The First Term of School

We arrived at school and dropped him off at his classroom. Off he went without even saying goodbye. The whole thing felt rather unceremonious if I’m honest!

A year ago, the first Mummykind baby began his first term at school. Of course that first term was full of firsts for him and us. Now he is in his second year of school and I found some of my musings from the time in my dusty drafts folder. I thought I would take a look back and share some of the ‘firsts’ of that first term.

The First School Run

This was possibly the smoothest school run all term if you can believe it. Maybe because he had been looking forward to it for months. We got up on time (even with a newborn in the house) and breakfast went down quickly, uniform went on excitedly and the sun was shining so off we went with plenty of time to spare.

School is just over a mile away and he kept up the whole way, beaming with pride in his new uniform all the way. (Now he asks to be carried from about half way if my husband is with us. He must know I would say no…) When we arrived at school we had to walk him round to his classroom and drop him off. I had no concerns about him just getting on with it, he has always settled well in new places. There were some tears from other children when we arrived but not mine, off he went without even saying goodbye. The whole thing felt rather unceremonious if I’m honest!

The First day of term

The first day of term for Reception class (kindergarten to our friends across the pond) was a week later than the rest of the school so everybody else was already settled and the teachers could focus on the little ones. The first day was a half day, as were the next four days. As far as I can tell he spent the day playing with his new friends – nobody from his preschool or toddler group went to the same primary school so he didn’t know anybody! But, as is his style, everyone is his friend from the moment they meet. I was worried that the bigger class and older children would overwhelm him being the baby of the year group but if anything, he was pretty miffed to see me at pick up time, he wanted to keep having fun.

The First School Dinner

For the first day only, parents were invited to join their reception children at lunchtime to help them settle into the dinner hall. School dinners make me nervous because of his allergies. They have a set three weekly rolling menu and on some days all he can/will eat is plain pasta. The school is good at catering for his allergies but I can’t expect them to cater to his selective eating as well. On the first day he did have plain pasta and on subsequent days he was able to have some proper hot dinners. I now find it easier to send him with a packed lunch once or twice a week and let him have the plain pasta every so often. Don’t bee fooled, he would eat plain pasta all day every day if I let him, he doesn’t feel like he is missing out!

A few things made me anxious on that first shared lunch time. His care plan hadn’t been finalised so the kitchen staff didn’t know not to give him milk and I was surprised to see that some of the older children were not very good at using their cutlery so yoghurts and grated cheese went EVERYWHERE. It is now time for me to trust my son to not touch those things, it’s a lot of responsibility for a four year old but he has handled it like a champ.

The First Parents’ Evening

This is the most adult thing I have ever done. there are lots of things you have to be an adult to do but this really takes the biscuit. I am married with two kids, I drive and own a company… still not as grown up as being the parent at parents’ evening. My own personal revelation aside, my son is thriving. I had considered keeping him back a year as a summer born, particularly as he was still almost entirely non-verbal at 2 years old. My worries started to subside

The First School Event

My son was so ready for it. The school put on an autumn faire with rides and games and a talent show. Some of the teachers dressed up for a performance and there was even a little bit of food that he could eat before the evening closed with fireworks. It was amazing to be enveloped in the community and it was so fun. It was a brilliant way to close the term, with all of its ‘firsts’.

Mental Health Monday: The Aftermath of Christmas with Sensitive Kids

We have had a fabulous family Christmas. It’s been intense but it’s been fun and full of love and laughter. We’ve had overnight guests, cooked for 10 on Christmas day and then another Christmas dinner for 8 on Boxing day. It’s such a busy week every year because we are the ‘hub family’ and tend to host more than anyone else for the sake of practicality. We love it, but something happens with our little boy when things get crazy.

