A friend recently asked me if it was possible for anyone to walk the path to the top of Pen-Y-Fan.
She thought it was mainly for committed outdoor walkers, or people with lots of hill-walking experience. I explained that anyone can access the walk and, in fact, I see many people of differing abilities walking Pen-Y-Fan. However, there are some quite simple, yet essential things to consider, that will help to make your walk safer and more enjoyable.
Leading from our conversation, I thought I’d post some things that I hope will help to make a day-walking experience easier, and a bit kinder to any children on the walk.
Check the weather report.
The Met office website is really simple to access and understand, yet a comprehensive source of information. I always check the night before any trip, as well as on the morning of my walk. The weather can change quite suddenly, and you may need to adapt in order to be properly prepared. If you want a good view at the top, wait for the weather to be clear. There’s nothing worse than getting all the way to the top, and find that everything is shrouded in thick mist or fog! It also helps when deciding upon the correct clothes to wear for the day and, if the children are coming on the walk with you, good weather helps to make the whole experience more fun and engaging.
Always have breakfast!
It sounds like such a silly, common sense thing to advise but, on any normal day, you might usually be able to get away with just grabbing a quick breakfast bar, or missing breakfast altogether. Not if you want to have the energy to fulfil a happy days’ walking! By having breakfast, you’re giving your body the best possible start to get you up that mountain. Without that start-up boost, it won’t be long before your energy levels start to drop and pretty soon after, you’ll feel like giving up before you’ve even properly started.
Have a good pair of walking boots, or really sturdy footwear.
You don’t have to buy a very expensive pair of boots, as many outdoor shops have a wide selection, and at a range of reasonable prices. They can also give advice if you ask before buying. However, if you do buy a new pair, make sure you wear them before your walk to help them become supple, as I’ve seen many people get blisters because they’ve walked in stiff, brand new boots. Another good tip is to wear a thicker pair of socks. I wear a thin liner sock, and then a thicker walking sock over this. It helps to reduce blisters and makes for a more comfortable walk, but it really is down to personal choice. I’ve also seen many walkers trudging up the path of Pen-Y-Fan with completely inappropriate shoes and I really feel their pain. But if you take care of your feet, they’ll take care of you.
Take a rucksack and wear the straps on each shoulder.
I often see lots of people struggling up hills and mountains with handbags, carrier bags etc, and it looks as if it’s such an awkward pain. Again, you don’t have to spend a lot. Most children have a good school rucksack these days, and that’s all you need. You then have something decent to adequately carry your lunch, a spare jumper, bottle of water and maybe a hat and gloves depending on the time of year. I do tend to carry a small first aid kit, but that’s completely up to you. However, things like wet wipes and some hidden sweets or chocolates can make the day more comfortable, especially if you have children with you. Wearing one strap slung over a single shoulder promotes a lop-sided, slouching walk, which can become irritating and tiring. On a prolonged walk, you should wear both straps over your shoulders, as it helps with a more comfortable “even walk”.
Plan your route.
Proper planning prevents poor performance. You really ought to know where you’re going, how long the walk should take, and if it is suitable for the ability of your group. You want to enjoy yourself, so if this is a new experience for you, or if you want an easy, relaxing walk, don’t choose somewhere that takes all day or, for example, is continually up steep hills, as descending can be just as taxing as going up! A little light research can reap real rewards, as a good walk will make you want to go again, and each time possibly try something harder. It really is meant to be enjoyable and fun.
Go with friends!
This will make the day much more enjoyable, and you’ll have massive motivation to get to the top. You’ll help each other, share lunch, chat on the way and find it a lot happier and easier having friendly, familiar faces by your side.
Take it a pace that everyone is happy with.
If you’ve planned the whole day for the walk, take the whole day. I love taking the time to enjoy the environment, pacing myself to incorporate a few necessary rest breaks, and chat to any fellow walkers. I can then complete any walk without looking like a red tomato, and completely out of energy. Also, it may take a few reserves of determination and energy leftover, just to return from a good walk.
