Pyramids to re-open 27th September 2014

PyramidsWell the wait is over, and today it has been confirmed that the Pyramids Centre will re-open to the general public on Saturday 27th September 2014.

The Centre has been closed since the May storms when it was flooded causing significant damage.  BH Live and Portsmouth City Council have worked together to carry out complex repairs and also brought forward some previously planned improvements.

The newly refurbished centre offers families fun pools with flumes and a wave machine, and a three story soft play centre   A new café and fitness studio have been added to the multi purpose gym, and the spa will also be re-opening.

The centre will be offering some great new membership deals and the best way to keep up to date with the latest offers is to follow their facebook page. You can also find information on their website or by emailing

“Whilst the Centre has been closed, the support we have had from customers and local residents has been fantastic.  We have been working alongside Portsmouth City Council to re-open as soon as possible and, whilst most of the work done has been behind the scenes, there are improvements our customers will notice and the centre will be operating more efficiently to give an improved overall experience.” Mike Lyons, BH Live’s Director of Leisure Facilities

Councillor Linda Symes, Portsmouth City Council Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport said: “This is the news customers have been waiting for.  The severe weather earlier in the year caused substantial problems forcing the closure of the Pyramids.  However ourselves and BH Live have taken the opportunity to bring forward maintenance workds and make improvements to the centre.  This is really positive news for the seafront and on behalf of both the council and BH Live I would like to thank residents and visitors for their patience.”




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Charming Parties of Portsmouth

DSC_0083Last week I was invited along to a party where the soft play items had been provided by Charming Parties.  For those of you who haven’t yet come across them, Charming Parties started up earlier this year and hire out inflatables and soft play toys for birthday parties and other events. Jade Salmond, the mum behind the business, spotted a gap in the market when she was looking for suitable inflatables to hire for her two young children.  Whilst bouncy castles were readily available in Portsmouth and surrounding areas, inflatables aimed at pre-schoolers were not, and Charming Parties is the result.

I had the chance to see the unique toddler playground set up ready for a party along with some soft play shapes and giant lego bricks.  The playground is really quite large and can take up to 20 children at a time. Divided into four sections, your children can enjoy a ball pit, mini bouncy castle, air tubes for floating balls on and an up and over slide.  Suitable for children aged 0 – 5, this is a lovely inflatable and one which I would be quite happy for my toddler to play on – in fact the only problem really would be persuading him to get off at the end of the party.


The toddler playground is hired out as a package with soft play shapes, featuring jungle animals, with a monkey rocker, steps and slide and a baby play ring.  You can also add to your basic package by hiring large lego bricks, didi cars and, uniquely, a dress up box. The dress up box contains animal themed costumes in a range of sizes and a jungle background for you to take pictures of the children against.  The lego blocks were set out at the party that I attended and offer the children more varied play.


Charming Parties also have larger inflatables for older children and they are an ideal choice if you are looking to entertain a wide range of ages – for example at a wedding.  They also offer free downloadable invitations and you can up-grade your package to include party ware and bags as well – really taking the stress out of party planning.

All equipment conforms to PIPA standards, and as Members of BIHA (British Inflatables Hire Association), Charming Parties take pride in keeping their equipment spotless and sterilise and clean all the equipment before each use. As you can see from the photographs I took, the items are pristine and very well cared for.  It takes around half an hour to 45 minutes to set up and the same again to clear away, so you’ll need to factor that into your venue hire times, and you will also need a good clear access for the equipment which is heavy and bulky.

If you’d like to find out more then do have a look at their website, or contact Jade Salmond on 07704 208 369 or you can email them at

Charming Parties

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Glorious Victorious Festival



Our woman from Hackney, Annika Eade stepped into the breach last month when she attended the Victorious Festival on my behalf and here is what she had to say about it…

A good weather forecast for a bank holiday is about as rare as a music festival with accessible parking, or so I thought whilst preparing to attend Portsmouth’s Victorious Festival on Southsea seafront.  Most music festivals have always been family friendly, yet I have never felt tempted to take my children along. The though of negotiating the crowds with a  buggy, long toilet queues and over priced entertainment has continually put me off. So needless to say I was rather anxious as we headed down to Southsea in the car, packed up with children, buggy, raincoats and the ipad in case we really ran out of entertainment options.

