Defend the Fort! A visit to Fort Nelson

Emily's Ipod Pictures 666Having spent so long listing Easter events and activities on the main Mumsnet Local Portsmouth and Hampshire sites, I thought it was about time I ventured out into the fresh air and actually went to see what was happening out and about. I decided to take the children to Fort Nelson just outside of Fareham to see what Defend the Fort! involved.

On arrival you have a choice of two carparks, one to your right which is across a busy road and further on, just past the Fort there is another on your left.  If you need disabled access or you have a pushchair you should definitely try and park in the carpark to the left as parking in the right one means crossing a busy road with children in hand and pushing a pushchair over pot holes and avoiding large puddles, followed by some awkward steps to get up to the path to the Fort.

Entrance to the Fort is through the visitor centre which has a help desk, Café 1871, and a souvenir shop. Here, you will also find lockers, toilets and baby changing facilities, and you can find more half way through the galleries.

photomartin3The day we visited the Fort, there were special activities on for the Easter Holiday which involved participating in a practice gun drill for £3 per child. We watched as the new recruits were put through their paces on the parade ground by a very enthusiastic drill sergeant.  Everyone was given a uniform to wear and a wooden rifle to practise with.  Having been taught to salute, stand to attention and fire (by shouting Bang! very loudly) the recruits were then led to a cannon and all had a chance to practice loading.  All looked to be having a great time, especially the drill sergeant.

We explored the ramparts as well as we could with the pushchair and an unco-operative 1 year old. There is a grassy ramp making these accessible and negotiated our way around the many families taking the opportunity to have a picnic overlooking the parade ground.

photomartin2The Parade Ground and galleries contain a large collection of guns and artillery ranging from a section of barrel from the  Supergun commissioned by Saddam Hussein to highly decorative Burmese Bronze cannons.  The museum is highly interactive and includes the Voice of the Guns gallery and leads through to horrible history style exhibits where you can dress up as Victorian figures, practice semaphore, or learn how to pack up your kit or even find out what gangrene smells like.  We finished up our tour by exploring some underground tunnels and looking at some preserved graffiti.

photomartinWe had lunch in Café 1871 which is lovely and clean, had plenty of highchairs and the sandwiches are freshly made to order.  Sandwiches and drinks for two plus a cake came to around £12 which was pretty good really. The souvenir shop  had plenty of little pocket money friendly bits and so we now have some more brightly coloured plastic to adorn the house. Yay.

All in all, this is a child’s dream of a place to visit with plenty to see and do, lots to explore and the space to just run around with the added bonus of it being entirely free.

If you visit Fort Nelson or anywhere else local, don’t forget to add your review to Mumsnet Local Portsmouth or Mumsnet Local Hampshire, so other parents can benefit from your experience.



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What’s on in Portsmouth this Easter?

Easter lambsThe Easter 2014 holiday is upon us at the end of the week, and we’ve got plenty of ideas for things to do in and around Portsmouth with your children.

A number of local attractions are running events for the entire two week holiday, in particular:

1. Step into Spring! at Staunton Country Park; meet the newborns on the farm and have a go at their Spring Trail or seasonal crafts.

2. There is a  Family Activity Area for the whole holiday on HMS Warrior at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard,  plus there will be various other activities throughout the dockyard’s other attractions ranging from Felting, Morse Code School, HMS Victory’s Junior Crew, Naval ER and more. Have a look at our listings for a full list.

3.  Get Me Out of Here! Commando Training will be taking place at the Royal Marines Musuem, suitable for the whole family.

4. You can find an Easter Trail at Queen Elizabeth Country Park,  plus additional activities on various dates including Beautiful Bugs Suncatchers, Art Stones and Clay Creations.

5. The Giant Easter Egg Hunt will commence on the 5th April at Spinnaker Tower, and you can hunt eggs every day until the 21st April.

