cabins and a deck with an outdoor hot tub, sauna and games room. Brilliant for groups or large families. www.centerparcs.co.uk


Forest Holidays Treehouses
Available in Deerpark in Cornwall, Keldy in Yorkshire, Thorpe Forest in Norfolk and in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, kids will love staying in these treehouse hideaways. Some have wooden walkway entrances, others come with outdoor hot tubs, and all have wood-burning stoves and bathrooms. Sleeps up to ten. www.forestholidays.co.uk

Cleveley Mere, Lancashire
W.O.W ­– leave any notion of a DIY wooden shack at the door, or should that be rope bridge. This futuristic tree-top retreat is seriously luxurious and even has its own harbour and boat, as well as bikes, pedaloes and canoes that can be borrowed. Sleeps four. From £129 a night, www.cleveleymere.com


BeWILDerwood, Norfolk
This award-winning forest adventure park is home to treehouses, jungle bridges, swings, slides, walkways and even mazes all set in and around the trees. There’s also storytelling, nature walks, boat trips and a tree-based café to keep the whole family occupied. www.bewilderwood.co.uk


Take the kids, the grandparents, the auntie and uncle, the nanny, even the dog – in the last year, one in six travellers in Britain has been on a 3G holiday, that’s three generations on one trip.
And the trend is growing, as more of us choose to travel with friends or family, either to share the cost of larger accommodation, or to help share the burden of childcare.
More than one in ten 3G-ers said that the main motivation for taking their parents or other relatives on holiday was to relieve to load of caring for their children.
“We took went away with our brother and sister-in-law, their kids and our parents last year,” says Nicola 40. “It was lovely for the grandparents to spend time with all of the grandchildren while they still can, and they got to try things that they wouldn’t have done on their own. It also made our villa much better value for money, overall – we were able to stay in a much nicer place for not much more per person than if we’d travelled separately.”
Want to try it? Serviced villas are a great way to take more than one generation away, or resorts that offer entertainment for both young and old. Make sure you look for somewhere with plenty of variety.

Coastline, Corsica, Mallorca and Ibiza
For all the freedom of a villa combined with the luxury of a serviced hotel, this is the perfect solution. Have a chef cook for you, book a private nanny for your stay, use the concierge service to arrange excursions, restaurant bookings and have food delivered to your villa, and expect a maid service, too. But the real bonus is a communal living area where the whole family can mingle and a private pool at every property. www.coastline.co.uk

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Daios Cove, Crete
Older travellers will appreciate the resort-like feel here (you needn’t leave, there’s so much to do), the smart-but-not-trendy vibe, and the infinity pool and spa. There’s a daily programme of activities for young and old, as well as a crèche, kids club, and teen club. You’ll love the private bay and white-sand beach – and the family villas with private pools are a great choice for bigger parties.

www.daioscovecrete.com or book with www.sovereign.com who often have family discounts.



Belmond La Residencia, Deia, Mallorca
The old-school glamour of this breath-taking resort will wow the grandparents as much as you – though they may be more impressed by the mature gardens and the exceptional views than the fabulous, art-filled manor house hotel and spa. Chill out in the spa, or over a yoga or tai chi session, borrow a mountain bike and head down to the beach, or put the children into the kids club, which offers art and cookery classes, while you read a book by the pool or visit the restaurant, which is the best on the island. Book with Tots Too to take advantage of their private nanny service, Nanny Too, which is available at this hotel. www.belmond.com or www.totstoo.com



Sensatori Resort Aphrodite Hills, Cyprus
Thomson’s luxury all-inclusive resorts are expanding this year, with new hotels in Fethive, Turkey, and Cyrpus. We love the modern rooms and stylish spas, with fantastic entertainment and activities for kids, no matter what they are into. And Cyprus has kitten-soft sandy beaches that make us want to go back every year. The climate is especially good for a spring or autumn break with babies. www.thomson.co.uk



Emma Barnett, Tots Too:
We are seeing the return to traditional family resorts. Despite the appeal of experiential and authentic family experiences, which there is certainly demand for, we have really noticed in recent months that the traditional, full-service family destinations continue to be hot property, and if anything are soaring. Parents tell us that the peace-of-mind and ease of a family resort, like Forte Village in Sardinia or La Residencia in Majorca, make them a fail-safe bet.
At the other end of the spectrum, we’re also seeing families being prepared to travel further than ever. The Maldives, Mauritius, Antigua and Barbados are some of our biggest sellers – that’s even surprised us!