IMG_4056It is with rapturous delight that I report that I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I hadn’t thought to check what, if any, parking might be available yet we were able to park around a 10 minute walk from the festival site for the very reasonable fee of £5 for the day. Also we didn’t realise  that to get to our destination we would walk through the jaw dropping events at the Kite Festival on Southsea Common, which included choreographed kite shows to music and kites in the shape of Batman, a variety of animals and a cowboy no less.

IMG_4159Once inside the festival we immediately headed to one of the two kids arenas populated with fairground rides, facepainting, bouncy castles, a soft play bus and creative area for little ones with artistic flair to name just a few of the free activities available. We could also have made use of the splashpool which was inside the festival site and open to paddlers and next to it was something I’ve never seen at a festival before; a designated area for breastfeeding.  My boys were very happy to queue up to sit in the ex-Falklands Harrier Jump Jet brought along by the Navy who had also brought along a selection of disabled weapons.  I couldn’t help raising an eyebrow and was quite pleased that as a result of complaints they had received they were actually putting them away and wouldn’t be bringing them back the following day.

IMG_4162I never thought I would get passionate about the layout of the festival, but Victorious was nothing short of genius.  I had never considered the hillock on which Southsea Castle is perched as a natural amphitheatre and everything was a short walk away.  There was a hugely varied selection of food available – we went with gormet frankenfurters followed by Malteaser icecream although would have really liked to have visited the Camp Cooks serving up burgers in full drag (couldn’t justify two dinners after all the ice cream).  I must also say a huge thank you to the amazing people who stopped us to point out that, mortifyingly our iPad had dropeed out of the buggy, its loss would have made the day far less value for money!  My son was also beyond ecstatic to be given a bubble gun, free of charge by a stall holder, as he was so captivated by all the bubbles emanating from her stall we could have just left him there for the afternoon.

IMG_4170The kids were having such a great time I was loathe to tear them away to the various music stages where the line up included Tom Odell and Dizzee Rascal.  I attempted to amuse them by bopping around to Lucy Spraggan doing the Fresh Prince rap but of course this only attracted horrified stares, and I don’t think the kids liked it either!  However, as my partner and I are die hard Shed 7 fans, we weren’t going to miss out  and we all headed to the highest vantage point next to the castle overlooking the state.  Never did I think I could attend an event where I would have the Solent to my left and Shed 7 to my right, not to mention all the child friendly entertainment to be had from the grassy  banks to slide down.   Amusingly I was forced to question at one point whether or not Mr Witter was possibly under the influence. I swiftly realised that I was actually hearing the dulcet tones of the delighted moshers in the front row to whom Rick was passing his microphone around.  To coin the title of their biggest selling album we certainly ended the festival on a maximum high.

Victorious Festival is in it’s second year at its new location on Southsea Seafront, having debuted at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. If you didn’t manage to get tickets or you just had such a great time that you absolutely must go next year, then you’ll be pleased to know early bird tickets are already on sale and you can buy them through the Victorious Festival website. Next year’s festival will be held on the 29th and 30th August 2015 and early bird tickets are £18.




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Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair is coming to Portsmouth


Lou Lou Vintage FairWe’ve been chatting to Jess of Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair which is due to visit Portsmouth Guildhall on the 7th September 2014.

What can we expect at the Guildhall on the 7th?

Shoppers can take delight in some of the UK’s best vintage traders bringing items from the 1940s right through to the 1990s.  Lou Lou’s Fair offers vintage clothing and accessories, collectables, home-wares, nic-nacs, jewellery and much, much more.  We do have stalls selling small items of homeware and furniture, things you can easily carry away with you on the day!

There really is something for every avid vintage fan at our fairs to enjoy.

We are very proud winners of  ‘UK’s Best Vintage Fair’ 2013 and 2014!

As well as the 40+ stalls, visitors can also enjoy a quiet moment with a cuppa and gorgeous cakes served on vintage china at the Vintage Tea Party while the Vintage Salon will be open to pamper and preen you into your favourite vintage icons.

The full vintage experience!

How did it all start?