Never underestimate the importance of a hat, gloves, a waterproof coat and spare jumper.
Sometimes, I’ve left Cardiff when the sun is shining and the weather’s quite hot. By the time I’ve driven to Brecon, the sky is overcast and the cold has set in. Again, this is where checking the weather is essential, but Mother Nature seems to just love throwing a “curve-ball” now and then! Mountain summits can have completely different weather ststems from that at the bottom. Often, when you reach the top, the wind is quite invigoratingly strong, and you’ll be so happy that you packed a warm hat, gloves and a spare jumper. Equally, don’t forget that in warmer weather, you’ll need a sun hat, sun tan lotion and plenty of bottled water for hydration.
These are just a few tips that might help if you’re new to walking, especially if you’re keen to venture out into mountainous or even forestry areas. Over the years, I’ve followed and developed these simple tips when I prepare for a walk, and it’s always made my day safer and more enjoyable.
My last tip is to just have fun and enjoy yourself! Walking is a wonderful activity and can be tailored to suit everyone’s abilities. The health benefits are encouraging, too.
Regular walking strengthens your heart. It reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. The Stroke Association estimates that a brisk, 30-minute walk every day helps to lower and control the high blood pressure that causes strokes, potentially reducing the risk by up to 27 percent.
So, what’s stopping you!
We had a rare sunny day recently, so we didn’t waste the opportunity of getting outside, and the children loved being able to take their coats off and play. With the sun on our faces we didn’t feel the slight cold in the air and enjoyed being outside without having to wear lots of layers of clothing.
It may not the best quality, or a posed shot but watching my daughter and her cousins use a fallen down tree across a stream a place to play, to push their boundaries and explore their risk was so special and I’m happy I was a part of it.
It didn’t cost any money or have an adult telling them what to do, it just took imagination, confidence and the element of fun!
The joy of being a child and the happiness of natural play.
This is my daughter, kayaking for the first time on fast moving water.
I was an absolute bag of nerves watching her but, at the same time, I felt so proud at seeing her paddling and not letting her fear get the better of her.
This picture makes her look so scared, but she still carried on paddling through, and went on for another hour!
For the first time EVER, our little family spent the Christmas & New Year period on holiday.
It was amazing for us all to be together, spending a full 10 days just relaxing and enjoying our surroundings. After a busy year, it was a much-needed and well-deserved break. Those regular visitors to my little blogette will know that we love to go to Coombe Mill, in Cornwall. The tranquillity and the closeness to the natural outdoors appeals to us, and it made a great setting for us to enjoy Christmas even more.
The most memorable experience, however, was the day of New Years Eve. We decided to spend the day surfing in the sea at beautiful Polzeath Beach. Bonkers, I hear you mutter, given the time of year but, with the proper kit, we hardly noticed the cold and lasted over an hour in the surf, jumping and riding the waves.
We went to a surf shop located right on the beach, where we were able to hire a board, wetsuits, boots, gloves and hats, all of which were much needed in the chilly swell. We used the “privacy” of our car to writhe and wriggle into our wetsuits, and then we were ready to face the waves.
The first few steps into the ocean we sort-of OK, and surprisly not as cold as we anticipated it to be. Having the correct kit is essential, and I was able to slowly lower myself deeper into the water without too much of a cold-shock to the system, acclimatising as I went tentatively ever farther out into the surf.
My daughter caught her first wave and soon stood up straight away, making it look very easy and completely putting her Mum to shame! I don’t mind admitting that I’m not the best surfer, and I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been able to successfully stand up on a moving board, but I still love the whole experience.
After almost an hour, the wind started to chill our heads, and cheeks began to glow a nice shade of rosy red. We were ready for warm clothes and, as we waddled quickly back to the car, we all agreed that we should visit the nearest tea-rooms, where we enjoyed a steaming pot of tea, and a huge warm scone with extra clotted cream and large spoon of jam!
