I’ve wanted to join in with the 365 project for a while and thought as it was a new start to the year what better way of keeping up with my blog and also it will a lovely memory of what we have achieved at the end of the year when we finish!
1: A lovely winter walk on Penarth Pier on New Years Day. A great place for a blow through and a hot cup of tea from the little cafe on the pier.
2: Our house is still full of Christmas goodies so we decided to have a morning of baking. Now our house is full of cookies and cakes!
3: A wonderful Saturday evening with friends. A good old-fashioned games night, and I decided I should never go to Vegas as I was down to just five chips by the fourth round. It was lucky we weren’t playing for real money!
I have just come back from a Duke of Edinburgh training weekend and this was the way I had to walk each morning to where the conference was running.
Plas y Brenin is an outdoor adventure centre set deep in the heart of Snowdonia. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and I don’t think this photo shows the true and full beauty of the area.
I couldn’t have asked for a more breath-taking place to stay.
As a part of my work, we run outdoor activities throughout the whole summer holidays. We deliver two trips per day, ranging from walks for under 8’s, through to mountain biking, gorge walking and coasteering for young adults, and much more in between. It’s always a very busy time and, by the end of the summer, even we can’t wait for the children to go back to school!
So, our tired little troupe of outdoor workers, fed up with wearing damp wetsuits and not wanting to see another buoyancy aid for a long while, all decided that our last summer holiday activity would be a forest day, with a small group of under 8’s from a local play centre. Relaxed, not much kit to pack and, (let’s be honest), easier than clambering up a waterfall.
This ended up being one of my most favourite activity trips of the summer.
We didn’t have to travel far, as we went to Forest Fawr in Cardiff, not far from Castell Coch. It’s a wonderful forest area, with lots of safe space for children to roam and explore while still being in constant visual contact of the staff. It’s also where the T.V. series Merlin (as well as episodes of Sherlock Holmes) have been filmed, and this is something that the children love to be able to recognise and relate to.
We loaded our rucksacks with a Kelly Kettle, fire building equipment, tarpaulins for den building, wood cookies for outdoor medals and other bits and bobs for a full day of forest adventures and exploring.
We had a short walk to the site, which has a fire circle already in place and lots of space for den building. The children off-loaded their bags, and couldn’t wait to explore the area. Luckily, we gave them each a set of waterproof clothes and wellies, because it’s easy for us to wash off the kit, and the kids all go home clean and mud free!
They really did need protective clothes, as this was the first thing they spotted!
Mother Nature providing the perfect playground!
The children spent ages balancing on the tree, carefully stepping and sliding along it. Eventually, after about twenty minutes, they finally became brave enough to stomp, squelch and jump in the mud, mud, glorious mud!
The staff stopped and took a step back, (thinking that we were the ones who were going to have to wash the kit), but all agreed that the children were having a wonderful time.
They say that one picture can say a thousand words…………
After a bit of washing off, we headed to our base for the day. There, we handed out tarpaulins, ropes and string, and then just allowed the children to create their own dens. What struck me the most, was how the children worked together and didn’t need (or seek) our help. They were so confident and comfortable in the environment that they didn’t need adult intervention.
That’s how it should be…… child-led play.
It was so amazing to watch. As outdoor workers, that’s what we strive to see. Play is such an important experience for children, as it allows them to develop in so many different ways. Seeing the children happy, confident and totally in control of choosing how and what they want to play. It was wonderful.
We spent the rest of the afternoon learning about fire-safety, and how to make fires. The children loved having the opportunity to learn how to make a fire in a safely controlled environment. It was something they’ve never been allowed to do, and to see them working responsibly in pairs, on such a risky activity, was great. Then, the staff cooked popcorn on an open fire, which was enjoyed by everyone, both young and old.
……………….and, of course, there was even more mud!