Based in Sheffield, Lou Lou set up the vintage fair in September 2008.  Over time and by popular demand, the fair grew and the list of cities we visited became longer.  We now take the Vintage Fair to over 40 towns and cities across the country (and we’re still growing!)

Why Portsmouth?

It will be our first time in Portsmouth on Sunday 7th September so we are very excited!  We had been looking to visit Portsmouth for some time and after many hours of research to find the best venue possible, we decided on the beautiful Guildhall.  With its history and décor we think it will really add to the days atmosphere.

What is it about Vintage that appeals to you, and why do you think it has become so popular – almost mainstream now?

Everything about vintage appeals to us at Lou Lou’s! The quality, the nostalgia, the history of each item, even the joy of coming across a rare piece. People who love vintage are always looking for something new and unique to add to their wardrobe and that is why we enjoy finding the best traders and putting them in one place to create this fantastic one stop shop.  We’d like to think vintage is gradually becoming more mainstream now because people want that individual style and great quality that can be found with vintage clothing.

loulousLou Lou’s Vintage fair takes place at Portsmouth Guildhall on Sunday 7th September between 11 am and 4 pm, entry is £2 (under 12s free).  The wonderful ladies from Vintage Hair Lounge will be styling hair and make up in their pop up beauty salon.  For appointments and enquiries, email them at You can find up to date information on the facebook page and also on Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair website.





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Things to do in the rain in Portsmouth

(1) Cinema

If you’ve been thinking of going to see one of the summer films – today is the day. As it’s school holidays,  Odeon have extended their film club Odeon Kids and there is a film on daily at the moment. The kids club costs just £2.50 per ticket adult or child, and this weeks offering is Postman Pat: The Movie. Today’s screening is on at 11 am – check the website for other days. From Friday 15th Odeon Kids will show Frozen: Sing Along.  If you prefer to go to Vue then they are showing The Lego Movie and Postman Pat: The Movie at 10 am today for just £1.75 a ticket. Kids AM continues midweek and will show Postman Pat: The Movie until Thursday.

If you wanted to see one of the new films – and I can recommend How to Train Your Dragon 2 having seen it yesterday, then do check to see whether you have any Tesco points going spare as they are currently offering you tickets to Odeon Cinemas (nearest one is Port Solent) for just £2.50 worth of Tesco Vouchers. You’ll need to exchange your vouchers by the 1st September 2014 but having done so your cinema codes will last for 6 months. The normal deal is £4.50 a ticket it’s worth grabbing this now.

(2) Soft Play

Yes I know, not original, or particularly imaginative, but if your children are climbing the walls at home, far better to take them somewhere where this is actually encouraged whilst you have a cup of tea.  Here’s a list of local soft play centres - maybe try one you haven’t been to before.

(3) Swimming

We’ve plenty of swimming pools locally, and if you have a Portsmouth City library card you can register your children to swim free at Mountbatten Leisure Centre or Charter Community Sports Centre subject to a one off admin fee of £3.15.  You’ll need to take proof of your address, your ID and your library card. If you fancy a trip further afield then Petersfield’s Taro Centre has a good pool with a slide and vortex – family swimming today is between 10 am and 2.3o pm – check their website for other times.

(4) Museums

We’ve an abundance of museums in Portsmouth, who all try hard to engage children – if you haven’t been for a while, today is the perfect day for it. Portsmouth City Museum and the Natural History Museum at Cumberland House are free, and if you’ve visited the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in the last year, and gift aided your ticket, then your ticket will still be valid for 12 months after your visit. The dockyard has plenty of extra summer holiday activities on for children. If you’ve been thinking of going, and want to buy a ticket, then you can currently get 25% off the usual price if you book online and they will last a year and also allow you to visit the Royal Marines Museum, The Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion, Museum of Naval Firepower with a  complimentary waterbus taking you across the harbour to visit.

(5) You Tube – Teach yourself something

If your children haven’t yet mastered the art of making a loom band bracelet then have a look on You Tube where you will find literally hundreds of tutorials showing you how to do it. In fact, we’ve got one of our very own videos showing you how without the aid of a loom:

You could look up hair tutorials – this came in very handy for a Frozen party recently:

Or maybe get the facepaints out and practice some new designs:

Or any number of craft ideas. Don’t forget we also have a Pinterest page with lots of ideas on it.



