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Mum's Guide To... Life and Everything else

Welcome to our blog where we share local stories and guest advertorials from individuals, organisations and businesses.  If you would be interested in writing a guest advertorial please contact us.

You can read more great articles and blogs on Mum's guide to UK.

Pick of the Month - March 2018


I did want to start off this month’s picks by declaring that it was March and Spring was in the air… but with the snow falling as I look out the window Spring still seems a long way off.  However, that doesn’t stop this month’s events having a Spring feel…

March, of course, is the month of Mother’s Day.  Children can make some hand-made gifts at a special pottery painting session with Glaze Time at the Skew Bridge pub on 3rd March (just drop in), plant a primrose container at Aylett’s Nursery on 10th & 11th March or you can book them into a pot painting and card-making sessions at Jordan’s Mill on 10th March, and perhaps enjoy a day out exploring the mill too.

If you want to enjoy some family time on the day itself, share some stories at a special Mother's Day Saturday Stories session at Harpenden Library on 10th March (no booking required, but spaces are limited) and Mum’s can go free at Paradise Wildlife Park on 11th March

Even if the weather doesn’t seem very spring-like the rest of nature carries on as usual and the lambs will be being born at Oaklands College.  You can see the baby lambs ad enjoy family games donkey rides and the Farmer’s Market at the their Lambing Weekend on 10th & 11th March – perfect for Mother’s Day!  The event is free but you must register in advance for tickets. There will also be Lambing Days at Watergate Farm near Leighton Buzzard on 24th & 25th March, 30th March - 2nd April, 7th & 8th April and 14th & 15th April.

There are two performances for children at the Hat Factory in Luton this month. Friends for All on 3rd March is an interactive spoken word performance with rapping, dancing and video projections on the theme of having the confidence to be yourself and is suitable for ages 5-11.  A Strange New Space on 10th Marh is a physical theatre performance without words with puppetry and music for ages 4+ telling the story of a refugee girl who is obsessed with space.  Audiences are taken on an imagined voyage into space, paralleled with Amira’s real-life journey as a refugee across continents.

The end of the month brings us the start of the Easter holidays and a whole host of Easter-related events.  The annual Harpenden Easter Egg Hunt, organised by the Friends of Harpenden Academy takes place on 30th March and you can book your tickets now.  You can also drop-in to the Wick Wood Easter Egg Hunt on the following day (31st March) or join in Batchwood Sports Centre's Charity Easter Eggstravagaza. Further afield Dunstable Downs and Ashridge Estate will be hosting the Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt starting on the 30th March and continuing over the Easter weekend, and Knebworth House is hosting an Easter Trail included in the usual admission price.

For more of what’s on this month, Easter fun and beyond take a look at our What’s On page.

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Patience is a virtue but chocolate helps


Lent. A time when one gives up something they enjoy. A sacrifice, though small to this world, to remind us of the sacrifice Jesus faced in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. However, when faced with reality me giving up chocolate or wine is just a burden on those around me. I am evil. A screaming banshee. My family would like to sacrifice me just to stop me flying off the handle at the slightest misdemeanour – just looking at me wrong can set me off. And then the guilt. I spend my life feeling guilty. I feel guilty I didn’t go to Mass today because my son has flu. I sent the others with Granny just to get them out the house. (And I’m writing in the hope that our priest is cool enough to read social media and realise I was being a caring mother and not a bad Catholic – oh the guilt!)

So lent, which, even if you’re not a practising Christian, has become a universal period of time like Dry January (or Movember or Stoptober or the whole of Autumn leading up to Christmas) when people think about being a better person by either giving up something enjoyable or taking something on that perhaps takes you out of your comfort zone. I have yet to decide what I’m going to take on because clearly anything else has adverse effects on my family, except giving up all this sickness in the house – it’s HALF TERM and I’m going stir crazy because it’s too quiet in the house; they’re all too sick to argue and run around beating each other with light sabers. I miss my crazy loons who are knee-dropping on each other’s backs one minute and playing Monopoly the next. Grrrr. Even the cats are bored. Ergh – one just brought in a slug; so disgusting, I think I prefer the child throwing up mid-hallucination. I won’t ever be taking on nursing. That requires a special type of person who has patience and kindness, two skills I work on every day…when the kids are asleep.

So Dear Lord, Please send me wine and chocolate so that I may love with patience and kindness (but only Dairy Milk or Crème Eggs because the rest aren’t really chocolate) and I will try to be a nice Mum. Amen.

That’s the doorbell – wow! Now I remember why I go to church…

If your children are happy and healthy and are looking for a new challenge take a look at our Activities and Clubs pages: https://www.mumsguideto.co.uk/harpenden/activities.php

#halftermhell #patienceisavirtue

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Pick of the month - February 2018


It’s February… that must mean love is in the air, pancakes are a flippin’ and half-term is upon us!  But never fear, here’s our pick of what’s on this month to keep everyone entertained.

The Harpenden Town Mayor is holding a charity screening of Despicable Me 3 (PG) in Harpenden Public Halls on 10th February.  Proceeds will go to Rennie Grove Hospice Care.

Also on Saturday 10th February, Harpenden Library is holding a special Saturday Stories themed around Winnie the Witch for ages 6-10.  Booking is not required, but spaces are limited.

Join in the conservation of the Common at the Family Conservation Day on Monday 12th organised by the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust.  This event is suitable for everyone, but booking required.

