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Bishop's Stortford and District Twins Club fighting for survival

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It would be hard to find a more appreciative bunch of parents than those who have benefited from the support and care offered by Bishop's Stortford and District Twins Club.

"It saved me," says one mum. Another adds: "I was becoming a recluse until someone suggested I join this group."

But what has proved to be a lifeline to parents of twins – a place where they can share stories and struggles, have a shoulder to cry on and where their children can play in safety – is now at risk.

BSI - Twins group closing down - Photos Martine Xerri. (25734348)
BSI - Twins group closing down - Photos Martine Xerri. (25734348)

The club held its final official play date the week before Christmas, with little hope of resuming in the new year.

The group is run voluntarily by mums who are now desperate for sponsorship or financial support and for a willing parent to take up the reins for the foreseeable future.

For the past two years the club has gathered every Thursday morning from 9.45am to 11.45am at the home of Herts Allstars cheerleading and soft play on the Church End industrial estate just off the A120 in Little Hadham.

BSI - Twins group closing down - Photos Martine Xerri. (25734352)
BSI - Twins group closing down - Photos Martine Xerri. (25734352)

It attracts around eight sets of twins a week. Siblings are welcomed, as are dads, grandparents and childminders, and with the nearest similar provision for multiple births being in Stevenage, parents come from as far away as Felsted, Dunmow, Sawbridgeworth and Harlow to meet up.

Families are charged only £5 per session, but it is not enough to sustain the group and it has been running at a loss. The organisers are caught between wanting to offer an affordable price that encourages parents of twins to venture out and seek the support they need, and lacking the financial backing to make it viable.

Group leader Hayley Lynskey – who has six children, including four-year-old identical twin girls Poppy and Daisy – originally ran the club out of Little Hadham village hall. She has her own business and, with her youngest now at school, it's time to hand over the reins.

"When I found out I was expecting twins it was a bit of a shock, but I soon realised that I needed to meet like-minded people where we could go stir-crazy together!" she said. "And it's been amazing. I've made lifelong friends, and the parents here are devastated that this might not continue."

BSI - Twins group closing down - Photos Martine Xerri. (25734337)
BSI - Twins group closing down - Photos Martine Xerri. (25734337)

Lisa Reynolds, who helps to run the group, attends with her three-year-old girls Thea and Olivia. "We all love it here because it's so safe, with only one exit from the soft play area, which is ideal for twins," she said.

"We've tried to come up with other solutions. We need suggestions for fundraising or sponsorship from someone who might be able to offer us a different venue."

For Lisa, discovering the club made a tremendous difference.

BSI - Twins group closing down - Reporter Hollie Ryder & Lisa Reynolds Photos Martine Xerri. (25734303)
BSI - Twins group closing down - Reporter Hollie Ryder & Lisa Reynolds Photos Martine Xerri. (25734303)

"It offers a vital support network to expectant mums and parents of twins. Some mornings it can be like a counselling session as people arrive crying!" she said.

"Having twins is a unique set of circumstances and problems with logistical issues that you wouldn't think of before you had them, so it's nice to know there's somewhere where other people understand.

BSI - Twins group closing down - Ronnie & Rosie Gould (2) Photos Martine Xerri. (25734320)
BSI - Twins group closing down - Ronnie & Rosie Gould (2) Photos Martine Xerri. (25734320)

"We can offer help and advice to each other. Most twins will share a room, so how do you deal with one waking up and waking the other?

"How do you get two toddler twins in and out of the car safely? Here, we come out to the car to help you, bringing in car seats for you, making you a hot cup of tea. I signed up to a single-baby class and couldn't get the buggy through the door and nobody came to help me. That doesn't happen here."

Mother-of-three Victoria Kerr said the group was "incredibly important" to her. She has a four-year-old boy, Thomas, and twin boy and girl Joshua and Chloe, aged 3.

"Here was the first place I went to by myself with the children and I felt reassured and encouraged by everybody," she said.

"Mums held the twins for me when they were tiny, feed my twins – complete strangers that have now become friends, and that's what we're hoping to do for others. We want to encourage new members to come along and to do for them what Hayley and Lisa did for us."

The low cost makes it accessible, Victoria said. "Most of us don't work because we can't afford the child care, so this is a godsend really."

Parents of twins dub other baby gatherings 'singleton groups', not in a derogatory way, but to illustrate that they do not cater for multiples or necessarily understand the issues that arise.

"I did a few singleton groups and felt quite different from the other mums," said Hannah Rose, mum to three-year-olds Willow and Otis.

"I ended up a bit of a recluse until friends suggested I join this group, and it was amazing. I came here and felt this big weight off my shoulders just talking to other mums who were going through the same things as me.

"I had post natal anxiety and struggled to go out with the twins, and this was the only place I felt comfortable going to without feeling an overwhelming sense of anxiety. It made me realise I'm normal, this is what we're all going through."

Victoria said that with the lows also came the highs and having twins was a delight.

"It's not all hard work. When you spot your twins holding hands, it's so lovely. And last week I walked in and someone just gave me a hug – I didn't even have to say anything, whereas other people wouldn't necessarily pick up on that. And a lot of the twins have grown up with each other as well.

"Also, we realise that what we're going through is completely normal – we're not failing, we're succeeding."

The club has also benefited children with autism, as mum Frances Worrell found out. She started attending the group when she was pregnant with her twin boys Jake and Archie, now four.

"Jake is autistic so here is a very safe space for us and no-one bats an eyelid, so I never feel like I'm being judged, which is really important."

It is evident from just spending a short time with the group how important it is both for the carers and the children, who seemed so settled and played together beautifully while I chatted to their mums. It would be a shame indeed to lose the facility for good.

Anyone interested in offering their support can contact Lisa Reynolds on 07931 164430 or visit the group's Facebook page Bishop's Stortford & District Twins Club.

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