WHEN Army spouse Sarah and her soldier received their three-year posting to Aldergrove, Northern Ireland they were excited to come to the province along with their children Emilia and Alfie-Jay. AFF’s NI Co-ordinator Lucy Clarke chatted to Sarah to find out whether their experience is matching their expectations…
Sarah and her soldier moved to NI with a three-week-old baby, a two-year-old and two dogs, recalling the process as ‘very simple’. “Our house in England was packed up on the Friday and we unpacked on the Monday,” she explained.
What are the positives of a posting to NI?
“The community is very friendly and everyone wants to help each other,” said Sarah. “Everything is on your doorstep in Aldergrove such as the nursery and GP practice. There’s a thrift shop, convenience store, gift shop, gym, swimming pool and even a cinema.
“There are toddler groups almost every day at the community hub and 12 parks on the base so you’re never struggling to find a place for your children to play. In Aldergrove there are lots of open green spaces for dog walking and running too.
“The local area has so much to offer. Lough Neagh is only a short drive away as well as Antrim Castle Gardens. Belfast is a 25-minute drive and has all that a capital city has to offer.”
It’s harder living in Aldergrove if you don’t drive, but if you learn whilst you are posted in NI, you can receive a 50 per cent discount on lessons through SSAFA.
“The biggest shock of living behind the wire is receiving deliveries which is difficult, but not impossible,” explained Sarah. “Most houses here are oil heated so be aware of budgeting for filling your oil tank. Also, car insurance is generally more expensive than on the mainland.”
There tend to be fewer housing and education enquiries in NI, but one area where families have needed extra support is with additional needs.
Lucy has helped to set up a regular group where families can talk to experts.
“It gives families who have a child with additional needs the space and time to share ideas and concerns about the challenges they face,” she said.
“There have been some tangible benefits, with one family successfully applying for a Blue Badge and another receiving help regarding the adaptation of their house.”
There are three bases – Aldergrove, Palace Barracks (Holywood) and Thiepval Barracks (Lisburn).
Each base has its own nursery:
ABC Day Nursery
028 9445 5443
Tiggers Palace Day Nursery
028 9042 0253
Rhyme Times Playgroup
The Families Employment Advisory Team can help you to find a job. Email RC-AWS-N-38Xfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Children’s Education Support Officer can answer any questions regarding schools. Email RC-AWS-N-38Xemail@example.com
Some NHS waiting lists for medical procedures are longer in NI than on the mainland. If you have medical concerns always make enquiries before you’re posted as some treatments are not available.