6. Learn how to  Defend the Fort! at Victorian Fort Nelson and explore the tunnels, ramparts and fortifications.

7. For just 50 pence you can pick up the Easter Animal Trail at City Museum.

Groundlings Theatre are running several events, including Talk like a Pirate!, Kids Art Attack and if you fancy a family friendly show, book tickets to see Bugsy Malone showing from the 16th to the 26th.

Also offering Art sessions is Aspex Gallery who will be holding the regular See! Make! Do! on the 12th April (2nd Saturday of the month).  Children aged 8-13 can book to take part in their Easter Art Club. Aspex are also organising Spring Painting and Planting at Greenspace (in the grounds of Beddow Library) on the 5th, just turn up to take part.

Alice_in_Wonderland_mediumThink pantomimes are for Christmas? Think again – you can get tickets for the Alice in Wonderland Easter Pantomime starring Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee at the Kings Theatre. Fans of Sooty can see him the Kings Theatre on the 19th April for The Sooty Show! Kings will also be showing Gnomeo & Juliet on the 20th April.

Port Solent Kid’s Club will be running an African Drumming Workshop, an Easter Craft Workshop, a Circus Skills Workshop and a Fun Food workshop making Easter themed biscuits and not forgetting of course, the Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday.  You can also decorate and roll eggs down Butser Hill for the Great Butser Easter Egg Roll event on Sunday 13th April.

For sea themed activities, try Under the Sea! at Cumberland House, Natural History Museum on the 9th where you can meet some rock pool creatures with staff from the Blue Reef Aquarium.  The Blue Reef Aquarium will be running Easter Activities on Sharks this holiday although a press release wasn’t available at the time of writing this blog – I have it on good authority that there will be a new Shark tank to see. The Royal Navy Submarine Museum are running several events to celebrate the re-opening of HMS Alliance to the public including Natty Knots,  HMS Alliance Party Cakes, Alliance Rust Busters and Mini Monsters and Chocolate Eggs Subs.

Don’t miss the Easter Eggstravaganza at City Museum taking place between the 18th – 21st April featuring an Easter Egg Hunt, Indoor Market, Easter Arts and Crafts, Funfair, Donkey Rides, Giant Board Games and an Easter Bonnet Competition.

Roko, Mountbatten Leisure Centre, Pompey in the Community and Portsmouth Watersports Centre are all running Holiday Clubs.  For all of these you’ll need to get in touch asap to check whether there are any spaces left.

1653834_1411057209034352_1962085570_nLove Southsea will be holding their monthly Market in Southsea on Saturday 5th April, and Love Whitely takes place on the 12th. If you fancy a trip out to Petersfield, then you can find a Farmers’ Market on Sunday 6th April.

Port Solent are holding their Sunday Waterside Market also on the 6th April and again on the 20th (1st and 3rd Sundays of the Month) where you can find craft and artisan themed stalls. There is a new craft and artisan market The Makers Fayre which will hold its second ever market on the 13th April at Stansted Park. On the 20th you can also visit Southsea Farmers Market.

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What’s on this weekend in and around Portsmouth?

Lost HourThere is so much going on in Portsmouth this weekend I hardly have room to list it all here.  But I’ll give it a go anyway.

The clocks go forward on Sunday and to mark the occasion The New Theatre Royal is putting on activities throughout the city for ‘The Lost Hour’. You can try your hand at making sand timers on HMS Warrior, visit the Tudors at Southsea Castle or watch dance displays on Commercial Road. There is also a circus skills workshop and a drumming workshop. Have a look at our listings for more family and child based activities.

Saturday is also the day that WWF have nominated for Earth Hour, a mass participation event to promote sustainability by switching off the lights for an hour to raise awareness for the planet.  You can take part by going along to Canoe Lake to make wish lanterns with Aspex which will then be lit and floated on the lake with live music and entertainment.

There’s a Weird Science Story Time Special at Gosport Discovery Centre this Saturday and you can Meet the Tudors in a family open day at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre in Havant also on Saturday.

The Park Community School in Havant are running a table top sale this Saturday and will do so on the last Saturday of every month.