All the children and the staff had such an amazing day. It’s funny, sometimes, that people often “talk-up” activities such as gorge walking, canoeing and mountain biking. People are amazed that we get involved in delivering those sorts of activities to children and young adults. But, to this tired and weary outdoor worker, (at the end of a long summer programme), this simple yet fun-filled adventure in the forest has to be one of my favourite memories of this summer.
sometimes, the simple things in life are truly the best!
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.
This post is linked in with
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 !
To help me qualify as a Forest Schools Leader, I’m currently running six practical Forest School sessions with the children from a local Primary school. The sessions aim to provide a variety of learning experiences, including outdoor arts and crafts. This week, the activity was to combine woodland crafts with an introduction to the use of tools.
To achieve this, we made individual Forest Schools medals!
To start the medals off, I cut small discs of wood using a bow saw before the session, and the children would use a gimlet (which is a type of hand-held device) to make a hole at the top for the string to be threaded through. This helps to introduce tool use in gradual and manageable steps.
Making sure we wore gloves and that we worked on a secure surface, the children couldn’t believe that such a small tool would go through the wood to make a hole. First, we marked the area with a cross. Then by pushing down and twisting at the same time, we created a cork screw effect and the hole started to appear.
With very little effort and determination the children were able to twist all the way through. They were amazed and really very happy when they had made a neat hole all the way through the piece of wood.
Next came the drawing and design of their own medals. Each would be totally special and uniquely individual.
When we added the string, a brilliant and very individual wood craft medal was created by each child to take home in celebration of their day’s woodland activities!
This was an activity that took only 30 minutes, but seeing all the children going back to school in the mini bus, each proudly showing off their medals hanging from their necks really was a lovely, happy and satisfying sight.
A very simple but effective teaching-activity and, of course, I had to make one as well!
And here it is!!
While on holiday in Cornwall recently, we had an absolutely amazing day out at Eden Project. We were staying at the wonderful Coombe Mill, which is very close to the Eden Project, and so we decided that we would make the most of this opportunity to visit.
The Eden Project offers so much; environmental projects which are hands-on and very child friendly. There are stunning gardens with a variety of plants and trees to see. There are also arts and music events, which are available throughout the year. It has so much to see and to do, all in one place, and everything seems to have been cleverly designed to the last detail.
So we headed off for the day and, as we drove down to the car park, we saw the recognizable domes which, in reality, are absolutely huge. We were all so excited. As we walked through the reception area, it led us on to an amazing sight. A huge, vast area. with so much to take in and to see, it felt like we had a fantastic environment to explore all day long.
To start, we made our way around the outer area, walking through the meandering paths, and taking in the landscape. It was a fantastic mix of natural materials and sculptures; (the hidden man-made trees were my favourite.) Such a delight for the senses, we really didn’t want to rush, just in case we missed something.
With every few steps, there was something new to see. We found that we were all spotting different sights, and you could hear my daughter shouting out ‘come here’, or ‘look, you missed that’. It was such a wonderful start to a journey, and we had only been at the project for about an hour.
One of my favorite things was the area which we called the tea park. You are encouraged to bring your own food, always a “plus” in my book. I always find it slightly distasteful when places only want you to eat their food and pay their prices. We had a great area with a climbing-ship for children, and even the tables were turned into a learning tool. The history of tea was explained on the tables, and this educational and interesting touch was amazing.
After slowly wandering around, we were inticed into the first dome. We chose the to see the tropical dome first, as we were told how hot and humid it would be. They weren’t wrong, and there was a great pre-thought aspect of an area offering us a free a facility where we could hang up our coats and excess baggage.
When I was younger, I spent a month living in a rainforest, and the feeling I got when I stepped into the dome was exactly that same. It was truly amazing! I have never experienced such a sight or felling. I felt like I’d stepped into a movie set and it took us a few minutes to take it all in.
We slowly wandered around, absorbing every sight, noise and smell. There was so much to take interpret. My daughter loved exploring around this area, as she was able to wander and go ahead of us quite freely. It was a real adventure for her. We saw tropical plants, such as banana trees, coffee, rubber and giant bamboo.
