THE PARENTHOOD: STOKE NEWINGTON
What there is to know about living in N16...
From Mozart classes for kids, to parks and literary festivals, Elaine Farrell of Hackney Mama on what it's like for parents in Stoke Newington
Landscape: Bridging the gap between gentrified Islington and hipster Dalston, Stoke Newington, or Stokey to friends, has one of the largest numbers of babies per capita in the whole country, and its main thoroughfare, Church Street, groans under the weight of Bugaboos. Thanks to the absence of a tube station, it retains a lovely village-like feel and it's practically against the law not to own a bicycle. There's a distinct lack of big supermarkets, largely due to local opposition, which means that local shops are allowed to thrive. And Wholefoods on a Saturday is busier than a Jason Donovan concert in the late 80s.
Hangouts: Clissold Park is the beating heart of Stoke Newington, with pretty much every new parent spending most of the first year of parenthood pushing the pram round and round the park, while toddlers take their first steps in the space behind Clissold House, and kids of all ages pile into the playground. Parents can also be found in one of the many cafes lining Church Street or the High Street, where gluten-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free treats abound (and the odd giant sugary doughnut - thanks Sapid Coffee for keeping it real!). This year saw the opening of a new Wetlands area at Stoke Newington’s East Reservoir, providing families with a great outdoor space for long walks, wildlife spotting and coffee drinking at Lizzy’s at the Coal House. The small Butterfield Green playground is a popular choice, mainly due to the great boozer opposite (the Shakespeare), and it’s not unusual to hear little kids on the swings asking if they’re going to the pub soon, much to the embarrassment of their parents.
Events: There's no better time to be a parent in Stokey than the summer months when the giant paddling pool opens in Clissold Park, providing months of free entertainment for the kids. The Stoke Newington Literary Festival is another highlight of early summer, with events for all ages, while winter brings with it one of the best pantos in London at the nearby Hackney Empire.
Parents: Stoke Newington has always attracted creative types, and parents are no exception. Architects, journalists, photographers and writers abound, rubbing shoulders with holistic health practitioners & yoga instructors. The area is also abuzz with enterprising and creative mums launching their own businesses.
Local celebrities: Unlike neighbouring Islington, the streets of Stokey are not lined with celebs, although I once saw Corrie's Roy Cropper in a local cafe... (not serving tea). Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe while he lived on Church Street, which is pretty cool.
Instaparents: Little Goldie @littlegoldieshop is an online toy and decor shop run by Sonali, a local mum with impeccable taste, a photogenic family, and the most coveted nappy bag in N16.
Classes: The newish Yummy Yummy in my Tummy on the High Street is quickly establishing itself as the go-to place for children's classes or just as a space where parents can have coffee while the kids entertain themselves in the play area (or that's the theory at least...). Mini Mozart recently brought its unique brand of music classes to the area, giving children the opportunity to meet professional musicians and touch real instruments. Gymboree - although technically in Islington - is a rite of passage for crawlers to walkers in Stokey. Holistic classes and therapies are all the rage too, with a hub of hypnobirthing, baby yoga, craniosacral therapy and all things wellbeing at the incredible Well Garden down the road in Hackney Downs.
Mums wear: Selfish Mother sweaters, skinny jeans and Converses.
Dads wear: Beards, specs and cycling clothes. Usually accessorising with a Baby Bjorn sling.
Kids wear: Independent designers, Doc Martins & hand knits, with a big Polarn O. Pyret coat for winter. They usually answer to an unusual, and possibly made-up, name (my own is no exception!) and their first word is probably 'babyccino', or maybe 'hummus'.
Places to avoid: Clissold Park playground on a rainy day as it turns into a giant - and surprisingly deep - muddy paddling pool. Also avoid Wholefoods on a Saturday afternoon with a pram, unless you're unfazed by repeated tuts from fellow shoppers...
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