Our usually well behaved little guy becomes completly horrible. It started on Christmas eve when we accidentally lost track of time and didn’t feed him his lunch before we left the house, we had to stop at the only place I knew I could get a quick bit of dairy free food for him and hope for the best. So he had a muffin from  a coffee shop for lunch. The rest of the day involved full blown tantrums over every single little thing, in the packed town centre (our own fault for being disorganised I suppose!). As a result, we spent far longer out and about than we had planned and of course that just made things worse. When we got home we still had tons to do and he just wanted to cling to us relentlessly. Anyone who knows our little guy will know how fiercely independent he is, and how uncharacteristic clingy behaviour is. He has been going from cuddly to lashing out at us over the tiniest thing. I’ve had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t doing it on purpose, he was just tired and confused. We stopped the feverish tidying  and organising and played trains on the floor until his eyes started getting heavy and put him to bed, he had conked out before I had even finished reading to him.

We didn’t think much of his low appetite on Christmas eve, but after we specifically made him mashed potatoes and peas to go with christmas dinner the next day and he didn’t even touch two of his favourite foods we knew this was more than just fussiness. The over excitement had drained our little lad and then we sit him at a usually calm table with 9 other people, Christmas crackers and music and expect him to eat dinner as normal but at lunch time? No. It just wasn’t happening. We let him go, knowing there had been a bit of snacking and that we could try again later. He had a late nap, followed by a jam sandwich and more excitement – the poor kid doesn’t know which way is up and which way is down by the time he gets to bed 3 hours after his bedtime.

Boxing day rolls around and we do it all again with my side of the family (on a slightly smaller scale). There are sweets and snacks everywhere, he somehow gets away with eating an entire moo free cocolate Santa in one hit, he’s completely baffled by how much other stuff has cows milk in it so he isn’t allowed to eat it but everyone else is.

When he refused his meal again on Boxing day I felt a pang of guilt that we had put him in this position, he’s acting out because suddenly everything he knows has changed in the blink of an eye and he has no idea how to handle it.

I’m tempted to pack away the decorations early to help us get back to business as usual  as soon as possible, because my poor little guy is exhausted and miserable now, especially since all the presents are done and the people are gone. We’re just left here with wrapping paper all over the place and a super fractious little boy who is needing a lot of contact and reassurance.

So if you need me, I will be on the sofa cuddling my toddler until the new year. See you on the other side.

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My first smear test

The most awkward part really is the getting undressed bit. Both my kids are summer babies so all my late pregnancy speculum exams have been easy, I was wearing a dress! This time I had to try not to get tangled in my own skinny jeans. The rest is all pretty straightforward.

Way back in March I got a letter inviting me for my first smear test because I was about to turn 25. I was pregnant at the time so had to find out if you can have a smear test during pregnancy. Turns out you can, but it’s best not to.

After going overdue and then waiting the recommended 6 weeks post partum it was late October before I booked my test and I was nervous. Not for the usual reasons, I’ve recently given birth with various medical professionals all up in my business. They have seen it all and I have had speculum exams and cervical sweeps galore. No, I was nervous because of my scarring.

TMI WARNING: When I gave birth the first time I had an episiotomy, it was stitched too far and left me with excess skin. When I gave birth the second time I ripped it. With a second degree tear. I was stitched up well, no extra stitches this time, no extra bit of skin. But now I have a mass of scar tissue that is tight and painful.

So I arrived at my appointment and explained this all to the nurse and she was lovely about it. She told me a similar thing happened to her and that she would naturally be gentle and swift and use plenty of lube.

The most awkward part really is the getting undressed bit. Both my kids are summer babies so all my late pregnancy speculum exams have been easy, I was wearing a dress! This time I had to try not to get tangled in my own skinny jeans. The rest is all pretty straightforward.

The nurse was quick and efficient, I let her know that it was painful around my scar tissue and she told me should could see it and understood why it was painful, she took the swab which wasn’t comfortable but it wasn’t painful either… and it was over in no time at all. The only real pain was because of an issue with my own body and not what the nurse was doing.

Incidentally, the nurse told me that it was likely that I would require reconstructive surgery if my scarring hadn’t softened after 6 months, so if you like a good TMI post then watch this space, I’ll tell you all about it!

The results for my test came back normal for anyone wondering. I am so thankful that I was able to have such an important test and relieved to have good results.

