We seem to be living in an age where our lives are governed by technology and computers, instantaneous social networking and communiactions, the pressure upon children to perform well in school tests, parents / guardians having to work full-time, the need for continual budgeting and the constant spectre of financial constraints dictating our lifestyle. Being a parent, throughout all of this, can be difficult and tiring but, with a little effort and imagination, it can also feel like it’s the best job in the world.
A simple drive to our local nature reserve, meeting up with much-loved family, the mind-set of accepting that “its gonna be a muddy day”, forcing on waterproofs and wellies, and throwing together a small bag of bird feed is sometimes all it takes to have a great day.
Being outdoor’s lets us breath, relax and have conversations with people, and that’s just what the adults get out of it.
My daughter and her younger cousin had freedom, climbed trees, discovered and explored, stomped in muddy puddles, put bird seed on their heads, saw squirrels leaping from trees, kicked muddy water at the adults……. the list is endless of all the experiences they gained in just one day.
Looking over the pictures taken on the day, it just goes to illustrate the massive amount of family fun that can be gained from such a simple activity as a muddy welly walk. It cost next-to-nothing, gave us all a daily dose of exercise, and we bonded, talked and had loads of fun.
Playing in the outdoors is a “must” for all ages…… whatever the weather !!!!
It’s officially Duke of Edinburgh season for me, which means that my weekends are now very busy teaching young people various skills needed for being in the outdoor’s.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a fantastic scheme, which gives young people a chance to develop a variety of important life-skills and gives them an opportunity to take part in exciting outdoor adventures. I’m very passionate about young people having the chance to take part in the scheme. It’s such an amazing experience and shows true commitment from any young person taking part and completing the project. I have met such dedicated and confident young people throughout my work within the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.
Now, back to my most recent weekend as a Duke of Edinburgh trainer. I always think visual aids help to paint a better picture, so…..
I spend a lot of time driving around check-points and then spend even longer waiting for the groups to pass through, check that they’re doing ok, and then send them on their way again. My mini-bus becomes a little home for me on these weekends…
After waiting in the mini-bus, I frequently find myself having to kit-up, (definitely waterproofs at the moment), and go looking for groups that seem to be taking a little bit too long… (the sheep certainly had the right idea)
I also get to spend my time in beautiful surroundings, and it makes me feel grateful for being able to work in such a variety of stunning environments.
Ocassionally, we find ourselves having to ‘make do’ in a crisis situation. Due a power cut, very late one evening, we had a “delicious” dinner of pasta twists and cheese, eaten by the light of a head torch. A little bit of greenery on the side made the meal slightly more “gourmet”.
Keeping track of maps, compasses and the other equipment that we bring is another “must”, because young people always forget something. (On this trip, we lost 2 compasses and had a map returned with a tear in it… that’s quite usual)
And finally, after a long couple of days spent in the wind and the rain, I get to slam the mini-bus door shut and kick off my boots. This really is the best feeling of satisfaction.
So there it is.
An average D of E weekend is long, cold and not very glamorous at all. We have to adapt and make do, in so many different situations. We have to be replacement parents to about 25 young people for the whole weekend. We have lengthy conversations about how there’ll be no “real” toilets while camping. We have to keep asking them to zip up their coats, and put on a damn hat to stay warm.
If I’m honest, though, I wouldn’t have it any other way !!!
This a little different from the normal outdoor story this week, but it’s something I would love to share.
I picked up my daughter from school on Monday and, as I waited in the playground, I saw my daughter’s teacher heading over to speak to me. My first thought was “What am I going to roped into now?” But, she told me something that made me feel so happy and proud as a parent.
She explained that, on a Monday morning, the class has ‘My Time’. This is where the children in the class take it in turns to tell the rest of the class what they got up to on the weekend.
The teacher then explained how she really looks forward to hearing my daughter’s adventures each week. About how we go exploring forests, visiting beaches and hunting for fossils, collecting driftwood for art projects at home, throwing on waterproofs and getting down and dirty in the mud, also summers spent gorge walking or surfing and how she just loves listening to my daughter’s excitement at sharing these stories with her friends.
She told me how good it was to hear of a family that makes an effort, and that the quality time that we spend together really shows through, as my daughter was so interested in learning about new things and discovering new and exciting things.
To say I walked out of the playground with a big smile on my face was an understatement. It was lovely to hear and, as a parent, I guess we always tend to doubt ourselves. So, for someone to say “You’re doing a great job” was fantastic.
To all of us; the families who share our outdoor stories and adventures, those who spend quality time with our children, (even if we think we’re just going outside to play), and all those who value a “blow-through” just to feel alive, you should know that other people notice and realise the positiveness in these simple adventures, and you should take heart that, as parents, we’re doing a good job!
