Wild Family Fun

Tales of living, working and enjoying life in the outdoors


Take a moment

camping

 

This is one of the reasons I love camping.

I love getting up early and feeling the quiet beginnings of the morning.

With everybody still asleep, I enjoy the peace and the cold crisp air.

In that early hour I’m away from alarms, noise and the normal rush of a morning at home.

And nothing is better than a hot cup of coffee looking at this view.

For me it’s the best way to start a morning.

My Sunday Photo

InstagramCapture_33718a7b-ebdd-4467-99aa-c62f2a34fb1e[1]

My Duke of Edinburgh expeditions have come to an end for this year, and this picture was taken during my last expedition.

We were staying in the Fishguard area and I was on driving duties very early, (so early that I had to dress by headtorch light, as it was so dark!).

Fortunately, I was able to stop for a few minutes and enjoy this beautiful area.

If I wasn’t heading to meet a group of young people, I really could have stayed here all morning.

It’s great to discover a little bit of hidden beauty every now and then.

OneDad3Girls

A surprise camping trip

As I’ve been working a lot of weekends completing Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, this post comes from my daughter who wanted to share a picture and some special words about a recent camping overnight trip my husband and her went on to make the most of a weekend together.

‘My Dad surprised me and told me that we were going to St Davids for a night out camping. I was so surprised as my Mum was working and we went straight away after we dropped her at her centre. The weather was sunny and I was looking forward to going swimming in the sea but with my wet suit of course! I love St Davids, it is one of my favourite places to go. Our campsite is so lovely, its right by the harbour so we can go for a five-minute walk and we are right by the sea. After we had some chips for lunch we put our tent up and then went swimming. We were in the sea for ages and even when it started to rain we stayed in because we were already wet! It was so much fun. On Sunday we hired a sit on top kayak and had a paddle in the sea. It was a bit scary as it was very windy but my Dad did all the steering on the boat. The photo I want to show was the Spider Crab we caught in our lobster pots. My Dad swims out a little into the sea and leaves the pots overnight and this huge crab was what we had the next day! My Dad is a chef so he knows how to cook and clean the crab for us to eat. It was so tasty. 

countykids1

We had so much fun and it was lovely to spend time with my Dad. I can’t wait to go camping more with my Mum in the Summer, we always have tons of fun.’

countykids2

 

I loved listening to my daughters adventures when I got home, its lovely to know that even if we can’t be together we still enjoy outdoor adventures and it was great for my daughter to have some wonderful Father and daughter time together too.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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.

biblins1

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.

biblins

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

InstagramCapture_7de65fd4-d3b6-4186-bb83-27191cd992af[1]

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.

biblins2

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

Review: SLPY – The Wearable Sleeping Bag

I was very lucky to be contacted, recently, by a company called SLPY. I was asked if I would like to review a new style of sleeping bag. The company kindly sent me links to information about the sleeping bag, and how it even becomes a wearable clothing item to suit different scenarios. For more info, visit  www.slpy.com

I usually spend at least two (or more) nights per month on a camp, and a sleeping bag is a very essential and well-used piece of my kit. The SLPY is just like a ‘normal’ sleeping bag, the only difference being that it can be worn in three different ways.

To sleep in. It can be used as a traditional sleeping bag, but it has a hood. It also has zips where your arm area is, and this allows you to sleep with your arms out of the sleeping bag.

It can be worn. The zipped additions at the arm and feet areas, means that the SLPY can be worn as a clothing item, allowing you to move about. That’s the interesting and very unique difference to this effective and functional sleeping bag.

Explore in it. By engaging the zip-cinch system found at the base of the bag, it can be pulled up to the waist and secured. This allows you to wear the bag more like a coat, allowing more movement whilst still within the warmth of the bag.

Designed in Yorkshire, the SLPY is machine-washable. It has a soft outer fabric which is then filled with “Thermalite Extreme”, providing a Comfort Rating of -5 and an Extreme Rating of -15. This means that it’s a fucntional three-season bag for outdoor use. It easily becomes a four-season bag, if you want to use it indoors as a really cosy, snuggly blanket!