The annual Pancake Race in St Albans has this year turned into a Pancake Festival with children’s activities, entertainers and mini races and takes place on the Tuesday of half-term - 13th February.

If you’d like to see the first lambs of the Spring then head over to Mead Open Farm or Willows Activity Farm during half-term, who will both have lambs being born as part of their half-term activities.

If arts & crafts are your child's thing then Frogmore Paper Mill are running tutored Valentine-themed origami sessions on 4th February for ages 8+.  Younger children can try making woodland animal sock puppets at Tring Natural History Museum on 15th & 16th February.  Or everyone can try making crafts inspired by the museum's collection in Crafts in the Colonnade at Verulamium Museum on 13th & 14th February.

Romans and Saxons is the theme of the next Family Discovery Morning at St Albans Cathedral on 15th February – ideal for those in KS2 studying either of these topics!  And it’s free!

There’s plenty of theatre on this month, especially during half-term.  Feb Fest takes place at various locations in Luton and offers performances and workshops for under 5s and children of primary school age, including Tom Thumb and Tidy Up for ages 3+, Granny Dumpling for age 5+,  and A Heart at Sea for age 7+.  Your teens might be interested in a performance of Frankenstein taking place at the Abbey Theatre 23rd February – 3rd March. Alongside this production will be the pilot of an education programme to support the study of English and Drama at GCSE and A-Level.

Chinese New Year also falls this month and you can join in the celebrations at the Chinese New Year Extravaganza taking place at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage on 2nd February and the Chinese New Year Culture Show at Watford Palace Theatre on 10th February.

There’s so much more going on at half-term that we can’t possibly cover it all here, so do have a look through our What’s On page for more ideas and inspiration.  And don’t forget if you are looking for clubs and classes taking place during the half-term to have a look at our holiday clubs section.

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Turns out life isn't like the movies after all....


I recently saw a meme on FB of Mary Poppins on the carousel with Michael and Jane with the words “What I thought parenting would be like”, then I looked at my own children… It seems I’m not alone in this illusion that we were brainwashed by Disney before starting a family as the post had 1000s of likes. But where did it all go wrong? Parenting is absolutely NOTHING like I thought and yet if everyone feels this way why hasn’t humankind given up already?!

The fact that I’ve even used the word ‘meme’ surprises me but not as much as saying I have four boys, the eldest is 11 and the youngest has just turned 3. How did that happen? How has 11 years passed? I still feel 16 but I’m stuck in a 30-something’s body! When they are all home we spend our time dancing in the kitchen to Raining Tacos and Space Unicorns (ask Alexa), arguing over how much tech they’re allowed, why “everyone else” has this and that and how they’re “the only one” in the class not to have one, trying to shelter the 3 year old from the disgusting habits of his 3 older brothers and catching them all snuggled and cuddled up watching Paw Patrol to keep him happy. You honestly have to have a split personality to cope. 

It’s a very strange existence and life is definitely at a faster pace than when we were at primary school (watching Philip Schofield in the broom cupboard and Doris Day films with your granny). Yet for all the clubs and classes there is always time for craziness. And in our house we seem to thrive on crazy and keep adding to it! Christmas saw the arrival of a hamster – supposedly for the 7 year old but the cats seem most excited; it’s like they’ve been given an X-Box to watch all day. That exhausts them so much they then sleep for the rest of the day...

And things happen in our house that are continuously ridiculous and yet seem to be shrugged off as normal: the online grocery shop arrived (you can imagine the amount for 4 growing boys who all enjoy their food). Everyone helps bring the bags to the kitchen and then disappear back to their various distractions except the youngest who decides to help me unpack. Trying to climb over a million bags with such little legs can only end one way…luckily the crunching of packaging breaking as his bottom hit the floor was only the grapes and the mince and somehow the eggs survived! You can do nothing but laugh and yet things breaking, bunnies escaping, husbands driving off with your keys when a child has a hearing test, bikes being forgotten at the start of bikeability week (the clue really was in the name), having no idea that nursery applications have completely changed this year, are all in a day’s work for a parent. (That was a particularly stressful day I might add.)

So, here’s to all the parents who thought it was going to be an all-singing, all-dancing affair and ending up hiding in the larder alternating between scoffing lumps of chocolate and downing glasses of pinot grigio just to survive arsenic hour. We all stand (or sway) together.

Just before you drink the whole bottle please can I ask a HUGE favour? We want to help parents by doing the best we can with the website, if you could take just a few minutes to fill in our survey we would be extremely grateful!

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Happy New Year!


Another year has flown by and my other half got a sudden bout of New Year’s blues a day early. He started the “What Ifs…” of the past couple of decades and doubting the decisions he’d made. (I’m going to assume that I wasn’t one of these decisions that he’s now questioning because he doesn’t, and didn’t, ever have a say in that…!!)

Me: “Don’t question what could have been – look in the back (as we’re driving along), 4 little people that we’ve created and managed to keep alive for over a decade. If that’s not success I don’t know what is.”

The magic philosophical bubble was soon popped as soon as we arrived at his sister’s house when the arguments over whose room they were each staying in began and where the controllers for the playstation had been hidden. But it did make me consider my NY’s resolutions. There’s the obvious ones like going on a diet after the hideous amounts I have over-indulged in before, during and since Christmas; getting more organised; booking in trips to see family and friends; hiding all the chocolate in the house (unlikely); having a dry January (v. unlikely) but I’d like to resolve to being more positive and getting to know our new neighbours better. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since we started Mum’s guide to Harpenden it is the strength a community can have and the positive changes it can make when working together. It’s one of the reasons we started MGTH, so that parents felt confident about using the facilities and businesses in their local community and not feel isolated at home with children.

