The weather is still a bit miserable.
Sometimes warm, but mainly very cold and wet, and we’re missing the sunshine so much. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I really wanted to get outside in the fresh air, so we decided to wrap up warm, brave the cold and go for a bike ride along the Cardiff Bay Trail.
It’s a great route which can be used for cyclists and walkers, and is about 10km/6.2 miles long. It goes through Cardiff Bay and Penarth, and the best thing is that it passes some lovely coffee shops and restaurants along the route.
The first twenty minutes were a real push, with the cold wind stinging our cheeks. When we reached the Bay Barrage we knew that we should press on with determination, as there was the promise of a hot chocolate and a sweet treat half way around.
The Bay Barrage is a great, wide-open space for little cyclists, as you don’t feel that you might ride into other people. There are also walkers, joggers and cyclists alike, and the path is very well designed to accommodate all activities.
The path takes you past a great sand park offering fun for kids of all ages. There’s an outdoor exercise space and a skate park, so there’s something for all ages and abilities to help to make the most of your day.
As it was a bit cold, we rode straight on until we got to a local bakery where we enjoyed a hot sausage roll and a warming cup of homemade soup. Just what we needed! After a short break, we were ready for the final part of the trail.
The route takes you into the Wetlands Reserve, where you can see a wide range of birds living in the reedy marshland. It’s a lovely part of the trail and a beautiful little spot hidden away in Cardiff Bay and was created in 2002 when the barrage was completed. The reserve is an important site for over-wintering and breeding birds and is a good spot for birdwatchers who come to see the rare birds. It is a great location to enjoy wildlife and the views across the Bay.
It was getting late, and we spotted a very dark cloud looming up behind us. We decided to cut the ride short and head for home. With lots of break-off trails built into the route, it’s good to have the option of cutting a ride short, especially with little ones or, (as in our case), with bad weather setting in.
We soon arrived back at home feeling a bit cold, but very happy that we’d made the effort to get outside.
Happy Mothers Day to all!
I think I’m the lucky one as I get to share my adventures with my outdoor – loving beautiful daughter.
She makes every experience just that little bit more special.
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.
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!
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
It was the perfect night, watching the stars and enjoying tasty treats.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
39: A nice relaxing Sunday and I had to take this photo as proof. My daughter watching a movie and picking from a bowl of salad. Yes salad, my husband and I were amazed!
40: A brilliant start to the half term holidays. Lots of lovely outdoor fun with a full day of Forest Schools. Lots and lots of mud.
41: Another busy day and a walk to Skirrid yr Eira waterfalls in Brecon. A long but lovely walk without any moans and groans.
42: We took a group of children to Porthkerry park on Wednesday. Another great day in the forest and we all ended up to our knees in the stream splashing and having lots of fun.
43: A day of cooking at home. Lovely banana cakes and strawberry jelly ready for homemade trifles.
44: We met up with some friends today and all went for a walk to Caerphilly mountains. It’s a great place to explore and is right on our doorstep. Of course the girls found the muddy puddles and were straight in.
45: A morning game of Bingo with prizes as well. First to a line and then for a full house!
Last Sunday, we had a beautiful sunny day. It was a joy to be outside, with some warmth on your face and not have to have a minimum of four layers of clothing on!
We decided to visit a local beach very near to our home.
Aberavon beach is a thirty minute drive away, and is a lovely long beach which we often use in work. With the nice weather, it seemed that everyone else had the same idea! The beach was full of people out splashing in the shallows, or digging for shells and enjoying the sunshine. We had a lovely long walk, enjoying the sunshine, climbing rocks, finding new shells for my daughters collection and making funny shapes in the sand with sticks. As we got back to the car, the day was so nice that we realised it was too nice to go home.
Luckily, about ten minutes away from Aberavon beach, is Porthcawl. This also is an amazing beach, which, in season, is a favourite with surfers and beachcombers alike. This is one of my favourite places as we use Coney beach a lot and, in summer, it turns into a traditional seaside beach, with fair ground rides, donkeys on the beach, ice cream stands and, of course, plenty of places to buy fish and chips.
As the tide was well out, we made our way to the rock pools. One of my daughters’ favourite things to do at the beach, is rockpooling. We scrambled over the rocks, carefully hunted through the seaweed (looking for crabs) and my daughter found lots of caves to explore and climb through.
I used the opportunity to practice some of my beach training, and we looked for different types of seaweed and animal life that live on the rocks. We photographed dog whelks, limpets, barnacles and anemones. I also showed my daughter how (and why) different seaweed can be found at different levels on the beach. It all depends on how much sea water they need to survive. We looked at toothed wrack, bladder wrack and green seaweed that looks a lot like lettuce! It’s a good way of introducing learning, within a fun and relaxed setting.
