London was looking so inviting in the May drizzle this morning but the longer evenings are definitely here. One of the things I love to do at lunchtime in the city is head out for a walk and eat lunch outside – seeking out secret spots and hidden gardens to perch in on a bench with my coffee and sandwich. The sun might not have been out today but it will will be back. (I have to keep reminding myself that, metaphorically too).

London is full of lovely places to sit for a while; little squares, tiny gardens and even a host of other not so tiny gardens which are probably unlikely ever to be used to their full potential because, deliberately or otherwise, they have been hidden in plain sight by the developers and planners. You have probably heard of the most famous one – the Sky Garden in the “walkie-talkie’ building which was created – primarily at least – to comply with a condition attached to the building’s planning permission pursuant to s.106 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990. There are however lots more which are totally accessible only often marked with tiny little signs as public despite the railings and gates (or security systems) suggesting otherwise.

Other hidden gardens are equally hidden but aren’t the work of a developer complying with planning permission and are more welcoming to the public, if you know where to look. This infographic which Artificial Grass London sent me has some great suggestions for some lovely hidden gardens which would make a lovely walk at lunchtime. I can also recommend one of my favourite locations near my office which is Lincoln’s Inn (not the Fields which are obvious, but duck through one of the gateways into the Inn itself and there are beautiful lawns and sunny benches, just right for a lunch break).

Are they any more suggestions that I should try? Any other secret gardens out there?

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How is it suddenly the Easter holidays? Every week I start the week with great intentions with a plan of what I want to write about and then before I realise it, the weekend has come round again, and nothing has been posted. We’ve been doing our usual juggling act of the school holidays and work but looking round today it occurred to me that I’d spent all my planning time on birthday parties and none on Easter itself. We’re not religious particularly in our family but I do love to gather everyone together for a good feast. Once again we are headed for M’s parents so I am going to try and gather the whole extended family for some outdoor activities, which will of course have to include what is now our annual egg hunt.

I bought Pip and her cousin the little rabbit bags and we also bought them vintage cardboard egg cases in which we hide smaller eggs (note to self, need to obtain one for Buster) but you of course do not need anything special, as you can see, my niece happily used the striped paper bag that some of the eggs came in as her collection basket last year. A fun activity beforehand could be decorating a little basket with ribbons and little chicks and so on which would make fun and darling photos, but of course is not necessary. All you really need is a few kid free minutes and some wrapped eggs of different sizes. I love that these hunts can be as elaborate or elongated as desired. And even inside as necessary dictated by our glorious English weather…

The Little Pip | Easter Egg Hunt

The Little Pip | Easter Egg Hunt

We often seem to end up using Easter as a recuperation time but if the last couple of years have taught me anything, it is that children want more excitement and anything that is easy to set up but has maximum impact for the kids always goes down well. I’ve also been a little influenced by our continental and scandi friends who seem to know how to infuse Easter traditions with tasteful activities and decorations. We’ve been in Copenhagen this week and everyone seems to be participating in a way that we don’t at home.

I absolutely loved this daffodil roof that we saw at Tivoli yesterday, with Easter Eggs and bows, and olive trees hung with eggs, that it inspired me to give some Easter decorations a go when we get home, and also to be bolder with our egg hunt than simply perching eggs in nooks of trees or balanced on window ledges around the garden.

Last year, we also did a lovely Easter Egg hunt at a National Trust property nearby, which Pip loved, so we will probably try and repeat that if we have nice weather on Good Friday… and which I thoroughly recommend if you have such a thing nearby and want a day out which isn’t too taxing. Pip and her Granddad thoroughly enjoyed following all the clues round the park, doing the challenges and solving the puzzle. Last year I literally waddled round at 39 weeks pregnant: this year, baby Buster will toddle round behind her.

And a couple of tips which might be particularly handy if you have a group of children of varying ages, to ensure the older ones don’t just capture all the eggs:

  • You could plan an egg hunt with a series of clues leading to each egg in turn. It would take a bit more upfront planning but we did it one year and the kids really enjoyed the clue solving element, and also adds length to the timings if you want to string out the activity somewhat.
  • Eggs by colour or style – you can allocate a type to each child and hide according to age. Anything to stop them all spying the same egg at once!
  • Hiding according to child height

Enjoy! I’m hoping to be back soon with some of the posts I’ve had in draft for weeks, and also some of our latest trips to Cornwall and Copenhagen. Happy Easter!

Nearly every day there is a new note in Pip’s school bag. Whilst we do have snazzy apps and tech to keep in touch with the school, like Classlist, and GroupCall somehow the paper in the book bag method pervades. The latest in a long line of health related information has been about the NHS National Child Measurement Programme. Excitingly data is collected from all reception children unless they opt out because:

About one in five children in Reception are overweight or obese, rising to one in three in Year Six. Because the number of children being overweight has gradually increased, we have slowly become used to it. It can be difficult to tell if your child is overweight as they may look similar to other children of their age. By recording their measurements, we can get an accurate measure.

Research shows that if your child is overweight now, they are more likely to be overweight as an adult, which can lead to health problems in later life. This measurement is an important way of checking how your child is growing.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but it did surprise me that at Pip’s school, they don’t do PE classes in reception. I asked about kit at the beginning of the year and was really taken aback to find that as they are not required to do it, they don’t offer it. When I read that “as a result of extensive independent research commissioned by ESP Play and carried out by Liverpool John Moores University, the average amount of physical activity taking place during PE lessons was remarkably low” I didn’t feel so bad though. The report demonstrated that “68% of a child’s PE lesson is spent stationary”  which seems rather high but then I remembered watching Pip’s gymnastics classes and skiing classes where a proportion of the class is spent queuing for a turn.

I don’t worry about Pip specifically, because she does do ballet (which is active) and gymnastics (semi active) and scoots everywhere (full on active), and spends all playtimes hanging off monkey bars or racing around, but (playground aside) those activities are not just expensive but the logistics of them and work is enough that I can quite see why they are an easy to avoid unnecessary complication in many family’s lives.

Is there an answer? Pip’s school seems to think so – all of the HSA fundraising that we do is going towards building a new playground which will include treetop houses, raised walkways, quiet relaxing areas and all sorts of ideas to get all sorts of children active, cementing the school’s forest school status, and bringing opportunity for physical exercise and interaction to all the children. Which is why I found the time to help (wo)man the bar the other week at an event, and the inclination to make costumes and support fundraising activities – so that all of the children will get increased opportunity, not just the ones who have parents able to pay for extra classes.

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