Sunday is of course, Mother’s Day and you can drop in to Southsea Library on Saturday to make a Mother’s day card. Whilst you’re there you could catch one of the two special storytimes with a brand new story Dolly Mixtures for The Lost Hour.

There are plenty of local pubs and restaurants offering special Mother’s day menus. If you do go out to a local pub or restaurant for Mother’s day, please do come and share your experience with other local parents by posting a review on our site.

Have a great weekend.

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What’s on in Portsmouth this weekend? – 22nd/23rd March 2014

ImageAs part of National Science and Engineering Week, this weekend there are two free workshops at Cumberland House, Natural History Museum.  On Saturday you can discover Nature on Your Doorstep, and Sunday’s is about Camera Obscura.

Alternatively you could be a plant detective for Science in your backyard in the Community Garden at Southsea Greenhouse and learn how to grow insect attracting plants and take away a cutting to encourage wildlife to grow in your back garden.

The University of Portsmouth is also taking part and there will be a free Crime and Forensics Open Day at the university  where you can wander through a ‘real’ murder scene, look for evidence and talk to scene of crime officers. Open to all ages, there will be a Cluedo Treasure Hunt for children throughout the day.  If you fancy a trip outside of Portsmouth then the Winchester Science Centre is well worth a visit and there will be science club activities running at various times on Sunday.

If you prefer to be outdoors this weekend, then there is also a Baffins Pond clean up scheduled for Saturday from 12 noon – 2 pm. Children must be accompanied by an adult, all welcome, wear wellies or waders and gloves.  Southsea Greenhouse are also running a workshop at Wymering Manor on Saturday – Mowing, Making and Mulching at the Manor. Why not join in with this fantastic new community project?

The Pillowmaker is a participatory musical and sensory adventure aimed at younger children, showing at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm on Saturday at Groundlings Theatre. The Kings Theatre will transform into a cinema on Sunday for a showing of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Both Groundlings and Kings Theatre run Youth Theatre classes on Saturdays, why not make enquiries and get your child booked for next term? All ages are catered for including the very young from 3 years.

On Sunday the Groundlings Theatre is holding a fundraising event to help Save The Theatre from closure.  The all day event will involve local stalls, a raffle, fun and games and live entertainment from 11 am – 8 pm.  The Theatre offers our children so much it would be devastating to lose it. Please do show your support by attending.

The Lord Mayor’s Bike ride takes place on Sunday starting at Victoria Park, activities will run in the park alongside, including a pump track, bike racing, competitions, a pedal powered smoothie maker and more. Activities from 10 am, the Half Island Ride (8 miles) from 11 am and the Full Island Ride (16 miles) starts at 10.30 am.

Port Solent Day Nursery and Pre-School will be holding a ‘Hungry for Learning Words and Numbers‘ open day on Saturday from 11 am – 3 pm, ideal if you are currently looking for a nursery for your child.

Little Pickles Market will be holding their popular nearly new sale at Mountbatten Leisure Centre this Saturday, contact if you would like to hire a table.

And finally, you can get your car washed by firefighters on Saturday at KFC Havant between 10 am and 4 pm who will be raising money for The Fire Fighters Charity.

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What’s on this week? 15th – 21st March 2014

The Enchanted Forest, Kings Theatre

The Enchanted Forest, Kings Theatre

There is Slimy Fun to be had on Saturday at Gosport Discovery Centre in a fun workshop for children over 5.  If you fancy a film with your children then most of the local cinemas show children’s films on a Saturday and in some cases a Sunday morning.  This weekend, Odeon Port Solent is showing Moshi Monsters: The Movie on Saturday and Sunday at 11 am for just £3 per ticket. Check with your nearest cinema for more information.

If you’re looking for a family show, try Robot Wars The 2014 Live Show taking place at the Mountbatten Centre on Saturday, or for a more musical evening, Groundlings are putting on ‘Lights on Broadway’ a tour through musical theatre. On Sunday you can enjoy The Enchanted Forest, a dance show at the Kings Theatre.