The weather at the moment is making it very difficult to get out and enjoy the outdoors. I find that we finish work and tend to hibernate. It’s so cold and wet, that it really takes a lot of effort to put on our warm clothes and get out and about.
However, after being stuck in the house for so long, and feeling like we had cabin fever, we decided to throw on our waterproof coats and brave the weather.
After finishing work early and picking up my daughter from school, we headed down to Penarth Pier. The seaside town of Penarth was where my husband grew up as a child and, being only a thirty minute drive away, it’s an easily accessible place for us to visit whenever we have a couple of hours free in evening.
As we parked the car, we could feel the wind howling outside, but we pulled up our hoods and made a dash for it. With only a hand-full of people speed-walking their dogs, we headed down onto the beach to look for interesting shells and pebbles to add to our ever-expanding collection.
It really wasn’t too bad. Yes, it was a little cold, but having the wind blowing through us was such a lovely feeling and something we had missed.
As we walked along the pebbly beach, we soon found lots of shells and unusual shaped stones. We found our pockets getting heavier and heavier as my daughter just couldn’t decide which ones she liked best.
A quick wander along the pier, looking backwards at the changing cliff face, (due to the stormy weather), seeing the rock-falls and wondering how it must have looked hundreds years ago.
After an hour, we felt the cold beginning to bite, and we were ready to head home. We’d definitely blown the cobwebs away, and it felt great.
So, with a little effort, we had our weekly dose of outdoors, came away with some more pebbles to add to our collection, and felt re-energised again.
All from just spending an hour at the beach.
To start at the beginning, I’ve been little quiet recently. There are a lot of personal issues that I’m currently dealing with, which will become more apparent in future posts! Watch this space !!! Blogging is hard, to have to find the space, the free-time and the energy to post…….. but that’s another story.
Ummmm, perhaps you might also have noticed a …. blog facelift! A different look, but the same outdoor passion and adventures!
I’m going through a pretty miserable time, at the moment, and to say my mood is quite low is a bit of an understatement. I’m feeling very down in the dumps and finding it hard to be up-beat and positive. But, what happened today made me understand how spending time in the outdoors can change all of that.
The weather, at the moment, is horrendous. It’s very difficult (in my work) to deliver our usual trips. The rivers are flooded, it’s very cold, biking is too wet, and so we are finding that the only activities that we can deliver are walks. Luckily, as we are based in Wales, we have the most amazing places to visit. Today, we chose the Gower. This is one of my most favourite places to visit, as I have such wonderful memories both as a child, and with my work, but also as a parent. We’ve walked, camped, gone coasteering, and food foraging, we’ve surfed…. the list is endless.
Back to today. We jumped out of our mini bus with full winter kit on, ready for the wind and the rain. We headed along the Welsh coastal path towards Three Cliffs Bay. Being sheltered in a forest, we were very lucky to stay largely dry and, as we stepped onto open ground, I was surprised when the rain stopped and we were met with blue skies!
It was had to be a sign that it was going to be a good day.
As I came out of the forest, I saw the cliffs in front of me and I let out a huge sigh. I instantly felt relaxed, as it was so nice. Two of my young people and I just stopped, stood, and enjoyed the moment.
My beautiful view
It really was an instant hit of relaxation. After spending some time enjoying the view, we headed over to the ruins of Pennard Castle. The castle ruins are perched on the edge of the valley and show a stunning view, looking towards Three Cliffs Bay.
We spent some time exploring the ruins, talking about the history of the castle and what it might have been like to live there. It was great to hear our group of inner city young people getting into the stories, and appreciating their new surroundings.
After exploring the castle ruins, we headed towards the stunning view of the cliffs. The wind started to get stronger, but it was amazing to be outside, and not stuck in a small office feeling very sorry for myself. The scenery was stunning, and our group just loved being outside.
Who wouldn’t be happy seeing these views. It absolutely made my day. After lots of picture-taking, we found a little area that was sheltered from the wind, and had our lunch. We washed it down with some hot chocolate from our flasks. A hearty lunch with a beautiful view.
After lunch, we strolled back along the path, swapping stories and talking through our problems, wishing that the day wouldn’t end.
I started the day felling the lowest of the low, not wanting to interact or talk with anyone. But, after a bit of effort, it turned into the most amazing day. Getting outdoors, and being blown around by the wind, I felt so different.
OK, my problems were still waiting for me when I got home but, for a day, I forgot them.
The interaction with the young people in the group, speaking of future plans, what our dream jobs would be, but, most of all, our dream, hopes and desires, kept me grounded, in touch with the real, immediate issues of life, but also in tune with the incredible, vibrant stimulus around me.
Some days, it’s great to be outdoors!!