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We review 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside

101What better time to review a book like 101 Things for Kids To Do Outside, than the summer holidays? Arriving a week into the break, when I was running out of ideas for less expensive entertainments, it was a very welcome arrival.

Award winning garden designer, blogger and mum of three young children Dawn Isaac has packed 101 Things For Children To Do Outside with games, projects, crafts, experiments and gardening inspiration to encourage your children to step away from their screens and get out in the fresh air. These ideas stem from Dawn’s perpetual mission to persuade her children to go outside, chronicled in her blog which features on the RHS family website. The horticultural advisor to popular tv program Mr Bloom’s Nursery, Dawn also runs family garden design courses in association with Mumsnet Academy.

The book offers quick 10 minute activities to full days of fun. From party games and treasure hunts to simple gardening projects, each project is simply explained and illustrated with colour photography.  The projects do not require specialist equipment and in many cases simply utilise what many households will have lying around. The activities are not strictly prescriptive, and if you don’t have exactly what is suggested, there is no reason why you can’t adapt and change using the book as inspiration.

As I was planning a trip to Queen Elizabeth Country Park last week, I took a look through the book and picked out three activities to try whilst we were there. We took two five year old girls and two nearly 2 year old boys with us.

(1) Take the Matchbox Challenge

The idea is to hold a miniature treasure hunt, filling your matchbox with as many things as you can find in 15 minutes and points are awarded per item. Problem No. 1  – I didn’t have any matchboxes. But, I liked the idea of the game and I thought it would appeal to my daughter who has magpie tendencies so, time to improvise. The only smallish containers I have are sandwich bags and these are duly doled out. We were walking from the visitor centre to a playground and picnic area at the top of a steep hill – something which would normally result in a lot of complaining on the way. Each child was told to collect as many things as they could fit in the bags (which really are only as big as my hand) and points would be awarded for each different item with duplicates only counting as one item. To my surprise, not only are the girls enthusiastic, the game kept them entertained all the way to the top and they were excited to find out who had won. I can see that the matchbox would have the additional challenge of having to be choosy about what you put in it due to size, since we had largish pieces of bark in the bags but the idea of the game worked very well and the adaptions didn’t spoil it in the least.


(2) Nature Rubbings

Ok, not a new game to me and not to you either I expect, but having the book handy and flicking thr0ugh as I was planning the trip did remind me to actually pack paper and crayons so we could do this – something I usually think of mid walk and regret not being better organised. This was a perfect activity as we got the flask out to make teas and kept them quiet whilst we all  got our breath back.

(3) Nature Signs

At this point, the attention spans of the girls wandered a bit and we lost them to the playground  and den building, so I didn’t actually get a chance to play this with them. They were however very obliging in fetching me sufficient sticks to make a few signs myself, which kept me amused for a bit whilst the toddlers slept and everyone else was off in the distance having fun climbing trees.


This is a game where you make a trail leaving signs using sticks and stones and the like.  This is a good activity if there are enough of you to make two teams or your children are old enough to follow your trail on their own.  In fact, I think a country park, forest or field is the ideal place for this activity as a trail around the garden (unless you are fortunate enough to have a large garden) is not going to be very difficult to follow.


There are plenty of other activities that I like the look of and a few that I have already tried  such as a pavement gallery – chalk pictures on the pavement or a patio. In particular I shall be trying out the giant bubbles activity, holding a snail race, making a pooter and a human sun dial. In fact, I almost don’t need children to do any of these things, because I am pretty sure they will keep me entertained for hours, let alone them.  Next year, when I plant my garden I will be getting the children to help me with a few of the gardening projects and I can see this book becoming extremely well thumbed.

The book contains ideas for any time of year, ideal for our unpredictable weather and you don’t need to have a garden as many of these activities can be done just as well if not better in your local park. At £14.99 it’s considerably cheaper than a trip to the local theme park and will keep on giving long after you buy it.

Finally, a note on the age range – if you have young children, as I do (20 months) then they won’t be able to do many of the activities themselves (although I can think of several off the top of my head that they could such as the pavement gallery and water painting), but they will derive a lot of enjoyment out of watching you and older siblings doing them and helping you to do them so really I would say this book is for toddlers and up.