Also on Saturday, the St Phillips Table Top sale will be taking place  at 11 am and you can also find a Spring Fair at St Wilfred’s Church, George Street at 10 am. There will be a Hampshire Farmers Market in Emsworth  on Saturday from 10 am and on Sunday there will be a Farmers Market in Southsea in Palmerston Road.

Later in the week you can take your baby (under 1′s) to the Newbies session at Odeon Port Solent who will be showing Escape from Planet Earth at 11.15 am on Tuesday 18th March.

Groundlings Theatre are running Theatre Tours this year – the first tour takes place on Thursday.  This is a chance to have a look behind the scenes, and meet characters such as Charles Dickens, Jonas Hathaway and Henry Ayres.

And if you fancy trying a new baby and toddler group or class this week, why not have a look at our listings for inspiration to try one you haven’t been to before?

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Breastfeeding in Portsmouth

baby asleepYou may have seen the article today in The News ‘Mum left angry as she’s told to stop breastfeeding‘ at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.  It struck a chord with me personally, firstly because I have frequently breastfed my own son without any issues in the Cabin Room over the last year; and secondly because it was my mother in law who was there,  along with my son, and told the security guard to leave Ms Vaughan alone.

The article in The News did not mention the law on this issue, and sadly many people remain ignorant of it. The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for anyone to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public place, such as public transport, a restaurant or a shop. If you are ever asked to stop, feel free to tell that person that they are breaking the law by telling you to do so.

It’s such a shame that there is yet another story about a negative experience, particularly on the heels of the story about Emily Slough, snapped breastfeeding in the street and branded a ‘tramp’ on Facebook. Ms Slough’s experience led to her setting up a facebook event ‘the Rugeley Mass Feed‘ set to take place this Saturday.  Whilst it was an unpleasant, humiliating and upsetting experience for Ms Vaughan, it has resulted in the Museum reviewing their training and that can only be a good thing. Education and awareness are key, and the ensuing publicity has highlighted the message that it is unacceptable to ask breastfeeding mothers to stop feeding in public.

We are fortunate in Portsmouth to have a good breastfeeding resource available in the Breastfeeding Network who run free support groups throughout the city.  I found their help invaluable when I had my son, and I would urge anyone who needs support to get in touch with them. You can find a list of their groups here and their facebook page here.

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What’s on Weekend 8th/9th March 2014

See! Make! Do!

See! Make! Do!

It’s the second Saturday of the month which means that See! Make! Do! will take place this weekend at Aspex Gallery.  If you need supplies then try the Portsmouth Craft Show where you can also book craft workshops.

Groundlings Theatre  was to host Storybox on Saturday, but this has now been cancelled due to illness.

In Havant you can find puppetry, storytelling and song in Knight Time at the Spring Arts Centre. Further afield, the Circus Wonderland continues in Fareham until Sunday.

Love Southsea branch out to Whitely this weekend, kicking off a brand new market Love Whitely on Saturday.  Check our listing for a list of future dates.

Sunday brings Bananas in Pyjamas at the Kings Theatre, and Facepainting for Kids at Groundlings Theatre.  The facepainting is a free event, no need to book.

In Gosport an NCT Nearly New Sale  will take place at Thorngate Hall, Titchfield Community Centre will be holding the weekly Titchfield Auctions and the regular Sunday Car Boot sale will be taking place in Southsea.

There is also a wedding fair this weekend, at the Portsmouth Marriott.

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What’s on on Tuesdays?


This is a summary of the groups available on Tuesdays at Surestart Centres in Portsmouth according to the timetables for February – April 2014.


Highbury Community and Children’s Centre

- Sensory Room sessions available to book between 9 am and 12 noon.

- Stay and Play sessions for children aged 0-1, 1 pm – 2.30 pm

Medina Road

- Stay and play session for children aged 1-2, 9.30 am – 11 am.

- Parenting Advice sessions – drop in for free advice about behaviour and parenting 9.30 am – 11 am.

Northern Parade Children’s Centre

- Breastfeeding Support Group – drop in – bumps welcome too – 10 am – 11.30 am.

