Is there anything better for an outdoor worker than sitting in a warm mini bus in the beautiful Brecon countryside, enjoying a flask full of freshly homemade Cawl made by a lovely husband.
A few weeks ago, I posted all about our Summer Holiday to-do list.
I was worried because, this summer, we weren’t going abroad for a holiday, but I still wanted my daughter to have weeks of fun-filled activities, especially during our 2 weeks off work. This was the reason for creating the list, so that we would have a plan of activities, and adventures that we wanted to do. After a very busy two weeks, we were able to tick most of the activities off the list and, when I think back, we only took one of those days to stay at home and recover from all our outdoor adventures.
Celebrating National Play Day
Wednesday 6th August was National Play Day, which is a wonderful day for families and children to celebrate, and be a part of, lots of different play events running throughout the country. We spend the day celebrating with Friends of Pentre Gardens.
We had an amazing day, providing a huge range of play activities and opportunities for children and young people within the community. There were a variety of arts and craft activities, sporting games, bug hotels, jewellery making, homemade swings and hammocks from trees, team games (with the most popular activity being the homemade car made from a recycled wheely bin) and the graffiti artist Lloyd made the most amazing creations for the children to take home.
It was a huge success, with the staff being able to take a step back and observe the children playing together, making their own play experiences happen and also seeing so many parents staying to play with their children. This was a truly wonderful play experience for everyone who took part in the day, and we were so happy to be included in it.
Go foraging for wild food
One warm evening, we made our way up to the apple trees that grow near to our house. For weeks, we’ve been checking the apples to see if they are ready, and finally the time was right. My daughter made her way safely up the tree (with some help from her Dad) and, with trusty stick in hand, was able to reach up to the apples high at the top. We quickly filled a tray full of delicious, juicy apples ready for cooking. Apple crumbles, tart Normande and Tarte Tatin for tea!
Walking up Pen Y Fan
Attempting the walk to the top of Pen Y Fan was a huge challenge, and something we’ve wanted to do for such a long time. Pen Y Fan is the largest mountain in South Wales. My Dad kept checking the weather reports for a week, and we decided that the last Saturday before I returned to work was the day for us! We donned our walking boots and wind-proof coats, packed a picnic and set off. I was so glad that we were prepared with jumpers, hats and coats, because the top of the mountain was pretty windy, and we had to shout to each other to be heard. Steaming cups of hot chicken noodle soup was passed around by my Dad, and we really had a magnificent day. I was so proud of my daughter, who didn’t moan at all going up-hill, and I had such a lovely experience being out with my Dad. It was a brilliant day, giving us a wonderful family memory.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make a specific coasteering trip but there are still two weekends left to squeeze in a trip to the Gower.
However, my daughter did achieve a huge leap in improving her kayaking abilities over the Summer. She took part in her first moving-river and open-water journey with her paddling group GlamBoaters. She’s had about two months of indoor pool sessions, and so going onto the open water is a big step. I must admit that my heart was in my mouth as I watched her paddle out on her own. The first was a paddle on the River Taff and, when she jumped into her kayak, I had a moment of nerves but, after some calming words from my Mum and Dad, we were off! I paddled a Canadian canoe and stayed very close to her. Paddling on a river can suddenly present many different problems, such as the sudden change in water current, changes in wind strength and so on. I think I was more nervous than she was, as she dug the paddle in and got further away from the land. But she loved it and I couldn’t believe how far out she went, growing in confidence with every stroke. For the journey back, she jumped into my canoe and had a rest as we paddled back to her Dad, Nanny and Bampy, who were proudly watching from the bank, (drenched right through, as it was pouring down with rain, bless them).
Her next adventure was paddling at Cardiff White Water Centre. This is a brilliant place, where paddlers of all ages and abilities have the opportunity of paddling different types of waters; flat water for novices and fast-moving water for the more exprienced paddler. My daughter had some time on the flat water improving her technique, paddling on the flow from the smallest of waves. When she toppled over, she popped up quickly, giggled and then quickly gave me the “thumbs-up” just to calm my nerves. Of course, she wanted to go on the fast-moving water. She went with one of the instructors in an inflatable, two-man raft and they bounced their way down the course. It was a great evening and, being out of the pool into moving water, was so good for her confidence and kayaking experience.
Our Summer Holiday scrapbook is coming along nicely, with tickets, photos and drawings being added to the book. It’s a lovely way of remembering our trips, and will be a great “show-and-tell” experience for when my daughter returns to school.
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Yes….. we got to the top !!
