I have always used a company called Simply Childcare. It was set up by two local members of the NCT about 12 years ago who had problems finding good childcare.
Basically they produce a fortnightly mag best discribed as a like of "Loot" but for childcare. Both those offering and those requiring advertise in it. It is then up to you to make contact and check reference but as we know from some of the horror stories even nanny agencies don't allways fullu check out references. They also produce a very useful information package about the types of childcare available costs etc.
The contact number is 020 701 6111 they are very friendly and will give advice on the phone they also have a web site www.simplychildcare.com (I think).
Also Would you consider a male childminder? If so let me know I can recommend a great chap who has looked after my kids for a couple of years now at my own home. He is currenlty in the process of registering as a childminder.
I pay £6 an hour for care in my home on a part time basis. Childminders are cheapers and I have no idea how much nursery charge. Again Simply Childcare would proberbly give you some advice if you gave them a call
after a lot reservations i looked into childminding for my daughter, who was only four months at the time.
the council gave me a list with childminders in the area (childcare first at southwark council 020 7525 5190, lambeth might have the same thing?) and i am extremely happy with the childminder i found.
she is very loving, professional and caring. she takes my daughter to all sorts of baby groups and libraries and parks.
of course it is a very personal thing and you have to find someone you trust. have a look at a few and make up your mind is my advice.
nurseries tend to be very expensive and not very flexible if you work freelance like me, that is not an option, unless you go fulltime.
with a childminder you review your contract every 3 or 6 months and each party can decide to cancel with 2 weeks notice, in case things are not working out.