- Busy Bodies – (call to book) – for confident walkers up to 3 years – 1pm – 2pm.

Paulsgrove Children’s Centre

- Stay and Play session for children aged 1-2, 9.30 am – 11 am

Buckland Children’s Centre

- Childminder Group – 9.30 am – 11 am

- Stay and Play session for children aged 0-5 years – 1 pm – 2.30 pm

Landport Children’s Centre

- Stay and Play session for children aged 1-2 years, 10 am – 11.30 am

Isambard Brunel Junior School

- Physical Activities Group – for children aged 0-5 years 10 am – 11.30 am.

Portsea Children’s Centre

- Stay & Play session for children aged 1-2, 9.30 am – 11 am.

- Sensory Room sessions available to book between 9.30 am and 2.30 pm.

Somerstown Children’s Centre

- MABS – Multi Agency behaviour support service – support drop in for families with children up the age of 16.  9.30 – 11.30 am.

- Volunteer Run SEN Group – 10 am – 11.30 am.

Southsea Children’s Centre

- Bump & Me, Antenatal Group 1pm – 3 pm

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What’s on in Portsmouth Weekend 22nd/23rd February 2014

rsz_child_outdoorsThere are plenty of half term activities which will continue to run this weekend, including children’s trails at the Spinnaker Tower, and the Mary Rose Museum and HMS Warrior at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.  You can also see the last small arms demonstration on HMS Warrior on Saturday. Commando survival training for the whole family continues at the Royal Marines Museum until Sunday.

Splosh, Roots & Wings

Splosh, Roots & Wings

For something less military based, I would recommend a trip to Groundlings Theatre on Saturday, where Roots & Wings are putting on a new production ‘Splosh’ based on the book written by Mike Jubb.  The show, which is aimed at children under 5, can be seen at  11.30 am and 2 pm. This is interactive, so bring wellies to be part of the fun!

If the weather isn’t a total wash out then the Elves and Shoemaker trail is continuing at the Royal Victoria Country Park this weekend as are the Feed the Birds activities at Staunton Country Park.  Continuing the wildlife theme, you can enjoy a Winter Wildlife Day at Portsmouth Watersports Centre, completely free on Saturday, featuring kayak trips to see the seals, and Amazon Experience will be at the centre with some reptiles, and the New Forest Wildlife Park will be bringing along a meerkat and there lots of other fun activities including craft, facepainting and donkey rides. This one is not to be missed!

The very last two days of the Secret Egypt exhibition at Portsmouth City Museum will take place this weekend before the new Tricorn exhibition is unveiled on the 15th March.

Riverford Organic, Portsmouth

Riverford Organic, Portsmouth

Riverford Portsmouth will be putting on a cookery demonstration this Saturday at St Simon’s Church in Southsea – totally free, but to ensure they have enough tasters to go around, you should indicate you’d like to go on their Facebook page.

Not really one  for the kids, but if you like original art and crafts then Crafts in the Tower is back this Sunday along with a pop up teashop.

If you could do with learning some first aid then a new 6 week Baby & Child First Aid Course will commence this Sunday at Mothercare in Southampton.

Don’t forget to nip along and ‘like’ us on Facebook where you can find the latest up-dates and information.

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Birthday Parties (and how to survive them)

MN partyWhat makes the ideal children’s birthday party? Well according to a survey carried out by, the top venue for a party was a theme park, with lunch at Nandos, a laptop for a present and a guest appearance by David Beckham and One Direction. For those of us whose budget won’t stretch that far (and let’s face it, that’s pretty much everyone) here’s a run down of some ideas to make your child’s birthday party special.

1. Party Packages

Choosing a venue which caters and provides entertainment can really cut down on the preparation work you need to do and means no clearing up afterwards – and it can compare quite favourably on cost.

We have a plethora of softplay venues in Portsmouth from Pirate Petes, Krazy Kaves and the Farmhouse (Hungry Horse) to Mobys in Fareham which all provide birthday party packages including play time, a party room and a meal thrown in. You could even have the softplay come to you in the form of the Jungle Buddies Playbus, a converted double decker bus.

