Describe your area in three words: Massive, diverse, misunderstood.
Coolest coffee spot: Our local, The Little Coffee Shop is wonderful. The cakes are some of the best I’ve had, they serve delicious Volcano coffee, and the owners Lazlo and Corene are super friendly. There’s a small basket of toys and books for children, and space outside either to sit in nice weather or to park buggies. The menu includes babyccinos, ice creams and milkshakes, so there’s plenty to entertain/bribe them with, and it’s across the road from the local playground. I also really like Coffee Craft in South Norwood – yummy cakes, cute vintage-inspired decor, pretty bunting, toys and friendly staff. Byte Cafe on the High Street serves particularly good coffee and is roomy enough to be able to get in there with a buggy.
Best family-friendly restaurant: We don’t often eat out at specifically family-friendly restaurants in the area but Matthews Yard, Boxpark and The Oval Tavern are good options for relaxed daytime dining.
Favourite park or green space: There are so many! South Norwood Lake and Grounds, Wandle Park and Coombe Wood are all great. My favourites though are Park Hill Park for the adorable little ‘secret’ garden and stunning views; Lloyd Park for the excellent playground, good selection of outdoor gym equipment and the child- and pet-friendly Parklife Cafe; and Riddlesdown Common for the wildness and remoteness.
Best local museum or gallery: The Museum of Croydon is a great place to spend a couple of hours. There’s lots to engage under-5s – the Riesco gallery includes dress-up items and colouring-in sheets. The modern galleries on the first floor include artwork by Bridget Riley and Malcolm McLaren (McLaren was a student at Croydon School of Art and Riley taught there), and a fascinating selection of objects and artefacts belonging to Croydon residents through the years. Dr Todd’s medical bag from the 1950s, complete with forceps, does give me the chills just thinking about it so that’s a trigger warning for anyone else who had the garden-shears treatment. Rise Gallery is a small gallery specialising in Pop Art and is responsible for some brilliant community-engagement projects. Basically if a piece of street art in Croydon catches your attention, Rise has probably got something to do with it.
Coolest kids’ shops: Our favourite second-hand kids’ clothing shop sadly closed down but we did have a very positive experience getting Peadar’s first shoes at Bananalana in Sanderstead.
Favourite under-5s class/activity: My favourite maternity-leave activity was baby cinema, and there are two good options in the borough. The David Lean Cinema has Babes in Arms screenings once a month on Tuesdays. The cinema is tiny, beautiful and volunteer-run so I’d encourage anyone in the area to go along and support it. Screen 25 (formerly Stanley’s Film Club) at Norwood Junction is another non-profit, community cinema with monthly Bring Along Babyscreenings. These are held in a school auditorium so there’s loads of space for buggy parking and to wander around with a restless baby if you need to. This is a great option for babies at the upper end of the age limit as there’s room for them to crawl and toddle about. Oh, and Screen 25 also has a Family Film Club that I have yet to check out but looks great as it includes a related craft activity before the film. Jenny Lockyer’s Music Time sessions at The Oval Tavern are really energetic and fun. Jenny sings and plays guitar, and the songs are a mixture of pop, nursery rhymes and Jenny’s own compositions. There are loads of musical toys for the babies to play with and Jenny puts her own spin on the familiar nursery rhymes, which keeps things much more engaging for the parents than the usual run-of-the-mill rhyming sessions I’ve been to.
What makes your area great? The abundance of green spaces, the vibrant street art, the ambitious ongoing investment and development, and good transport links.
What’s the best thing about living in London?: World-class museums and galleries with free entry. The Royal Parks, the city farms, the historic buildings – there’s just so much to do for free or at minimal cost. I love exploring new areas and I’m so glad to have spent my maternity leave in such a great city with so many stimulating things to do with a baby in tow.
And the worst?: Brexit; the prohibitively expensive housing market and the fact that neither my husband or I have any family here, which is tough when you have kids. Those are the three factors influencing our decision to move to Dublin.
Photo credit: Lianne Tangco