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 Vyki, a culture blogger and museum curator living in Walthamstow. Let’s meet her now and find out what her favourite spots are in this family-friendly North East London neighbourhood…
Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Vyki, I’m a mum, award winning culture blogger Museum Mum and museum curator who has lived in London for almost 25 years. I have three children aged (almost) 18, 8 and 6 years old, known as Museum Teen, Museum Boy and Museum Girl respectively.
I blog about culture for families over at museummum.com and on instgram.com/museummum where I help parents find great cultural activities so they can enjoy family time more, at home and away. I write reviews and monthly/school holiday what’s on guides. I’m also co-host of the Cultured Kids blog link up.
I mix my personal experience of taking my kids to heritage attractions with my professional understanding of the sector. I have a masters in museum studies and 15 years experience working in the sector, at museums big and small. But at the end of the day, my kids don’t care about that – if they’re not enjoying somewhere they let me know pretty sharpish! They’re definitely my best teachers in terms of understanding what works for families and what doesn’t, and I share that on my blog and social media channels.
Which area do you live in, and what do you love about it?
For the last 12 years we’ve lived in Walthamstow in North East London, a large and family-friendly area on the end of the Victoria Line. We absolutely love the area, it’s very welcoming – we know all our neighbours and have made many friends. There’s a real artistic edge to the area too – there’s a reason it was chosen as London’s first Borough of Culture. Walthamstow is made up of many different neighbourhoods, including the historic Village; Central with its vibrant mile long street market; St James Street and Coppermill Lane and their proximity to Walthamstow Marshes; Blackhorse Road where industrial units now house arts studios, cafes and even a climbing wall; Lloyd Park and its award winning park; and Upper Walthamstow with its proximity to Epping Forest. There are many more parts of Walthamstow and, from my experience, everyone thinks where they live is the best bit!
Where do you like to hang out with your kids?
You’ll normally find us heading to a museum, historic site, gallery or garden. We do revisit places but my heart soars most when we go somewhere new. As soon as lockdown allowed, we’ve been jumping on the tube into Central London. Both the Victoria Line and London overground run into the centre, it’s 20 minutes to either Oxford Circus or Liverpool Street Station. It’s currently a great time to enjoy places normally overcrowded with day trippers and tourists. Our favourite places this summer have been three places I normally avoid at this time of year: Wonderlab at the Science Museum; Tower Bridge where we had the glass walkway to ourselves and the Natural History Museum, particularly its members room where we’ve been making good use of its library of books and games. The Electronic exhibition at the Design Museum is well worth a mention too, it’s the closest I’ve had to a good night out for quite some time!
We’ve also had lots of fun driving to new places. As we live only a few minutes from the North Circular, it’s easy to get out of and around London. Only half an hour from us we discovered the pirate pun trail and abandoned WW2 concrete barges in Rainham. We’ve really maxxed out our National Trust membership this summer – the romantic ruin of Scotney Castle most won our hearts, followed closely by Winston Churchill’s home Chartwell, with its magnificent views.
What are your favourite local family-friendly eateries?
My kids are only just of an age and temperament that eating out is a pleasure again, and many of our old favourites have sadly closed down. Recently we’ve enjoyed eating at Gokyuzu Walthamstow, which makes quick and super fresh Turkish food cooked over charcoals. Their platters are great for families to share, with free bread and salad.
There are a lot of pizza places in Walthamstow – our favourite is Sodo Pizza, it’s casual yet welcoming with decent sourdough base pizzas and calzones – and their negronis aren’t bad either.
For under fives, the play cafe Role2Play just reopened post-covid with enhanced cleaning procedures – great for when you want to enjoy a cuppa in peace!
Older kids and teens will be impressed by neon wonderland God’s Own Junkyard – its Rolling Scones cafe has a little outdoor courtyard if you need some natural light.
I rarely take my kids to pubs as there’s nothing that puts me off my drink more than having to adult at the same time, but on the rare occasion you might find us in local boozer the Bell, which is very accepting of families.
What are your favourite local independent shops?