This year we have been celebrating 5 years since we launched the website and now over ONE MILLION pages have been visited. As 4 local mums we’re so excited to see the progress of the site and we’re always thrilled (possibly too much!) when we receive feedback from parents and businesses. So, we’d like to say “THANK YOU for your support and here’s to the next 5 years!”


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Pick of the month - January 2018


After a few months of excitement, from Halloween through Bonfire Night to the wonderful craziness of Christmas, JANUARY is typically a much quieter month - a welcome relief perhaps!  But if you are looking for something to do here's some of the highlights...

If you didn't have time to get to the pantomime before Christmas you can still catch Aladdin at the Alban Arena until 7th January, Jack & The Beanstalk at the Gordon Craig Theatre until 28th January, and Beauty and the Beast will be at the Luton Library Theatre 13th - 21st January.  The Radlett Centre has a production of Red Riding Hood on 19th & 20th January.

The Harpenden and Wheathamsptead Disctrict Scouts will be taking to the stage to display their talents at the Public Halls from Tuesday 9th - Saturday 13th January in their 69th Gang Show.  There are still a few tickets remaining for this annual spectacular, but be quick!

On Saturday 20th January Brambleton Model Railway Club are holding their annual exhibition in the Public Halls - a must for all train fans big and little.

If you'd like to get outdoors Saturday 20th is also the first in a series of Welly Walks being held at Stockwood Discovery Centre.  Suitable for ages 3-7 these walks will explore a different part of the site each week and will include stories and activities

For some hands-on fun drop-in to the Natural History Museum at Tring with your under-5 on 11th and 25th January to make a Peanut Bird-feeder or for older children become an apprentice Archaeologist at Verulamium Museum on Saturday 27th January.

See our events page to find out more about what's on in January and the coming months.

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Pick of the month - December 2017


It’s December, Christmas is on the way so this month’s picks are dedicated to Pantomime and Christmas theatre!

First up, of course, is Harpenden’s very own panto Dick Whittington, which is on at the Public Halls 9th – 22nd December.  Stars include Jen Pringle from Channel 5’s Milkshake and Hi-5’s Luke Roberts (who you may remember as Buttons in last year’s panto).  We had the pleasure of interviewing both of them a few weeks ago and it certainly does sound like they have a great show in store for everyone.

The Alban Arena is putting on Aladdin this year from 7th December to 7th January and the cast includes kids’ favourite Mister Maker (Phil Gallacher) and Karl Howman from Eastenders. 

Also in St Albans you can see an adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson classic, The Snow Queen, at The Abbey Theatre 15th – 29th December, and The Sandpit Theatre have Santa in Love on the 3rd December where the children can meet Santa after the show, and a family version of A Christmas Carol on 16th December where children in the audience will get to participate!

Also close by, The Redbourn Players are performing Frankenstein on 7th – 9th December– not what you’d usually expect for a family panto, but they are promising “fun for all the family”!   And Luton Library Theatre have Full House Theatre Group performing The Owl and the Pussycat, 11th – 24th December.

If you don’t mind travelling further afield then there are of course other panto optionsSleeping Beauty at the Grove Theatre, Aladdin at Watford Palace Theatre, Jack & The Beanstalk at Gordon Craig Theatre, Beauty & The Beast at both Campus West, Welwyn and the Radlett Centre, and Rapunzel at Hertford Theatre.

Or if panto isn’t your thing and you’d prefer a Christmas show you can choose from Santa Claus and the Christmas Adventure at Watford Colosseum, Penguin! at UHArts Hatfield,  Narnia the Musical at The Barn Theatre, Magical Santa Christmas Show at Hertford Theatre, A Christmas Carol at Old Town Hall, Hemel and the classic Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker at Watford Colosseum.

Definitely something there for everyone!  For places to see Santa this year check out our Where to See Santa page and you can find all your Christmas lights-on events, markets and more on our What’s On page.

Happy Christmas everyone!

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Creating some truly magical Christmas memories at Willows Santa Spectacular



Sleigh bells ring, are you list’ning?
On the ground, snow is glist’ning…
We were definitely walking in a winter wonderland at Willows Activity Farm this weekend. From the moment we arrived at the gates elves were falling over themselves to make our day special. We headed straight to Santa’s grotto to find the man of the moment (I’m always trying to avoid the rush) and after passing through a trail of twinkling lights, sleeping polar bears, happy huskies and a woodland fairy the children peeked around the corner and saw Santa in his sitting room. They (aged 9, 7 & very nearly 3) put on their angelic faces and went in. I nearly interjected when Santa asked if they’d been good all year but the 2 year old turned around, ran to my husband, hugged him with full force and whispered, “It’s Father Christmas, Daddy” which made my heart melt and my eyes watery (which must have been some allergic reaction to all the fake snow and glitter…). Santa gave each child a golden key and we all had a cheesy photo taken. After a lot of waving and good-byes the boys ran off to Santa’s Toy Shop and it literally was “A kid in a toy shop” moment as they got to choose ANY gift off the shelves. Two of them were lucky enough to find EXACTLY what they’d asked Santa for just minutes earlier and the other one was just thrilled to get a choice.

