Wild Family Fun

Tales of living, working and enjoying life in the outdoors


A Surprise Surf Day.

My daughter had an inset day recently, so my husband and I decided to take the day off work, enjoy the sunshine and go for our first surfing day of the year!

We headed off to Coney Beach in Porthcawl, which has a brilliant beach for surfing, and the added bonus of some great fish and chip shops for hungry tummies afterwards.

We struggled and wriggled into our wet suits, and we were soon ready to run and dive into the cooling sea. There were no usual moans and groans of it being too cold, as it was a refreshing relief from the heat of the day. We had a steady 3 foot swell and, with a little push from me, my daughter caught the best waves and stood up on ther board for the first time!

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She felt so happy and, yes, I was slightly envious but very proud of my little water baby.

After surfing for a few hours, we ditched the boards high up on the beach and spent the rest of the afternoon splashing around and playing in the shallows, duck-diving headlong into cool waves.

It was lovely for us all to be outside together, and we’d almost forgotten how great it was to enjoy a bit of sunshine. Of course, after we finished playing on the beach, we headed down to our favourite chip shop for a cone of freshly-cooked chips and a carton of curry for dipping.

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The perfect way to end a wonderful day!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Are You Hydrating?

I recently noticed an interesting tweet from Brecon Carreg, who asked “How much water are you drinking”?

I clicked onto the link to learn more, and was quite shocked to read that some experts calculate that a large percentage of people think it’s good enough to just rely solely upon tea, coffee and soft drinks to achieve your daily intake of water, and also that additional data shows that poor drinking habits contribute to adding a further strain onto the NHS in various forms, not least in poor liver and kidney function, and circulatory issues, to highlight a few.

The article went on to state that tiredness was a major concern and, (from a survey of some 300 GP’s countrywide), they recognised that symptoms were accelerated by dehydration.

I must admit that when I’m feeling a bit tired, or need an energy boost, I’m the worst offender for putting the kettle on and making a coffee, (in fact, I’m sipping a cup as I type this). I’d never have thought to drink a refreshing glass of chilled water instead. I really have started to think about how much water I drink, and is it really enough?

It’s quite ironic, because one of the main problems when teaching to Duke of Edinburgh candidates, is trying to get the young people to understand the importance of drinking enough water. It’s an uphill struggle, as they all want energy drinks and fizzy drinks but, when walking for long hours outdoors, water is the best option. I also hate seeing young children glugging down cans of energy drinks, because the sugar content in just one can is scarily high. As a parent, one would never let a child sit and eat up to 9 teaspoons of sugar, and that’s why I’m not a fan of energy drinks.

Also, I’m not sure why, (at aged 9 and upwards), they’d need extra energy. Looking at my daughter, she has enough energy for the whole family!

Further reading showed that official guidelines suggest that adults should drink between 1.6 and 2 litres a day, and poor drinking habits even create a £4 billion per year market in sales of energy drinks and fizzy pop.

I don’t want you to think that this post is preaching, because I realise that there’s always some “latest” scientific data proclaiming that too much of one thing is bad for you, or that not enough of another thing will diminish your health. Try things, but in moderation, I guess. Also, some people prefer bottled water over sweetened, flavoured, carbonated drinks, while others are equally happy with tap-water. It’s all a matter of habits and personal taste.

But, with all this interesting data stimulating my thoughts, I’m going to challenge myself to drink (at least) the recommended 2 litres a day. I’ll check my progress by drinking from a bottle of water, so that I can keep a record of how much I’m drinking in a day. I’ll also monitor any health benefits to me. Notwithstanding the health benefits, it makes economic sense, as well, considering that a 330ml bottle of branded cola costs more than double the price of a large 1.5 litre bottle of refreshing, cool mineral water.

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I also think it’s a great challenge to throw down to the whole family, because it’s a challenge we can all try together, with no real effort at all. CHEERS!

Camping in the Sunshine!

Our first Duke of Edinburgh Bronze expedition was upon us and, for many young people, it was their first time camping and having to look after themselves away from home. It’s always a huge learning curve for everyone involved, and the staff often end up feeling a bit like stand-in mums and dads for the weekend.

