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If you’re a member of a local Facebook group or ever set foot in a playgroup, you’ll know that parents spend a lot of time seeking and sharing recommendations for things to do with their kids.

What might look good on paper or on a website won’t always work in practice with a lively toddler or easily bored preschooler, so it’s always helpful to go for something that’s been tried, tested and approved by a real family.

With that in mind, we’ve invited some local parents to share their top picks for parks and open spaces, places to eat and drink, and family-friendly activities.  We’ve also asked them for their recommendations for ways to spend any child-free time and any ‘hidden gems’ that other people might not know about in the city.  We’ll be alternating these ‘top picks’ blogs with some more day in the life features over the next few weeks.

To kick off the series, we introduce Amy Charman, a local mum who lives in the Golden Triangle.

Introduce yourself and your family

I’m Amy, a full time mum and mess maker, 35ish, constantly chasing two small people around this fine city – T who’s 6, and A, 3 going on 6, with my husband Steve in tow too!

 

How long have you lived in Norwich?

We both grew up here, disappeared to travel and go to uni, and returned when we couldn’t afford not to live at home. So in total about 30 years, with a gap year/university hiatus.

What do you love most about the City?

The friendly people, being so close to all entertainments and amenities yet a stone’s throw from open countryside and the coast, the view of the castle walking through town, and how everyone knows someone who knows someone who probably knows another who is related to you or your neighbour!

 

Favourite park/open space

Heigham Park, minutes from home, play space which entertains all ages, field for running madly upon, T’s “most tricky but easy when you’re big enough and know how to” climbing tree, tennis courts for A to watch “Wimbledon tennis cos they jump and shout” and close enough to the shops for essential provisions! We like the rockery at Earlham Park too, and Whitlingham and Blickling for long walks.

 

Best place to eat with children

The Pigs in Edgefield, a drive but so worth it. Great food, fabulous climbing frame and Lego – everyone’s happy! Closer to home, The Sanctuary on Grove Walk does great coffee and food and has a tipi full of toys when you’re done zooming round the converted church on your didicar! Without kids: Shiki Japanese restaurant. Delicious, friendly and a real treat!

Favourite place to spend time with your kids

We really enjoy jumping into the car and heading north to the coast. Chips from Roughton eaten on West Runton Beach then sandcastles, rockpools, fossils and paddling. Finished with an ice cream to smear over the car on the drive home! Gressenhall, the Dinosaur Park and Pensthorpe are often requested too!

 

Where you go to unwind and why

Unwind?? What’s that??!? My unwind time is a sacred few minutes getting dressed on my own upstairs in the morning, when I have the chance to think about the day ahead. My most relaxing weekly activities are the half hour waiting in the changing room for T to finish her swimming lesson (childfree and other mums to chat with) and Friday mornings spent with A at Forest School, where he can get as muddy as he likes, make as much noise as he chooses to, and we have hot drinks brought to us round the camp fire. That is my unwind time – outdoors, happy child, and a hot cup of tea!

Tell us your top ‘hidden gem’ in Norwich – a place that you like to visit, a shop you love – which you think everyone else should know about.

It’s worth the drive because of the dog-poo free grass, the only eco park I know of in Norwich – St Clements Park on Woodcock Road. Great play space, huge sand pit, slides big enough for grown up kids too. Willow tunnels to hide in, an unmown corner of grasses and wild flowers, unfortunately no loos or cafe but definitely worth the trip for a quiet green open space. Was reticent to write it down as it really is a secret garden, hardly seen another soul there at all.