The Original SLPY comes in six different colours. I had one in orange, which is very brightly colourful and is very appealing to young, trendy campers! There are five other colours available, each to suit a range of tastes and sizes.

I was intrigued at this uniquely new and different design of sleeping bag, so I jumped at the chance of being able to put it to the test. Coincidentally, I had a D of E assesment weekend coming up, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to try it out.

I was sent one in medium size, and it was just great for my body shape. I’ve had problems, in the past, when trying to find a sleeping bag with a generous fit to allow unrestricted movement to a girl of my proportions. But, I have to say, I found that the SLPY gave me room to move comfortably, and wasn’t too tight around the top area. It was amply long enough to cover me from top to bottom, with a little room left for comfort and movement.

After a long day of getting to checkpoints, and making sure that all the young adults were ok, we got to the campsite at about 7.30 in the evening. It was definitely time for tea and biscuits for the staff. It was also a great time to test out the SLPY, as the sun was starting to sink, and the evening temperature began to plummet just as rapidly.

Here I am, at the end of a long day, enjoying a well-earned snack and hot drink. In the SLPY, I could easily walk over to our kit-van, collect my mug of tea and treat myself to a couple of biscuits!

It wasn’t too long before some of the young people from my group wandered over to see what I was wearing, (I think it was the colour that drew them in!). A couple of them tried it on, and immediately loved the comfort of the SLPY. Most of them go to music festivals, and said how useful it would be to keep warm, yet still be mobile, after a day of dancing. Others said that it would also be lovely to have a SLPY to relax in on the sofa while watching a movie, especially now that darker nights are drawing in.

I kept the SLPY on for about an hour, and I was so warm. While my colleagues were putting on warm jackets and hats, I ended up wearing a t-shirt with a thin jacket, and was plenty warm enough not to even have to put gloves on.

sleepy3

Warm, toasty, cosy and snug!

The biggest issue, for me, was how I was going to feel when I had to get to sleep at night. By the time the group had settled and we’d tidied up, it was nearly midnight, as usual! In the open countryside, it gets deceptively cold very quickly, so keeping oneself warm, while asleep, is really important. I’d put my SLPY inside my tent, as we were camping by a beach and the air had become quite damp. It would have led to disaster, if I’d had to sleep in a cold, wet cold sleeping bag.

When I sleep in a tent, I usually cocoon myself in loads of chunky layers. I also wear a hat to bed, as a big percentage of body heat is lost from the head. However, I found the hood on the SLPY was quite big, so I thought I’d just use the hood “sans chapeau”. I rarely wear socks to bed while camping but, as I had the option of zipping open the bottom part of the SLPY, I tried thick bed socks and opted for movement over restriction. It’s usually quite an irritation to me, as don’t like the feeling of my feet being trapped at the bottom of the usual sleeping bag format, so it was nice to have a choice, in this instance.

sleepy2

I was able to sleep with thick socks on, and feet outside for once. Freedom!

I was happily surprised and very impressed at how warm and comfortable I was. I wore a light thermal shirt to bed, and was warm enough to have my arms outside the SLPY, which was amazing. It was like having a thick quilt on, but also having the snuggest qualities of a sleeping bag. It really was very warm all night, and I didn’t notice not wearing a hat or having my feet outside of the sleeping bag.

sleepy4

My friend sneaked a photo of me sleeping away, very comfortably indeed!

It was a very comfortable and warm nights’ sleep and, put simply, that’s all you want and need from a good quality sleeping bag.

I also managed to try it out, while I was waiting at my checkpoint the next day. Staffing a checkpoint usually means waiting around (for an age) in a mini bus, while all your groups check in and then move off. You see if they’re ok, check that they know their route and fill up water bottles, if needed. You can be at a given checkpoint for anything from half an hour, up to three hours it it’s a long day.

sleepy5

I knew I was in for a long wait, so I put my feet up and got comfy. I enjoyed the Sunday papers and I really was very cosy, with total mobility, wearing the SLPY

As a sleeping bag, the SLPY is great. It offers all the qualities expected from a standard format sleeping bag, in regard to warmth and comfort. I really did enjoy having zips built into the design, as it gave me the opporunity to move more and find a comfprtable sleeping postion.