And then to Create-A-Cuddle Workshop where they all stuffed a big reindeer soft toy and made a wish on the heart. Next, letters were eagerly written and posted to Santa (with the hope of a reply) just in case he’d forgotten what they’d just told him or in one case because he’d already changed his mind. Bearing in mind these are boys who hate writing or doing homework…honestly, the magic didn’t stop!

Next up, we met real reindeer; I never realised how soft they were. And onto the 3D Christmas film. Then over to the Elf Academy, a quick stroke of a husky (again, real!) and a skate on the ice rink.

I’m exhausted just remembering everything! We spent the rest of the day enjoying Willows’ play trails, barns, tractor ride with sing-along Christmas songs and finally we warmed up in the indoor soft play.

To finish the day was a special Nativity Story using real animals and celebrating the true meaning behind our festivities.

If you would like to create some magical Christmas memories of your own with your little ones (rather than just relying on mine) head to Willows Activity Farm before Christmas and you won’t be disappointed.


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Meet the cast of Dick Whittington!


We were delighted to once again be asked to interview some of the cast of this year's Harpenden Panto "Dick Whittington".  After the success of last year's video interviews conducted by some of the MGTH children the precendent had been set, so we found some willing volunteers and sent them along to meet children's TV stars Jen Pringle and Luke Roberts.  Here's what happened...





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ADVERTORIAL: St Hilda's - the best start in life


“At the end of each year we have looked back and commented on our daughter’s year - always describing it as filled with challenges, hard work, motivating activities, fun, warmth and ending up with a happy girl making lots of progress.  We can leave St Hilda’s confident in the knowledge that she is full prepared for the new experiences and challenges ahead. A huge thank you to all of you.”

It is always satisfying to know that a child has moved on to Senior School prepared for the next stage of their education and life beyond.

We certainly believe that our all-round, nurturing and fulfilling learning experience equips our pupils with the passport to their next destination. Whether pursuing academic excellence that enables your child to gain their first choice of secondary school, encouraging blossoming creativity inside and outside through the creative arts, aiming for your zenith in sporting endeavour or increasing your confidence amongst a caring, family atmosphere, St Hilda’s has something for everyone.

The words above came from a parent whose daughter has just left the much-respected Harpenden School and started her senior educational journey recently. She wrote to express her thanks for all that St Hilda’s has meant, an oft repeated story down the years.  

The School’s banner heading is ‘nurturing the individual’, which can be defined as encouraging each girl to fulfil their potential to the full. 

This has been borne out in the fantastic results achieved by our leavers this year, who  have amassed an outstanding 16 scholarships and awards between them in sport, drama, art and music, including 5 academic scholarships to Haberdashers’ Aske’s, St Albans High School for Girls, Abbot’s Hill and Haileybury.

Our girls have a plethora of activities on offer and our extra-curricular programme seeks to challenge traditional stereotypes with Football, Judo and Fencing all thriving activities.  This year we are also developing our outdoor curriculum further in a desire to embrace our surroundings and facilities to the full.  

Following consultation with parents, we have extended our out of hours care and now offer free breakfast and after school sessions between 7.30am and 6.00pm. 

In 2018, we are excited to announce that we will be welcoming back boys into our Nursery. St Hilda’s has had a long tradition of including boys in the past, most recently in the 1980s. Some of our families have commented over the years how they would have liked to keep their children together until full-time school commences, and we hope that this renewed feature will be a popular addition to what we have on offer.

Come and see for yourself what this outstanding School can give your child.

Tel: 01582 712307
Email: office@sthildasharpenden.co.uk

28 Douglas Road, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2ES


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Pick of the month - October 2017


It's October and that means two things: half-term and Halloween.  Put them together and that's a lot of spooky school holiday fun to look forward to!  But the fun isn't just limited to that one week.

Fun Palaces is a nationwide campaign for culture at the heart of community, with an annual weekend of arts and science events created by, for and with local people.  You can enjoy free arts and science on the theme of "Light and Art" at Trestle Arts Base, St Albans on Sunday 8th October.

Make the most of what  Autumn has to offer by picking your own pumpkin ready for Halloween, at the Pop-up Farm 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th & 14th - 31st October; or at Willows Farm Pumpkin Festival 21st - 29th October.  Enjoy an afternoon celebrating apples at Highfield Park's (St Albans) Apple Day on 8th October, YWAM's annual Apple Festival at Highfield Oval on Saturday 14th October with tractor rides, bouncy castle, Hog Roast, games & stalls, Aylett Garden Centre's Apple Festival on 21st & 22nd October, or Harpenden Common Apple Day on 23rd October, which includes rope-swinging and tree-climbing amongst the activities on offer!  

Batford Memorial Hall are holding their annual Halloween Party on Saturday 28th October.  This is a great-value event for all the family and is alway extremely popular so booking your tickets in advance is recommended to avoid disapointment on the night.

Circus Zyair will be back in town 24th - 29th October presenting a colourful, action-packed show.  Tickets are on sale now.

As mentioned already, the arrival of half-term brings every type of halloween-themed activity you could think of from pumpkin carving, spooky trails and goulish arts & crafts to ghost stories and owl encounters. Full details are on our events page.

Fans of children's illustrator Nick Sharratt might want to book a ticket to Nick Sharratt's Big Draw Along (Halloween Special) at The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead on 28th October where Nick will be showing attendees how to draw some of his best-loved characters.

