Guide

Local Buggy Friendly Cafés

A few weeks ago I promised I’d write up a guide to buggy friendly cafes around Sussex. And here we are. This is a bit of a whistle stop rather than a comprehensive guide: some of the places I’ve found along the winding journey of motherhood and other’s that have been recommended to me since starting the blog. If I’ve missed any, add them to the comments – I love hearing your recommendations. 

When I was a new mum, a café that I could get my pram into, that had baby changing facilities, and a decent coffee (preferably with a sleeping baby and my Kindle) was practically nirvana; when my second arrived 21 months later, my needs levelled up and cafés that had the following were a lifeline: easy parking, easy access, lifts, ramps, doors wide enough for the double buggy, seats comfy enough to feed the baby and distract a bouncy young toddler, a loo big enough to get all three of us in and change 2 nappies either with the double buggy in tow or the baby strapped to my front – not much to ask, eh. There weren’t actually that many that met my requirements, especially in my beloved Brighton back in 2015. There was the cafe in the Dome and The Italian Kitchen in The Churchill Centre. The former is now closed to the public, only open to audiences for productions and the latter is still there and a convenient stop off if you’re ever over that end of town.

If you’re a new mum (or dad) of a new baby or a young toddler, whether they’re your first, second, third… I get how lonely this space is when you just want a slice of normal and a cup of something hot (and maybe even a smile and a hello from a fellow grown-up). So, this guide is written with you in mind. I’m not going to lie, I found early days motherhood hard, especially the second time round. Any little win in the day felt like an olympic gold. And a win could be as simple as feeding my tiny humans, changing their nappies and drinking a coffee.

These are the spaces and places where those wins were more frequent, with some newer places that I wished had been around a few years ago.

And the other thing that I get, wanting to see friends. And also friends with other babies so you can lament all the leaking and crying and sleeplessness. A lot of folk would say to just stay at home and have your friends over for a cuppa. And that’s not an entirely bad idea. But let’s face it, when your house looks like a squat, the milk in the fridge is suspect and you just really want someone else to make the coffee, going out can be a sanity saving luxury. All of these cafes can accommodate several prams and are both baby and toddler friendly. Take it from someone who was there just a few years ago.

Sussex Mother, Hassocks

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This is my number one place to meet up with friends or to go to as a family for lunch or a coffee & snack. The cafe is set in a polytunnel nextdoor to Garden Sage. It’s split into two rooms: one is a play area; the other the main café with tables, plants and homewares for sale.

The food is delicious. I’ve been working my way through the lunch menu; I haven’t had a bad lunch yet (the bagel is great, the sausage sandwich is yummy, the humous and pitta is delicious but best of all is the peanut butter on toast with super greens and sriaracha). And the coffee? It’s from Lindfield Coffee Works, where the baristas at Sussex Mother also trained. Needless to say, it’s excellent coffee.

It can get a little bit busy in the car park but most days it’s easy to park and it’s free. There’s stacks of space inside for buggies.  

There’s a great play area for under 5s with lots of books to look at, piles of high chairs and a great kids menu. 

Happyscamps, Horsham 

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Once I discovered Happyscamps it became my regular Friday afternoon destination during the double pre-school years.  It’s not that close to where I live but I enjoyed the 40 minute drive there and back, usually with everyone singing on the way there (or, you know, screaming because 9 months and 2) and a happy tribe on the way home: everyone exercised, happy, fed and yep, asleep. 

Happy Scamps, is a sweet soft play with a nice baby area and loads of space for buggies. Because it’s a softplay cafe you have to pay to go in: babies under six months are free, babies between 6 – 12 months £3.75 and over 2s are £4.75. There’s a sibling discount of a £1. They used to run a loyalty scheme where you got a stamp for every admission and the 10th was free. I’m not sure if this is still the case.

The soft play frame is single storey, which is excellent if you have a small toddler who likes adventuring. There’s a role play area, toys to play with, books to look at and wooden wall puzzles.  Even young toddlers can be left to play happily and safely if you need to feed your baby or have a sit down and a coffee. Retrieving small people from the frame is easy and stress-free – no climbing or squeezing through tubes with a baby under the arm. This is why it fast became my favourite spot to visit with a small toddler and baby.