As we weren’t staying too far away from home, my husband and daughter joined us for the adventure. We stayed at one of my favourite campsites, which is Biblins Youth Campsite. This is a Foresty Commission campsite situated in the gorgeous Wye Valley, near Monmouth. It’s a beautiful area right on the banks of the River Wye, with no mobile phone signal or WiFi, and so it has a realistic feel of being isolated from everything.

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Finding some fun, back-to-nature style.

The weather was beautiful and the sun was out, which always makes camping that little bit more special. After a day of walking, the groups started to drift into the campsite. They were all happy to reach the end of day one, and were looking forward to an evening of relaxing and fun.

After the tents were up and they’d cooked a variety of meals, (some a lot better than others!), a football appeared and many of the boys piled onto the large field, energy levels recharged. Of course, my little girl joined in, and “managed” to get a few goals in.

The great thing about Biblins is that it allows open fires on the site and, when everyone got a bit tired, we settled down to a roaring open fire and (of course) we toasted marshmallows.

Later, as the fire died down to just the pulsating glow of embers, we were able to gaze upward into the clear night-sky, seeing a speckled tapestry of brightly-sparkling stars, and even the occasional orbitting satellite.

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It was the perfect night, watching the stars and enjoying tasty treats.

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This early-morning picture reminds why I love waking up to a beautiful, crisp start to the day.

The second day started with a few moans about aches and pains, but knowing that they were walking to the finish-line gave them the boost they needed to set off. I had a lovely surprise at my checkpoint, as I was able to sit enjoying the scenery and watch Canadian canoeists paddle slowly by on the Wye.

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Periodically, each group would pass through my checkpoint, and I’d make sure that they were refreshed, and then safely cross the bridge to continue on their way.

As each group finished, everyone was happy to see the mini buses at the end, throwing off their rucksacks and jumping on the buses ready to get home for cooked meals and clean clothes.

We were only out for one night, but the feeling and the atmosphere when camping at Biblins is just perfect. It’s a quiet and easy campsite, with no frills or fuss, but the setting is just amazing.

It always reminds me of why I love camping, and that it’s a great way of spending really great family-time together.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

My Sunday Photo

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Here’s my little action-girl, waterproofs on, and walking underneath a waterfall.

It may not be the best quality of photograph but, when I saw it, I was reminded of how much I absolutely love my daughters’ spirit for adventure. She makes an adventure out of every day, and I love being a part of that.

I guess that’s why we always enjoy our outdoor adventures.

OneDad3Girls

My Sunday Photo

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Enjoying toasted marshmallows at Caerphilly Mountain Ranch.

We discovered this new adventure park recently and loved the outdoor environment. There’s so much space to run, discover and explore, and there’s even a tumble hill for the children to roll down. It really was our type of place to visit for a great day out!

OneDad3Girls

Climbing At The Cardiff International White Water Centre.

Cardiff International White Water Centre have recently added a new outdoor climbing tower, to complement the multitude of various outdoor activities that take place at the centre. As I supply support services at the centre, I was lucky enough to be included onto the taster session that they were running, in order to try out the tower with adults and children from the public.

My daughter loves climbing, and has tried out a few different places in Cardiff. The idea of climbing outside on a sunny afternoon was really exciting for her, and she couldn’t wait to have try. We joined six other volunteers, suited-up in our harnesses, and were off to the tower we went to test our climbing skills and have some fun.

After going through the safety talk, we were partnered-up and tried a bit of bouldering, so that everybody could get used to the wall and become familiar with the different holds and techniques required. The partners were encouraged to be spotters, and made sure everyone was safe in case of a fall off the wall.

It was then time for climbing.

My daughter jumped at the chance of being first, and quickly got ready with the ropes to be the first one to climb the wall. It was good that her partners belayed while she climbed, which meant that everyone was involved in the activity, and no-one was standing around. The instructors and volunteers all gave encouragement and help by shouting positive messages of encouragement, and spotting routes and holds that my daughter could reach.

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She soon got to the top.