Older children might enjoy a more novel party at Explosion, Museum of Naval Firepower, or maybe the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport. You could also have a party at the Blue Reef Aquarium with a choice of Mermaid or Pirate party package.

For something a little different, why not try a swimming party, offered by Havant Leisure Centre or Mountbatten Leisure Centre. Alternatively you could try an ice skating party at Planet Ice or Quasar at Action Stations.

2. DIY Venues

Highbury Community Centre, Cosham £10 an hour to hire for birthday parties.

Highbury Community Centre, Cosham £10 an hour to hire for birthday parties.

If your child is planning to invite more than a handful of guests, then you probably won’t have room at home. For plenty of space to run around, consider hiring one of Portsmouth’s many community centres or church halls. Many are big enough to allow for a bouncy castle inside - a great option when the weather is awful.  Portsmouth is well served with businesses who will hire out bouncy castles, ball pools, soft play shapes and more. Have a look at our party supplies listings for more information.

3. Entertainment

Hosting a party is tiring, try and do it with someone else if possible.  It can be a great relief to hire an entertainer leaving you to get on with the food or chat to other parents.  Consider hiring a facepainter, a balloon model maker, a magician or clown. Younger children particularly seem to enjoy having a character mascot attend their party. Have a look at our entertainment listings.

4. Caterers and Cakes

Capital Cake Craft, Kingston Road, Portsmouth

Capital Cake Craft, Kingston Road, Portsmouth

Aspiring cake bakers who enjoy making cakes will find plenty of cake supplies shops in Portsmouth.  Whilst the rest of us all want to be as good as those contestants on the Great British Bake Off, most of us are either lacking in time or artistic talent to create the cakes that children seem to want most – the dreaded novelty cake. Once you’ve bought the shaped pans, the ingredients for the cake, the coloured icings in all the many colours you will need, it is quite likely to cost you more than paying a professional cake baker to do it for you.  You can even get local catering firms to put on a birthday spread for you or order party food from your local supermarket – saving you a lot of preparation time.  If you choose to cater it yourself it is a good idea to do a party box for each child containing basically a packed lunch – you cut down on waste and it is much easier to cater for as you know exactly what you’ll need.  If you want to avoid sugar induced meltdowns probably best to steer away from anything fizzy to drink.

5. Decorations and Party Bags

Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for party decorations, games and party food recipes.  The Mumsnet Portsmouth page has a board dedicated to parties. Why not start your own Pinterest account now and start pinning ideas to help you plan. Consider what you are going to put in your party bags.  Most of us end up binning the numerous plastic items that come in party bags and they can really add up.  A recent trend has seen parents buying one good item and giving that along with a piece of cake instead. Popular items have been lego kits, craft kits, books and colouring books.

6. Should I stay or should I go?

The consensus on Mumsnet seems to be that there is an unwritten rule that if your child is reception age or less, expect the parents of your guests to stay – their child is too young to leave with someone they may not know that well.  To be sure however, make it clear on your invite if you are happy for parents to drop off and then collect their children later, or whether you are expecting parents to stay.  If parents will be staying it is definitely the done thing to make sure they at least have tea and biscuits and if the party is over lunch, you’re going to need to feed the parents too.

7. Timing

Be clear about when the party starts and when it will end.  Two hours is more than enough for most children (and definitely for their parents). This is where having the party at another venue definitely comes into its own – as you won’t be the only person trying to draw things to a conclusion.

We have a page in our local directory for children’s party services.  Anyone can add a listing to the directory, all you need to do is register with the site.  To do this go to Mumsnet Local Portsmouth and click ‘Join’ at the top of the page. This will take you to the main site where you can join.  Once you’ve joined click ‘find your local Mumsnet’ which you will find at the top right of the page and join and you can then add a listing to the directory.  If you know of a really good cake maker, or a venue we haven’t included, please add it and share it with other parents.

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