The ability to enjoy such a wild, fun day with my family was such a brilliant way to end the year and mark the end of a wonderful holiday.
I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since I’ve posted anything on my little blog.
Such a long time has passed!
There are a few reasons why, but mainly (and sadly) work got in the way. Long, busy days made me a very tired outdoor worker and, at the end of the day, I had no time or energy left to blog and post.
Also, I found it hard to find stimulation and maintain the excitement for blogging, compared to how I felt when I started. It became all too easy not to bother, or to feel (within myself) that what I was publishing had become a bit repetatively boring to others.
That didn’t help, when coupled with the lack of energy and drive, to post an interesting anecdote.
However, over the past few months, I’ve begun to feel bit of a void in my life, and have really missed blogging. I’ve realised that blogging gave me an extra push to get outside, and to take photographs of the beautiful areas I visit, both in work and with my family. I also missed the lovely way that a blog gave me a happiness to share my experiences with a much wider community, and formed a “sort-of” diary of the wonderful family memories we create on our adventures.
With encouragement from my husband, I decided to get back in front of the screen, and actually make the time for blogging again.
The wild card in the pack is that my daughter is older now, and so our adventures are getting a bit more daring and exciting!!
At the moment, I’m providing a lovely Family Engagement project at two local primary schools in Cardiff. The aim of the project is to encourage parents and children to come together after school, and have an opportunity to play and be creative together.
We’ve a had a few weeks together now and, as I get to know the group, I always like the idea of introducing a fire-building activity. It’s a great way of teaching the children about fire safety and the correct way of working with fire. It also shows the parents that a little bit of risk is a good thing and, actually, children are really good at recognizing and managing risk during play.
My fire-building activity is run over two sessions, the first being an introduction to fire. We talk about risks, how to use fire and be around fire safely. We look at the equipment and talk about how we use it, and this gives me an idea on how the children react around the subject. It’s good for me to know that I can trust the group; if I am in any doubt about safety issues, I’ll leave the actual fire building session to a later date or, with some groups, perhaps fires may not the best or safest activity for them.
So, sitting in the classroom, we spoke about using a flint and steel to get the fire going. I demonstrate the process and, at the start, you do see the fear in some children’s eyes, as they’ve been told to never play with fire because it’s dangerous. Of course, it is when used in the wrong way, but with correct teaching comes respect, and it stops becoming the scary forbidden thing that children are often warned about.
We then move outside to the open playground. Here, the children make a little table of sticks and a ball of cotton wool is placed on top. The children then get to have a go at lighting the cotton wool in a safe and controlled environment. We always have a bowl of water at the side, (just in case), and the children take it in turns to strike the spark, so that they learn to wait and to observe the rules of our fire session.
Luckily, I’ve never had any child go out of control, or act dangerously with this activity. They really understand how to behave around the fire, and always use the equipment correctly. It’s lovely to watch and to be a part of this discovery process.
I believe that, sadly, in the society that we currently live in, we can wrap our children up in cotton wool in an attempt to shield them from too many potential hazards and risks. Many of these things were simply play experiences to me and my peers and, as children we were allowed to explore, discover and evaluate the safest way to avoid risks in play.
The current trend seems to almost promote “safe, indoor, computerised” activities, by telling children not to climb the tree in case you fall and break your leg, don’t play outside when its rainy because you’ll get a cold, and don’t jump in the puddle as you’ll ruin your shoes. As parents, I think we’ve all said these things to our children at some time or another, but didn’t we do all of these things when we were kids, and didn’t love it.
I think that a little bit of risky play works well in a safe environment and the children know that if they act responsibly, behave well and enjoy the session, the following week they get to enjoy a huge mug of hot chocolate and toast marshmallows on the fire that they helped to make!
I’m so lucky that my daughter gets to come with me on my Forest Schools sessions.
It’s the perfect place for her to be.