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Why I decided against a home birth

I want to start by saying I LOVE the idea of a home birth and adore hearing people’s experiences of giving birth at home, so please don’t read this as anti home birth, these are just the reasons it wouldn’t have worked for me.

I had never considered a home birth until a saw a friend talking about it being what she wanted when she was pregnant and later what a wonderful experience it was. It piqued my curiosity and sure enough several of my friends had done it or planned to. I joined a group on Facebook (as you do) and started seriously considering it myself. In the end, for a couple of reasons, I opted for a birth on the midwife led unit at my local hospital.

So, why didn’t it happen?

I mentioned it to a few people, close friends and family and they were all terrified. No matter how much I explained why it was just as safe as the hospital and that it would be okay there was always fear. My husband witnessed my previous traumatic birth and still struggles with it himself and my mum had to have an emergency cesarean with my brother. These were to two people I needed on board, wholeheartedly, or it wouldn’t have worked.

I don’t want to hear how it’s my body, my birth and my choice – I know that, just ask the midwives who were around for my birth. If I had gone ahead with a plan for a home birth they both would have stood by me but not with the confidence and conviction I would have needed from them. I didn’t have my heart set on it and I certainly can’t hold it against anyone, it just wouldn’t have been right and it was 100% my choice. A home birth is supposed to be in a relaxed environment with no fear or negative energy and as supportive as they would have been if I told them that’s what I was doing I have a feeling they would have been poised to call an ambulance the entire time.

Of course, there is also the small matter of my house not being at all “birth ready”. I’ll be the first to admit that it is a total mess, particularly towards the end of pregnancy when I could hardly move without pain and a four year old with a massive aversion to tidying. Not to mention the fact that I wanted a water birth and had nowhere big enough for a birthing pool. I really didn’t fancy giving birth in the chaos.

I stuck around in the Facebook group I joined. It was a hugely helpful resource for learning my rights as a pregnant woman and helping me decide how I wanted my birth to be. I’m not sure exactly how confidently I could have delivered a 9lb 8oz baby at almost 42 weeks with no intervention without them.

I would encourage every pregnant woman looking for an empowering birth to at least look into home birth, even if you decide it isn’t for you. The things I learnt along the way shaped my attitude which got me the positive birth experience I craved.

Have you had a home birth? How was your experience?

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A New Mummykind Baby!

My baby arrived a couple of weeks ago so I thought it would only be right to introduce her to our followers with a bit of a “life update” after so many pregancy posts (and more to come from my drafts folder that need a bit of polishing up!)

As you may have noticed I don’t share the name of my son online and the same goes for my daughter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some gorgeous pictures of the new baby Martin.

She arrived when I was 41+3, weighing in at an eye watering 9lb8oz which might not have been so bad if she didn’t pop an arm out at the same time as her head. Not cool little lady, not cool.

We have been spending the days breastfeeding pretty much non stop, as she rather unsurprisingly has a tongue tie and tires easily when feeding. Getting used to life as a family of four has seen a handful of fairly small challenges so far, we’ll see how it is when the oldest starts school next month!

Keep an eye out for my labour and birth story and a backlog of pregnancy posts including: packing my hospital bag, why I decided against a home birth and how I handled my late term pregnancy.

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Mental Health Monday: Dealing with previous birth trauma during pregnancy

I am sitting with my midwife and letting the tears roll down my cheeks as I explain how I HAVE to be in control, even of things go wrong I NEED the information and the facts, natter how frightening they sound. I need a plan in place for everything so I know that what is happening to me is MY choice, and I consent.

Mental Health Monday: Dealing with previous birth trauma during pregnancy

I spent a long time denying that my first birth was traumatic and after that I spent a while playing it down, yes it was traumatic but it wasn’t THAT traumatic. How could I be traumatised? What right did I have? I’m healthy (ish) and my son is healthy (ish) and we made it through the whole thing relatively unscathed.

Turns out, I was wrong. Very wrong. And I didn’t really let that trauma in, I didn’t accept it or start deal with it until I was already pregnant again, three and a half years on.

