If you are a regular reader you’ll know that several months ago I had a meeting with Henri Paterson, the power house behind The Hen House, the latest excitement in Haslemere. We talked about her vision for this new take on soft play and I wrote about it here. To date it’s one of my most popular posts and is still being read practically every day. On the back of this post, I was then asked to write the copy for The Hen House website, which is now up and running. I’m not a professional copy writer, so I was extremely flattered to have been asked. I was paid for that job, but I can assure you I have not been paid to write this or any other post about The Hen House. The opinions here are all my own. Promise.
If this were just a review I could tell you about prices and times etc, but all that information can be found on their website which I urge you to take a look at! But this is more than that. It’s my interpretation of what this place is or could be for local parents. It’s my opinion based on my experiences. You may not agree, you may have had a different experience. And that’s fine. This is just how I see it.
So, back in April I told you what I knew about the plans for this exciting, and desperately needed new venture. But I couldn’t tell you how it actually worked or whether it was actually any good, as it wasn’t yet open. That changed at the beginning of May. We couldn’t wait to get into the place and find out what this new facility actually meant for us.
Our first visit was on the day after it opened and just as I imagined it would be, it was heaving. It was like the whole mummy population of Haslemere and the surrounding area had heeded the jungle drums, scooped up their toddlers and headed on over. But Wow! I went with my NCT group and we were all so impressed. The children practically threw themselves in joyful abandon at the play frame and squealed with delight at the numerous ride on cars, my favourite of which is the truck. I wish I’d known this chap existed back in April,when we were choosing Oscar’s birthday presents! Everything was just so (pardon the gushing) gorgeous! Yes we couldn’t get a seat but we didn’t care (we got one eventually). We were just as in enamoured as the children – or at least I was. The only thing that I couldn’t get my head round was the letting Oscar run around freely. Partly because it was just so alien to me. But also I spent the whole time looking to check he wasn’t near the gate, as I saw one or two children force it so hard they’d got their heads through and I knew if my son took it upon himself, he’d be able to force his entire body through. Thankfully the gate has since been reinforced, but it’s definitely something they need to keep an eye on. I don’t think the Hen House realised how strong toddlers on a mission could be!
That first visit has turned out to be one of many. Too many some might argue. Oscar just loves it there. We’ve been in the week, just the two of us, or with friends (we now reserve a table if there’s going to be a group of us). We’ve been at the weekend with Daddy (Ben was just as keen to check it out as I was and was impressed enough to say he’d take Oscar down on his own – one day 😉 ). Its a venue that seems to lend itself to so many occasions. We’ve had playdates there and attended classes. I’ve drunk copious amounts of (great) coffee and Oscar’s chowed down on fresh sandwiches, tried hummus and eaten a carbonara he loved so much I worried he may actually dive in. I haven’t eaten there myself, (apart from a piece of Red Velvet Cake which you can read about here), as most of the food available, while gorgeous and fresh and locally sourced, doesn’t really fit with the SW plan (the panini’ s look amazing – sigh). I’d love to see more healthy snacks for grown ups. But then I’d like to see that everywhere.
In such a short space of time The Hen House, has become something I didn’t really expect. Its become ‘my’ place. By ‘my’ I don’t literally mean mine of course, but it’s a place for me, for people like me, parents, mummies with toddlers. I have lived in Haslemere three and a half years. I have never gone into Costa or any other cafe where I’ve bumped in to someone I’ve known and been asked to join them. Or conversely asked someone I know to join me. But that’s how it is at The Hen House. It’s a space for my ‘tribe’ and I had no idea how little we had this. No one tuts if your child screams (mine does, a lot, he’s ‘learning’ to share), no one pulls the sour lemon face when your child gets their food over themselves/the floor/the table/you. There is a level of understanding I have only ever experienced at toddler groups. Being a stay at home mum (bleugh – I really need to think of another name for what it is I am) can be quite isolating if you don’t push yourself out there, plan, look for things to do. Suddenly here is a place I can go on a whim and know I’ll be welcomed, at any time.
I’ve had great conversations I wouldn’t have done otherwise, gotten to know friends better, met other mothers, been inspired, all thanks to ‘just another soft play’. Because it really isn’t.
If you were to ask me what it actually is I like most about The Hen House it could be tricky to choose. The space, the great coffee, the warm welcome, the fun. But really it’s easy.
It wears him out. And that’s just dandy by me.