Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Mini adventures (page 1 of 2)

Four go glamping

Like the best Enid Blyton novels I decided to take advantage of the lady manor working nights all last weekend and go on a little adventure with the children. We loaded up the car on Friday afternoon and headed for Wales and the Wye valley for 3 nights of glamping. e love being outdoors and normally I’d have taken them camping if it wasn’t for the minor issue that I can’t put our tent up on my own. Plus the thought of trying to work out the logistics of taking 3 children across a campsite to toilets didn’t really appeal. Glamping seemed the logical conclusion with the added bonus of having a double bed for me to sleep in.

wye glamping bell tent

Camp for the weekend

I think with any adventure you have to not think too much about the reality of what it’ll be like otherwise you’d never go on them. But I’ll be honest as we got close to leaving the thought of managing 3 kids on my own for 3 days plus sleeping in a tent was making me just a little nervous. However just like the stars of Enid Blyton’s books I think the best childhoods feature lots of adventures, particularly ones outdoors and whatever happened it was going to be a lot better than sitting around at home.

The choice of glamping location was relatively easy as while I discovered via Google that there are a lot of glamping sites out there, there appears to be equally lots of people interested in going glamping, so finding one available was the first criteria. Thankfully Wye Glamping ticked all the boxes; not too far away, beautiful location, proper showers on site and a reasonable price. What we didn’t know when booking was that there would also be a couple of other families in the other tents on site with children the same age as mine. Perfect!

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A walk on the wild side

When you’re under 5 what could be more exciting than a walk along winding forest paths following a map? Throw in some activities along the way and the occasional swing to swing on, fallen tree to climb and a picnic and I think it may be close to a perfect day out. Which is why I love our National Trust membership and the way they have embraced families visiting their properties. I remember well visits to National Trust properties as a child where it seemed like every bit of grass had a ‘do not walk on’ sign and the houses were places you were told to stop making so much noise.

Botanic garden lacock

But not any more and a trip to Lacock at the weekend proved it. We’re trying to get to all the National Trust places within about an hour of where we live this year. So far we’ve been to Avebury (which is just down the road) and The Vyne so are a bit behind, but Lacock was one more ticked off with Dyrham Park lined up this week also.

We’ve visited Lacock village quite a few times as we used to live just down the road in Trowbridge but had never been in the Abbey. Most of our previous visits have involved doing the scarecrow trail around the village which happened to be on this weekend also. But I’ll be honest I find the trail a little weird as most of the scarecrows aren’t really scarecrows, the one outside the ice cream stall for example was a pink bird cut out of a cardboard box. What exactly is that?!

Rope swing Lacock forest

But I can’t believe what we were missing in the Abbey! Such beautiful gardens and they had a mad inventors trail on for the children to follow and collect stamps (what child doesn’t like collecting stamps?). All inspired by the fact that Lacock was the place where the first photographic negative was developed (who knew?!). I really don’t think anyone does family friendly quite like the National Trust, always feel so welcome and you can see lots of thought has gone into designing the gardens etc to keep them interested.

We had great fun following the paths around the gardens, trying to spot the tools that were hidden in the trees. The wild garlic carpeting the floor smelled amazing all the way around and the kids had so much fun playing on the rope swing. We then ended up in front of the Abbey around lunch time and had a fab picnic on the grass there in glorious sun. What more could you ask for?

Using a telescope at Lacock

The grounds are also just the right size for our 2, plenty of space to run around in but not too big so it’s a long trek back to the car when they’re tired out and need carrying. Although do take food with you as I don’t think there is anywhere in the grounds to buy food or drink from, but there are plenty of lovely spots for a picnic.

We’ll definitely be back to Lacock again, but maybe not until we’ve been to a few more new places. If you have any recommendations of places within an hour or so of Swindon then send them my way. I’d also love to know what you favourite National Trust property is.

Garden grass circles

It seems that most family tourist attractions these days have some sort of maze to get lost in, mazes that range from small box hedged ones right the way up to the ultimate farm adventure – the maize maze. We had great fun running around them with Matilda and Henry while on holiday recently and it got me thinking about trying to create something similar in my own garden. Now while I do have a decent sized garden it’s really not big enough to house a full blown maze so I’ve gone for a slight interpretation on the theme.

I give you the garden grass circle!

Garden grass cicles

Matilda running around grass circle

You really don’t need a big piece of grass to do it on but you will need a little patience for the uncut grass to grow and make the circles more distinct. But we’ve had great fun playing in it, having races from the outside in and then back again. I think it really appeals to children (and the child in me) to be running as fast as you can in an ever smaller circle.

Ours took a couple of weeks to have a nice contrast in length and then when you’re done with it you simply mow it flat again. Such an easy and free thing to do and all you need is a patch of grass to do it on. I might try doing a square instead next time and see how that looks.

What do you do in your garden to create some fun and interaction for your children?

