Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Sometimes you are in town and just need somewhere for refreshment with small child/children.  So here are a few choices in the middle of Lichfield.

Lichfield Methodist church

The Lichfield Methodist Church coffee shop (limited opening, access from Tamworth Street or Backcester Lane) is not fancy, but it is very relaxed and the volunteers who run it are all very friendly.  Most of the other customers will be retired people or other mums with small children who are using the playgroup upstairs.  It provides the cheapest coffee in the city (and a loyalty card!), together with a slice of toast for 20p.

Café Latte price:  £1
Favourite cake:  We like the teacakes for 80p but one is never quite enough.

Child friendly highlights:  High chairs, small plastic beakers of milk or juice, trainer seats in the toilets

Buggy friendly:  Ramps up to the front and back doors, lots of buggy parking space
Car parking:  Lichfield City pay and display parking

Spark Café Bar

This café is a relatively new addition to Lichfield’s thriving coffee scene.  It’s becoming a real community hub, with book groups, quiz nights, fundraising events and workshops all regular parts of their offering.  The grown up food is good, with soup, gourmet sandwiches (I love the sausage sandwiches) and main meals throughout the day and evening.  It has a young diners' menu, with smaller portions of the main menu for £3 to £6.  Drinks for toddlers run to a large glass of milk for £1 or grown up juice.  There are high chairs but no baby change. 

This is a locally run business, welcoming to all, and deserves lots of support.  In my opinion it does the best coffee in Lichfield, and is also the perfect place for a bit of time out without children.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Rosliston Forestry Centre, Rosliston, Derbyshire

Owned and managed by South Derbyshire District Council, the RoslistonForestry Centre is a large site, part of the National Forest and much of it was planted in the 1990s.  All the equipment in the large play area has been built from wood, with bark chippings everywhere and includes climbing frame and slides in a huge sandpit, wheelchair accessible roundabouts, balance beams swings and a huge climbing frame shaped like a bird of prey.  From the top you get a great view of the whole surrounding area (so my husband and toddler tell me!)  It also has a huge grassy meadow to bring your own football and picnic.

Beyond the play area are nature trails, lakes, meadows and paths.  It’s a great area for taking bikes, for treasure hunts and for going on bear hunts, or hunting for heffalumps or gruffalos.  We had a particularly nice morning here recently, just at the start of autumn, when the trees were just starting to change colour – all very beautiful.  There are also a series of family events, which we haven’t tried, and you can stay in one of the lodges, or even get married here! 

The Hub Café is close to the car park, and has a big log burner which makes it really cosy on a cold day.  They do a range of drinks, cakes and snacks, toasties, jacket potatoes and sandwiches.  There is plenty of outside seating, and the whole place is very popular with cyclists and families at the weekend.

Round up
Café Latte price:  £1.80
Favourite cake:  Fabulous chocolate and orange sponge cake £2.40

Child friendly highlights:  High chairs, basic baby change, children’s menu for about £4 and children’s lunch box for £3.20 (4 items).  Soft play also next to café  £1.75 for 30 minutes.
Buggy friendly:  The paths generally are, but the playground is on a grassy slope, so a bit tricky to negotiate.

Car parking:  Yes, £2 a day or a season pass for £20

Definitely one for good (or at least dry) weather days, but lots of space for lively children and a cosy café for the end of your visit.


Byrkley Park, Rangemore, nr Burton upon Trent

Byrkley Park is one of those garden centres that has turned into a destination even for those of us not especially interested in plants!  The main attraction if you have small children is the play area, with climbing frames, slides and balance beams (no swings).  You can also have fun in the animal area with sheep, mini goats and a range of chickens and ducks and the aquarium area – my son particularly enjoys spotting the fish and the (plastic) crocodile in the fish tank which blows bubbles.

There are three ride-on machines – a lifeboat, car and tractor.  These cost 20p each ride, so you may want to have your excuses or your change ready!  Pre-Christmas there is a grotto (which we haven’t tried) and reindeer come to visit.
A large area of the shop is dedicated to toys and books, but it is possible to get out of the shop area without going through this if you need to.  There are also a lot of breakables (plant pots, Christmas decorations, china dinner sets) and small items (jewellery, crafts) so your busy toddler will need some supervising.

The café area is large, with inside and outside seating, They offer the full range of drinks, snacks, main meals and afternoon tea.  The service is not the most friendly and it isn't my favourite coffee in the area, but they are often busy, particularly for Sunday lunch, and I suspect many people are regular visitors.