There were a few tricky bits, but she was able to swap feet to get to better holds, and began to stretch to reach further with each climb. It was great that everyone got involved as, in some climbing sessions, the focus of attention can be only on the climber. By having the group involved with the belaying and applying the safety elements of climbing, it meant that everyone had a role and everyone supported each other in achieving their climbs to the top.

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Picking a route, and going for the top!

We all had four or five climbs each, which was enough for us, as arms and legs started getting a little tired. In total, the session lasted about an hour and a half, which is the usual duration of the session when it’s open to the public. I really think that’s plenty long enough, especially for children, as we all finished on a positive note without too much stress on our limbs, and the climbing becoming “top-hard” because we weren’t becoming too fatigued.

A climbing session of an hour and a half will cost £15 per person. I think it would be a great treat for a birthday party, as everyone is involved and the tower has climbs for all abilities. I find if my daughter really enjoys an outdoor activity, then a treat like this where she is outside, taking part in a physical activity and having fun can be worth the price once in a while.

With the added bonus of being outdoors in the fresh air, (and right next to the rushing water events), it’s a climbing activity that my daughter wants to do again soon. Now that Summer’s on the way, this is sure to get us outside and enjoying loads of family fun!

Further details on some amazing outdoor activities and adventures Cardiff International White Water Centre offer can be found: www.ciww.com

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

May 08, 2015

Calm Leisure Base Layer – Review

I find that I spend a lot of time researching performance stats, when to comes to buying new outdoor kit and clothing. I talk to my colleagues and research online to find the right piece of equipment, and also relay on to others the knowledge and review results, as getting a good item of clothing is very important.

When I was asked to review a baselayer by Calm Leisure, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to try a product directly from a company, and to expand my knowledge of outdoor clothing providers.

I was sent a baselayer to review. This is an item of outdoor clothing that is an important part of the layering system that most people wear when doing something outdoors. A baselayer starts next to the skin, and is designed to trap a thin layer of warm air against the body. It also works to pull sweat away from the skin, which is known as ‘wicking’. A good baselayer will keep you warm, and acts as the first step to correct clothing while in the outdoors.

The Calm Leisure company ethos is to deliver a range of products that are incredibly comfortable, innovative in design and also purposeful. Designed and manufactured in Great Britain, the baselayer is ideal for activewear in a multitude of outdoor activity environments.

Calm Lesisure

I thought it would be a good idea to try the baselayer in a few different outdoor activities that I had going on. First, I used it while I was on a Duke of Edinburgh camping expedition in Brecon, Wales. The weather was due to be cold, so it was a good way to test out how warm the baselayer would keep me. While walking between checkpoints, I normally wear a baselayer, a thermal and my windproof coat. It seems like a lot, but this was March and we were in Brecon.

Initially, what I noticed was how the baselayer fitted. It was really lovely. Snug enough to have beneath clothing, but not too tight to the point of feeling uncomfortable, and an additional plus-value was how long the baselayer was. Sometimes, I find outdoor tops designed for ladies can be a bit small in length, and don’t fit at the back of your body. By the time you’ve moved about, sat down, fitted your rucksack, etc, the top has ridden up and you spend the day tugging it down to cover yourself. However, for me, the longer length of the baselayer was a real positive point. It was long and stayed well-fitted for the duration of my walk.

It was great for walking. It kept me warm and it wasn’t until I stopped, waiting for a group, that I got a bit cold and had to put another layer on, which is very normal when you’ve stopped moving. I was very happy how comfortably it felt, and very happy how warm it kept me through the day.

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Starting the day with a Calm Leisure baselayer, under a long sleeved thermal top.

Next, I used it on a river paddling afternoon. I wore it under my cag, (which is like a waterproof paddling jacket that keeps the prevailing wind off the body), then on top of all this was my buoyancy aid. Again, I felt very warm throughout my paddling session, even though the baselayer was short-sleeved. It’s so off-putting in any outdoor activity to feel cold early on, but I was very comfortable. I was not too hot, but found that I felt the right level of comfort with the minimal amount of layers on. I really don’t like having lots of layers on while paddling, as I find that it doesn’t help with the physical mobility aspect of paddling, so to have a base layer that kept me warm enough throughout the day was really great.