We visited two brilliant beaches in one day. They are beautiful, clean beaches with lots of activities to fill out our day. My little beach combing daughter even managed to sneak in a cone of chips and a hot chocolate !!
I think that’s why I love living in Wales. We are very lucky, as we have everything needed for outdoor adventures. The mountains, the sea and endless forests.
But, I also think that we all have outdoor adventures near to us, we just have to take the time to seek them out. I would love to hear about the Great Outdoors near to you… !!!
I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time and, after completing my Forest School training, I now feel suitably qualified and confident enough to talk about “risk” within play.
My training covered so much about why risk is important within play, how we can manage risk, the value of risk assessments (a vast and lengthy topic), and what are the benefits of “risk” within play. For someone like me, who’s worked in play and outdoor pursuits for many years, it can be easier for me to accept that risk is a part of play, and that children need it to develop many important skills.
I’m comfortable with my daughter taking risks. We mange her adventurous nature. We teach her about appropriate behaviour and boundaries. I feel she’s developed a safe and responsable attitude to risk-taking. She knows how far she can climb up a tree and what branches are safe to take her weight. She understands when that, we go kayaking, Mum is there if she falls out and because she has on a buoyancy aid, she’ll pop up to the surface and I’ll be there to keep her safe. I believe these are important life skills for the future.
But what are the benefits of risk within play?
Children develop their emotions and intelligence through play. It offers a chance to enhance a variety of important developmental needs such as emotional development, social interaction, physical improvements, confidence skills, as well as communication and language skills. And that’s just a small example of what play opportunities and play experience offers to children.
Risk will always be a factor in most forms of play.
It can be a scary word to use. When working for a Local Authority, it means that it is easy to become caught up in lots of red tape, when trying to convince people and parents that allowing children to engage in well-managed risky play is a benefit. I wish that I had a penny for each time I’ve had a conversation with a parent, who vehemently says “My son is not going out for a walk in the woods as it’s too dangerous”.
Of course, (as with all things in life), there will always be a danger. However, our activities are always risked-assessed, and there are always a minimum of 2 well-trained, vigilant and responsable staff present. We provide appropriate outdoor kit and clothing, and (really) why would I let anything happen to a child under my care. I wouldn’t accept any misfortune to a child as an outdoor worker, or as a parent. Luckily, the majority of parents we work with trust us, and know us well enough to accept that their children will be well looked after when they’re out on an activity with us and, most importantly, those children will be safely supervised while they have fun, being left to their own imagination!
What we’ve found, in recent months, is the heightened level of health and safety, and risk assessment that we must go through, in order to show how well we have assessed our activities. We constantly re-assess those qualifications needed to run any activity and, as professionals, we continually look at every aspect and potential danger, in order to ensure that all our activities are as safe as they can be.
However, I understand why we have to do this, (and to complete mountains of paperwork), as it protects us, and the people that we take out on various activities. Sometimes, I do wonder when will risk assessments, and the “cotton-wool” society in which we live, stop worrying quite so much.
As my father keeps telling me, it’s not like it was in the 70’s, when kids played in the streets ’til dark, came home when they were hungry, and we all looked out for our youngsters. But, we can, (and do), do our best to keep that spirit alive, albeit within “managed risk” activities.
We’re into week 4 of the 365 project and I’m really enjoying capturing a photograph a day. So what’s been happening this week…..
18: My daughter’s 9th birthday and after a busy weekend of celebrations we really needed a day enjoying the lovely weather. A lovely walk to Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, finished off with a Sunday roast.
19: The building I work in, famously known as stores has no heating. When you go inside you put your coats and hats on. Monday morning and my gorgeous and very warming lunch was cheesy beans on toast, white bread as well. Delicious.
20: In work we challenged our group to build and protect an egg. A variety of materials we given to them to protect their egg, and then my colleague stood on top of our mini bus and dropped their precious egg from a height. Scrambled egg all round once the egg had hit the deck!
21: A wonderful night at St Davids Hall in Cardiff for the Duke of Edinburgh presentations. Young people who had gained their Bronze, Silver and Gold awards came together to celebrate their achievements. It was lovely to be a part off.
22: As part of my daughter’s birthday present, she wanted her bedroom made over into something a little more grown up. My daughter had a slight obsession with sharks and I was overjoyed that we found a brilliant shark duvet set for her new room.
23: A busy week so Friday night was sofa night. PJ’s on, popcorn, a film and snuggles together.
24: Duke of Edinburgh season has started and Saturday and Sunday were our first days our walking. We went along the coastal path along Nash Point, it’s a beautiful walk and a great start to the year.