Round up
Café Latte price:  £2.20
Favourite cake:  huge scones with butter for £1.95 (jam 25p extra)
Child friendly highlights:  high chairs, crayons and paper in the café area, lunchboxes at £3.95 for 6 items, trolleys that look like Little Tike cars (although these are really hard to steer)
Buggy friendly:  yes, all areas
Car parking:  Plenty of free parking including parent and child spaces
Not great coffee but a regular Sunday afternoon destination, particularly if we need to buy birthday cards or presents

Monday, 15 October 2012

Lakeside Bistro, Beacon Park, Lichfield

In the last couple of years Lichfield’s Beacon Park has benefited from a multi-million pound makeover, which included a major upgrade to the play areas.  From baby swings and sandpits to a go kart track and rope swings, there is plenty here to keep children of most ages entertained.  My Thomas the Tank Engine obsessed son loves the red train in the middle of the younger children’s play area and the huge pirate ship where he likes to steer and walk the plank. 
There is also plenty of space for ball games and paths for riding bikes and trikes, benches and seats for picnics and on selected days you can ride donkeys.  The whole area is clean and well maintained, and the play area is very sensibly gated to keep your toddlers from straying into the lake!
Built as part of the overall upgrade, the Lakeside Bistro opened in spring 2012 in a great location next to the children’s play area.  This, and Chandlers Café at the Bird Street entrance to the park are owned and run by Chandlers, one of Lichfield’s favourite restaurants.  The Bistro does a full range of coffees, drinks (including alcohol) and snacks and has a reasonable breakfast and lunch menu, including specials from the restaurant.  It also does takeaway coffee if you want to drink your latte while your children play. 

Round up

Café Latte price:  £2.20
Favourite cake: the homemade chocolate chip cookies at £1.50

Child friendly highlights: high chairs and baby changing in the Bistro, kids menu from £3 - £4.50 for mains, party packages
Buggy friendly: yes, park and Bistro are all very accessible
Car parking: Easiest and cheapest parking is on Shaw Lane (20p for 2 hours up to 3.30pm).  But don’t park on the lines, or in anything other than a marked space –the Lichfield parking attendants are merciless.
So far we’ve only been there when it’s been quiet, and I’ve yet to see how they cope with a busy day, but the Bistro has added a lot to the park.  Even on a cold day we can spend a happy hour here.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sudbury Hall, Sudbury, Derbyshire

Sudbury Hall/Museum of Childhood is actually a National Trust property, but we have been there many times to the playground and café without having to show our National Trust membership, so I’m thinking that this bit is free to enter.

The big draw for children is the great play area in the woods as part of the Hall grounds.  It has a big range of things to climb, swing and slide on, including a pair of wooden houses linked by a bridge and a wooden boat which my toddler loves.  There is also plenty of running around space in the garden area and by the lake.

The café is in the old stable area and does standard National Trust fare – ie great coffee, loads of greatcakes, good choice for lunch – and all with local produce as far as possible.  If you fancy bringing your own there is plenty of picnic space on the lawn.  We went one day in school holidays to find a giant Connect 4 and chess set on the lawn.
The Museum is great to visit (even if you don’t have children) in order to revisit all those 1970s and 1980s toys you once had.  They have a copy of my Brownie handbook c1981 and a Millennium Falcon!  It’s very hands on too, so your children will be able to play and not just peer into glass cases.  Father Christmas also visits here in December (extra charge).

Added to all that is the 17th century house, the National Trust shop and the toy shop.

Round up
Café Latte price:  £2.35 for standard, £2.95 for large

Favourite cake: today we liked the chocolate crispy cakes for 50p but the scones looked great!

Child friendly highlights: children’s lunch boxes for £3.95, plenty of high chairs, microwave for heating bottles & food

Buggy friendly:  café is (although when it gets busy the additional seating is upstairs, no lift).  Woodland playground needs some off roading and can get very muddy.

Car parking:  Free in the NT car park a short walk from the Hall/Museum grounds.

Good for at least a couple of hours most times of year, but probably more if you want to explore the museum.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Fradley Junction, nr Alrewas, Staffordshire

Known in our house as “the boats and ducks” because those are the main items to see.  Fradley Junction near Alrewas in Staffordshire is the point where the Trent and Mersey canal meets the Coventry Canal.  The café next to the British Waterways car park is run by the owners, and provides a great range of hot drinks, sandwiches, snacks and cakes.  There are loads of seats next to the canal on fine days and reasonable indoor seating on wet ones.  Across the canal is a nature reserve with a buggy friendly boardwalk all the way round.  I never remember bread but the ducks don’t seem to mind.

On warm days the area is a hive of canal boat related activity and the canal locks are a source of fascination.  Don’t go if your toddler is likely to run off and throw themselves in the water as most of the area is unfenced and this would make for a stressful family outing, but if they are buggy-bound, or good walkers, this is a nice spot for a family stroll and refreshment.

Round up
Café Latte price: £2.10 for a large one
Favourite cake:  Millionaire’s shortbread
Child friendly highlights:  Children’s lunchboxes (sandwich, crisps, drink, raisins, chocolate, colouring book) for £3.60  Also smaller portions of beans on toast, egg on toast etc.  Highchairs provided.  And because they happily serve muddy dogs, cyclists, walkers and boaters, the chances are any mess your child makes will go unnoticed.

Buggy friendly:  café is but there is a gravelled area outside, canal towpaths are broad and flat but do get muddy

Car parking: £1 for the day at the British Waterways car park or free on the side of the road.


A good spot for a stroll and coffee or lunch any time of the week, any time of the year