I also tested the baselayer on a family walk up to the summit of Pen Y Fan, in Brecon. The weather was scheduled to be windy, with a slight chill in the air. So, I started the day with the baselayer and a long-sleeved thermal over the top. I was very warm and comfortable, and it wasn’t until I reached the bottom of Corn Ddu that I had to put another layer on. It was a really good test and proved that this particular base layer was a success in this environment.

In short, this base layer performed exceptionally well, and really did its’ job on a number of different outdoor activities.

Another good endurance test was how it retained integrity after washing. I always stick to the recommended washing instructions to ensure the quality of the product lasts well. After washing, the baselayer kept its shape, and there wasn’t any discolouring in the fabric. The best aspect was that there wasn’t any shrinkage of the material. This is where the old addage ” buy cheap – pay twice” came into its’ own. The total quality of this product is consolidated in performance, value and durability and, when you’ve invested a little bit more money in equipment, you really don’t want it to fail in any of these aspects. This Calm Leisure base layer doesn’t, and will not let you down.

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Showing the length of baselayer, the rounded neck and the length of sleeve.

I would recommend this product and I’ve talked with, and shown, my colleagues this baselayer. I think that finding good outdoor clothing for women is such a positive thing, and it’s one of the biggest topics of any conversation when we get to discussing the various brands and styles.

To find a top-quality item of clothing that does its job, fits well, and also lasts after washing is fantastic. The Calm Leisure baselayer shows that if you pay a little extra, you will be rewarded in so many ways.

 I was lucky to be offered a Calm Leisure base layer for the purposes of this review. My opinions are my own, and are un-biased.

For further information and to see the range of clothing offered by Calm Leisure please visit : www.calmleisure.co.uk/

Calm Leisure can also be found on Twitter :@CalmLeisure

April 27, 2015

GETmore Water – Review

While on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, the importance of drinking plenty of healthy fluids and being hydrated is key to a successful experience. I find that I have to force myself to drink enough water on any typical day, but while on expedition it’s so important to have a regular, above-average supply of fluids.

In our D of E centres, we don’t allow our young people to bring energy drinks, or canned fizzy sweet drinks. Instead, we promote water or squash, as some young people, (myself included), find it boring to drink volumes of plain water.

However, in the evening, I often allow myself an orange juice, as it can be a nice treat and is something to look forward to after dinner. When I was asked to review GETmore Water, I thought it would be a great supplement to have on a Duke of Edinburgh camping expedition.

GETmore Water

More Drinks

More Drinks. Low in calories. High in vitamins.

More Drinks bring you Get More and A Little More, two ranges of drinks that help adults and children get more of what their bodies need. Every product in the More Drinks range communicates a single, simple message that tells you what you’re getting and why it’s good for you.

  • More vitamins and minerals – to help you stay strong and healthy.
  • More flavour – because no matter how good something is for you, you won’t drink it unless it tastes great.
  • More spring water – to quench your thirst and keep you hydrated.
  • More convenience – for nutrition on the go.

Personally, I liked the fact that they’re available either still or very slightly carbonated, and are available in a variety of flavours, so that everyone can find a flavour to suit their taste. The added bonus is found in the added vitamins and minerals within the drink. I chose apple & raspberry with B vitamins, as I thought it would lend itself to the physical activity exerted while I’m on expedition.

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This was my favourite. It has a delicious flavour and really made a nice change to watery squash. Refreshing and sweet, it really gave me a boost when it came to late evening. Food and drink become a huge focal point, as we tend to camp away from shops and stores. Most of the time, we have to rely solely upon what we can take with us. My colleagues tried the citrus with multivitamins and, again, they were surprised and pleased with the crisp taste, as well as being very happy with the low-calorie content within the drink.

I find that some other flavoured waters leave my mouth feeling “coated” and the after-taste puts me off choosing them. But GETmore Drinks don’t have that problem, and it gave a lovely sweet taste which refreshed me. I felt like I’d had a little treat, without having the unnecessary “bad” extras that can be found in some drinks.