Nadine Mellor, I-Escape With Kids:
Living like a local is a growing trend – people don’t want to feel like tourists anymore, they want to be immersed in the culture and experience of their holiday. So we are seeing more families booking apartments rather than hotels and wanting lots of information about the destination, or perhaps a concierge service, to make themselves feel at home.
We’re also seeing an increase in foodie breaks, where parents want to take the kids somewhere that they can eat well when out sightseeing during lunchtimes, bring good-quality grub back to the rental property, or dine in the hotel’s restaurant in the evenings with a babysitter or baby monitor. Places like Chateau les Merles in the Perigord region of France or Masseria Prosperi in Puglia, Italy, are proving really popular.



GREECE GOES GLAM – The Peloponnese
Blessed with as much sun as LA, but a whole lot closer to home, it’s time to put Greece back on your radar.

Costa Navarino
Costa Navarino

The Peloponnese has seen a raft of chic opening in the last few years, from the ultra-exclusive design den Amanzoe (perfect for a pre-baby glam getaway) to the family-friendly, eco-luxe Costa Navarino and the established grand-dame The Poseidonion in Spetses. Add a new hotel and spa from the club group Nikki Beach in Porto Heli into the mix and it’s no wonder this is where stylish Athenians go to catch some sea breeze. www.visitgreece.gr

The beach club at Amanzoe


If Croatia isn’t already on your wanderlust wish-list, here’s the lowdown: pretty beach towns dot the coastline, pine-covered islands are in easy day-tripping distance; the cosmopolitan UNESCO-listed port town of Split is on your doorstep – and it’s all just two-and-a-half hours from the UK. I-Escape With Kids (www.iescape.com/kids) has it in their sights as a hip destination for families this year; try staying in Hvar or at the Palmizana, a cluster of villas nestled in lush botanical gardens on the Dalmation Island of Sveti Klement, just a short hop from Hvar.

Hvar island

Closer to the action, the new Radisson Blu Resort in Split overlooks the Adriatic sea and has apartment accommodation for families.

IBIZA GROWS UP (but not old)
The sun, the turquoise sea and the blissed-out summer beats… How much fun was Ibiza back in the day? But having a baby doesn’t put this Balearic bolthole out of bounds. The original Ibiza hotel, the Hacienda Na Xamena, that first opened its doors in hippie days of 1971, has been through a major revamp and reopened last summer with a luxurious spa, yacht (for jaunts out to sea), and three pools, but the boho vibe is very much alive and well. Perched on a cliff, 180 metres above the sea, and surrounded by a national park, the views are spectacular.

Hacienda Hotel

Meanwhile Thomson is opening its luxury all-inclusive Sensatori brand on the White Isle this year, with a beachfront setting in Cala Tarida on the west coast. For some thrilling sunset views, head to the rooftop bar – but what makes this work for families is the nursery for babies and free Playhouse club for children over three, there are even supervised evening sessions so that you can have a meal or, dare we say it, hit a club! Family rooms sleep five, while entertainment and a fab spa complete the very stylish package.
Could it be time to dig out your white bikini?

Sensatori Ibiza
Sensatori Ibiza



Locals have always known that this is one of Britain’s coolest cities, and now a new accolade will have visitors heading west. Crowned European Green Capital 2015, the easily walkable, or cycleable, city has an independent vibe and a thriving arts and music scene, as well as magnificent views from the Clifton suspension bridge – could this be the UK’s answer to San Francisco? Take a Banksy tour for an alternative view of the sights, and check into the new Bristol Hotel (from £99 a night, www.doylecollection.com/bristol), which sits next door to the Arnolfini contemporary arts centre. Tots will love the aquarium, and the SS Great Britain on Spike Island where you’ll also find another modern art venue – the Spike Island Artspace.

The Bristol hotel has family rooms on the waterfront
The Bristol hotel has family rooms on the waterfront


With its beautiful beaches, short flight time and gorgeous climate, Portugal is a perennial favourite for families as it is also good value. But new choices are springing up beyond the traditional Algarve package holiday.
Martinhal at Sagres offers the best of barefoot beach luxury and is a villa resort with an eco spa, cool kids club (book ahead!) and a stunning beach, set in a protected natural park.


Head further north to Sintra and Cascais on the Estoril Coast as a chic, less crowded alternative that’s a short hop from Lisbon. Housed in a converted 14th-century monastery Penha Longa is an outstandingly tranquil and beautiful place to shake of the stress of modern life. Children are treated like royalty, or VIKs as the hotel calls them.

Penha Longa, a converted monastry that is now owned by Ritz Carlton
Penha Longa, a converted monastry that is now owned by Ritz Carlton

And the new Conrad Algarve at Quinto do Lago brings Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck to Portugal – but if that’s too fancy, there’s also a poolside BBQ bar. Add a great kids club, Aromatherapy Associates spa and the nearby marina with bustling boutiques (you will buy something!), and it’s a recipe for a top holiday.

Conrad Algarve
Conrad Algarve



This article appeared in the January 2015 issue of Gurgle magazine.