Here she is enjoying a toasted marshmallow squashed between two chocolate biscuits.
What else would you do when you have a lovely open outdoor camp fire!
ParkDean Holidays have been running a lovely competition about the “Best Old Holiday Photo”.
This is aimed at encouraging people to share their childhood photographs of nostaligic holiday memories. The competition was created due to the number of people staying home and having holidays in Britain. It really got me thinking that, as a family, we’ve had the most wonderful holidays exploring different parts of Britain, and I think it’s fantastic that more people are choosing to stay home for their holidays.
More information, and also if you are keen to share your own family photographs, can be found at this link: http://www.parkdeanholidays.co.uk/take-me-back/
This post has given me lots of fun, thinking about past holidays which I had as a child. But, for me, the one that stands out the most was a family holiday to the Isle of White. It was a similar set-up to Butlins, where there were chalets and all of the entertainment was on site, which was great for a big family group.
When I say a family big holiday, this included mums, dads, cousins of all ages, aunties, uncles and, of course, the matriarcal Nan, and we all went together. I think that I was only about seven at the time and, looking back, it’s only certain pivotal events that I can vividly remember.
We travelled by train and all the children piled into one carriage. This left the adults to a small respite of momentary peace and quiet, free from all the excited, screaming children, (high on sweets and anticipation), all eager to get arrive at our destination.
My other fond memory is of having the biggest pool I’ve ever seen, with free access on the site. My Dad would take us down to the pool every day. He was a big kid, himself. He would throw all of us children across the pool, like skimming a stone, then have the whistle blown at him by the lifeguard telling him to behave.
However, it’s been really difficult to find any photographs from that holiday. Of course, we didn’t have digital cameras back then, with a back-up to our computer and everything saved quickly and with ease.
We definately didn’t have that ease back in the day. But one of my cousins did manage to dig out the most lovely picture of that holiday. Sadly, it’s not showing all of us who were on holiday together, but I can vividly remember the afternoon that we were all instructed to have family photographs taken.
We were all posed within a nearby field, and ordered to “move places”, “look at the camera” and “smile” by the professional photographer on site. The children were so bored, and it was a real mission for the parents to get us smiling and looking happy! It felt like we were all there for ages, but this particular photo is so lovely, and so and important.
Sadly, my Nan has now passed away and so, seeing her here with her grandchildren all smiling and laughing, is just a perfect memory of a great holiday. The whole thing reminded me of what a wonderful woman she was.
She curled my sisters’ and my hair with old rags, one evening. Then she said she was going to the shop for milk. When we started to get worried that she was gone for hours, we eventually tracked her down to the amusement arcade, pumping coins into the machines. Taking no nonsense from one of my cousins, she chased him back to his room, were he spent the rest of the night in shame!
I never thought I’d see my Nan run, ever!
I know that it’s not in focus, or as crisp as a current digital image, but it’s so touching how such lovely memories can come from just one photograph.
It’s been lovely composing this post and thinking back to our happy family holiday, compared to my own current familys’ holidays.
We, as a new family, have spent the most amazing times holidaying in this country by camping in some beautiful areas and discovering which holiday locations suit our own little family.
A quick confession is that our passports have recently expired. We’re in no rush to renew them, with so much of our own fantastic country to explore that we’ve never seen before.
I hope that this post inspires people to think about having a holiday in this country.
I know that you can all create those extra-special, “once-in-a-life-time” family memories that you’ll cherish forever.
With the wind howling and rain pouring outside today, it seems like such a long time ago that we were at Coombe Mill. I’m finally getting around to sorting out the wonderful photographs which we took during our Coombe Mill holiday.
Looking at this photograph has made me forget the grey weather outside, and made me fondly remember our day of wild swimming on the river near our cottage. My daughter simply slipped into her wetsuit, jumped in and had one of the best afternoons ever!
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As we all know, days out can be a very expensive for families trying to entertain the children, so it’s wonderful when a family are able to have a day out that only costs the price of a picnic and an ice cream!