So, for context, let’s look at what went wrong…

My labour was 18 hours, culminating in an episitomy and forceps delivery with a spinal anaesthetic that took around 5 attempts to insert between heavy contractions. I had been pushing for 2 hours solidly with no progress and had been given pethedine which was making me lose consciousness between contractions and wake up in extreme pain and confusion, scared out of my wits. My baby was in distress, registering a heat rate of 58bpm and I had been told that I wasn’t trying hard enough – I couldn’t communicate that I could feel that my baby was stuck. I believe my baby was stuck because I was told that I must be ready to push by now, so I started pushing before my body told me to.

Now, there are worse births, but this was not okay. I was not okay. This whole ordeal was followed by a harrowing week in hospital as my son fought jaundice and I was readmitted because of infection caused by retained placenta.

What’s going on this time then?

I wrote about taking control of my second pregnancy very early on, but as my due date approaches my head is now focused on the impending birth.

In thinking about how things went last time I began to recognise that the root of my trauma was the very stark and sudden loss of control, when things were taken out of my hands it was terrifying.

I am tackling the issue by filling my head with information because knowledge is power. I’m learning more about how my body works, what it does and why. I am researching pain relief options and what the side effects are and whether they can slow down labour or pass through the placenta to the baby.

I am sitting with my midwife and letting the tears roll down my cheeks as I explain how I HAVE to be in control, even of things go wrong I NEED the information and the facts, no matter how frightening they sound. I need a plan in place for everything so I know that what is happening to me is MY choice, and I consent. I am very determined not to have any medical intervention this time but I know that sometimes things are beyond our control, so it is important to me to have a comprehensive plan in place for a variety of outcomes. I am going to meet with the midwives at the hospital midwife led unit to write up a formal plan that can be communicated with the team ahead of time so they don’t accidentally repeat the mistakes from last time.

Honestly, I am not even scared anymore. I still get emotional about last time but all that does is fuel my determination to have a better outcome this time. I’ve found the process so far to be very therapeutic and I feel like I have made steps to recover. Keep an eye out in the next few weeks for my birth story!

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Why I’m harvesting colostrum at 35 weeks

I haven’t told all that many people that I am antenatally expressing my colostrum (first milk) into tiny little syringes but I am and I am actually pretty proud of myself at the moment (even though my running total is 1.5ml at the time of writing).

I haven’t told all that many people that I am antenatally expressing my colostrum (first milk) into tiny little syringes but I am and I am actually pretty proud of myself at the moment (even though my running total is 1.5ml at the time of writing).

So why am I doing it?

Tongue tie

Primarily, I decided to do this because I have a tongue tie, my son has a tongue tie and so do several members of my immediate family who have subsequently had issues breastfeeding. There is very real risk that this baby will have a tongue tie as well and having a supply of milk that she doesn’t need to work so hard for could buy us some time to get it sorted.

When I was pregnant with my son four years ago I had no idea that I could save this stuff and that it could be even remotely useful. As it happens, the reason babies can survive on so little before your normal milk comes in after a couple of days is because colostrum is high in sugar, fat and calories. It really is amazing stuff and I want my baby to have it even of it can’t come direct from the source right away.

Allergies

At 2 days old, between phototherapy lights for jaundice and having my boobs manhandled by several midwives a day because I wasn’t “feeding right” I was coerced into feeding my son a bottle of cows milk formula because “his blood sugar must be low and he’s too exhausted to feed” even though frequently falling asleep at the breast before finishing a feed is a tongue tie symptom that should have been spotted by these experienced professionals. He promptly threw up pretty much the entire feed and we were back to square one. Now, I have no real evidence to back up this theory but part of me believes that if I hadn’t been guilt tripped into giving that bottle of formula my son might not have developed an allergy to milk. Tiny little babies aren’t designed to break down such complex proteins. If there is even the smallest chance that I can avoid this baby going through what my son still suffers I will take it.

Being in tune with my body

Last time I didn’t know what my body was capable of so I didn’t trust it and I didnt work with it, I possibly even worked against it. I remember being told to just express a bit of milk by hand onto a spoon or something and I just didn’t really know how to handle my breasts effectively (sounds daft, right?) so I didn’t get anything out.