Yet another bonus is that GETmore Drinks also have a child-friendly range of drinks which come in a selection of wonderful flavours, all of which really appealed to myself and my daughter. My daughter has a weekly kayaking class, after which she always has a snack when she comes home. She tried the still mango flavour with D vitamins, and absolutely loved it. To have a children’s drink that has a low-calorie and low-sugar content, which also encourages healthy hydration, is amazing for kid’s and such a help to parents. My daughter has since spotted them in our local shops, and we now regular buy them for school lunches. Also, the handy sports cap enables no spillage, which is great for when we’re on car journeys.

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I can recommend GETmore drinks for multi uses from lunch boxes, family days out, walks and camping expeditions.

GETmore Drinks are currently available at Tesco, WH Smith Travel, WH Smith High Street, Asda and other stores nationwide.

To GETmore information:  http://t.co/X2eDHHoYol

Also, you can follow GETmore on Twitter: @morevitdrinks

Also, on Facebook: morevitamindrinks

I’ve received a selection of samples from GETmore drinks for review purposes. My opinions are my own, and are honest and unbiased.

 

My Sunday Photo

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Always seeking adventures……

OneDad3Girls

A New Beginning: A Karma Way Forward.

I’ve been very quiet with my blog over the past few weeks and, those who know me in the ‘outside’ world, will know that I’ve been going through a very drastic, life-changing experience during recent months.

For over a year, I’ve had the threat of redundancy hanging over me. I worked for the Local Authority delivering outdoor educational and non-educational activities to children and young people throughout Cardiff. We worked with children from age five all the way up to young adults of college-age, delivering a mix of adventures walks, canoeing trips, climbing, surfing, gorge walking….. suffice to say that if it’s an outdoor activity, we delivered it. We mainly worked with children and young people who weren’t in mainstream school, or who would normally be unable to have the opportunity to take part in these activities.

As we all know, Local Councils are facing the task of making huge budget cuts, and so lots of projects similar to mine, (such as play centres, libraries and youth clubs), have all been under threat of closure. We had a year of fighting for our cause with wonderful support from the people that we work with, the schools we deliver to, and families whose children who have attended our activities.

However, after lots of wishing and hoping that we’d be saved, we were told just after Christmas that we were definitely to be axed, and our project would be closed at the end of March.

The news was devastating. I was one of the lucky people in the world who could say, with all sincerity, that I loved my job. My experiences through this job have been amazing, and I’ve been able to share those experiences with family, and loving and enjoying the outdoor world is a huge part of our family life. I started on a three-month secondment which happily turned into an eight year career, and taught me the job and career that I wanted to have in life.

A big part of the rewards of that job is that I’ve worked with some amazing and talented people. It’s really hard to put into words how much fun we had, and how much we laughed. Of course there were down-days, but the good days definitely outweighed the tough days. Fantastically, silly days. We were definitely young at heart having snowball fights, tumbling down sand dunes and enjoying the activities as much as the children and young people we worked with.

The people I worked with also saw me at my worst. Crying, (actually sobbing), when I was confronted with a caving activity, as this was my biggest fear. There were moments when I would be crawling through a cave with tears streaming down my face! But I had lots of support and cwtches, and it was only when we were in the car park that my colleagues would make jokes and lighten the mood.

I have also had the opportunity to work with wonderful coaches, who always shared their knowledge and experience to teach me so much. I know that without their help and guidance, I really would not be in the happy position that I am now, with my outdoor pursuit career. I will always be grateful for the help and guidance I received while in work.

Over eight years, we worked some brilliant groups and met such wonderful young people. Working with these groups showed us that delivering outdoor activities were immensely beneficial. Some of those young people we’ve known since they were teenagers, and we’ve seen them grow into wonderful adults, and it’s been a pleasure to know them and now call them friends. I don’t mind saying that in particular Lauren Jones this bit is about you!

Without getting on my soap box, I worry for, and also feel very angry about, the children and young people who we worked with most recently, and what opportunities they’ll have, (or not), now that we’re gone. We had experiences of taking young people to the beach for the very first time because, sadly, they were never taken as a child. One child even asked me if you had to pay to go on the beach, not understanding that it was free and open to all. There were young people who found that mainstream education just didn’t suit them but, by getting them outside, it showed them the huge potential and learning opportunities in a tactile environment. It taught them about important life and social skills, things that can’t necessarily be learnt in the classroom.