There’s a cafe, which is pretty average if I’m honest, but not bad for soft play and very reasonably priced. There’s a range of sandwiches, soup, cakes and coffee for grown-ups; lots of snacky bits and pieces for little ones including a lunch deal with a choice of sandwiches, veg sticks, tubs of fruit, humous, treats and a selection of kids cartons. The softplay is easy to get to as it’s in Swan Walk, which has lots of parking and lifts. It’s all very accessible even with a big buggy. Oh and if you’re in the earliest of days, it’s also really convenient for the shops too. I quite often used to grab emergency groceries from M&S and nappies from Boots.

Mabel’s Tea Room, Burgess Hill 

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Mabel’s Emporium is a quirky department store of local micro-businesses selling upcycled furniture, clothes, homemade crafts, second hand toys and novelty homewares. It’s very eclectic! My girls absolutely love to explore the shelves of treasure when we visit. It’s also a great spot to go to with babies. There’s a dedicated buggy area, toys, cake, coffee and a selection of children’s lunches. Lots of ingredients are locally sourced and all of the food is homemade; they have gluten-free and vegan options. You can even pick up boxes of Macs Farm eggs and bottles of Wobblegate apple juice to take home. 

My only reservation would be taking curious toddlers who might like to dismantle shop displays. I know mine would have been scaling shelves and touching everything when younger if I’d have taken my eye off of them for more than a couple of seconds. A firm no would have resulted in a massive tantrum and I’d have been the mum with the howling baby strapped to her; wresting the small toddler. I don’t miss those days and if you’re in the thick of it now, believe me when I say it gets easier!

Parking can be a little tight if the car park’s busy but if there’s space it’s super easy and it’s free. I reckon you could probably get a double buggy through the doors but you might need some help; a single or pram wouldn’t be an issue.

And if you fancy meeting up for an activity with some friends followed by snacks and coffees, there’s a music bugs class for children from newborn to age 4 on a Tuesday. You can book a space by contacting kelly@musicbugs.co.uk. 

Tory’s Cafe, Haywards Heath

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I was tipped off about this lovely coffee shop in the park a few weeks’ ago. If it’s a sunny day, I reckon you could fit all the buggies in Sussex out on the terrace (that’s a lie, but you get the idea). The coffee shop is done out like a vintage tearoom inside and there are some nice tables to sit around with babes in arms. On our visit we sat outside as it was a sunny day and when we went in to use the toilet there was a huge group of mums and babies inside. Perfect for meet-ups with, for example, your NCT or new parenting group. Tory’s boasts a great range of delicious homemade lunches, one of the best cafe kids menus I’ve seen, yummy homemade cakes, and all of the drink options you’d expect from a coffee shop. 

Tory’s is in the middle of Victoria Park, which is surrounded by streets that have on street parking and there are several council car parks in the area.

You’re a stones throw from the playground at the cafe if you have a little one to entertain or if it’s just you and your baby, there are pram friendly paths for a stroll. 

Washbrooks Family Farm, Hurstpierpoint

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Washbrooks tearoom is excellent for parent’s with babies and young children. They’ve got everything you could need: plenty of children’s food options, lots of high chairs, children’s cutlery, water, colouring pencils, colouring in sheets and a TV showing tractor films. You don’t have to go into the farm to use the tearoom shop when it’s quieter. In fact, this was the only coffee shop that I could walk to and get my massive double buggy into, so I became a bit of a regular in the early days of parenting. Fresh air and a sandwich that I didn’t have to make were quite a strong pull. We still love the tearoom now and often pop down for a play at the farm and some macaroni cheese (we live so close that it would be silly not to have annual passes). If you do want to go into the farm, you’ll need to pay the entry fee; children under 3 are free.

There’s stacks of free parking at Washbrooks. It’s really easy to get to and you can just about squeeze a double buggy through the tearoom door. Watch out though, I managed to squash one of my daughter’s fingers getting the buggy through the door. It’s a sound I’ll never forget. 

