Little Lewes on a Big Adventure

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This is just a short post to say: so long, pals!

No, I don’t mean to sound so glib, I’ll give you a bit more than that: there won’t be anything new appearing on Little Lewes for the next three weeks. This afternoon myself and my little family are gliding off – or rather leaving on a jet plane! We are flying away to a place nine hours west of here for what is already a treasured adventure, we have talked so much about it.

We will see a lot of my family, who have I have missed for a long time, many of whom have never met my children. We will be with some of them on this island:

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Image copyright Richard Schmon, via panoramio.com

Yes really. Can you believe it? It’s in a stretch of water called Desolation Sound, and that is highly appropriate because when there we won’t even have electricity. We will switch off from the outside world completely and I can’t wait. My email will be replying with a ‘I’m not here’ responder, and I absolutely will not be doing any blogging.

Inconvenient perhaps not to keep the chatter going during a time when you all have some free time on your hands. But I really want my own time to be just that: free. I hope you understand.

I’ll be back mid-August. Meantime, you can always scroll down to my ‘Top 10 Things to Do’ post for ideas.

Have GREAT summers, all – and thank you again for your ever-touching support of Little Lewes.

Kate x

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Beachcoming at Birling Gap + Reviewing Project Jelly’s Shoes

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A great day happened to us by total accident a couple of weeks ago and quite by accident it ended up being the moment my boys reviewed Project Jelly’s bright, practical jelly shoes.

I had contacted the shoes’ creator Natalie Collier about taking two pairs on holiday – one donated, one paid for. A couple of years ago she conceived the idea of creating traditional jelly shoes with JuJu Footwear such as we wore in the ’70s and ’80s, but in limited edition colours. She did this to raise money for Mencap (25% of sales go to the charity, which is close to Natalie’s heart for the help they have given her sister-in-law, Helen.)

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But I never ended up waiting for our holiday to review them as planned. They arrived and both boys wanted to wear them immediately and I realised as we arrived at Birling Gap that this was the moment – they had full novelty factor and could be road-tested where they should be: on the beach.

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I should add that I asked Natalie for two unisex pairs (you know how I feel about unisex!) and the ‘orange sherbet’ pair for my bigger boy turned out to be more salmon pink in the flesh. Nevertheless, despite being given the option of a replacement navy blue with lime sole, he insisted on keeping the orange/pink, even given an imaginary teasing scenario – *beams proudly* – and has never looked back.

So here is our day at Birling Gap, hopefully knitted seamlessly together with a review of the shoes!

As we arrived at Birling Gap, where we parked for free (thank you National Trust membership (if you don’t have this, you’ll need coins for the pay and display)) we noticed the tide was right in and there was no beach. (Click HERE to find the tide tables if you want to avoid this happening.)

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To while away the time, we headed up the hill to the left, along the cliff tops to Belle Tout Lighthouse, now a B&B with a tiny ice-cream-and-cuppa-tea shop nestled in an arch opposite. Note that ice creams here will set you back QUITE a bit more than in the real world, but it’s a deserved reward for getting up the hill (particularly if whinge-free). Dine on them round at the other side of the lighthouse, where your view will be of the gorgeous Beachy Head.

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Back down at Birling Gap the tide had retreated and exposed the damage done by the winter’s storms, when a huge crack appeared in the top of the cliff and down came a portion of its face. This is where my boys headed in search of rock pools. If there is any small positive (and that is not quite the right word) that could be gleaned from this tragic force of nature, I suppose it could be said that it makes for safer rock pooling because chalk is naturally smooth but not slippery (though in saying that I am not suggesting that cliff erosion is in any way a good thing).

As the children explored the beach, the plus points of the Project Jelly shoes revealed themselves:

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1) They are flexible, bending naturally with gripping feet that scrabbled easily over rocks.

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2) They are grippy. As in, they actually grip the rock surfaces. (This may sound a small point, but have you tried rock pooling with young kids in wellies? Don’t).

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3) They are, of course, waterproof, which thrilled the boys: “What? You mean I can paddle and then I can walk on the beach, and then I can paddle, and then I can go rock pooling? All in the same shoes?” Yes yes dear boy, they’re MAGIC.

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4) They keep the stones out (or at least are a GREAT improvement on open sandals). Children (and more to the point adults) can’t bear a faff of stone removal, and oh my days are Birkenstocks and beaches rotten bedfellows.

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The boys spent ages poking around in the milky pools made between the fallen cliff face’s round white rocks, hovering hopefully with a net. With not even so much as a crab to look at, the little one ripped up a piece of seaweed and played ‘fishing for whales’ for the longest time. They got completely soaked but it really didn’t matter. They were quiet and absorbed. Result.

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As we started back towards the beach’s steep steps, the boys became engrossed in some intense wave play – chasing back and forth and REALLY loving that the waves could catch at their ankles and feet with no consequences. My older son turned back from the foamy surf at one point and shouted “THESE ARE THE BEST SHOES I’VE EVER WORN!” A ringing endorsement indeed, Project Jelly.

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Then, as I called time on the whole excursion, the beach’s broad chalk platform revealed itself as the water pulled back further. And with that revelation we were done for. There was even MORE beach now to explore, so weren’t going anywhere – indeed we didn’t get home until 7pm.