Amelia Trust Farm is a working farm in the Vale of Glamorgan, where children can explore and discover the countryside, and also experience what a working farm is all about. A very special part of Amelia Trust is that it provides an environment where disadvantaged young people can work with skilled staff and volunteers on the farm in an outdoor education setting.
We were very lucky to visit on a lovely sunny day and, as soon as we arrived, the children were immediately off to the play area. The great layout of the play area means that we could find a picnic bench, sit down and unload the bags, while watching the children’s safety as they climbed over the tractor and slid down the slide.
It was soon time for lunch, and it was lovely to enjoy your own picnic food in a wide open space, sitting in the sunshine.
With full tummies, we wandered off to spot the farm animals as we went along and all the children loved the freedom to run ahead of us, leading the way. The piglet trail is always a firm favourite, as it leads to the wooded area. My nephews enjoyed hiding behind trees, waiting to jump out at us. Their screams of ‘BOO’ could be heard a long way away!
The next walk was to the pond, at the furthest point of the farm. It’s a good track for pushchairs for little ones, and not too far or up-hill. Just before the pond is my daughter’s favourite bit, which is a little obstacle course made from simple wooden planks, but they played on it for ages. Balance beams, a wobbly plank and stepping stones make for a fun challenge, that they just wanted to go on again and again. It’s a very simple, but effective, outdoor adventure course.
The children eventually arrived at the pond, and loved sitting watching the ducks. They made quacking noises, and then tried jumping back and forth over a little stream feeding into the pond. Inevitably, it ended with her falling in, and getting covered with mud. I always use old trainers for these types of walks, and the poor old washing machine always gets a work-out after these muddy adventures!
We headed back, as time was coming to an end and we had promised the children an ice cream in the on-site cafe. For a great day out in Cardiff, Amelia Trust Farm is such a great place to visit for an inexpensive, educational day out.
All in all, a brilliant day out that doesn’t break the bank!
Recently, we were very lucky to enjoy a multi-activity day at Cardiff International White Water Centre. My daughter and three friends spent the day taking part in three very different adventurous experiences that are available within a vast programme of various activities offered by the centre.
Cardiff International White Water Centre offers a wide range of outdoor activities for children and adults, ranging from Flat-water Paddling, Outdoor Climbing, Stand-up Paddle Boarding, White-water Rafting and Gorge Walking to name a few. Our little adventurers had the most amazing day, taking part in Indoor Surfing, High-ropes Air Trail, and then White-water Rafting.
Their first activity was on the Indoor Surfing, which is a very powerful, simulated surf machine. What’s great about this activity, is that it’s suitable for beginner skill levels, and upwards. So, for children, it’s a great way of getting a first experience of that wild, surf-spray feeling, in a totally safe, controlled environment! Also, it can be enjoyed any time of year, as it’s indoors.
Priced starting from £22.50 per person, up to £35 per person, this is for a session of about 1hr 30min, with all equipment and coaching provided.
They were all so excited! They couldn’t wait to get their wet-suits on and jump right onto the waves. Each child is coached, to help with getting in, and staying on, the wave. As they jumped in their faces were beaming, and they fought against the wave to practice going forward, backwards and side to side.
As the session went on, they were encouraged to try some tricks, by pushing the boards forwards and catching it. They learnt turns and spins and also kneeling on the board. They gained in confidence, waving to parents, who were happy watching all the fun. They also had a go at launching themselves from the top of the wave, occasionally getting some air as they jumped into the flow.
With plenty of turns between the group, everyone had lots of time on the wave, getting better and better with each go, all being able to try more tricks, coming of the wave with big smiles and asking when they could go again.
Next was the Air-trail High Ropes Course. Set above, over and across the Centre, the trail crosses the water. The challenge is to complete high-air obstacles and zip-wires, in order to move across the course to the end, all-the-while dangling high in the air, suspended by a safety line. Before the session each participant is kitted with a harness and a helmet to keep you safe. One by one, the group are encouraged to move across the course at their pace.