Unlike a standard format sleeping bag, you can benefit from all these qualities on the move while wearing the SLPY, in a whole range of different scenarios.

When it comes to the”sack race”, thanks to it’s unique and innovative deign, the SLPY wins hands (and feet) down !!

I was sent a SLPY product to review. My opinions are my own, honest and unbiased. For retail info,  www.blackleaf.com

View SLPY Email Footer.png in slide show

Follow SLPY on Twitter  @SLPYadventures

Follow SLPY at Facebook: SLPY Adventures

Canoe Camp: This is my Office

In work, my favourite time of the year is when we take a group of young people on canoe camp. The group work all year round, in their school, to earn behaviour points to be able to take part in canoe camp, so the young people who attend really deserve it and want to be there.

Good behaviour equals a reward.

I love it as I get to canoe in the most beautiful environment. We have two days of open-boat paddling on the River Wye, through the beautiful Forest of Dean. We camp at a lovely (and very quiet) youth camp-site, which allows open campfires, and this is great for toasting marshmallows. It’s a truly breathtaking place to be.

canoecamp2

We were very lucky and had stunning sunshine, so there was no need for thermals or waterproofs. The suntan lotion was applied liberally before setting off and we gently paddled down the river. Throughout, we spotted ducks, swans and even saw an otter.

canoecamp3

The late evening was spent around an open fire. We told scary stories and the adults freaked out the young people out by telling them gory tales of the wild boar that live in the forest around the campsite. Every year we tell the story, and it has become quite an “Urban Legend” throughout the school.

canoecamp4

Trying to dry my socks in the morning sun!

The next day involved a gentle paddle, with the current slowly pushing us down to Monmouthshire Rowing Club where we exit the river. When the end comes into sight, the water fights start! This involves lots of splashing, with boats being paddled faster and faster to get away from each other. By the time we reach the end, we’re paddling in canoes full of water, with all the staff and children squelching and soaking!

It really is a fantastic couple of days. It can be hard work paddling, especially on the first day. It’s usually for about five or six hours, depending on the weather, the river levels, the wind and (of course) the different personalities within the group, but I love it.

The young people get so much out of it, and have a wonderful time. They really make the trip worthwhile, and I love their company. For my part, it’s great to be involved in something that’s so positive.

canoe camp1

 Those two days of canoe camp always reassure me that I’m in the right job, and I feel really very lucky that this is my “office” !

My Sunday Photo

This photograph reminds me of one of the reasons why I love camping.

I love seeing my daughter all snuggled up in her sleeping bag.

OneDad3Girls

My Sunday Photo

stdavids

Hunting for crabs in St Davids Harbour.

My daughter only picks up the small ones!

OneDad3Girls

A Wet Weekend With the Duke of Edinburgh.

2nd post

Duke of Edinburgh season is now in full swing.

Many young people are taking part in practice camping weekends, during which they’ll gain valuable skills and knowledge ready for assessment in a few months.

I’m lucky enough to be part of the teaching staff for all three levels of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, (Bronze, Silver and Gold). It’s a long-term commitment for the young people involved, and not just with outdoor skills alone. They also have to complete a personal skill section, a volunteer section and a physical section, all over different periods of time dependant upon whatever level they may be at. This, for many young people, is in addition to school work and other extra-curricula activities.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is available to all young people and I have been able to work with many young people, from a very diverse range of backgrounds and abilities. I think it’s a very positive and wonderful experience for any young person to be able to take part in.

These thoughts were confirmed, recently, as we had the wettest and utterly miserable weekend, while camping in preparation for a Bronze expedition. All through the week leading up to the “off”, I kept checking the weather reports for the Gower area. I kept praying and hoping that those dark clouds full of rain would disappear and we would see those lovely weather-chart images of bright sunshine, or a half-hidden sun, or maybe just a white cloud………..?

…. but they never changed.