We buy as often as we can from family butchers HP Parsons, who do a roaring trade in good quality meat at a decent price. Their smoked streaky bacon is far superior to the supermarket offering, and costs less too! We always buy our Christmas bird from them, and they now offer home delivery all year round.
For gifts I pick cards from E17 Art House, craft beer from Clapton Craft, SAW chocolate, Perky Blenders ground coffee, E17 bacon jam, Mothers’ Ruin gin and Christmas gifts and baubles from William Morris Gallery shop. I bought Museum Dad a voucher for a bespoke leather belt from local Sabel Saddlery a few years back and it’s still going strong. For my 40th birthday Museum Dad bought me a ring from local jeweller Malcolm Morris, which I really treasure.
What local activities do you and your family take part in?
Museum Girl has swimming lessons at Waltham Forest Pool and Track, and has just started (virtual) Beavers whilst Museum Boy has graduated to (virtual) Cubs.
Our favourite under fives group was Grow Wild, an all-year round outdoor adventure playground with friendly staff and a real spirit of playfulness. We’ve hired it for several birthday parties as well, as the challenging equipment make it great for kids of all ages, even adults!
We’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of Soho Theatre to the former EMD cinema. Our local cinema is Empire Walthamstow – in normal times they do a family screenings on weekend mornings for £1.75 a ticket; when they recently reopened they offered £3 tickets for any showing, and we practically had the auditorium to ourselves.
There’s a lot for musical children. Secondary school Frederick Bremer offers every child an instrument and free lessons as part of the Music In Secondary Schools Trust, funded by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Through this scheme Museum Teen discovered a natural musical ability, and found lots of further opportunities to develop through Waltham Forest Music Service. They offer a number of ensembles and orchestras, as well as trips and other opportunities across London and the UK – she even went to Shetlands as part of a cultural exchange programme. She absolutely loved Centre for Young Musicians, a Saturday music school in South London which accepts children at any grade and really promotes a love of music.
On our doorstep is Lloyd Park, the area’s premier park with a large playground and skate park. In normal times it’s the first London stop of Carter’s Steam Fair each summer whcih is always a real highlight, and hosts the free festival Walthamstow Garden Party. Nearby William Morris Gallery usually hosts free family activities one Saturday afternoon a month. The area has lots of small imaginative playgrounds – our current favourite is Bisterne Avenue Park with its rainbow ball court, pirate ship climbing frame, and little wooded area – it’s small so I can easily keep an eye on both kids at the same time.
In coronatimes we’ve been making the most of Epping Forest. It’s a vast and ancient forest with many different parts to explore, including the winding stream of Loughton Brook, woodland with wild deer of the Lower Forest, and the unauthorized swings in Walthamstow Forest, which were a godsend during playground closures!
Where’s your favourite place to escape in your area for a little solo time?
Between work, children and school closures it’s been so long I’ve forgotten what solo time is! When I do get a spare minute you’ll usually find me catching up with friends, heading into town for an adult-oriented exhibition, or writing up our family adventures. I’ve been very grateful for Lloyd Park this summer, I got my only solo time there running the Couch to 5K programme and met friends for a natter over a gin in a tin. On my next day off I’m hoping for a haircut and a visit to the Derek Jarman exhibition at the Garden Museum.
Where’s the best place for a night out with friends / date night?
The marmalade negronis at Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace are exceptional, and my favourite meal is still the chicken burger at Eat 17. On a Friday night in Before Times Froth & Rind cheese shop had great cocktails and a live DJ, whilst at nearby Parish Wines you could crack open any bottle and enjoy live piano.
What’s the best hidden gem in your area?
Walthamstow is a great for a street art hunt thanks to Wood Street Walls – I think there are over 50 in E17 alone. We completed an Angry Dan limerick hunt this summer, but there’s also a new rainbow staircase at Walthamstow Forest College, and a fantastic thank you NHS mural in the Village. You can download a map from their website, and although it looks to be missing a few, half the fun is coming across new ones whilst exploring the area.
Feature photo by Paula Smith all other photos from Museum Mum.