Essentially Isabella shops occasion wear

I first heard of the shopping phenomenon that is Rushden Lakes last year from friends. They excitedly described a day out involving a beautiful lake, elegant cafés and a vast array of shops.  So when I was kindly invited to visit for the day I naturally jumped at the chance. As a work-from-home mum it is often a juggle to balance work with entertaining a two-year-old - Rushden Lakes offered the perfect opportunity to marry the two. Monty and I were lucky enough that sun was shining brightly as we parked (masses of free parking – a rare and much welcome surprise) and headed straight to a enjoy a coffee and babyccino al fresco at Jamaica Blue. My small person was instantly entranced by the huge bird sculptures, giant Connect Four and pile of colouring sheets he was handed by the smiling waitress. Suitably fuelled, we headed off for a walk around the lake itself. Thanks to an overly confident toddler we found ourselves joining in with a Peppa Pig Puddle Jumping charity walk, which gave us the opportunity to fully explore the picturesque lakeside adventure trail complete with large carved wooden creatures. What a way to burn off steam – a massive plus when shopping with a tiny as after this Monty was happy to sit nibbling raisins in his pushchair. And what if it’s raining you may cry… the awesome folks at Rushden Lakes have it covered. 360 Play is one of the most extensive giant soft play centres I have ever laid eyes on and Cineworld is set to open its doors in June – what more could you wish for? Time to hit the shops! I have a couple of weddings and a holiday coming up so seized the opportunity to explore the new collections. H&M is an absolute must for fashion forward, affordable buys for the whole family and I picked up a few great beach pieces in the bright contemporary store. In terms of high street favourites, Rushden Lakes is up there with the very best; M&S is one of the most pleasant branches I have been in – displaying ‘influencer favourites’ at the front alongside coordinated accessories. Primark is vast and airy – always reliable for teen PJ’s, beach cover-ups, sunglasses and trend-inspired designs. Next, River Island, Hobbs, Jigsaw and Jack Wills are all large, accessible and light stores… none of the cramped dark retail experience that is often associated with shopping days of old. The House of Fraser store offers premium brands – I struggled to move beyond the stunning beauty hall (always a weakness of mine). Up the escalator past a stunning interior living wall and you will discover gems such as Mint Velvet, Whistles and Agent Provocateur. Monty delighted in the toy department whilst I was thrilled to find that there is a range of tiny Benetton – something I grew up wearing myself. Our lunch pit-stop was Wagamama – always a failsafe option when shopping with a toddler. There are endless options here, from Bill’s and Pizza Express to Five Guys and Wildwood – all with outdoor tables on the large wooden boardwalks and gorgeous festoon lights. With my focus firmly on finding a wedding-outfit I headed to the particularly smart looking Robert Goddard store. The shop is an independent and not one that I have previously visited. The staff were immediately on hand, first to give me a tour… and yes it certainly warranted one. From the mezzanine level entrance way featuring a glittering chandelier to the ‘grassed’ garden and panelled menswear floor this is a showstopper of a floor. Monty was ready to break free from the confines of his pushchair, much to my dismay. But rather than making me feel unwelcome, the staff went above and beyond to entertain him with colouring and games whilst I tried on at my leisure. I have a tendency to pick what I know will suit me – remaining steadfastly within my comfort zone. This is where the Robert Goddard team excel, picking out a myriad of occasion-wear options, few of which I would have selected myself. They then went on to match with shoes and accessories. I was amazed by how well they chose in terms of style, fit and colour and was soon faced with an amazing number of options. This upmarket store stocks daywear from brands such as French Connection, Great Plains and Joules whilst occasion-wear comes from Armani Exchange, Ted Baker and Joseph Ribkoff. There are plenty of brights across all the collections this year with lots of floral prints, both splashy and more liberty-esque. This pleated Ted Baker dress was my favourite as it can be dressed down with trainers or teamed with heels for that special occasion. I have to admit that the cute heart-shaped handbag that the assistant selected is now firmly on my wish-list. Lucky I’m a summer baby hey? Monty was having such a ball that only the promise of an ice-cream persuaded him to leave. Ice-cream came from a super-cute blue camper van parked on the boardwalk by the lake. Again service was truly with a smile as it is right across the complex. So, fuelled with sweet treats we set off for home. I will definitely be visiting Rushden Lakes again very soon –  my other three children have been begging since seeing the pictures. This place really does have it all.