10 things to do in Reddish with a baby or toddler

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I’ve lived in Reddish, Stockport, for nearly 5 years. I moved here when Tim and I got married, and was fairly happy with the area: it was a reasonable commute, close to the train station with a fast and cheap train into Manchester. I missed the bars and trendiness of my former residence, Chorlton, but Tim had a bigger house than I did, and a garden.

Fast forward 3 years to August 2012 when Ben was born. We were still living in Reddish, but now I was on maternity leave, complete with baby. Not to mention, without a car. In that year, and the following year, I discovered some of the treasures of Reddish.

So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Things to do in Reddish with a Baby or Toddler.

1. Reddish Vale

We have spent many happy hours here feeding the ducks.

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There is also a lovely playgroup in the visitor centre on a Thursday morning, and if you happen to get caught in a downpour, you can wait it out inside. The staff will even give you a cup of tea and a biscuit.

2. Reddish Vale Farm

This deserves a separate entry, because it is an entirely separate event. We’ve been several times, and it is absolutely lovely for young children. Buy a bucket of carrots on entry for 50p, and you can feed the cows, llamas, alpacas, pigs, goats, donkeys and sheep. If you can reach high enough, you can also feed Kylie the shire horse. There’s also an area with rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks and birds, where staff will help you to hold the animals safely.

Around the corner in the barn is a soft play area – beware, the ball pool is deep! – and a concreted area with ride-along tractors and trucks. A current favourite for Ben is the climbing frame and slide, which is just the right height for him.

We’ve also been to a birthday party at the farm, which was excellent, although Ben really didn’t want to have a pony ride as part of it!

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3. Swimming at Levenshulme Baths

If, like me, you are car-less, there’s an excellent bus service to Levenshulme run by Manchester Community Transport. We relied on this bus quite a lot last year, as it went into Fallowfield and Withington.

In Levenshulme, there are the Victorian Swimming Baths. On a Thursday morning, they do baby and toddler swimming lessons, which are excellent. They get fairly busy, but never too over-crowded (the earlier and later sessions are quieter), and the instructor is excellent. We also go to the family swim sessions and casual swim sessions, as the baths are clean, warm and the people are friendly. The only downside is that the changing cubicles are pool-side, which can be tricky with a baby, but I have discovered that the ones in the corner are double-sized, so grab one if they’re free!

4. Debdale and North Reddish Parks

From around the time Ben was 8 months old, and the weather eventually started to warm up (the winter of 2012-13 was a long one), we started taking him to the park. First he loved the swings, and would shriek with laughter when we pushed him.

Considering how much he loved the swings, we have hardly any photos of him on them.

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He’s now big enough to climb up the ladder on the small climbing frame, crawl through the tunnel and slide down the slide.

Both Debdale Park (which is huge) and Reddish North Park have excellent children’s play equipment. As a bonus, the park is always free!

5. Levenshulme Market and Heaton Moor Market

Levenshulme Market is a fairly recent discovery, although I have been following them on twitter for ages. Ben and I toddled down there a couple of weeks ago, and it’s brilliant. A really vibrant, exciting community market, with handmade goods, vintage finds and amazing food. I tried some Spiced Bun Ice Cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and was not disappointed.

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The day we went was absolutely beautiful – yes, the sun does shine in Manchester – and Ben was more than happy to spot the trains arriving at the station while I perused the stalls. The market has a fantastic array of food, craft and vintage stalls, which changes every week. I highly recommend it.

6. Manchester Gymnastics

Behind Gorton Tesco, off the A57, is a large, one-storey building. It always looks closed up, and the metal spikes around the roof are less than inviting. But get yourself buzzed through the door and you will discover a huge, clean, professional gymnasium. On one side is the proper equipment, and on the other side is a layout of crash mats, trampolines, beams, ramps, slides, bars and all sorts. You can even dive into the foam-filled pit if you choose. On weekday mornings (check the website for details), you can attend an ‘Under 4s’ session, where toddlers can run around and try out the equipment in complete safety. It’s a really excellent session, and, as it’s a bit low profile, usually very quiet. My only issue with this is that it’s quite pricey: £4.00 for a 45 minute session, plus a drink and biscuit afterwards. That’s a bit more than soft play, but I think it’s worth it – Ben is always exhausted when he’s finished!