Although the cafe is big, on busy days you’ll need to leave your buggy outside. There are loads of big tables for larger groups and tonnes of high chairs too. I used to meet up with some local mums here when we had non-moving babies, and we’d just stop in for a coffee or hot chocolate. I love the cosy wood burning fire in winter.

And if you did fancy going into the farm, there’s a fab selection of play equipment in the farm, animals to look at, bikes to ride on, soft play and a tractor ride too. It’s a great day out for young families.

The Tree House, Haywards Heath 

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This is another small soft play cafe aimed at pre-schoolers. There’s a £3.50 entrance fee for children aged 9 months to 5 years.

This used to be called JJs when I was pregnant with the little one back in 2014/15. It was my favourite place in the last few months of my pregnancy when I needed somewhere manageable for both of us (basically, soft play without rollers): the big one was then a little 19 month old and I was a great big 7 month pregnant lady. She could play happily, I could get involved with some of it and leave her to the more energetic bits. There were tables, chairs, coffee and cake with parking just over the road. I was really sad when JJs closed as it was such an easy place for us to get to. 

Fast forward a few years and JJs is now The Tree House. It’s still perfect for pre-schoolers with a wooden climbing frame and puzzles at the back; there’s a soft area for little ones to crawl and toddle around closer to the cafe end. I’d say that realistically it’s best for under 4s. Most toddlers would be able to navigate the climbing frame by themselves and they have CCTV in the softplay area bit, so you can watch what’s going on from the cafe.

As soon as you get into the cafe there’s a large buggy park, leaving the cafe free of prams.  There are lots of high chairs. It can get busy and you might end up sharing a table, but this isn’t always a bad thing, especially if you’ve ventured out on your own.

There’s a great choice of food and coffee too, which makes it an ideal spot to meet up with friends. 

Wickle, Lewes

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Wickle is small but ideal for parents and children. They offer a pram valet service. Prams will be locked up with bike chains to the front of the store. Genius! I love the choice of food in here, lots of healthy wraps, overnight oats, biscuits, cakes and great choices for children whether it’s a lolly or a selection of lunch treats. The coffee is organic and hits the spot perfectly. 

There’s a table in the middle for children to play at and a well stocked toy kitchen too. You can pick up a pot of pencils and paper for them to do some freestyle drawing while you zone out or chat to a friend.  

The shop is full of gorgeous things to browse or buy. 

If you’re coming into Lewes from out of town, there are several car parks near Wickle. I use the one on East Street, but there’s also the NCP near Waitrose.

Southdown Garden Centre, Hassocks

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This was another regular when my 2 were little. There’s a little climbing frame outside with space to run around and some fun activities in the corner of the cafe. There’s lots of space inside, so it’s perfect for getting a buggy into. The staff are usually willing to carry trays – you just have to ask.  They also have free wifi. Not that I’m suggesting you’d like that to scroll through Instagram. At all. Not one bit.

There’s a huge selection of food and drink: breakfasts and hot lunches, freshly made sandwiches, pastries and biscuits. Coffees, teas, Folkingtons juices and they’re licensed too.

If you have some time to kill there are all sorts of interesting things to look at in the garden centre with toddlers: guinea pigs, rabbits, goldfish, plants… my children adore looking at the garden statues of dogs and gnomes too (weird, I know. And to their disgust we’ll never have a 4ft faux stone dog or collection of cheery plastic robins in our garden). We used to find ourselves swinging on the garden chair in the garden furniture section, I’m not sure that’s the idea. Like I said, early years parenting is hard, anything for an easy life. 

The car park is huge so it’s easy to get to when you’ve got more than one little one, everything inside is doable with even the biggest double buggy and there’s the fab Heritage Centre, which sells loads of lovely local produce. I actually have some of my fondest memories as a new mum of two in this garden centre.

If you have a friend with a new baby in Sussex, pass this on. If you enjoy reading my blog, make sure you follow, lots more family-friendly and child-friendly posts are in the pipeline. And don’t forget that I’m all over the various social channels where you can find all sorts of info about family-friendly eating in Sussex. 

Come and say hello on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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