Another great part of the rainforest dome was the suspended platform that took us to the very top of the structure. It was 165 feet high! It became hotter with every upward step. It was an expedition in itself, climbing the wobbly steps, and looking in awe at all the plants and waterfalls below. (My husband was a bit worried as before you could make your way up the steps you had to sign a health waiver confirming that one was fit and healthy). Treading slowly up the steps, one at a time, we felt like we were on an action film-set, with every slight wobble of each step. When we got to the top, we enjoyed a brilliant view of the whole dome from all angles.
My daughter’s favourite part of the tropical dome was when one of the staff members explained to her about the variety of spices that were grown in the dome. At a life-sized sculpture of a “Spiceboat”, they spent half an hour filling the little draws with different spices, smelling each one and discussing where they’d come from, as well as the history behind each spice. My daughter was fascinated, and she ran off to different trees and leaves, smelling each of them, and coming up with ever more questions for the staff to answer.
We left the tropical dome and HAD to stop for a locally-made ice-cream to cool ourselves down. Aftrewards, we headed to the Mediterranean dome. This presented us with a completely different temperature and environment. Dry, humid and warm, it reminded us of “holidays”. As the adults were feeling a bit contemplative at this point, a welcome and lovely addition was that we were in time for the story-telling session taking place in the Citrus Grove. Cushions and mats were placed on the floor giving comfort for tired kids…. (ans adults). The story-telling was magical, interactive and captured my daughters imagination from the very beginning.
As the children listened, I was able to take in the environment around us. There were large citrus plants growing in front of us, birds flying around and tweeting their songs and beautiful sculptures dotall around us, simply adding to the stunning ambiance. The story-teller was also so whistfully lovely. She actively included the children and developed the story so that the children could be involved, and they came up with a very unusual story about cauliflower, rock and chocolate soup! At the end, she stayed and talked to my daughter, listening to her explaining where we lived and how she knew about the fabled story of Merlin. The wonderfully crafty story-teller then lovingly gifted my daughter a penny she’d found, as if to pass on the luck of ‘find a penny’. This was a really calming addition to the day.
Time began to run out for us, and so we really had to hurry as we’d not seen everything that the Project had to offer. We wanted to get a closer look at some of the environmental sculptures that were on display around the gardens, and we soon spotted one that was so cleverly put together. It was made from all types of recycled materials imaginable, such as plastic bottles and metal from cars, tyres washing machines and so-on, and so a huge sculpture of a bee could be seen from far away. This incorporated the clever environmental message of ‘message-in-a-bottle’….. my daughter loved looking at the different colours and identifying the different materials that had been used.
Our time was coming to an end, and we truly still hadn’t seen everything that the Project had to offer. One day is simply not enough, and in my opinion, I think you need two days around the Eden Project to make sure you that see and appreciate the full experience. On our way out, we were very lucky to sneak a quick look at the facility offering a curriculum-based educational learning session for children, and my daughter had great fun catapulting seeds across to a target area, and pumping air to burst balloons that were full of little scraps of paper to illustrate the science behind how seeds are pollinated and travel.
These were such simple, yet brilliant, experiments to explain how seeds can be carried through the wind, or be stuck to animals or people, then drop off to be grown in different places, and the staff even explained how seeds can be carried in poo! Of course, my little devilish-daughter absolutely loved hearing that, and it made her day complete!
We wandered slowly back to the car, really not wanting to leave. We truly had such a wonderful day, with so much to see and to do. Everything had been planned out and designed so that every need was addressed, and there was something for everyone to experience.
I also have to say a big thank you to the staff at the Eden Project. Everyone that we met and spoke to were so welcoming, and nothing was too much trouble. The staff were so engaging, especially with my own my daughter, but with the younger people generally. They answered questions, explained the wonderful things that you could see and took time to inspire the little minds with great care and enthusiasm.