Climbing up to the top of Pen-y-Fan was on our summer holiday to-do list. My daughter has been jumping at the chance to do the walk and, after we got her first pair of walking boots and thick walking socks, there was no stopping her. We waited for a dry and clear day and my Dad, my daughter and I set off with a well packed picnic and a flask of chicken noodle soup !!
The weather at our house was warm and sunny but, when we got to Brecon the clouds were set with rain and we quickly threw our jumpers on to help against the cold. We started on the family-friendly path, which is great for young children. This is a gradual path and not too steep, which makes it a good way for children to get to the top. We took regular breaks and, when we started to feel the cold, my Dad got out his trusty flask filled with chicken noodle soup and extra pasta, which my daughter loves.
After a cup of steaming soup, we headed back up the path, exchanging “hellos and how’s the top” to the passing people who had woken very early and were now on their way back down.
As we got higher, the wind started getting stronger and it was quite a surprise that we had to put on our hats and coats to stay warm.
We reached the corner of Corn Ddu and, with Pen-y-Fan in the distance, we knew we had about twenty minutes from the top, and this gave us our second wind. With a few “are we there yets ?” from my daughter, I pointed to the rocky mount that was the top, where many people were now in a small line waiting for their photo to be taken.
Of course, we wanted to have our photo taken too and, what was nice, was that everyone helped each other and offered to take photos on each others’ cameras, so that we could all get a shot with everyone in. We took in the amazing sights from all angles, but decided not to say too long as the wind was making it so bad that we had to shout to each other to be heard.
After a little while on the way back down, we were able to stop out of the wind for our lovely picnic, snacking on sandwiches and having little bits of fudge, to give us renewed strength for the journey down.
The walk down was a lot easier than going up, and we found ourselves back at the car in record time, treating ourselves to a warming cup of tea from the little stand in the car park. We sat for a while watching people coming down, and chatting about our day, all agreeing that we were so glad and quite proud that we made the effort.
So, three generations of my family went up the largest mountain in South Wales, and we were able to tick off one of the biggest outdoor to-do adventures from our summer holiday list !!
We went up a mountain, and came down victorious !! What a wonderful memory !!
Today is the start of my main holiday, and I have the next two weeks off work.
I shouted a huge “yayyy” last night, when I got home !
We’re not able to go abroad, this year, but I don’t want to waste a moment of the time that we have together as a family. So, we’ve collectively compiled a Summer Holiday “to-do” list.
Activity 1: Have a coasteering trip.
Coasteering is one of the most adventurous activities that we offer, in work. Although this would be the first time that my daughter has taken part in a properly organised coasteering activity, we feel that she’s ready for it. It involves wearing a full kit of wet-suit, buoyancy aids and helmets. It reqires jumping into and swimming in the sea, and exploring the coastline of Caswell Bay, in the Gower. This is a stunning beach with beautiful clear-blue sea, little caves to swim into and is an absolute favourite of mine. Also, the cafe serves the best chips, followed by caramel ice cream and clotted cream. A perfect end to a wild day at the beach.
Activity 2: Celebrate National Play Day.
Wednesday 6th August is National Play Day. This is a day when organisations, parents and families can come together to celebrate play, and the importance it has in children’s development. I’m lucky that I will be a part of the “Friends of Pentre Gardens” celebrations. We’ll be providing a fun packed afternoon full of outdoor playing, arts and crafts, games, messy play, sporting games, face painting and costume creations. The play opportunities will be endless ! National Play Day is celebrated nationwide, with many communities holding events through various playschemes and childrens organisations. It’s a fantastic opportunity for everyone to come together and celebrate play, and adults are actively encouraged to take part in a bit of “child’s play”. It’s going to be a great day.
Activity 3: Go foraging for wild-food.
We are so lucky to have a fantastic range of wild-foods available to us, growing very near to where we live. Our local hedgerows are thick with blackberries and wild raspberries. Last year, we spent a couple of sunny evenings filling up plastic tubs with these easily rich pickings, later making homemade tarts and preserved jams. On one evening, late last summer, my husband and daughter announced that they were going “for a walk”, just about dusk. They returned a short time later with a bag full of succulent, sweet apples, and both with stupid grins…… I didn’t press the subject !
Sometimes, we venture further afield to visit a beach in the Gower, called Oxwich Bay. This is a food foragers dream. When the tide is right, you can wander up and down the shore and simply pick cockles off the surface of the beach. It’s so exciting when you find your first one, and then seek out more and ever more. To make it even more rewarding, it’s possible to walk along the edge of the beach to pick mussels clinging to the rocks. In recent months, we’ve watched how the locals use special tricks and techniques to harvest up to 20 or so razor clams at a time. This involves shuffling backwards until a black spot in the sand is located. This spot is then squirted with a very salty water solution and, a few seconds later, a long razor clam pops up out of the sand ! We come home with such a feast. We never take more than we need, but it creates a rewarding and educational day out. Nothing finishes the day off better than a bowl of steaming mussels with crusty bread. I guess it helps that my husband is a chef and has a vast knowledge of wonderful recipes ready to wow us with !
