After a wet and windy week spent camping down in Cornwall we’re back home and I’m avoiding the last of the unpacking (and the need to put the tent back up in the garden to dry it out…) It was a glorious day here in Hove and the kids wanted to spend it all in the garden, but being the pale skinned beasties that they are, we needed to get out of the sun for a while. Every summer Wyevale Garden Centers have a big sale and as we have some seriously bare patches in the borders in the back garden I decided we’d head to one for a rummage in the sale for some new plants. Normally we go to the Wyevale up by Brighton Racecourse, but as we were headed along the A27 I remembered that there was a Wyevale on the edge of Lewes and it had a sign promising a soft play, so we headed there instead.
I had thought that I’d not been to this one before, but once we arrived I realised I had been once before, pre-kids to look at their big shed display (local company Skinners Sheds have a big display area here). If we’d had more time Big S would have loved exploring the shed display as they are just great big dens as far as he’s concerned! It’s a large garden centre, set on a hillside, but there are ramps as well as steps so it’s easy enough to get around with a buggy or trolley full of kids.
The soft play area is accessed through the restaurant. Unusually for a play area in a shop or cafe you do have to pay to access it. I couldn’t find the prices on the website, but was pleased to discover that it was only £2 a head, with 50p off per child if you have a Wyevale Garden Club membership (free to join). You pay at the cafe till and according to the signs you get a wristband for the kids to wear, however I’m guessing that’s just at busy times as we only got a receipt and no other kids seemed to be wearing wristbands. It’s not a terribly large play area, it definitely wouldn’t occupy older kids for very long, but for Big S (4) and Little D (1) it was great. There were a few other kids wandering in and out and one friendly little girl playing in there, but they mostly had it to themselves. It’s got a nice fast slide on one side, a good size ball pool, a few bits to climb through and hanging bits to swat at and clamber past. Best of all though, it’s in a small room with an air-con unit sat at one end alongside a row of chairs for supervising your kids from, so it’s comfortably cool, especially on such a hot day.
As it’s in it’s own little room, separate from the restaurant, you can’t easily sit and drink coffee and watch much younger kids in there. You really need to go sit in the room to have a proper eye on them. However, I’d happily let Big S go and play while I sat in the corner of the cafe nearest it, as there’s only one way in and out so I know he’d be safe in there and unable to wander off and get lost. So if you have an older child it’s a good spot to have a bit of a sit down and a rest, or a feed of a younger child.
There’s a great big list of rules on the wall, far more than I’ve seen at any larger soft plays, but it’s mostly common sense stuff rather than obscure commandments.
As we were only stopping for a short play today we didn’t explore the food in the cafe, but I did get a pretty decent decaf americano. The menu at Wyevale is usually pretty appealing and in the past we’ve usually found something we can eat there despite our many allergies.
After an hour or so playing we went off and did my plant shopping, I even found a log store for a bargainous £15 (reduced from £129!) so I was happy as well as the kids. I can definitely see us heading to the Lewes store instead of the Brighton one in the future, the soft play is a great addition for the kids to help balance out the boredom of being dragged around looking at shrubs with their garden obsessed mother!
Edit: I only realised when writing this post up that Wyevale have a series of Rio Olympics themed bookable activities for kids running throughout August at selected garden centres. The money raised goes to the NSPCC and the activities aren’t terribly expensive, so they could be another good option for breaking up the day during the summer heat.