As my title of this post says, it is a new beginning in my life. I think we all understand that a job is never for life, nowadays, and I’ve struggled hard to find a way to make something positive out of this experience.

So I’m going it alone!

I’ve been very, very lucky to be able to form a small business, (albeit a name to start with). I’m very grateful to all my colleagues who’ve helped point me in the right direction in order to gain freelance work. I’m also very lucky to be able to draw upon my qualifications and experience, which is allowing me to deliver Forest School free-play sessions, as well as stepping up my teaching and support within the local D of E organisation.

And I have to say a huge “thank you” to my husband who has supported me throughout this difficult time. Not just with my loss of my job, but he has given me the strength and support to show me I can work for myself. His support has been what’s helped me through this experience and, when I would wake at 2 o’clock in the morning panicking, he would tell me everything will be ok, and I’ll be fine! It’s really pulled us together.

My old post formally dissolved just over a month ago. Throughout that time, this is the first chance I’ve had to actually sit in front of a screen, and write a post to express my feelings.

To sum up, I’ve been scared when the cuts were announced. I’ve been strong by trying to maintain a professional front in work, and I’ve tried to support my colleagues and clients to the best of my ability. I’ve had to learn a great deal, in short order, about setting up on my own, pitching for work, and so-on. But I’ve had loads of help along the way.

I think I’m beginning to understand karma. Try to be nice, and people respond nicely. Help, and you’ll be helped back. I really hope I can continue to help, (in some small way), to bring some fun outdoor adventures to those young people who wouldn’t normally get that chance.

The benefits are boundless, and the rewards aren’t always obvious, but can be found in so many different ways!!

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Thank goodness for wellies!

A good pair of wellies has always been a must-have in our house. I can still remember the first red and white pair my daughter had, as soon as she was able to walk.

What follows is the reason why wellies are so important to us! A simple afternoon walk in some local woods with friends turned into the most muddiest wet-welly walk.

With just a rucksack packed with drinks, snacks and a few choccy sweets, we spent hours wandering around the forests at Caerphilly mountain, and exploring local nature reserves and pathways.

As my daughter grows older, I am so happy that she’s found friends who enjoy the outdoors and still have a passion for exploring. We’re finding that, as she gets older, we’ve started having discussions about boys, make-up and how she feels that things are changing slightly as she grows up. Having this lovely day out made us all forget school issues and other worries, and the girls just got outside and had fun. Nobody moaned, and there were no groans about getting muddy and having dirty hands. Just lots of lovely, squelchy muddy puddles, and competitions to see who could get their wellies stuck first!

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We saw huge tree root structures, a few tree trunks with wild mushrooms growing on the side, and even found a small pond for a bit of exploring and bug spotting.

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It was a very easy and relaxed afternoon out and, luckily, only twenty minutes from our home. At the end of our adventure, my daughter and her friends couldn’t wait to get home, pull on their pj’s, and enjoy a hot chocolate and some lovely homemade biscuits as a treat.

So, our walks are the reason my car boot has a permanently muddy box tucked away inside, and I always carry spare clothes for my daughter in the car!

I hope she never grows out the joyous freedom of jumping into a muddy puddle!

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall



Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

365 Project Week 9

Wow week 9, so glad I’m keeping up!

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46: A morning of homework, ready for the start of school after half term. Space is this terms theme.

47: I feel like I’m living in mud lately. This was the view of my poor boots just after 20 minutes of walking in work on Monday.

48: A lovely day of introducing orienteering to a new group on Tuesday. Cosmeston Lakes in Penarth is very close to Cardiff and a great place to introduce groups to the outdoors.

49: I helped out at my daughters school today. They have introduced a Co Op healthy eating project. It only costs £3 for a bag of delicious fruit/vegetables or salad. A brilliant project to promote.

50: Baking, baking , baking! Welsh cakes and shortbread biscuits ready for the St Davids Day competition in school.

51: The winner entry {hopefully}.  At least we get a nice treat if we don’t win,

52: The new addition to my daughters bedroom.  A glitter ball! Every night is a disco night.

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