Budding young artists are also invited to St Albans Cathedal's free Family Discovery Morning on 26th October to create their very own masterpieces inspired by the theme of this year's Big Draw - Living Lines.

And after all that, if you just want to get and about and enjoy the beauty of autumn then grab your wellies and take a look at the parks, forests and country estates listed in our Things to Do section.

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ADVERTORIAL: Storytelling and dramatic play for the early years


“Both my girls (aged 3 and 10 months) absolutely love the class! And it’s great to be able to take them to a class that engages both of them despite the two year plus age gap .”
- Caroline, mum to Isabella and Keeley

Drama Llamas classes use original stories with a simple narrative to familiarise children with the basic structure of stories.  We then use the story to re-tell it as a group using movement, music and simple props. 


The classes allow the stories to sink into their bodies and voices as we experiment with silly movement and sounds. We also use basic props to stretch their imagination even further.  In addition, each child has a chance to do a moment of individual performance, if they choose to.  The stories each include a point of learning e.g. colour mixing or mini beasts.

 “I have to say your classes are superb. The lessons are dynamic, focused and fun, creating just the right balance of wonder, creativity and amusement while still keeping them active and on task. Jasper has loved coming to Drama Llamas more than any other class we've been to.” - Mum to Jasper (4) and Serena (2).


Drama Llamas will give your child a bank of storytelling experiences and communication opportunities that will set them up for life or at least give them a chance to hit the ground running when they start reading and writing at school.

 “So many of my children would have really benefitted from doing Drama Llamas before starting school.” - Harpenden reception teacher.


Drama Llamas is a fantastic class to have at your nursery, the children always have a brilliant time and ask every day is it Drama Llamas today? The class is unique and fully captivates the children’s imaginations. 
- Faye Dutton, Assistant Manager, Busy Bees St Albans City Hospital

Before your child even picks up a pen or starts to read they need to hear rich language though rhymes, riddles and, you guessed it, stories!  All of this not only gives your child the building blocks to become a confident, fluent reader but also a love of language, which in turn enables them to communicate their needs and express their feelings.  They also learn the skills to entertain others using their own stories, with essential embellishments!

We live our life through stories. Stories about getting to work through terrible adversity, or what happened at the doctor’s today.  We bond over favourite family stories and when we reminisce with friends. Stories make up the fabric of society on a personal to a global scale, from the tales told of World Wars or that one about the time Granny forgot put her teeth in on Christmas day!  It’s how we make sense of the world and they are crucial.

Stories are what Drama Llamas is all about and stories make the world go around. Miss it, miss out!

Drama Llamas runs weekly classes and parties in Harpenden & St. Albans. We also run sessions for nurseries and schools.  To book a free trial session click here. Email info@dramallamas.co.uk or call 07718828697 www.dramallamas.co.uk 

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Pick of the month - September 2017



Transport seems to be a recurring theme in this month's events.  Here's our pick of the things to look out for this September...

Brambleton Model Railway club are opening their doors to the public on Saturday 9th September. Set in a wooded area off Highfield Oval, visiting for the first time it feels like you've stumbled upon a secret and your little ones will love watching all the miniature trains go round.

High Street Methodist Church are holding a Charity Train Fun Day on 2nd September, which will also include model train layouts plus train-related activities and stories.

A new event for the local calendar is Redbourn Classics Motor Show on Saturday 16th September.  Combining a classic car show and a village fair this sounds like a lovely day out for the whole family. 

Want to see what how a fire station runs? St Albans Fire Station are holding an open day on Sunday 3rd September, which will include activities, stalls and a bouncy castle.

This is also the month for the annual Heritage Open Days event, where local attractions open their doors for free. One such place is the St Albans Signal Box and Railway Museum, which will be open on 9th & 10th September and will include, amongst other things bags, a ride-on steam train around the car park!  Other venues taking part include Mill Green Museum, Welwyn Roman Baths and Verulamium Museum.

Veering away from the transport theme,  you'll find lots of children's theatre on our What's On page this month.  One production in particular that caught our eye is a new telling of Peter & The Wolf featuring puppets, audience interaction, physical comedy and live music performing a new score inspired by Prokofiev's classic version.  Sounds like fun!  You can find it playing at Hertford Theatre on 2nd September and The Hat Factory in Luton on 30th September.

Two other events are worth a mention.  The first is the second Harpenden Street Food Social on 15th September.  If you missed this first time round it's a new sociable food event on the common featuring a variety of styles of street food from around the world. The second is an Inclusive Football Festival being organised by Harpenden Colts on 24th September inviting boys and girls of all abilites and with any kind of physical or learning disability to come and join in.

Summer holidays may be over, but you can still have lots of family fun in September!

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Pick of the month - August 2017


With the summer holidays in full swing we're not short of things to do this August and both our What's On page and Holiday Clubs and Classes section are bursting. It seems that everyone wants to help you entertain your children, so here's our pick of some of the more interesting events and activities on offer this month...

If fun in the water is your cup of tea then Stanborough Lakes are running Fun Inflatable Sessions on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons throughout the summer for ages 8-14. Check the website for exact times and how to book.  Or a bit further afield there is a new Beach & Play Park at Lee Valley White Water Centre. Enjoy the beach, the inflatables or both for a half day or a full day.