I would especially love to say a big thank you to the lady at the Spiceboat, and the wonderful story-teller who really made my daughter feel extra special by spending so much extra time with her; (I’m only sorry that I didn’t get their names).
We will definitely return, and I would highly recommend this utterly fantastic day out for families who love exploring, learning about our planet earth and who enjoy ending the experience feeling like you’ve truly lived through an adventure.
Just some more of the lovely images that I took during our day
And this is my favourite photograph of the day!
I received entry tickets into The Eden Project from Superbreak in order to review the attraction, my opinion is honest and unbiased.
Throughout her childhood, my daughter has always enjoyed a variety of adventures in the outdoors. As she grows older, we have seen her adventures get slightly riskier as her confidence grows, and she develops a need to push her abilities further.
Lately, I have been thinking about this.
I’ve been sorting through some old photographs, and recently found some from last year, the first time we went gorge walking. Gorge walking is an activity where you scramble across rocks, jump into pools and rivers, swim against the currents and moving waters, work together as a team to help each other stay safe and, basically, have a day full of fun.
We go to a brilliant spot at Dinas Rock, near Pontneddfechan, which is about a 45 minute drive from Cardiff and is a great location for a day out.
That day was a lovely day and we went as a full, extended family, for a long day. We packed wetsuits for everyone, including my mum and dad, and my nephew. Another bonus to a long day out is the picnic, so we packed some lovely snacks for a full-on adventure day.
Our little adventurers, ready to go.
We arrived, changed, and made our way down a slippery slope, making the best use of good foot and hand holds. It was great to see both of the young ones helping each other – pointing out the slippery green rocks and feeling so brave as they started their adventure.
The first test was to get our feet wet and we slowly eased into the river water, listening out for the gasps from my husband and dad. The “Alpha Males” didn’t have wetsuits on, just shorts and t-shirts under their buoyancy aids! It was cold, but the first five minutes are always cold. You really have to keep moving and you really will get warmer.
We practiced floating by letting our feet float to the top of the water, and showing the children how the buoyancy aids work. Everyone was so excited, and it was such a new experience. Everyone was having a wonderful adventure.
Getting used to the river: (sorry for quality of photo’s, they were taken by my mum who didn’t know how to use the focus on the camera)
After playing around in the river, we were now warm and just wanted to explore the environment, so we headed up to the outside jacuzzi!
We tell the children that a mini waterfall is a jacuzzi, where the challenge is to put your head completely into the fast-flowing water and see how long you can stay there. The clever trick is that your helmet acts like an air pocket and you can actuallly stay in the water for quite a long time.
Our outdoor natural jacuzzi
After lots of fun, we headed to the last part of the gorge – the beautiful waterfalls.
With our working groups, we normally crawl through the waterfall and then jump off the ledge into the pool of water below. It’s such a great feeling when you see a nervous child, who has convinced themselves that they can’t do the jump, and then after lots of encouragement actually leaps into the air and plunges into the pool. Its fantastic and such an achievement, it’s a really positive part of my job.
Back to my own little adventurers, who were a bit nervous of the jump. We played around in the pool, swimming nearer to the edge and letting the water push us around. It was so much fun, bobbing around in the beautiful pool, seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces, and is such a lovely memory.
Playing around at the waterfalls
It was such a great day, to be able to take the skills from my work and be able to have the adventure with my family. My daughter loved it so much, as she thrived on the challenges of the day and you could see her confidence growing by each step and jump she took.
As a family, it was a great day and, as a parent, I couldn’t have been a more proud mum. I secretly like to think that my little poppet is a chip off’ve the old block!
Winter is well and truly on its’ way. We decided to make the most of a dry Sunday afternoon and went for a blowy walk at Ogmore beach in the Vale of Glamorgan. Hats, scarfs and warm coats came out of the cupboard for the first outing of the year, and we wrapped up warm against the driving wind and rain.
