Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: outdoors

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.

Blowing the cobwebs away

Sometimes you need to just get out and feel the almost gale force wind blowing through your hair, jump in some puddles and have running races with your children. We’re outdoors people, you know that already, so a few days of wet weather soon results in cabin fever. Throw in the seemingly never ending wait for a certain little baby to appear, some disrupted sleep and a cold bug and the urge to get outside becomes too much.

Tonight after dinner we put our wellies and waterproofs on and headed out for a tramp down the farm track with Bracken for some much needed fresh air. The children did their biggest jumps into the puddles, we raced with Bracken down the path, we threw crab apples for Bracken to chase and we almost got blown off our feet by the wind.

It was awesome.

Autumn sunset

Jumping in puddles

Playing in puddles

Walking with Bracken

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.

A brand new start

“I’m gonna clear out my head
I’m gonna get myself straight
I know it’s never too late
To make a brand new start”

The lyrics from one of my favourite songs sung by definitely my favourite musician; Paul Weller and Brand new start. Sums up quite well how I’m feeling about this little old blog right now. Feels like 2013 was a year where I swung between feeling completely inspired by my blog and knew exactly what I wanted to write to feeling generally bored with the whole thing and not sure when I’ll write the next post again.

I haven’t blogged much at all for the past few weeks, no particular reason it just felt like the right thing to do. But I have been thinking about it a lot. I still love writing and blogging is the medium to do that for the most part, but after 3 years of writing this blog I think it’s time to consciously evolve it a little. Much like Paul Weller has reinvented himself (see what I did there?) it’s time for me to do the same.

In reality it’s nothing revolutionary or dramatic but more can be summed up in one simple sentence:

Write about the things that inspire you.

2 toddlers in a bike trailerSomething I think I do on the most part but there are some specific decisions attached to this. First no more sponsored posts; I really didn’t do many anyway but whenever I did it felt like a little bit of my blogging soul died and for the money it brings in it’s just not worth it so they’re gone. Reviews can stay but I’m going to get even more picky about the ones I do so that they are really worth the time and effort.

Second I want to capture more of Matilda and Henry growing up, that was the whole point of starting this blog after all and I think I’ve lost a little of that. So more posts like this one that capture a moment in time that will be amazing to remember. I don’t want it to become like one of those dreadful Christmas letters listing every single event or achievement but I do want to capture a few more of the little milestones.

Matilda and Henry readingThird, more books, I love love love reading books with the children and also seeing them read them themselves. We are rapidly needing more bookshelf space but getting them involved in books is a big passion of mine so expect to see even more of them on here.

Fourth and finally the outdoors, the outdoors is what makes me happy. It’s what makes the children happy and it’s certainly what makes Bracken happy. Given that it’s also likely to make the Lady of the Manor happy! Our regular afternoon thing at the moment when we’re fed up with a day indoors is to chuck the kids into their wet weather gear and head out for a tramp around our little street.

Matilda walking close to homeWe’re blessed with our location in the countryside so we don’t have to go far to find some puddles or cows and you can guarantee that 30 minutes later we’re all a lot happier. So expect to see more posts about our mini (and maybe not so mini) adventures.

I might even take the brand new start theme a little further and give this piece of the internet a fresh new look to go with my new blogging mantra.

With that I will thank you for reading my mutterings in 2013 and hope you will come back again in 2014 to share in some of the things that inspire me.