Interview with Hannah Ashpole

poleMAGPIES 09-2021

Anna Heydon reflects on her interview with Hannah Ashpole about the new Magpies parent/carer and toddler group

Magpies is a new parent / carer and toddler group which will be co-led by Matt and Hannah Ashpole from St Mary Magdalene Church in Gorleston. As we followed 2 year old Emmaus Ashpole round the house as she pushed a small pink pushchair, Hannah chatted to me a bit about their plans

What inspired you to set up the group?
The idea came as a result of our experience of becoming first-time parents during lockdown. Opportunities to mix with other parents with young children were limited. We could see that there was a great need for us and parents like us to meet with others in a similar situation. Since we are currently in a situation where we have the time to do something to meet this need, we decided there was no time like the present!

Who is it aimed at?
The group is primarily for children from birth until their 3rd birthday, but with flexibility for families who have other children of preschool age. Children can come with any responsible adult – grandparents, aunties, uncles, family friends

We are keen for this to be a place where all adults involved with the child, male and female, feel welcome. For parents who are breast-feeding there will be a screened off area if preferred

What will a typical session be like?
Sessions will last between 60 and 90 minutes. There are lots of opportunities for children to enjoy themselves including soft play and outside bikes. There will be an optional time together of nursery rhymes, story and craft and a snack time with homemade treats for the adults and healthy snacks for the children

We will have signposting information available to help parents / carers find support for issues they are struggling with

We are also exploring the idea of having occasional sessions where families can bring and swap items which they no longer use or their children have grown out of

What do you hope that families will get out of the group?
Having been through recent lockdowns where we haven’t had much support from one another, the main thing is community- everyone needs community. And we want it to be a place that supports mental wellbeing

Also opportunities for young children and babies to mix together. We’ve seen in our own daughter Emmaus how spending time with other children has spurred on her development, and that’s really important

How have you seen God at work in your planning and preparation?
In lots of ways! God has given us the gift of time at the moments when we have most needed it. He has shown us who He is sending to be involved with particular aspects of the group. We have also been blessed to receive funding from Norfolk County Council which has allowed us to buy what we need to get started, and we believe God was in that

What are you most looking forward to?
I’m most looking forward to getting to know more families locally and providing a space where people can feel at home and amongst friends. I’m looking forward to us being able to learn from each other. I don’t think anyone is ever fully ready to be a parent, but we can support each other

What would you like prayer for?
We would appreciate prayer for the logistics, and that it will be fun!

How do people find out more and sign up?
You can follow Magpies on Facebook: @MagpiesBabyAndToddler. There is a booking enquiry form that needs to be completed before people come along for the first time, and details for that can be found on the Facebook page or they can email me for the link: If the group is oversubscribed families from the Magdalen estate and nearby areas will be prioritised.

And finally, can you tell us about your favourite memory so far of your own daughter, Emmaus?
Emmaus is famous for blowing kisses all the time! Even when she’s fallen over, often her first response is to blow a kiss! But my favourite memory is the first time she gave me a kiss on the cheek. That demonstration of affection was very special

Magpies starts on 27th September and will run on Mondays at 10.00am at St Mary Magdalene Church in Gorleston. There is no charge but donations toward running costs are appreciated

The picture shows Matt and Hannah with 2 year old Emmaus Ashpole, and is courtesy of Imagine Norfolk Together, where the interview on which this article is based was first published

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