We wanted to go slightly off the normal well-trodden path,and so we parked at a smaller car park in between the main beach and Southerdown. After a short downhill walk, we came upon rocky cliffs that can be scaled down to a real rock hopping experience along a magnificent unspoiled coastline. A bit of care of awareness is needed while scrambling down. Our mission was to find fossils and driftwood for our ever-growing collection.
Hundreds of amazing fossils are dotted on each and every boulder underfoot, as you make your way down the beach. Fantastic swirls, beautiful patterns and obvious images of a life-form from millenniums long-past are etched in the rocks along this stretch of coastline. Just be aware that the cliffs are too fragile to start chipping away, and the turning tide is really fast. If you think of taking a small snapshot of these stunning sights home with you, the best way way is to get down close to the shale and take away bits of rocks that have already eroded.
Just some of the brilliant examples of the fossilized treasures that we found…
The cliff views are simply stunning. This environment is almost prehistoric.
A good tip would be to always check out the tide times before heading to any beach, especially at Ogmore. You could easily get immersed in the environment and have to suddenly escape from an incoming tide which could prove very tricky because of the rocky uphill terrain on this beach.
So for my little adventurer, Ogmore beach is the best destination for an easy Sunday outing. And a good beach is really important in life.
I recently went on a training day through my work. I spent a gloriously sunny day at Caswell beach in the Gower, South Wales. It’s a stunning beach where we, as a work unit, regularly surf and coasteer. But my visit was slightly different this time. The course was all about the promotion of Beach Schools.
Its’ aim is to bring children out of their classrooms and into nature, where they can learn about, and appreciate nature, within the environment. It was a brilliant day. I came away with a wealth of knowledge of sea life, learned some new, fun (and cheap) games for children to play on the beach, incorporating sensory activities, beach art and, most importantly,.. the joy of rock pooling.
I remember, as a child, spending hours exploring rock pools when the tide was out at my local beach. Waiting patiently, expecting to find huge crabs; always finding unusual and colourful shells which were shoved into pockets for “trading” later on in school. Always, the while, thinking that it was daring to leap from one rock to the next to avoid whirls of incoming tidal sea water.
With this in mind, I took my daughter to a nearby beach to pass on everything I had learnt from my course. It was a sunny, but slightly windy day, but that didn’t deter us as we loaded the car with buckets, spades and our nets. Off we went to Llantwit Major, where my father knew of a great rocky stretch which wasn’t too busy and was a great place to explore.
We arrived just as the tide went out, leaving us with perfect conditions for rock pooling. As we started exploring the pools of crisp, clear, salty water, I started to tell my daughter about the different animals she could find, about the different shells and what animals could have lived in them. I explained how there where so many varietys of seaweed. It was fantastic. She was so interested in this simple activity. We jumped from rock to rock, exploring each pool and identifying shells and animals trapped within.
I was so happy in her enthusiasm. It was great experience, as through her sense of exploration, my mother and father, (who had “tagged along”!!), also became engrossed in searching for good rock pools and I could regularly hear them calling for my daughter to “come and see what I’ve found”.
We spent nearly three hours at the beach. We came away with a great collection of shells and a hunger for a slice of Victoria sponge and a steaming mug of hot chocolate, bought from the beach’s quaint, old-school cafe, selling homemade cakes, which was another amazing bonus.
What a great way to spend a Sunday. My daughter went to school the next day with stories of her adventures, her shell collection and lots of facts about sea life.
In an age of computer games, “Kindled” novels, DVD’s and smartphones, it was fantastic that this simple activity could engage my little girl in such deep exploration of her environment. More importantly, it was amazing to watch her grand-parents…… my OWN mum and dad, revisit activities that were such a huge part of their own childhood activities and development.
This weeks’ question, dear reader, is what was the thing that bridged the generation gap for you, and your kin. What happened. Was it a momentus thing, or did it go unnoticed by others, except for you and your young ones.