I did go on to pump breastmilk a little and learn how/when it was best to do that and what my breasts responded to and what they didn’t but it was slow progress with a lot of sore nipples and heartache. It was also nearly four years ago.

Being prepared like this, knowing what my body can do and understanding some of my limits is making me feel stronger as I head towards full term and much more confident that my body can take care of my baby.

Recovering from trauma

I haven’t talked too much about the trauma of my son’s birth and the weeks that followed it. They somehow manage to be both the best and worst weeks of my life and unfortunately a lot of the happiness is still shrouded by simmering anger. I have been working hard to turn that angry energy into positive progress throughout my pregnancy and expressing my colostrum is surprisingly therapeutic. All the knowledge and experience I gained from being let down over and over with my first child is being channelled directly into making more informed choices this time. Any bitterness I felt towards my boobs for letting me down (yes, that’s a thing and yes, I know it’s silly) is melting away now I can see how well they are already working for my unborn child.

If I am separated from my baby at birth

No one wants to think about some of the things that could go wrong during labour and childbirth or unexpected complications with mother or baby that result in separation at birth but sometimes it does happen. If I am unable to attend to my baby’s needs for whatever reason then I know she will have a little stock of my milk to get her through for a little while, packed full of my antibodies to protect her in this big scary world.

Gestational diabetes

Now, I don’t have gestational diabetes but it definitely deserves a mention here! If a mother has GD then there is a risk that her baby’s blood sugar could drop rapidly once they are born. Having expressed colostrum on hand means baby will be able to get the sugar they need quickly without the need for formula milk.

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Swimming to Help With Hip Pain in Pregnancy

The weightlessness of being in the water is bliss in itself, but what it enables me to do is move. I can keep my mobility up without wearing myself out and causing further pain. I missed a swim due to illness and by the next day I was unable to walk more than a few feet – I fully believe I would be on crutches by now if I wasn’t still swimming regularly.

Tweet to @mummykindoff

When I found out I was pregnant at 5 weeks I was halfway through a course of hydrotherapy to help with my Fibromyalgia but when I told the physiotherapy team about my pregnancy they decided that the hydrotherapy pool at the hospital was too warm for it to be safe for me to use and I wouldn’t be able to complete my course. I was absolutely gutted, the pain relief afforded to me by being in that pool was incredible. When they turned me away I almost cried.

Even before I found out I was pregnant the pain in my hips was the focus of my physiotherapy which I attribute to my son getting stuck during labour and requiring a forceps delivery. Naturally, I was apprehensive about hip pain being a problem this time and, unsurprisingly, I was right to be concerned.

As my normal fibromyalgia flares turned into sharper twinges I realised I needed to get back into the water and I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain any level of fitness on land. Having spent several years saying I should join a gym whilst also avoiding actually signing up, I finally took the plunge. I packed my swimming gear and hit the local gym after dropping my son at nursery one morning and signed up for a swim only membership there and then and it has saved me from a whole world of pain since.

I have been swimming three days a week after the nursery run for four months now, at one point I got up to 40 lengths of the pool and I was feeling really fit, since the baby decided to move into my lung space I can only manage 20 but it’s not the lengths that are important, it’s about being in the swimming pool to take the pressure off of my hips, well, all of my joints really. The weightlessness of being in the water is bliss in itself, but what it enables me to do is move. I can keep my mobility up without wearing myself out and causing further pain. I missed a swim due to illness and by the next day I was unable to walk more than a few feet – I fully believe I would be on crutches by now if I wasn’t still swimming regularly.

This ability to move about was missing in my first pregnancy, so my health suffered. I gained a lot of weight last time which I think I have been able to avoid this time… I suppose we will find out how effective it has been in a couple of months!

As my pregnancy progresses I am slowing down somewhat but there is an amazing level of support from the other “slow lane” users at the pool. When I started this I was not expecting to make friends but I have. The support from these strangers means I know I will be able to continue to use the pool until the end of pregnancy… even if I can only wander about in the shallow end in a few weeks.

