Cheltenham Rocks

Rocking Cheltenham with: Cheltenham Maman

Welcome to the very first 'Rocking Cheltenham with:' - a series of interviews where we ask local parents about how they like to spend their family time. From their favourite places to eat and play, to hidden gems and free ways to amuse the kids.

To kick things off, it seems only fitting that we pop CheltenhamMaman aka Kate Starkey in the hot seat. As one of Cheltenham's best-known parents and an award-winning entrepreneur, we want to know Kate's favourite things to do in Cheltenham with the family.

Name Kate Starkey - Cheltenham Maman
Number of children 3
How old are they? 15, 13, 2
Occupation Blogger and Events Organiser

Hi Kate! Tell us, what do you love most about bringing up a family in Cheltenham?

I'll tell you a secret... I don't actually live in Cheltenham. I know, it's scandalous isn't it! I live in a village in the North Cotswolds. But I’ve lived near Cheltenham for almost my whole life, so I know it well and it's where I chose to focus my business - hence the name.

The thing I love most about bringing up a family in the area is it’s the perfect mix of everything you could want for your children. Take the culture. Cheltenham Festivals have done a lot for Cheltenham, and as a local I love supporting them whenever I can.

It feels like a town of note to be an adult in too. There are a great selection of restaurants and bars, the schools, plenty of green spaces and surrounding areas of natural beauty are just the icing on the cake.

It’s hard work trying to come up with activities to keep the whole family happy! What would the perfect day in Cheltenham look like if you were to do something for everyone?

With the age gap between my children pleasing everyone is virtually impossible! We'd probably start out with brunch somewhere fun like School House Cafe which I absolutely love - the food and coffee is great, and so unpretentious!

Then a quick gallop around Pittville Park. We’d try and feed the ducks, but they’re often overfed and just laugh at our crumbs of gone-off Kingsmill 50/50!

There are frequently great fairs and markets we try too. Often in the Suffolks, so we'd take a stroll around there and hunt out local produce or quirky bargains.

More than likely our perfect day would end with the little one tucked-up in bed (maybe by her Granny) and us able to take the boys to the cinema or for a game of miniature golf at Mr Mulligan's. If we're eating out after, it would be at Bar and Wok - that's our favourite!

Where would you take your toddler on a rainy day?

Toddlers will eagerly gallop beneath the bubble blowing clock in the Regent Arcade for half an hour. If you can coincide nap time with a lap around the shops, then both mother and child end up happy!

New to Cheltenham? The Regent Arcade’s ‘Wishing Fish Clock’ plays music and blows bubbles on the hour and at half past every hour.

How about your top 3 places to have a play date?

School House Cafe gets a second shout out here! They have a nice separate room with toys and the staff are really accommodating for little ones.

The outdoor coffee shop in Montpellier Gardens is also great. It's located right next to the playground, so you can grab a takeaway drink and chat while the littles play.

The Wilson Cafe (where I hold my Maman Goes Pop! pop up market and events hub a couple of times a year) is also a pretty good meeting place. Upstairs there is lots of space for the children to play while mums catch up.

You have older children too. Any tips on activities for bigger kids that are low-cost or free?

Hmmm that's tricky. Teenagers and cost free are not two concepts I'm regularly able to put together! My eldest loves to play basketball and there's a couple of hoops in Pittville Park, near the Leisure Centre. Swimming is also low cost and the boys love the diving pool also at the Leisure Centre.

Being so well-connected with other local mums must mean you hear about all of Cheltenham’s child-friendly hotspots first! Any hidden gems you’re willing to share?

Well most people will know that the Play Farm has recently been revamped, so that's certainly worth a visit.

There are some amazing baby groups I've visited that are also definitely worth visiting:

Bishops Cleeve’s Bumps and Babies takes place every Tuesday morning at Bishops Cleeve library, and it's like Disneyland for babies! So many amazing things for them to gaze at and touch & feel.

The Colour Club is great too. It’s relatively new. Jen, who runs it, is an art teacher. She combines story telling with creative play at various Cheltenham venues. You can follow where they are on Facebook. Warning - the children will get very messy!

Are there any upcoming Cheltenham family events you are getting excited about?

We love the Cheltenham Jazz Festival (2nd - 7th May). It brings such a great vibe to the town. And hopefully the weather will be great, and we can all wallow in the sunshine listening to great music together!

What about helping the kids blow off steam… Where are go-to outdoor visits?

Nearby, we love Broadway Park and flying kites on Cleeve Common. My boys also love mountain biking in the Forest of Dean.

You’re such a busy lady – where are your favourite places to go if you’ve got child-free downtime?

James and I just love heading to one of the very many lovely country pubs for a drink and a catch up. I've had a couple of last minute spa evenings at Cowley Manor which were amazing too. And I often dream about going to the cinema all by myself!

What is Cheltenham missing that you think would be great for families?

I think there is a real gap for a co-working space for self-employed mums, where their children are welcome. It's my pipe dream to plug that gap! I just need to win the lottery and I'll be right on it!

Finally, if you could live anywhere other than Cheltenham, where would it be?

I love South Devon - Salcombe and Kingsbridge. We try and get down there every year, and the sea is the only thing that might ever take me away from Cheltenham. It does something to my peace of mind that I can't quite put into words. It's a very special place.

Kate Starkey is the chief Maman at Cheltenham Maman, the Cotswold’s ultimate guide to parenting locally. Alongside the blog, Cheltenham Maman champions local entrepreneurial mums and hosts workshops, talks, and fun social events for local parents.

Photography by Mouse About Town.

Don't miss Cheltenham Maman's next event, Fashion:Reboot - a chance to get a super stylish, summer wardrobe at a fraction of designer prices. Hosted at Stoke Orchard Community Centre, expect a gorgeous night with cocktails and sweet treats available to fuel your shop-a-thon. Find out more.