7. Reddish North Children’s Centre

When I was on maternity leave, Ben and I did three courses at our local children’s centre. All were excellent, and I would highly recommend them.

The first was when Ben was around 3 months old, and was Baby Massage. Then, at around 6 months, we did Baby Moves, which was a sensory course. Then, at around 9 months, Little Explorers, another sensory course but with a focus on encouraging crawling and co-ordination.

All were free.

All courses gave me ideas for what to do with Ben, and connected me to other mums in the area.

8. Anchors Away

Soft play at Anchors Away is probably the reason most parents come to Reddish. I have to admit, for a toddler, it’s not the best – their little Under 4s area is quite limited, and often over-run by bigger children. But I did come here quite often when Ben was a baby. There’s space for the children to crawl around, and quite a wide range of Jumperoo-style toys for non-crawlers.

We’re giving it a bit of a break for a while, as Ben’s not big enough for the really good soft play section, but I’m sure we’ll be back at some point.

9. Trains at Reddish North

I don’t know what happens, but sometime before the age of 2, little boys seem to become obsessed with trains. For Ben, a visit to Reddish North Train Station is heaven. Trains go in, trains go out. If he gets to go on a train, that’s even better!

Catching the train from Reddish North into Manchester is easy and cheap. On the way back you’ll need someone to help you with the pushchair over the footbridge, but I’ve never had to do it on my own. Another good trip is to Marple, and then a wander along the canal.

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Ben looking for trains at the station!

10. Reddish Library

I’m a big fan of our local library, and it has an excellent children’s section. They have a very popular after-school homework club, and there are always reading programmes advertised in the school holidays.

Ben has been a member since he was about 3 months old – I’m an English teacher, it was a major priority – and we’ve made the most of the books. There’s also a good Sing and Rhyme session on a Monday morning.

I didn’t really appreciate living in Reddish until I had Ben. It’s been a great place to have a child, and I’ll be a bit sad to leave his first home.

But I’ll be more excited about moving on… More to come on that prospect!

 

 

 

Blog on MOSI, Blogging and Me

At the beginning of May, I went to my first blogging conference. This was Blog On MOSI, and I wrote my introduction to it here.