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Review: Chaffree Knickerboxers During Pregnancy

Nothing I have tried has come close to the comfort and support offered by Chaffree Knickerboxers. I was concerned that they wouldn’t be suitable for me because I.m pregnant and they don’t offer maternity sizes but I am pleasantly surprised that at 27 weeks pregnant I am still getting on well with them.

Tweet to @mummykindoff

Let’s be frank here for a second, shall we? Thigh chaffing, the infamous “chub rub”. Most women, regardless of size, know what I mean. I have suffered through it and struggled to find an actual solution to this for years – I’m not much of a skirt/dress wearer and this is probably why.

I have tried chopping the legs off of my tights and leggings and wearing them as shorts but unsurprisingly the bottom of the legs would roll over themselves and make the problem worse.  I have purchased shorts specifically for the job – most notably the flimsy white ones that I bought to try and get through my wedding without catching my dress on fire from the thigh friction. Thank goodness my wedding dress went to the floor and wasn’t figure hugging because I can only describe those shorts as “gigantic bloomers” and they set me back £15 – for only another £3 I could have had a pair off Chaffree Knickerboxers… if only I had known. 

Honestly, nothing I have tried has come close to the comfort and support offered by these Chaffree shorts. I was concerned that they wouldn’t be suitable for me right now because I am hugely pregnant and they don’t offer specific maternity sizes but I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised that at 27 weeks pregnant I am still getting on well with them. I was a size UK 14/16 pre-pregnancy so I got the M/L size to fit UK 16/18/20 and they’re only just getting snug.  As a realist, I predict that this pair probably won’t be comfortable for me right up until the end of my pregnancy at the rate I’m growing, but they are not too tight yet! I’m considering just rolling the waistband down once they become too tight around my ever growing belly.

Inside of the legs/crotch

When the shorts arrived I realised that they have a slim padded section that almost looks like towelling but it is synthetic so I was concerned that I would get very hot in them and sweat but actually the oppposite happened, they kept me very much cool and dry. The main material feels like thick tights to touch but the wizardry that keeps them from riding up or drooping down like tights is impressive. 

I got the ‘long’ leg Knickerboxers, which I thought would be fine as I am not much of a short dress wearer and I worried about them rolling up if they were too short. At 5’3″ (29″ leg) I would say the long is just slightly too long for me unless I am wearing a dress on or below the knee – anything above the knee can flash them a little bit – what I didn’t account for was my dresses appearing shorter after they’ve made their way all the way over my bump!

As far as I can tell these are not intended to be a shapewear garment – they have too much stretch for that – but I have found them to be supportive and flattering. They hold my bump up and take some of the pressure off of my hips and seem to smooth out some of my wobbly bits without being constrictive. 

My one quibble with the product is the use of synthetic fibres and the risk that poses to the environment – if they developed a natural fibre product I wouldn’t hesitate to buy every colour – as it is, I am pleased that one good quality garment is replacing all of  my feeble attempts at comfort. 

What other products have you come to swear by during pregnancy?

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Blue Reef Aquarium, Smuggler’s Adventure and Hastings Castle

annual tickets entitle you to use the Aquarium as well as visit the Smuggler’s Cove and Hastings Castle. We used the Aquarium tickets a few times over the year and a few days before his 3rd birthday we decided to hit all three attractions in one day

For my son’s second birthday my husband an I took him to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Hastings, East Sussex. He loves animals and was really into fish at the time so it was perfect. When we looked at prices we decided to get annual passes because they were very good value for money and our son would get another whole year of free entry.

The annual tickets entitle you to use the Aquarium as well as visit the Smuggler’s Cove and Hastings Castle. We used the Aquarium tickets a few times over the year and  a few days before his 3rd birthday we decided to hit all three attractions in one day along with three more adult family members.

Using our passes we were able to get a further 10% discount on the price of the already discounted “triple” tickets so we were quite pleased with the price of entry to the attractions.

Blue Reef Aquarium

As aquariums go, this one is actually quite small but I feel like it is fairly reflected in the price of a ticket when compared to others like Sea Life. If you want to go somewhere that is a whole day out then this is not for you, but if you’re looking for an enriching morning or afternoon then it’s perfect!