If your children prefer to stay on dry land, then perhaps they can discover their greenfingers at Luton Hoo Estate's Summer Gardening Workshops. Topics include Herbs, Seeds, Flowers and Vegtables.  Workshops are suitable for ages 4-10.

For younger children Willows Activity Farm will once again have its A-maizing Maze as part of its Summer Spectacular.  There's also, of course, all the fun of the farm and the Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground, plus a packed programme of daily activities.

If adventure is what you are after this summer then Whipsnade Zoo is exclusively hosting the Bear Grylls Survival Academy.  Included in the entrance price to the zoo, the children can bcome wildlife explorers and put their survival skills to the test in a series of challenges, and enjoy live shows demonstrating animal and human survival.

And if you need to calm down after all that excitement, how about enjoying an outdoor cinema experience?  Whipsnade Zoo are hosting Silent Cinema for two evenings on 25th & 26th August, showing two classic family films: Jumanji and The Lion King.  And Sundown Cinema have a series of afternoon open-air family film showings at Oaklands College and Putteridge Bury in Luton including, Trolls, Frozen, Secret Life of Pets, and for older children, Pitch Perfect.

Books also feature this month with both St Albans Cathedral and the British Schools Museum theming their summer activities around classic children's books such as Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver's Travels. St Albans Cathedral Family Discovery Mornings run every Thursday in August.  These are free, and there is no need to book. The British Schools Museum in Hitchin are running their sessions on Wednesday and Thursday mornings during August. There is a charge and booking is recommended as space is limited. And of course, don't forget that the Summer Reading Challenge is taking place throughout the summer at libraries across Hertfordshire.

However you spend your summer, have fun!

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It’s great to see that we’re finally going to have our very own music festival in St Albans! With a strong emphasis on community and families, Meraki promises to be one of the calendar highlights for 2017.

A new kind of festival, Meraki will be all-inclusive - so once you’re through the gates, your family can enjoy ALL of the festival activities at no extra cost!


Running across the weekend of 11-13 August, the organisers have already announced an incredible line-up of star performers, with more to be added in the coming months.

The Friday line-up will have a strong emphasis on 80s artists, with the incredible Tony Hadley (lead singer of Spandau Ballet) headlining and the likes of Belinda Carlisle, Odyssey and Jason Donovan playing throughout the evening.

The Saturday line-up features a mix of more contemporary pop, with soul supremo Lemar and disco-pop starlet Sophie Ellis-Bextor already confirmed and on Sunday, welsh rock legend Bonnie Tyler and X Factor favourite Rebecca Ferguson will take to the stage.

There’s a strong emphasis on community at the festival too, with a raft of local St Albans musicians including Billington & Quinn, Hope Russell-Winter, Abi Murray, Seb Wesson and Emma McGrath listed on the bill and a number of local charity groups like Electric Umbrella and bringing music and joy to the festival.


Alongside the incredible music, Meraki will have a dedicated Family Field, packed full of kids’ activities - from Mr Bloom on the main stage to kids theatre and crafts, to discos, storytelling and dedicated children’s performers. Entertainment for all age groups will be running throughout the whole weekend….  And there’s even a Mummies Wine Bar in the family field, so while the little ones have some fun, you can too!

For the older kids, The Gaming Field promises climbing walls, Virtual Reality headsets, a movie house, laser tag and much, much more… and for anyone who loves to camp, The Family Camping Field will have face-painting first thing in the morning and night-time storytelling sessions (with hot chocolate!) before bed for the little ones.

Full camping, glamping and VIP options are available on the Meraki website, as well as a full listing of their festival activities and a constantly-updated list of performers. www.merakifestival.com


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Pick of the month - July 2017


The fun and festivities of last month continue into July with even more great community and local events taking place all promising a feast for the senses!  

Sunday 2nd July is Larks in the Park at Batford Springs.  This event just gets bigger and better every year and is completely FREE!  This year's star attraction are bound to be the donkeys, which will no doubt be popular with the little ones.

There's hardly time to catch you breath when the following weekend brings the fun of the Highland Gathering to our doorsteps as cabers, bagpipes, tartan and flings take over Rothamsted Park.  There is an entry fee to this event, but it's all in the name of charity.

At the same time in Wheathampstead they will be enjoying their annual Village Weekend with picnicing, live music and lots of family fun.

If you think the spectacle of Rothamsted Park resembling Braemar can't be beaten then head to the common on Wednesday 26th July for Britain's biggest mid-week car rally - Classics on the Common - walking is advised if you can!

For another great sight head to Stockwood Discovery Centre this month, where fans of previous Lego Brick Wonders exhibitions will be pleased to hear that they are back with a "Wonders of the World" exhibition beginning 22nd July.

Or for something calmer how about wandering freely amongst free-flying butterflies at Aylett Garden Centre's Butterfly Corner, which will be specially constructed this summer and open 17th July to 17th September?

Back to the festivities, and slightly further afield, this month you can find two very different festivals taking place at Dunstable Downs - Eid-al-Fitr on 2nd July, marking the end of Ramadan and the annual Kite Festival, which will be filling the skies with colour on 29th & 30th July.

And if that little lot isn't enough then have a look at our What's On page for lots more events taking place this month.  You won't be disappointed!

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Pick of the month - June 2017


June is carnival month! Harpenden Carnival is taking place on Saturday 10th June on the Common and continues to be a FREE event thanks to collaboration between Harpenden Town Council and the Harpenden Round Table. The theme is "Harpenden goes Wild" and with music, activities, displays, stalls, the parade this is a must-do event for all families.  The event also incorporates Art on the Common.