Activity 4: Have a full day out on our bicycles.
We’re so lucky to have an amazing cycle track through Cardiff. The Taff Trail follows along the River Taff, passing beautiful communal gardens, muddy trails and paths cut through wild woodland. Another bonus are myriad farm shops and traditional deli’s that are to be discovered en route. These little hidden-away treasures often serve great coffee and (of course) delicious home-made cakes that help to refresh a weary biker.
Activity 5: Record our Summer Holiday adventures.
We find that we’re lucky to have such amazing family adventures, but we rarely record our time together. Yes, we take photographs, but collating all of the pictures, tickets, recipe ideas and drawings into a summer scrapbook is such a lovely way to remember the fun times we have as a family. It also helps when my daughter goes back to school, and is able to do a show-and-tell about her holidays for her class-mates.
Activity 6: Visit a traditional beach.
Porthcawl beach is only a short drive from our house, and has everything one could want from a tradtional seaside beach. Candy floss is sold in the shops, fairground rides and the old-style tuppeny slot machines are all to be found in the arcades lining the beachfront. We always seem to be tempted, (at the end of a busy day), by fresh chips served in cones with a splash of salt and vinegar, or fresh doughnuts cooked in freshly and, of course, an ever-expanding array of flavoured ice-creams. All very traditional, but an easy and fun day out, evoking reminisces of my childhood.
Activity 7: Walk to the top of Pen-y-Fan.
Our biggest challenge, however, will be to tackle a trek to the top of Pen-y-Fan. This is the highest mountain in South Wales, and will be a big adventure for us. I’m very lucky to have taken lots of young people to the top in all weathers, and now my daughter is bursting to give it a go. So, a trip to the local outdoor store beckons. We’ll invest in some good, stout walking boots and attempt the big challenge. I really can’t wait to take our picture at the top of the mountain.
I guess I hoped to show that, with a little planning, it’s possible to fill out a holiday with all those things that are important to us….. outdoor adventures, simple but good foody treats, and quality time with loved ones.
I’ll do my best to keep you posted as we tick off our achievements but, after compiling this list, my husband has already said that he’ll need to go back to work for a rest !
It can be messy, muddy, wet, hot, uncomfortable, funny and enjoyable, in equal measure. It can make you happy and take certain risks that you would never have otherwise imagined. It’s educational, and a greatly diverse learning tool for all ages. You can end up with splinters and cuts, being bitten and stung and, if you’re anything like my family, you will always end the day with dirty clothes.
…and it’s a wonderful thing.
Throughout my time presenting my experiences via this blog, I have seen how superbly rewarding it is to spend time outdoors together, as a family. I believe that outdoor activities, (from a simple walk through a woodland, up to an exciting wild-water gorge walk), gets everyone involved by interacting with the surroundings and each other, and benefits children and adults alike.
The benefits even include the recalling of fond memories while sorting through some old photographs…….. I immediately remembered us all foraging for mussels and spider crabs in St Davids, Pembrokshire, or taking part in the early morning animal-feeding run at Coombe Mill family farm in Cornwall, and watching my husband, (from the realtive shelter of our tent), while he cooked spaghetti Bolognese in the rain, with only a black bag as his rain coat !
However, in current life and times, there are always going to be barriers creating difficulties in spending time outdoors. Most folks work or have child-care responsilbilites and, after a day filled with commutes or rushing around dropping children to school, making sure household chores are done, (and so much more besides), it’s no wonder that a collapse into bed, or the sofa, remote control in hand, is sometimes all the exercise one can muster.
I’ll tell you……. as much as I love the outdoors, come Friday night, after a busy week, there’s nothing better than a sofa-night, with a movie and a bowl of treats !
But, as the days get longer, and with the threat of warmer weather, we’ve started to plan family camping holidays and activities. Another goal for this year is to walk to the top of Pen-y-Fan, Brecon.
As my daughter gets older, our outdoor adventures are getting more and more challenging. It’s great for our little family to plan ever more adventures and create more memories.
Daily life will always get in the way, and the British weather will always happen, (good and bad), but it won’t stop us from getting out and having our adventures.
I guess that’s just our nature !
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 !!!