There are several scheduled talks and feedings throughout the day and we were lucky enough to watch a few of them. There is also a reptile section that my son absolutely loves, we got to hold a boa constrictor which was pretty cool. The staff are all friendly and helpful and seem to really care about the animals and the work they are doing which makes a really lovely atmosphere.

The aquarium has a small gift shop, a cafe and accessible toilets with baby changing facilities.

The food and drink in the cafe are pleasant enough and are inline with seaside prices. Sadly, they weren’t able to cater for my son’s allergies but they were apologetic and able to provide allergen information easily at my request. They had no issue with my son eating his packed lunch whilst we all had a coffee.

One thing that I do find quite disappointing about both the cafe and the gift shop is the lack of environmental sustainability. The cafe readily uses plastic cutlery, straws and single use cups and the gift shop sports a whole host of “cheap and cheerful” toys and souvenirs. I would have thought that a place that values marine conservation would have made these changes a long time ago – before mainstream attention.

Overall, we do really enjoy the aquarium and the negatives I have found are easily negated with a bit of preparation. We take food for our son and we take our own cutlery or eat elsewhere and we don’t spend long in the gift shop.

Smugglers Adventure.

Now, I really liked this. It was informative with a touch of humour and a little bit of “creepy” thrown in there. My three year old? Not so much. When we went in, the first thing we did was track down a dark, narrow corridor and into a dark cavern where they projected a ghost onto the wall that was to narrate our entire trip around the caves. Luckily, I had taken our toddler sized sling because he needed to be carried the whole way round after (unsurprisingly) refusing to walk down the first corridor because he couldn’t see.

There were a couple of things in there to make you jump but not badly.  Because of the nature of this attraction, I wouldn’t recommend visiting with a wheelchair or pushchair – being a cave there are some narrow spaces, rough ground and low ceilings to navigate. I imagine it could be done with a lot of coordination and help from the staff and a few sections would get missed, so if you are considering a visit with a wheelchair then make sure you call ahead and arrange it all with the staff and pick a time when it will be quiet. 

There were toilet facilities on site but a little tricky to find in the middle of a tour in a dark cave, if you pass a loo it’s best to use it! The gift shop was fairly similar to the one at the aquarium but less ocean themes and more pirate themed, some of the gifts were slightly better quality. There was no cafe there but there was one a short walk away across the top of the cliff.

Hastings castle

I had no idea what to expect with Hastings castle and I have to say, I was a bit disappointed. I knew it was a ruin but I didn’t think that’s all it would be – especially with a normal ticket price of £5! Luckily, it worked out with the triple ticket the price of entry for us was £1 each. When I have visited other ruins they have been well kept and neat. the hedges trimmed and the grass cut. There are usually plaques with information for every part of the ruin and pictures of what it would have looked like. Hastings Castle seemed to be lacking these, even in the height of peak season. Admittedly, it probably would have been pleasant enough if it hadn’t been raining at the time, but we all felt quite bitter at having trudged, soaking wet, up a hill for… not very much. Even the view across the coast was obscured but overgrown bushes.

There are absolutely no facilities on site, just the ticket office and a small unsightly temporary structure with a screen showing a battle reenactment on loop, large enough perhaps to seat a class of school children. 

Getting there and parking

There are no motorways in East Sussex at all, so you will use a lot of A roads and not all of them give a pleasant ride, leave with plenty of extra time to get there if you’re planning to drive!

There is limited street parking available near(ish) the Smugglers’ cove and Hastings Castle, but being on the top of a cliff, they understandably don’t have their own car parks! Alternatively, you can park on the seafront and use the funicular railway to get up the cliff side. The aquarium is on the seafront surrounded by parking but it is a 10-15 minute walk to the funicular railway from there, there are closer car parks further along the seafront as well.

Hastings is well serviced by public transport, there are a couple of bus routes that will drop you right outside the aquarium and all along the seafront.

Have you been to either of these amazing places in Hastings?

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