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Fishbourne Roman Palace

Fishbourne Roman Palace 1Today we visited Fishbourne Roman Palace, just on the outskirts of Chichester, an easy drive from Portsmouth. Here you will find the largest collection of in-situ mosaic floors in Britain, laid around AD75-80, making them some of the oldest in the country. The attraction has a small museum, the main hall containing the mosaics, a recreated  formal Roman garden, Collections Discovery Centre and a café.

From the moment we arrived we were impressed by the friendly and knowledgeable staff. We were directed to all the child friendly exhibits and told where to find baby changing facilities.  Later on they were also extremely helpful in re-filling our children’s water bottles; I really can’t praise them enough.

The museum itself is small, but informative, and has plenty of child friendly interactive exhibits and games both of which kept my two children entertained. I took my son (20 months) and daughter (5) who each got something from the visit. The most popular by far of these were a chance to build a roman road, matching symbols with gods, dressing up and colouring. The museum has a lovely collection of roman clothes for children to dress up in and admire themselves in the mirror.

On hand was a member of staff dressed in costume explaining to visitors about Roman baths and giving them an opportunity to examine some exhibits more closely. Throughout our time at the museum, there were several talks and guided tours. Outside, spotted on our way in, was a Centurion putting a large group through their paces, on the grassed area near to the Collections Discovery Centre. The Collections Discovery Centre is home to all of the archaeological material discovered during the excavation of the Palace in the 1960s together with some of The Novium (Chichester District Museum) collection. You can arrange a guided tour of these collections by asking at reception. Not for us with such young children, but no doubt if you had older children this would be fascinating.

Lunch was a picnic in the grassed picnic area next to two grassed hillocks which I later discovered are the original spoil heaps from the excavations necessary to reveal the mosaic floors.  The children spent quite some time expending energy running up and down these. There is a café on site offering reasonably priced light snacks and cakes if you prefer not to bother with packed lunches. The toilets are clean and there is a baby changing table in the antechamber to the ladies loo, which if not beautiful, is certainly functional. I am delighted to report that the museum is breastfeeding friendly, and there were at least two mothers spotted breastfeeding happily. The museum is also easy to navigate with a pushchair for the most part.

Duly fortified we headed into the main part of the building to examine the mosaic floors, and although I had previously seen pictures of them, were really quite breath taking. The suspended walkways allow you to view from a height and take in the detail. Towards the end of the hall, there are a number of children’s activities. As you might expect, there were foam tiles to make mosaics with, and building blocks for younger children. There were interactive programs on a computer, and a large exhibit on archaeology and some of the methods used, which my daughter in particular found extremely interesting. We had a go at coin rubbing and there are also a number of children’s books on roman history to look at.

Heading outside we walked around the gardens which have been recreated from the original late first century bedding trenches. Towards the end you will find a kitchen garden full of plants used by Romans in cooking and medicines including sloes, figs, artichokes and of course, grape vines. There are more interactive games and exhibits in the potting shed at the end of the garden.

Heading back for the obligatory visit to the gift shop we discovered some fun roman cut outs and spent some time posing as Romans and Celts. The gift shop carries a range of Roman, Celt and archaeology inspired gifts. books and souvenirs, with a good selection of items under £2 for the children.

All in all, a very enjoyable four/five hours or so, and well worth a visit. We paid for two adults (£8.70 each) and one child (£4.30) as my son is under 5 and therefore free. The total cost was £21.70. We attended on a non-event day and there was plenty to see and do. The museum runs regular events which you can check for on their website.

If you are planning to visit during the summer holiday then you can have some Summer Fun on Thursdays at the Museum during August. Summer Fun days will feature ancient crafts and things to make and do, roman costume, working with clay, Roman writing, food tasting and a chance to meet an archaeologist and hand some 2,000 year old artefacts.   You can also see Gladiators in action on the 9th and 10th August when re-enactment group Britannia visit Fishbourne. They will be on hand to talk about their equipment and fighting tactics and there will be displays of gladiatorial contests in the formal Roman Garden. There will also be lots of hands on activities for the whole family. These extra activities are all included in the museum’s usual admission fees and will run from 11 am – 4 pm.