When we all gathered, very early on the Saturday morning, the weather was OK with a clear sky. We held our breaths and didn’t mention the R**N word, so as not to bring a curse upon ourselves. However, as we started to pack the mini-buses, the rain came. It didn’t spot, or pitter-patter at first…… it just arrived in force, and that was pretty much that, until Sunday morning.

It either rained in heavy downpours, or continuous fine-mist, or somewher in between the two, (which was also very cold), so it was impossible to get dry, be dry or stay dry, all day.

I was lucky. I only had to walk to three checkpoints, and so I was only in and out of the periodically, rain for a couple of hours. However, my good deed for the day came when I offered up my waterproof trousers to a young girl who’d forgotten to pack any waterproofs for herself. I trudged along behind the group with my trousers getting wetter and wetter. By the time I was able to get some respite back inside the mini-bus, my trousers were stuck to me like a second skin and, worst of all…. wet pants are definately no welcome guest, in this situation!

Once inside the welcome cocoon of the mini-bus, I began the planned ride around the Gower, going to each of my allocated checkpoints. It’s a case of ensuring that each of the small groups walks through, and is aware of where they are and where they have to head for next.

As I sat, quietly waiting for each group to pass, looking at the dark, rain-heavy clouds just dumping gallons of water over all out in the open, I realised that this is part of the reason why I love working within the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

All the young people passed by me, completely soaked through to the skin. Wet clothes, wet hair, wet feet. They’d eaten a cold, wet lunch while nestled in hedges to keep out of the rain and, all the while, made sure they’d used their route card and map to ensure that they stayed on the right track. Each one of them stopped and talked to me and all the other staff. They adjusted rucksacks for each other, and asked “How long left”, but they never stopped. They could have shouted, “That’s it, I’m done”, and climbed en masse into a nice, dry, warm mini-bus at any of the checkpoints.

But they just kept on walking.

Eventually, they arrived at the campsite and put up their tents in the rain. There was still no moaning. The rain finally eased off, and so we advised the young people to cook their dinner on their little stoves while the weather held off a bit for them. The comforting aromas of pasta with a variety of sauces filled the air, with one small group even taking the adventurous leap to cooking thin slivers of steak, then rammed into baps with salad and relish.

After a tidy-up, all these young people sat around with full tummies and the night to themselves. A slippery game of football took place, and then the staff wandered around the site, checking on the young candidates and making sure that all kit and people were safely inside tents, protected from the stormy night ahead.

These young people had achieved so much in one very wet day, still smiled, put up a shelter for the night, cooked food and also had the energy to play a game of football in the rain…….. I really don’t know where they get the enthusiasm and energy from.

We often hear about anti-social behaviour in young adults. We hear about hostile reactions to difficult circumstances – either by choice, design or, sometimes, simply by no fault of their own.

Without wanting to be too generally judgmental, what I do know is that many young adults in todays’ society would run to the comfort of a car, or a warm bed, and ring the local take-away for their dinner, on a wet week-end like this one.

Some young people, but not all. For me, I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to spend my time with some of those very strong-spirited, focused young people, who completed a difficult camping expedition under extreme weather conditions.

I don’t have a magic solution, I don’t know what the answer is, and I can’t save the world (though I wish I could). The young people that I meet through the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme have taught me that “size really doesn’t matter”, and the louder you shout doesn’t make you any tougher. These young adults find determination to succeed, and strength from within……….

……then they put that spirit into something good.

 

My Sunday Photo

sunday photo1

Llanthony Priory in the Brecon Beacons. This is part of a campsite we use for Duke of Edinburgh, an amazing place and you get to wander around the ruins.

This post was linked in with…

OneDad3Girls

Those times I wonder “why”?

In this post, I’d like to share a fond memory with you.

The reason for this, is that I’m currently sitting on my sofa cwtched up under a blanket and, as I write this, I’m listening to the wind howling and the rain hitting my window outside. Safe and warm inside my home, I love these sounds. I feel relaxed, calm and it makes me think of one of my best memories of being in the outdoors.

It was our first big camping adventure as a family. We’d decided to be brave and travel to France for a camping holiday. We’d bought a big family tent and lots of extra things like stoves, etc, to make life a little bit more comfortable, and we thought we’d done really well.