The cost for this activity is £10 per person, which includes one fully coached circuit of the Air-trail course.
We all watched, wondering if they would be brave enough to move from the first step. It didn’t take them long to take that first BRAVE step off on the first zip wire. What was lovely, was that we were able to walk around the course at ground level, following them around with words of supporting encouragement, as they went past each obstacle.
We had a few wobbles and high-pitched screams, but we also had lots of laughter and giggles as they moved along. We all watched as they got to the end and zipped wired down to cheers from the mums!
This activity is a great confidence-builder, at only £10 per person including coach, and you can move through this activity leisurely, at the participants’ own speed.
After a bit of lunch, our group moved over to the White-water Rafting session. They were so looking forward to this, as they’d watched other rafts going around the course throughout the day, and so their anticipation and building excitement of White-water Rafting had been building throughout the day.
After suiting-up with wetsuits and safety kit, they first had to practise various skills and techniques in the flat pool. This where they learned the safety commands, and what to do while in the fast-flowing water. It was the best to get ready for what to except on a REALLY fast-water course.
Parents are able to walk around the course, and watch each stage, especially as they came up the conveyor belt which took them to the beginning of the course. There were lots of smiles, screaming and nervous giggling!
Throughout the first run-through, all we could hear was the happy screams as they hit waves, moving on rapidly around the course. It was lovely, as we could watch every move as they went around. We were able to take photographs and shout encouragement but, mostly, we could see how much fun they were having.
During different times of the week, the water level is raised or lowered, depending on the style of paddling required.
We went it was a “family rafting” session, and so the level of water was lower. This helps when younger children want to take part. If you’d like a harder, (read “SCARIER”) paddle, then you could choose to arrange your visit when the level of water is higher. This offers something for everyone and, for our children, the water level was great. They had some edgy nerves to begin with, but were put so at ease by the coaches that they were soon keen to raft!
It really is a great way of getting inexperienced people onto fast-flowing water, and to develop confidence, while still having lots of fun.
The price for a family raft experience starts at (between) £22.50 to £25 per person, and is available on Wednesday evenings, Sundays mornings and School Holidays. All coaching and specialist equipment is included and each session runs for approximately 2 hours.
Our little group had lots of time around the course, and we were really surprised at how much they were able to fit into the session. At the end, in the flat-calm pool, the children were all encouraged to finish the session by jumping into the water from the raft. This was an amazing, confidence-building end to a brilliant session.
They all rushed up to meet us, and were so excited, full of energy and with faces glowing with the biggest smiles. It was so amazing and heart-warming to see. They really did have the most amazing day and couldn’t choose what session was the best. I think that they all agreed that each one was equally as fantastic or exciting as the next, but for lots of different reasons!
Friends have suggested that it could become quite expensive but, what’s great about this easily accessible centre, is that it offers such a huge variety of activities with a vast range of prices, from as low as £10 per session.
This multi-activity centre really can cater for every age and skill-level, as well as corporate groups, stags or hens, and group party-treats or special occasions. It’s a wonderful addition to the “Cardiff experience”, as well as offering an accessible and controlled experience into wild-water activities.
For our group, it was a very positive day. Not just because of the excitement and fun of the activities, but that it was so wonderful to see all the children’s’ confidence grow throughout the day. I would also like to thank each coach on the activities, as they really did make our children’s day so enjoyable and fun!
For all the details and full list of courses, activities, sessions, prices etc, please visit: http://www.ciww.com/
We recently had a chance to learn about our wonderful and interesting Welsh mining history at Big Pit National Coal Museum.
It’s an amazing place, where you get to dress up like a miner or, (as our miner-guide called our group), ‘Mini Miners!’ and then go underground and explore the coal mines.
It’s a really brilliant place to learn about our history, and entry with the underground tour is completely free.
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