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The day itself was great. There wasn’t a train which would get me to MOSI in time on a Sunday, so Tim dropped me in to the city centre. Next to Starbucks. I had half an hour to kill before the conference opened, so I had a solitary coffee and played around with Tim’s fancy camera, a Sony hybrid. It had been one of my aims to learn to use it, and I hadn’t actually sat down and got to grips with it. Well, I learned to focus it that morning, so there’s a start.
The conference was held at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, which was a great venue. On registering, we were given a coloured lanyard to wear, which sorted us into one of 3 groups. I was in blue group. Your colour simply dictated the order of the sessions you attended.
There were three sessions, each lasting an hour: social media, writing and photography. Each one was hosted by a group of experts in that field, each with their own particular specialism. In between the sessions there was time for mingling, meeting other bloggers and meeting ‘The Brands.’
When I first saw the programme, I was a bit apprehensive. A whole hour for morning break? And again at lunch? And another in the afternoon? That was a lot of time for mingling. I’m ok at small talk, but that’s a lot of small talk to make. I didn’t know any other bloggers, in real life or virtually, and that was a lot of time to kill if no-one wanted to talk to me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’d never been to anything like this before, and the interactions with other bloggers were fascinating. “What’s your name? What do you blog about?” were standard opening questions. Then, “What’s your twitter?” Before I knew it, everyone had their phones out and were following me. Lots of people did seem to know each other, and many were talking about Brit Mums, another blogging conference, but there were definitely a few newbies. It was also kind of reassuring to see that people were tweeting about the same things that I was!
Then there were the brands. Sweets, children’s clothes, food, events and activities were all represented. All were keen to work with bloggers. Many of the bloggers there do sponsored posts, which they may get paid for or receive certain products. I was curious to find out more. We had been offered the chance to get business cards before arriving, but I didn’t take up the offer. More than once throughout the day, I wished I had.
I’ve never worked with brands. Since signing up for Blog On MOSI, I’ve had some opportunities. If you look for them, they are there. And at the time of the conference, I wasn’t really sure about working with brands. I thought I was open to it. But actually, I think it might be a bit like selling my soul. Blogging, for me, is a really nice hobby. I do all those cliched things, like ‘finding my voice’ and ‘think things through as I write about them.’ I love reading other blogs. I love that I choose what I put on the blog. I didn’t want to lose any of that. Also, with the prospect of moving away from our friends in the very near future, I think the blog might be another way of keeping in touch with people. I don’t want brands or products to get in the way of that.
So. That was the brands and the breaks. But what we were really there for was the workshops. Three workshops, on writing, photography and social media.
Social media is a strange one. I love facebook, but it doesn’t really generate any traffic or help me to promote the blog. I do have a blog facebook page, and you can ‘Like’ it here. The facebook discussion was an interesting one, but the main point seemed to be that facebook isn’t great for promoting your blog. Hmm.
I also love Pinterest. I could happily spend hours on Pinterest. Rebecca from Here Come the Girls held the discussion on Pinterest, and she uses it proactively to promote her blog. I’ve been following her, and she is really systematic. I think it helps if you have a real niche – hers is Children’s Activities. Perhaps I’m just a bit too vague and drifting for that.
I also spent some time listening to a discussion on Google+. I have to admit, it’s something I haven’t come across, and haven’t done anything about. One for the to-do list, perhaps.
The writing session was really good: three experienced bloggers from the following blogs held a discussion. Penny from A Residence, Helen from Actually Mummy and Jane from Northern Mum. They took questions, and had some really interesting and perceptive points. It was good to be reminded that we can let our blogs evolve – they don’t have to emerge onto the Internet fully formed. It was helpful to think about my own voice – not getting sucked in with other peoples’ style. I also absolutely loved what Penny said about her English teacher influencing her, and I’ve bookmarked her post about writing creative copy. The session reminded me of one of my original aims of the blog, which was to improve my own writing. Completely selfish, but true nevertheless.
My last session of the day was the highlight. Photography is definitely not one of my strengths, but I was inspired (as were many other people) by Lucy from Capture by Lucy. She had an incredible set-up, and spoke about props and styling. And she had a lot of props! She must have taken over three tables with trays, tins, flowers, books, papers, fabrics and so on. She had also set up a fabulous display with all kinds of bits and pieces on it. It’s probably easiest to link to her post about the day rather than try to do it justice myself, but here are a few photos I took during her session.
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Lucy also did a good tutorial on styling food that doesn’t look too appetising. This was originally a microwave meal stew.
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I still have a long way to go before I take decent photos. I have to really think about it, and I don’t have a natural instinct for it at all. However, I believe it is a great skill to have, and worth working on.
I do have the occasional crisis of confidence when it comes to the blog. You do put yourself out there, to coin a cliche. I’m not sure that I’m really creating the kinds of blog I admire. Yet at the same time, I’m aware that life is running on all cylinders, and there’s rarely time to fit everything it. When I go back to work full time in September, my time will be even more limited.
But I want to keep blogging. Mostly because I enjoy it. It’s a great resource for us, particularly with recipes and reminders of things. But also, I hope it’ll become a way of us keeping in touch with many of the people we see more regularly when we move. One day, yes, I might have time to really focus it onto something specific. But I’m not there yet.
The blog is still evolving. That’s ok.