The weather started (out sort) of OK. It wasn’t too bad, and we managed to enjoy some sunny days. We walked on the beach, swam in the sea, went hunting for cockles and did the typical holiday activities. Sadly, the weather didn’t stay that nice throughout the whole of our week, but it was the worst night with the most horrible and wet weather that gave me the greatest memory.

When I say “it rained”…… I mean it REALLY rained. It felt like a power hose was being jetted at our flimsy little covering all night long and, when you’re sitting in a tent of thin material, it felt 1000 times worse. What could we do?…. It was only 6.00pm and camping involves dealing with whatever the elements throw at you.

Thinking about it with hindsight, I don’t know why we didn’t just go to a restaurant and hang out but, if we’d done that, then I wouldn’t have this great memory.

The evening started with me having to make my husband some homemade waterproofs 9all our other kit was saturated!!) out of the ever present and handy black bags. With a few well placed holes, he looked amazing. He did, however, look even more amazing running around the tent making sure that pegs were well in, ropes were tied down and then began trying to cook us our dinner.

We managed to construct a little porch for him to cook under, as cooking in the main tent is a total no-no from a safety perspective. He chopped garlic, stirred sauce and kept an eye on the spaghetti while I kept my eyes on the porch roof, carefully poking it so that big puddles of water didn’t form.

My daughter, being quite young at the time, loved all the excitement, and sat snuggled in her sleeping bag laughing at mum and dad running around frantically trying to keep things dry and not letting the rain seep in!!

Throughout the campsite, all of the other families were doing the same thing. Children were sitting in cars, washing lines and clothes were being bagged up in a hurry, and everyone was just going 50 miles-an-hour to ensure that their kit, family and everything else could stay as dry as possible.

As darkness set in, we’d set up all our lights inside our little porch area and it looked pretty warm and welcoming. We had done our best to keep the ‘dining area’ dry, so we were able to set up our camp chairs and a little camp table to allow us to dine in style. Putting on some dry clothes instantly made us feel better and, with a couple of extra warm layers, we were able to sit in what soon became warm and cosy surroundings. Also, a couple of medicinal glasses of the local plonko vinyardo could only add to the “ambience” of the evening.

Our dinner was a steaming bowl of spaghetti Bolognese, which is my daughters’ absolute favourite. On the side, we enjoyed a fresh and beautiful French green bean salad, cheese from the local market and traditional French crusty baguette.

It was amazing, perhaps because we were so hungry, or maybe because the weather was so treacherous, but we tucked in and hardly came up for air. It really was the most delicious spaghetti Bolognese I have ever tasted, and after two helpings each, we mopped up the sauce with the left over bread.

For pudding, we’d bought some mini pastries from the market earlier that morning, and they were polished off just as quick as we’d eaten our main course.

As a family, we sat through the storm, we ate together enjoying our food, and were in awe of my husband cooking such an amazing dinner in those difficult circumstances. We didn’t have a television, computers or phones to distract us, and we sat and talked. We played games, told stories, and my daughters’ favourite turned out to be about the day we got married. “Tell me, tell me”, over and over again. It was such a perfect family experience.

I’m not sure that, (at the time), my husband or I fully understood how important and enjoyable that night was. Looking inwards on this post from the outside, people must think that the circumstances were a flippin’ nightmare, but I always think back to that night and smile. I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat as I write this post.

When people ask me why I’m so passionate about spending time outdoors, this memory helps me to explain a little about it.

Being in the outdoors, whatever activity or experience you engage in, gives you time to stop, relax and enjoy precious time without the material distractions that normally accompany everyday life. We couldn’t control the bad weather, so we had to adapt and overcome, and make the most of it. This led to a pretty amazing evening.

That’s what being in the outdoors does. It makes you stop, it makes you HAVE to give in. You have to lose a bit of mundane control in order to establish positive control in other areas.

You HAVE take time to focus on each other. With so many distractions in our normal day, isn’t this a nice thing to do for yourself and your family?

PicMonkey Collagemblog

mummy mishaps