But I will not try to feign crossness while blaming the jellies – himself and I hardly pushed for heading back, enjoying being able to sit and stare at the sea in peace maybe a little too much…

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PS> There is a refurbished café and interesting visitors centre on the cliff top at Birling Gap. We didn’t try the food in the café, but I wanted to mention that the staff were dear to us when my younger child spilled a whole cup of hot chocolate all over our table and the floor. They made him a new one without me even asking…

THE ESSENTIALS

BIRLING GAP

Drive: 32 minutes
Address: 
East Dean, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN20 0AB
Website:
 nationaltrust.org.uk/birling-gap-and-the-seven-sisters/

PROJECT JELLY

Price: £17.95 per pair + £3.95 postage (for up to three pairs)
Website: projectjelly.com

Disclosure: I approached Natalie at Project Jelly about having two pairs of her jelly shoes for my boys to review. This is because I believe that they are the perfect fit for Little Lewes, being unisex and highly practical, and wanted to share this with my readers. I offered to pay for one pair as I believe in the project’s goal of raising money for Mencap. No other compensation, financial or otherwise, was offered or received in return for this post. 

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Top 10 Things to Do This Summer In and Near Lewes with Kids

So this week school breaks up and we’re officially IN the summer. YAY!

To celebrate, here’s a little round-up of the 10 unmissable things I suggest you do in and near Lewes this summer.

All pictures click through to the relevant post. Please bear in mind that some facts may be out of date and are only correct at the time of posting. Best use the URLs in the relevant posts to double-check opening times and prices, if they apply.

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1) Spend the day at Normans Bay – or at least definitely until the tide retreats and the enormous beach is revealed!

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2) Start off early and spend a whole day walking or biking incredible Bedgebury National Pinetuem + Forest

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3) Be caught up and lost in the magic of Groombridge Place

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4) Search for the Gruffalo in Ringwood Toll, an easy, woody walk with natural play structures at Sheffield Park

5) Go for a great pub lunch at The Coach and Horses, whose simple playground will keep the tinies happy. (Heaven Farm’s beautiful nature trail, for a post-prandial stroll, is two minutes up the road)

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6) If you’re going to do a play farm, make it Washbrooks – very reasonable and stuffed full of brilliant things to do

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7) Keep it local, relax in Southover Grange Gardens (or maybe not if your child tends to do this) with a pot of tea and a Mini Milk

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8) Head for a proper ‘holiday at home’ day at the Pells Pool in Lewes

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9) Head to Littlehampton Beach for fish and chips at the East Beach Cafe and a walk along the promenade (or in the littles’ case, along the ‘longest bench in the world’)

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10) And if it’s raining, head to the Booth Museum, where you’ve an option of a playground if things cheer up…

And also a good lunch (and some booze, come on you’re on holiday!) at The Cow, within a 10-minute walk of the museum.

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A great place for lunch with your bunch: The Cow, in Seven Dials, Brighton

Have a happy summer and DO let me know in comments below if you do any of this stuff and what you think!

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A Moomin Great Celebration of Tove Jansson’s 100th Anniversary

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Tove Jansson and her Moomins
Image via tove100.com

This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tove Jansson, the author and illustrator of the eccentric, magical and beloved Moomintroll books. Both in her native Finland and around the world, there are events, exhibitions and reprints and new editions of her beloved books.

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Unisex or Unique – Buying for Baby (and Child) in Lewes, East Sussex

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Hambro + Miller’s handmade knitwear at Fleurie on Fisher Street

Our little town is well known for its independent spirit – and also for its independent shops. I personally make a real effort to buy from the High Street, or from Lewes folk, when it comes to presents. Of course it’s a supportive and green way to buy, but it’s also because the stuff available in Lewes is so good. Christmas, when our shops twinkle invitingly, is a particular pleasure.

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SERIES: Let’s All Look at Some Blogs // Fashion, Interiors, Design

I guess you’ve noticed by now that I am blogging about some things beyond ‘things to do with kids in and near Lewes’. This is because I have to maintain my interest in blogging to keep blogging, but also because I have some interests outside my children and my town. Most of the posts beyond my original remit are largely related to children, children’s issues, design for kids, unisex fashion, kids apps, etc. But some – like this – are nothing to do with them.

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Kin + Dan: Brooklyn Life
Image by Ellen Brookes, via sideline-clothing.com/sideline-life

This post kickstarts a new series. It’s time to share a bit of blog love. Because why not? I’m making this a series because it started as ‘I’ll blog about my five favourite blogs’ and then I realised I have loads of favourite blogs.

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Cream Teas and Peace at a Mini Farm: Gibby’s Cottage Tearooms, Nr Jevington, East Sussex

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At the end of my post about rolling along at Cuckmere Haven, I mentioned that we timed everything badly.

Well, despite that, we also took a longer route home for some weird reason. I think the sun got to us.

Actually I’ll admit it: we were arguing about whether we could fit in a pint of prawns at the Tiger Inn as we went up the steep hill you ascend when you turn left out of Seven Sisters Cycle Co. I thought we could, but by the time we got to the top I had conceded, and we were heading home. Via Polegate.

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Open-Air Swimming, Playing, and Eating at Pells Pool, Lewes

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So the time has finally come. We are REGULARS at The Pells Pool, Britain’s oldest-documented outdoor (and unheated) swimming pool.

My five-year-old has literally not dipped a toe into its (admittedly-cool) waters since he was 18 months old, when I basically – cruelly – dunked him in on a day when it was kind of icy, without giving him any warning.

But two weeks ago it was sizzling (the air, not the pool – come on now, be serious) and he and I wandered down there in bathing suits with just towels around us and a fiver to get us in.

“You must be local,” said Phil, the long-standing manager.

“We live just up the hill,” I replied.

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Friday I’m in Love – With the Lewes Food Market

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Today I feel like I’m on holiday. We’ve had a solid week of sun and every day apart from this one I’ve been cooped up indoors working. This morning the baby (OK toddler) and I were supposed to do a totally dull chore that we were suddenly relieved of. So we did what we rarely do now: we sauntered.

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