The weekend of 24/25th June brings you even more FREE family fun with Harpenden Armed Forces Day on the Common and fabulous sight of the Alban Pilgrimage making its way through the centre of St Alban,s both on the Saturday. If you can't make it to see the Alban Pilgrimage you can see the magnificent giant puppets used in the parade on display in St Albans Cathedral from 1st -25th June (except 24th).  On Sunday 25th June the centre of St Albans will then be given over to the Alban Street Festival, which promises a "celebration of all that is creative, musical, artistic, tasty, fun and fabulous about St Albans and its community".   

The weekend of Sunday 11th June is Open Farm Sunday, the farming industry’s annual open day when hundreds of farmers all over the country welcome visitors onto their farms to discover the world of farming.  This year Luton Hoo Estate is opening its doors as part of the events, and there are some other farms nearby you can visit.

And of course we couldn't forget one of the most important events in June - Father's Day! If you fancy a day out with dad then Paradise Wildlife Park has a Dads go Free offer, Knebworth House is hosting a medieval jousting eventBletchley Park is holding a Father's Day BBQ and Wrest Park is hosting a show on the history of motorsport.  What more could dads ask for?

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ADVERTORIAL: Teens Benefiting from Gig Economy


Community start-up, helping teenagers to earn pocket money and acquire skills, choses Hertfordshire and Brighton for launch.

MyPocketSkill, an online platform that helps teenagers gain valuable work experience and earn pocket money in the local community, has launched in Hertfordshire and Brighton to help residents and organisations "find a teen for that task".

MyPocketSkill was set up by parents Zara Ransley, St Albans resident, and her business partner, Matthew Harker, who is based in Hove. They met a few years ago when working on a project with a social purpose and that is when MyPocketSkill idea was conceived. Zara explains:

"We initially thought of the idea when I tried to find an after school babysitter for my kids, who could also supervise music homework, and a friend mentioned that they have that kind of help from a local teenager. I looked online and was surprised that there was not an organisation connecting teenagers with people looking for affordable help.

"We thought that St Albans and Brighton were natural starting points, as we live there but also as both have a great sense of community spirit. We persuaded a few of the local colleges to pilot with us, highlighting the benefit of young people getting valuable work experience, while providing a positive service to the local community.

"The principle is simple – you can just sign up, detailing the task you need doing, agree the rate and get in touch with one of capable local teenagers. Both parties gain and it encourages positive community spirit by connecting people, often across generations. Teenagers earn money, which is empowering in itself. It can also be used to start their own little businesses, something that we encourage.

"Tasks range from homework help to pet-sitting, to businesses looking for flexible help with their social media. People are being quite creative and we have even had a request for someone to play a harp at their wedding.

"We have clear guidelines on the website regarding online safety, members are verified before they can list and transactions are carried out via the website to maximise security."

One of MyPocketSkill's customers, who is now also an ambassador for the business, Phoebe Shergold-Willis, founder of a St Albans School of Acting said: "MyPocketSkill is an amazing platform that I wish was around when I was younger. After finding my Social Media Manager on MyPocketSkill, I believe it gives young people the motivation to become independent and become part of a team. I'll be posting adverts out on MyPocketSkill in the near future!"

To find out more about MyPocketSkill visit MyPocketSkill.com

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Pick of the month - May 2017


There's quite a variety of events happening in May.  Here's our pick of the month...

The local Brambleton Model Railway Club will be holding their annual Open Day on Saturday 13th May at their site at Highfield Oval.  This is a popular event and the younger ones delight at seeing the model trains moving around on the various track configurations.

If you fancy a trip to the circus then Cirque Normandie will be returning to Redbourn Common on 19th - 21st May.

Anyone for tennis? Get into the mood for Wimbledon by taking advatage of free tennis sessions at Harpenden Sports Centre, Harpenden LTC and Redbourn Tennis Club on the weekend of 13th & 14th May as part of the Great British Tennis Weekend.

Fans of Channel 5's Milkshake! will want to head to Watford Colosseum on 28th May for Milkshake! Live featuring a host favourite children's characters including Bob the Builder, Little Princess and Noddy and Milshake! presenters.

Stockwood Discovery Centre is hosting two nature-themed outdoor theatre shows by Squashbox Theatre - Tales from the Trees (29th May) and Curious Creatures (30th May) - both featuring puppetry, storytelling, live music and comedy.

The newly refurbished Wardown House Museum is presenting a promenade performance on 20th May. In Rediscovered young actors from 3 local schools and NGYT 11+ take the audience on a tour of the house bringing to life different periods in history and stories from within the house.

This month also sees the first Parent & Baby Film Screening at Harpenden Public Halls.  On Wednesday 16th May you and your little one can enjoy La La Land (12A).  Well, you can enjoy the movie and they can enjoy the soft play! Under 18mths go free and all profits go to charity.

With half-term falling at the end of this month there's so much more going on that we can fit in here, so have a look at our What's On page for the full list.

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Pick of the month - April 2017


Easter eggs

Our pick of the month this April is of course dedicated to all things Easter.  If you're looking for an egg hunt then there's plenty going on including the Harpenden Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday 1 April, Redbourn Easter Egg Trail 16 & 17 April, an Easter Bunny Hunt at Highfield Park on 5 April, the annual Inn on the Park Easter Egg Hunt 16 April, Wick Wood Easter Egg Hunt 15 April and the Signs of Spring Egg Hunt at Dunstable Downs, 14 - 17 April.