If you do visit, we’d love to know what you think – do leave a review on our listing and share your experiences with other local parents.


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Money Saving Deals on Days out in and around Portsmouth


HMS Warrior, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Do you have a Tesco Clubcard? Chances are you’ll have some points you haven’t yet claimed. Get on to the clubcard site and have a look – you can exchange your points now for up to 4 times their value and put them towards some great days out locally. Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully, the deals vary from attraction to attraction.


In Portsmouth itself you can choose from:

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Tickets – exchange £6.50 in vouchers per ticket
Royal Marines Museum Tickets – exchange £2.50 in vouchers for £10 worth of tokens
Spinnaker Tower Tickets – £2.50 in vouchers for £10 worth of tokens.

In Havant:
Staunton Country Park - exchange £2.50 in vouchers for £10 worth of tokens.

Further Afield in Hampshire:
Gilbert White’s House and Oates Collection - £2.50 vouchers for £10 worth tokens.
Hawk Conservancy Trust – £2.50 vouchers for £10 worth tokens
Milestones Museum - £2.50 vouchers for £10 worth tokens
Watercress Line - £2.50 vouchers for £10 worth tokens.

If you fancy lunch out you can also search for local restaurants and exchange your vouchers for up to four times their value too. Participating restaurants include Prezzo, La Tasca, Café Rouge, Snakeaway and more.

If you’re dreading the school uniform, new lunchboxes, stationary etc bill, then the boost extends to these items when you buy them online.

Groupon also offer great deals locally, not just for days out but for goods and services. A quick search yesterday turned up reduced price tickets for Fishbourne Roman Palace just up the road in Chichester, Whitchurch Silk Mill and Bursledon Brickworks Museum (including their Gala Days).


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Georgia Lindsay’s Family Garden and ‘Bub Tub’ Competition

Originally posted on London-on-Toast:

Calm and reassuring, the figure of a circle makes us think of a great big hug, and Georgia Lindsay, a finalist in  the 2014 Grand Designs Garden Design competition, created a garden full of them. We met the London-based designer during a family day out to the Grand Designs show last Spring and instantly knew we had to help her show it off!

Action man

A gorgeous metal swing seat designed by Steve Myburgh (Myburgh Designs) provides comfortable and playful respite from all the action in the garden. Artificial turf is used throughout. This can be cut in shapes to help form the lids for the tugs and circular play spaces.

The colours and shapes of this wonderfully child friendly space made my children beam, a response Georgia was clearly aiming for:

“The circles were very deliberate. Soft curves seem much friendlier and child orientated than angular lines.” I also was taken…

View original 891 more words

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Baby and Toddler Groups Open over Summer


art for childrenOne of the things that used to be a problem over the summer holidays was the closure of your regular groups. Six weeks with pre-schoolers without any structure can be difficult to fill. Fortunately in Portsmouth at least, there are plenty of groups which will carry on throughout the holidays – although some of them may be on  a reduced timetable.  I’ve started this blog post as a list and as and when I find any more I shall add to it – so keep checking back. I won’t add the days and times to the blog as the schedules vary so instead I’ve added links to their own sites and you can check directly with them. If you know of a class I haven’t added – drop me a line at

Jiggy Wrigglers - All Portsmouth Groups  (except for the last two weeks in August)Portchester, Rowner, Lee on the Solent, Stubbington (check their facebook page for up-dates).

Little Steps Gym - check their facebook page for regular up-dates.

Mini Makers, Aspex Gallery – Wednesdays 11 am £3

Play Southsea Groups – Will be running as normal except the last two weeks of August – Aileen may be able to run a couple in those two weeks but check the page for up-dates.

The Surestart Summer Holiday timetables are out – here are the links for the various areas:

Locality A – Northern Parade & Stamshaw CC, Paulsgrove CC, Portsdown & Drayton & Farlington CC

Locality B – Buckland Children’s Centre, Fratton & Landport Children’s Centres, North End & Willows Children’s Centres

Locality C – Somerstown & Portsea Children’s Centre, Milton, Baffins & Cumberland Children’s Centre, Southsea & Brambles Children’s Centre

Child Health Clinics - Link to the child health clinics.

Breastfeeding Support - Link to BfN facebook page and a list of groups taking place over summer.

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