Mini adventures – kite flying

Kite flying is up there with jam jar fishing when it comes to nostalgic childhood activities. I have a vivid memory flying a stunt kite with my brother when I was about 12 on a big patch of grass next to Rutland Water. We spent a fabulous hour dive bombing every person that passed within range and laughing our heads off as they ducked when the kite whooshed past their heads. How we didn’t end up causing a serious injury I’ll never know but we just feigned innocence each time someone complained and told them we’d lost control.

Now my trip out with Matilda and Henry to fly the kite they got for Christmas wasn’t quite as eventful but it was most definitely awesome. It was one of those parenting moments where you cross everything that your children enjoy it as much as you hope they will. Which rarely is the case in my experience because they can be stubborn, independent things sometimes but for once it went just as I imagined.

Henry and Matilda kite flying

We live in quite a rural area as you may have guessed from some of my photos and are very lucky that 20 metres from our front door is the perfect piece of grass to fly a kite on. We also live on the side of a hill 600ft above sea level so are rarely short of a breeze and on the day we headed out there was a good wind blowing combined with glorious blue skies. Perfect.

We have a simple kite with 1 string and lovely long tail to flap in the breeze, ideal for 2 small children who just want the thing to fly and stay up there without much effort to steer it. Which also means not too much running back and forth for me to relaunch it, although that could be a good way for me to get my training in and still play with the kids!

Matilda holding the kite

We had such fun launching the kite into the air and watching it twist and turn, the kids loved the idea of flying something high up into the sky. Despite it being quite chilly we happily spent an hour out there taking it in turns (I had to have a go of course) and trying not to get it stuck in a tree.

Matilda is now requesting her own kite which has to be in the shape of a butterfly apparently. I’m thinking we buy one of those massive kites they use for kite surfing and see if we can launch ourselves into the air. Either way kite flying is going to be a regular activity for us I think and we’ll definitely be taking a kite on our next trip to the seaside too.

Matilda kite flying

Ducks, just ducks

Is there a child out there that doesn’t like ducks? They make a noise that anyone can copy, they’ll happily eat bread out of your hand and you can find them bobbing around on pretty much any bit of water. What’s not to like? Matilda and Henry are currently obsessed with ducks due in no small part to the wonderful Just Ducks which is one of our favourite bed time reads.

What I like about this book is that for children of Matilda and Henry’s age it’s a fun story with nice illustrations but for older children there are lots of additional educational details about ducks on the page. But even through just the main story they now know the difference between a male and female mallard duck and what their names are. Definitely a book that’ll be on our bookshelf for a long time I think, I can see them getting lots of value from it when they’re at primary school.

Matilda and Henry feeding ducks

Swans and geese at Slimbridge

With this duck obsession in mind what could be a better day out than a trip to Slimbridge? I hadn’t been there for years, since I was a teenager I think, but thought it would be a perfect day out and being term time hopefully quiet. So we loaded up the car and squeezed 3 children into car seats which was interesting to say the least. Henry and Matilda both wanted to be able to see and touch Rupert which wasn’t going to happen and while we wait for our new car to be delivered (the dreaded but necessary MPV) Matilda has to sit on the pop up seats in the boot which she was not impressed with.

Amazingly we managed to choose a glorious sunny day to visit, freezing cold but sunny and the kiddies were toasty in their waterproof suits. Matilda was in her element walking up to the birds and trying to stroke them, including a couple of massive swans. She has zero fear when it comes to animals big or small which I love, even if it does mean having to pretend that I like stroking a large python while it wraps around my arm.

Matilda feeding geese

We spent a lovely couple of hours wandering around the various ponds looking at all the different types of bird; we saw my favourites the tufty duck and the Bewick swan (who make the most beautiful noise to call to each other), loads of different flamingo’s or mingo’s as the kids call them and loads of hungry geese ready to eat the grain we had. We also watched otters being fed while the kids ate a snack and in true English style ate lunch on a bench in the freezing cold.

Flamingos at Slimbridge

We finished up with some colouring in the kids activity section in the main building next to some of the most colourful (and by all accounts deadly) frogs you’ll ever see. Then of course it was time for a hot drink and a piece of cake, although I will dock Slimbridge marks for a pretty poor cake selection and the worst flapjack I’ve had in a long time. Certainly wasn’t up to National Trust standard which after all is the benchmark to judge these things by. But a fab day out and thoroughly recommended if you have wildlife loving children, plenty of activities to do that don’t involve just being bird watchers (there’s a canoe safari in the summer) and quite honestly just nice to do something outdoors that doesn’t involve a commercial theme park.

Mini adventures – harvest time

We have spent quite a lot of time over the last couple of months playing hunt the combine; it may be man made but I think it’s one of the great seasonal events and of course a chance to behave like a little boy again watching and talking about tractors. We live next door to a farm so Matilda and Henry get a front row seat to watch the tractors coming in with their trailers full of grain and then disappearing off again to the fields. I love being in the outdoors as you know so a mini adventure that involves being outdoors and free is hard to beat in my book.

