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Highcliffe toddlers group Little Fishes closes after 18 years due to retirement

A HIGHCLIFFE parents and toddler group which has been going for 18 years has closed after the owner decided to retire.

Jackie Peterson opened Little Fishes in 2005 to give parents with small children somewhere to go to meet other families.

The nursery was based in St Mark’s Church hall (Picture: Google)
The nursery was based in St Mark’s Church hall (Picture: Google)

She said: “I had actually retired after a long career teaching at local schools, including Highcliffe and Arnewood. I was a member of the Mothers’ Union at St Marks Church, and this lady was giving a talk about helping the community.

“She said, ‘Everyone should do something’, and I thought, ‘Yes I should’. I had always loved little children, so I decided to open a baby and toddler group.”

Little Fishes was based at St Mark’s church hall and Jackie was helped by her late husband Ian and other parents and grandparents to run it.

She said: “Over the years I have had a fantastic lot of help from people, all of whom are volunteers. Our longest serving dad is Brian Hatchard, who has been with us for nine years.”

One of Jackie’s first members of the toddler group was her own daughter Julia Hughes, who brought then baby Hannah.

Jackie said she wanted to create a place where children could sing, play games, read and learn.

She said: “What has been nice is that all ages have been involved with grandparents, dads, mums, all coming and socialising. It’s been a real community thing.

“What was also lovely was the fact that a lot of young mums didn’t actually have their families living nearby so lacked that support.

“We became that for them – there are a lot of senior ladies who provide that family support for them.”

The group held a last session which was attended by children who used to go to Little Fishes and parents and grandparents past and new.

Jackie said: “It was lovely to see them all. We have had such a wonderful time over the years, I am going to really miss it.

“But I felt I was getting a bit too old for it.”

Sadly no one has volunteered to take over the toddler group from Jackie. “I wish someone had done as it is so sad that it had to close,” she said.

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