Hertfordshire Libraries' LitFest 17 coincides with the holidays and offers some great book-related events for kids including ZooLab, an interactive story and animal-handling session at Harpenden Library, Horrid Henry Storybook Making at Marshalswick Library and Steve Cole: Adventures in Slime and Spaces which promises "mayhem" at Hemel Hempstead Library!  These events all require booking and are usually very popular so get don't delay!

For entertainment that won't cost you a penny why not head to one of our local parks for Play in the Parks - free play sessions for 3-12 year olds, visit the beautiful St Albans Cathedral and join in their Family Discovery Morning exploring space, the stars and medieval astronomy on 6 April, celebrate the reopening of Wardown Park Museum in Luton after its major refurbishment on  8 April, meet a Roman soldier at Verulamium Museum on 15 April, or get creative making paper flower pots and sowing seeds at Aylett Nurseries 3-7 April.

And that's not all - there's theatre, animals, crafts, puppets, ballet, circus skills, the fun fair and so much more!  Have a look at our What's On page for the full list of events, and have a Happy Easter!

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Are you a mum who at times feels overwhelmed?
Do you want to feel more supported in motherhood and help others to feel the same?
Have you lost some confidence, feeling less sure of who you are?
You may dearly love your kids but struggle with conflicting feelings around finding time and support for yourself?

If so, MUM-ME MATTERS is for you.

Mum-Me Matters is a 10 week talking group for mums launching at the Harpenden Children’s Centre, Southdown. The Group will enable you to share thoughts, feelings and experiences that often remain unexplored because of the busy demands of modern motherhood. Women can feel worn down by expectations about what we should be thinking, feeling and doing. We can end up being so focused on trying to get it ‘right’ as a mum that there is no time to reflect upon or look after ourselves.

Mum-Me Matters focuses on time and space for you. The sorts of areas to be explored might be:

  • Identity and selfhood;
  • Sex and body image;
  • Family dynamics;
  • Career challenges;
  • Confidence and Self esteem;
  • Expectations and reality of experience;
  • Relationship and the couple;
  • Conflict, Loss and Guilt;
  • Change and Transition;
  • Me-time and fulfilment.

Reflecting upon experiences in a confidential, small group setting can facilitate self-understanding. You can feel supported and empowered by others in a similar position, not only sharing the lows but enjoying the highs together too. Although it is not group therapy, participation in this group will be therapeutic.

‘Why should I need any support? Everyone else seems to be doing so well!’
Women can feel isolated and overwhelmed in motherhood with huge expectations imposed upon them by themselves and the world we live in, sometimes transported from the workplace and from wider cultural messages established early on; many women are sent home from hospital very soon after they give birth. We are often faced with a huge gap between idealised expectations and the reality of our experience. Women can feel alone with complex feelings and as if they ‘should’ be coping better than they are.

‘Surely spending time focusing on me is self-indulgent’
More traditional and Eastern cultures have a very different approach to the period after a child is born where women are supported by other women, nurtured and rested, allowing time for transition and reflection as they navigate their new role as a mum. Many of the mechanisms for supporting mums and allowing them to adjust have been eroded away. For modern women, often with little support on hand, the gap between ‘pre mum-me’ and ‘mum-me’ is harder to bridge. There is also an expectation that if you’ve had one child, the arrival of subsequent children will be easier, without taking into account uncertainties or the increased demands and intensity of the experience.

Spending some time thinking about what you are feeling, with the focus on you as a ‘ME’ as well as a ‘MUM’ can help you to understand yourself better and make more of a sense of your experience. This can empower you in a way that can actually strengthen your resources through support, community and self-understanding. 

MUM-ME MATTERS will be facilitated by qualified Psychotherapist, Sarah Hirsh Draper. Sarah has particular knowledge of support work with mothers, having conducted research in the field. She is also a mum and step-mum of four herself and runs Empower Psychotherapy and Counselling, a private practice in Harpenden.

Sarah also runs an individual Mum-Me therapy programme, which explores similar issues to the group but in a more personalized and focused way. For further information, contact Sarah


Where? The group will be held at Harpenden Children’s Centre, Southdown, Harpenden, AL5 1QB.

When? Ten 90 minute small group sessions on Wednesday evenings at 7.45pm from the 3rd May** (with a fortnight half-term break in the middle).

Cost? Participants taking part in the initial pilot programme will be charged a discounted rate of £5 for each session (refreshments included).*

Having the opportunity to talk and reflect can be hugely beneficial but this can feel contrary to our sense of what we ‘should’ be doing. As mums try to juggle the many elements that are a feature of modern life, we can end up slipping down the list of our own priorities, as if we aren’t entitled. Giving some time to yourself to think, reflect and adjust, can help to sustain you, strengthen your resources and lead to a greater sense of fulfilment. You are a ‘me’ as well as a ‘mum;’ Mum-Me Matters.

If you have any questions or would like to register for a place in the group please contact Sarah on 07557 052729 or email sarah@empowerpsychotherapy.co.uk

* Sarah will request consultation feedback at the end of the Mum-Me Matters programme and anonymised comments from evaluations might be included in publicity materials or contribute to future research.

**Please note this is a change to the original starting date of 26th April.

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