If you are of a Surrey persuasion, you’re probably wondering when the hell I am going to post something pertinent to the locality. And I was all set to deliver on that point today.. at least until I checked Google Maps and discovered Redfields Garden Centre is actually in Hampshire. Doh!
When a pal suggested we meet for lunch there, I expected.. well.. you know.. a garden centre. A glorified barn and three big greenhouses with a lot of sacks lying around. So i was somewhat taken aback when I rocked up to something that looked more like a newly refurbed Welcome Break.
I was already late, so trying to locate fellow mums Holly and Rachael in the gargantuan downstairs cafe – which was itself smack in the middle of this gargantuan garden centre – took some time. Although staff in the reception area were helpful with this (Yes, it is so big it has a reception area).
The place was packed, so there were plenty of folk milling around the canteen, generally adding to the confusion over what the food-ordering system actually was. And I’m still not entirely sure, though it involved waiting staff wafting around with tablets to take hot food orders, in addition to the usual self-service arrangement. If that looks confusing written down, imagine what it was like in a packed cafe, knowing my daughter was waiting in her buggy at the table. After what seemed like an age waiting for a second wafty waitress to make me an earl grey (you know the sort, friendly enough, but looks like they might just stroll off for a long poo and a mess about with their iPhone mid-service!) I finally made it to the table, with a number to display.
And, you know what, the food arrived promptly; a veggie quiche with a choice of two salads, and – behold! – it was good. Befitting of the price, let us say. The table was comfortable too, with diner booth style seats and plenty of high chairs to be had around and about. Cutlery was pretty scarce by that time, though.
So, note to self, avoid 1pm on a Friday, next time.
But wait, that’s not the end of it! Redfields also has an upstairs cafe – and it’s this one I’d point you at if you are headed there with kids.
If you skirt around the chaos of the main cafe, into the toy section to the left, you’ll find a little lift next to the toilets and baby changing. It’s one of those slow-arse ones thats looks and feels like a forklift without the truck: basically a shaky moving platform where you keep your finger on the button and pray for no breakdowns. But it delivers you and buggy up to a smaller, more tranquil cafe that sells drinks, snacks and has a nice little play area for children.
Eva loved this area. There was room enough for a child her size to put a bit of a waddle on and do some circuits, and there were older children of 3 or 4 yrs enjoying it too, the big building blocks keeping them entertained, along with plenty of books. Eva’s friend Ariella is way too dignified for waddling, but also enjoyed quietly sitting to explore the toys once the older children had left. And once she found a door to peek through on this crazy Fisher Price thing, she was really in her element. Eva also took in some Charlie & Lola, which they had running on screens in the area. We don’t have a TV here at home, so it was a nice treat for her. And a great distraction if, say, you wanted, hypothetically, to sneak a cup of tea and a slice from their rather nice cake selection near the counter. Ahem.
Anyway, having pointed us towards this little gem, poor Holly promptly had to leave to take Rory to nursery, but Rachel and I took advantage of the comfy seats in the play area, and agreed that this was a good place to know about, and worth another visit. We’ll head straight upstairs next time!
After a detour to the Changing Facilities (decent – but a big downside was the lack of toilet in there. More on that later) Eva and I finished the day with a leisurely look at the children’s book section. I was particularly pleased to snap up this half-price offering for a fiver [below] because the rate at which Eva turns pages and casts one book aside in favour of the next is, frankly, staggering. And she can now expend some extra energy trying to wrestle them out of the box too!
So there we go: Redfield’s upstairs play area is a handy little hole in which to post the kids while you grab a tasty break! And the good news is that, despite being in the ‘wrong’ county, you can get there in under 30 mins from Guildford in good traffic (just watch that your GPS doesn’t try to trap you in Farnham’s one way system en route, so that you are hopelessly swirling in a black hole composed entirely of art students and the elderly for ever more). So if you like cake, children and, on occasion, cake without children tugging at your sleeve, you should go. And if you happen to like plants and Welcome Breaks into the bargain, this place could just blow your mind! ;0)
Redfields Garden Centre Ltd, Redfields Lane, Church Crookham, Fleet GU52 0AB
There is ample parking out front.
I would advise taking a sling if you
a) want to avoid the ‘forklift’ up to the cafe and
b) want to fit into the ‘regular’ toilets with a baby.
A sidenote in case any ‘Toilet Architects’ happen to be reading this, as loads surely are!! Although I can see why toilets are sometimes omitted from changing rooms/feeding areas (In theory speeds up general ‘turnover’, and is less stinky if you want to breastfeed in peace) it rarely works so well in practice. It puts mothers in an awkward place if they or their older tots still need to the use the toilet. That means still having to squeeze into the regulars (impossible with most buggies and hard with a wriggling toddler) or use the Disabled loo, both of which ultimately cause more queuing for all patrons, not just Mum and child. In addition, those of us using reusable nappies can’t just tip any ‘surprises’ straight down the toilet when changing.
And, moreover, who really wants to breastfeed near a bin full of used nappies in any case? Hands up! Anyone? Nope, thought not.
So, overall, I think most Mums would really rather ditch the chairs and other pleasantries and have the toilet instead. Though shout out if you disagree, Mums!