As we head into July, our family will be celebrating the year anniversary of our home’s completion date, and we will have spent an entire 12 months as residents in Ebbsfleet Garden City. Not to lean on cliché, but wow, how time flies when you’re having fun! It seems like only yesterday we were trying to order takeaway pizza (and failing – the joy of a new postcode!) to our floorless, empty new home.

A year in, we feel very much ingrained in the local community and are so excited to experience our first full summer in Ebbsfleet Valley. Having two young children, we are always looking for outdoor activities to keep them entertained (and wear them out!), and I’ve been thrilled to find there is no shortage of ways to stay active and keep fit in this Healthy New Town.

Tennis Courts at the Castle Hill Village Green

The entire development has really been planned with community and active lifestyles in mind. There are public tennis courts on Cherry Orchard Road, which you can book for £5 per hour, and residents get a complimentary hour per booking. I’ve also spotted netball nets on the courts and have been thinking about setting up a weekly social training session for anyone keen for a run around! If you prefer exercise classes to team sports, a variety of morning and evening classes run from the Community Centre on Cherry Orchard Road (in the same location as the school). Although I haven’t managed to try it out myself, everyone raves about the Fight Klub classes that promise fun, friendly fitness for every ability. I have however been to the Adore Your Core Pilates class, which was a relaxing, mindful workout that I really felt the next morning! A brilliant way to stretch yourself out, connect with your body and build your strength and flexibility. It’s not just adults who can benefit from the slew of classes on offer at the Community Centre, as there are plenty for little ones to enjoy too. From Baby Ballers football on a Sunday morning, to Fleet Gymnastics sessions three days a week (my 4 year old attends this and has SO much fun!), I’ve loved how easy it’s been to find fun, healthy activities for my kids on our doorstep.

 

Fleet Gymnastics Competition at the Castle Hill Community Centre

When we first moved to Castle Hill, I was desperate to meet other parents who might also be at home with their children during the week. The Castle Hill, Ebbsfleet – Residents Only Facebook group alerted me to a weekly Coffee Morning held at the Community Centre. It a lovely, inclusive group where anyone, resident or no, with or without children, is welcome to pop by for a chat and free cup of coffee and snacks. There is plenty of space for kids to run around and kick a ball, as well as soft play, a kitchen role-play area, ball pit and lots of baby toys. The coffee morning is run by Ebbsfleet Baptist Church, who have also pioneered another brilliant community-focused gathering called Sunday Active.

Starting from 9am every Sunday, it begins with three activities that offer something dynamic for everyone, no matter your level of fitness; in the form of a running group, a walking excursion or a HIIT class. For the past few months my husband and I have been exclusively in the walkers’ group, pushing the kids along in the double buggy, making new friends and exploring the neighbourhood at a leisurely pace. What I love about the walking group is the route is different every single week, as our neighbourhood is constantly developing, expanding and evolving.

 

View from the nature walk along Castle Hill

Stepping out of my comfort zone, I tried the HIIT class a couple times (absolutely exhausting, but you feel amazing afterwards) and then tentatively joined the runners. I’m so glad I took the plunge as I’ve really enjoyed it – and hugely surprised myself with my endurance! There is a wide range of experience and fitness in the group, but no one gets left behind, and every Sunday the route and interval training is different. The best part? After the hour of exercise, everyone from the three groups converge at the Community Centre for a delicious (free!) continental breakfast and short interactive talk on an aspect of mental, physical and spiritual health,  from a Christian perspective. I love that children are entirely welcomed, there are toys laid out for them and they are allowed to run riot while the adults chat. As a family, we’ve found Sunday Active to be a brilliant way to not only stay fit, but also meet our neighbours and make genuine friends in a relaxed setting. If you can’t make it on a Sunday, I know there are also lots of other mid-week running groups and PTs set up in the area.

 

 

Feeling the burn during a Sunday Active HIIT class

Spurred on by my exercise success at Sunday Active, and with the weather getting warmer, I decided this month that I would try to go out running on my own. This was not easy, as after putting the kids to bed I am generally shattered and just want to slob in front of the TV. The first thing I did, on recommendation of a Castle Hill friend, was download the free BetterPoints app. This is an absolute must if you are living in or moving to the area and looking for an incentive to stay active. Within the app there is a Programme, launched in partnership with Ebbsfleet Garden City’s Healthy New Towns project, called Get Active in Ebbsfleet. If you live in the Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley area, OR work in Ebbsfleet Garden City, you can just click on the programme to sign-up to it and you can earn BetterPoints for walking, running and cycling…which can be redeemed for actual vouchers for stores such as Sainsburys, John Lewis, Arcadia etc.! All you have to do is go into the app before your exercise activity and tell it you are starting; it will track your progress and add on the points once you say you’ve finished at the end. Getting rewarded for exercising – finally a quantifiable incentive to put those trainers on! If you don’t have anything in particular you want to buy, and you’d rather give back to your community, you can also donate your points to charities instead. 5,000 points is approx. a £5 voucher – I’ve only had the app for two weeks but having sporadically tracked my walks to drop my son at nursery and a mere two runs, I’ve already racked up 1,300 points!

 

Turning on my Better Points tracking before a run

I hope I’ve given you some inspiration on how you can keep fit and stay active in the Garden City, or confirmed what a buzzing and community-focused area it is if you are looking to move here! There is still plenty to look forward to throughout the rest of the summer in Ebbsfleet. I’m really excited for the free Pimms in the Park event being held on Saturday 27th July, between 2-4pm in Country Park (aka the sandpit playground, near the elephants at the entrance to Whitecliffe Road), and it would be fab to see you all there! For anyone who can’t make it, I will be reviewing the afternoon in my next blog post, along with my Top 5 Summer Spots around Ebbsfleet Garden City.