It all started back in June with the Barley harvest, then the farmer moved onto rapeseed, then wheat and finally the flax seed which he’s only just finishing collecting. Quite fascinating watching each field go from fully grown plants to nicely ploughed rows in the space of a few days and those guys definitely work hard. This may be a mini adventure but it’s been going on most of the summer either from our garden, on walks along footpaths or when out in the car. We were the annoying people stopped on the country lanes watching another harvester whir around a field with the children complaining if we didn’t stay long enough.Wheat ready for harvest-001

Combine harvesters have always fascinated me, such amazing machines, and it seems my 2 little monsters are equally fascinated. What’s been really fun is that we have a book called Tremendous Tractors by Tony Mitton  which tells the story of what each type of tractor can do and the full process of harvest from planting the seeds to harvesting them. It’s one of Henry’s favourites and we read it loads, but over the past few months we’ve been able to show him the tractors in real life doing each of the things. We spot the harvester of course but also the tractors doing baling (with their different shape bales) and he can tell the difference between a plough and a harrow. Not bad for 2.5 I reckon and he’ll spend hours sat on top of his slide looking over the fence at the farm.

Red tractor mowing

I’m not sure they quite understand yet how the grain is then made into bread, but beginning to educate them on the food chain is something I really believe in. The same reason I like getting them involved in growing vegetables, important for them to understand where food comes from. But I did take them on a little walk into a field after the combine had been through and we picked up some of the wheat that was on the floor so they could look at the little grains on the end of the stalk. Maybe next year we might collect some and try to grind some of our own flour?

The best day of our adventure may have been one of the last, Henry was up early one Saturday (nothing new there) so I took him out with me at 6am to walk Bracken. The farmer had left the blades for the combine in the field next to the path so we went in to have a look. Not sure I’ve ever got so close to the blades before but it was great showing Henry how they worked. Pretty perfect father son time I think.

Me and Henry checking out the combine

Did any of you get out and play hunt the combine? Do you have budding farmers at home? What mini adventures have you been on this summer?

Mini adventures – Geocaching

geocaching 1We have a new favourite activity in this house and it’s Geocaching, or as Matilda likes to call it ‘treasure hunting’. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do with the children for a long time, after all we already do the walks in the countryside so why not have a little fun along the way? It seemed like the natural extension and a great way to get us outdoors which we love doing and we autumn not that far off I’m already dreaming of tramping through the woods in our wellies and then returning home to snuggle up in front of our new log burner.

For those of you who haven’t come across Geocaching before it truly is like a treasure hunt where you look for cache’s that have been hidden around the world. In the past this would have meant following map coordinates or buying a hand held GPS but with the popularity of smartphones there is of course now an app for it.

Which is great as all you need now is your phone to instantly search for cache’s nearby and it’ll then guide you towards it. There are free apps but they limit the caches you can see so personally I think it’s worth paying for the premium version. There are a few out there but I stuck with the one from the ‘official’ geocaching site which is imaginatively called geocaching. It costs £6.99 for the app but that’s really not much to pay and is your only cost before starting your adventures so great value for money. They also make apps for both Android and iOS.

geocaching 2The site also has a great introduction page to tell you all about the world of geocaching, so if you’d like to read a bit more you can check that out here. But I don’t think it’s rocket science and once you’ll soon be ticking all your local caches off your list. The one tip I’d give is make use of the hint feature in the app which can help you navigate the last few metres to find a cache, some of them are VERY well hidden!

We decided to keep things simple and find the one nearest our house, I found it quite amusing that it’s on the same track that I’ve been walking Bracken up and down for the last 18 months. Hidden treasure right under my nose that whole time! We set out for the walk and then when we were a couple of hundred metres away I asked the kids if they wanted to help me find the hidden treasure. Children of that age have a short attention span so I didn’t think telling them a mile away was a good idea, no doubt they’d soon have got bored of finding the treasure and starting picking up sticks or something instead.

So I gave Matilda my phone with the map to the cache up and she directed us towards it, I love that this activity helps get them involved in using technology in a practical way rather than just looking at photos like they usually do. It also engages her in the activity and I guess longer term we can help teach her about direction and the compass.

Once we got closer I helped her and Henry climb into the undergrowth and find the cache hidden in the tree. They loved opening the box to see what was inside, although were a little disappointed I wouldn’t let them take a lolly out. We did fail to take anything with us to put in the cache to replace what we took though so need to remember that next time. Matilda was also worrying every time we saw someone else that they were going to find the treasure and take it all. Took a little explaining to convince her that it was safe.geocaching 3

Now we’ve found the first one we definitely have caught the bug and will start searching further afield. Not that we need to go too far mind, there are plenty within a few miles of home. I think I may take the kids out on the bike one day and we can search for them, I can ride reasonably close and then get them to guide us the last bit and find it.

I know a lot of you are doing Geocaching already so would love to hear about your experiences, I’m also interested to know whether older children enjoy it as much? It seems like such a simple and cheap activity that a lot of different ages would enjoy so I hope we can make it a regular part of our walks now.

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