We love our local London mums! In our Mum in the Hood series we speak with mums around the greater London area to find out what they love about where they live. This week we spoke with Caroline, a mum in Sydenham who founded a cafe with on-site childcare and events. Let’s meet her now and find out what her favourite spots are in this family-friendly South East London neighbourhood…
Please tell us a little about yourself…
I’m Caroline Newte Hardie, I have two small boys aged 6 and 4, I worked for 12 years in education as a secondary school teacher and then as an education consultant, and before that I worked in the city as a management consultant. Those were my day jobs! In the evening I hauled myself around London telling jokes and doing character comedy and set up a comedy festival. I still love comedy – it’s one of the hardest and most rewarding art forms. We need it now more than ever. And then, well, and then came Peace + Riot! We’re London’s social club with a difference. We support parents to get on with fitting work and life around being a parent. Our Peace Keepers keep your kids entertained whilst you get a chance to catch up with work, chat to a friend – or just breathe. We’re only 3 months old, but we’ve got big plans.
Which area do you live in, and what do you love about it?
I live in Sydenham in South East London and we’ve been there for about 13 years. We live just by a tiny park called Mayow Park – it’s such a close knit community. Every time we go for a walk we bump into someone we know – wave hello, stop for a playdate for the kids – whatever works. It’s a great little spot.
Where do you like to hang out with your kids?
Apart from the park across the road, we’re huge fans of Beckenham Place Park too – the playground is huge and you can get lost for a long walk in the woods too. Both boys love drawing and so exhibitions at Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Horniman Museum & Gardens are always popular if there’s space for them to get their pens out too. Same goes for the Tate Modern – you’d think they’d get overwhelmed by the size of the Turbine Hall, but they don’t – they find it really freeing.
What are your favourite local family-friendly eateries?
Mama Dough in Honor Oak and in Sydenham are so kid friendly – they’re brilliant. The café in Dulwich Park is a huge boon – pick yourself a table on the green and you it’s a chance to relax whilst the kids run about. The Signal pub in Forest Hill is really welcoming too. The Moustache at top of Kirkdale is a lovely spot – with toys in the basement.
What are your favourite local independent shops?
Mabel’s Five & Dime is just brilliant for little finds different to what you might usually come across for Christmas present. Kirkdale Bookshop is fantastic and always has a great range to choose from – and staff are always happy to order for you. The same is true of Dulwich Books – both great places to just browse. Bunka in Forest Hill always comes up trumps for presents and then you can pop next door for the perfect card in Max Made Me Do It.
What local activities do you and your family take part in?
Before school kicked in, both boys were huge fans of Foxglove Forest School – it’s beautifully run with original and engaging ideas. The boys have recently got in to Stagecoach classes and they love them – they come back singing all the songs (at full volume) and full of beans.
Where’s your favourite place to escape in your area for a little solo time?
I used to hate going to the hairdresser because I’d get bored and fidgety, but now, now I LONG for a trip to the hairdresser. It’s an excuse to sit perfectly still and legitimately not to do anything else. I love Bleach, Brixton (and all the other Bleach salons too) – there’s no pretension there – love it. For someone truly local and lovely I would really recommend Rudina Doci – they really listen to what you’re after and it’s a relaxing environment too.
Where’s the best place for a night out with friends / date night?
Hands down 161 Kirkdale. I love that place. The wine, the food, the people – completely and utterly perfect. It’s perfect. PERFECT. Did I mention it’s perfect?
What’s the best hidden gem in your area?
I’d probably still say 161 – I’m always furious and ecstatic when someone hasn’t heard of it. Furious for them because I want them to do well; ecstatic for me because I always want to be able get a table!
Peace + Riot, 12 Croxted Road, London, SE21 8SW