My Dad is a keen gardener and, over the years, he’s transformed his garden into a lovely miniature allotment, growing a huge variety of vegetables.
Throughout the summer, we get to wander into the garden and pick lots of lovely vegetables, such as peas, potatoes and courgettes. Also tomatoes and chillies come from his little greenhouse. We’re so lucky, because they taste amazing, but it also helps to teach the grandchildren all about how food is grown and where it comes from. It really encourages the young ones to eat fresh vegetables, as they picked them straight from Bampy’s garden.
As the Summer was coming to an end, he needed some help to dig over the garden and harvest the last remaining vegetables before they went to waste, so we headed over to his house, one Sunday afternoon.
Suitably dressed in wellies and old clothes, we started digging in the rows of beetroot, pulling up handfuls of juicy, round beetroot, cutting of the leaves and putting them in the buckets. We had loads, and my husband had to start thinking of the different recipes he could use, to best preserve a huge bucket full of beetroot!
Next we started on the rows of potatoes. Once again, we started by pulling up a few here and there. but by the end of our digging session we had another bucket full of lovely home-grown spuds, which would be great for our roasts, mash, Dauphinoise, jackets and chips!
After a few hours of digging we managed to harvest bucketfuls of beetroot, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, garlic, chillies, pears, red and white onions and courgettes. It was a great day of family activity, resulting in lots of wonderful treats and the start of some delicious meals, chutneys, pickles and sauces!
In a small back garden, we’re very lucky to be able to grow our own. It’s a great way of encouraging children to eat healthily and gain a good understanding of where our food comes from.
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 !!
Last month, (July 2014), my family and I were very lucky to be invited to visit the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells.
Not having been before, we were a bit sceptical, (and a little intrigued), about what to expect. The first thing that we noticed was how completely organised and well planned the event was, even from a visitors’ arrival. There were a large number of attendants, who guided visitors into a field where a park and ride system was in place. We noted our field number, then had a very short walk to a queue of buses, with only a few moments wait before we were seated and on our way to the showground. It was a brief drive to the venue, during which the driver kindly informed us what time and what bus stop we should attend when we wanted to return.
Walking through the entrance gates, we were totally overwhelmed. We were presented with so much to see and to do, that we decided to spend a short time just wandering around to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings. We did invest in a programme, which was very fairly priced and a great help. It included very useful map, along with details of everything that was happening that day, including the times and locations of venues of the attractions or demonstrations that we wanted to visit. It helped us plan everything in the day with ease.
Delicious smells of freshly-cooked foods wafted on the light breeze from the various stalls, enticing us here and there to taste little samples of this or that. This is a great way of showing people how produce from Wales is picked, packed and ultimately presented in various supermarkets. We sampled little pots of lovely curry, miniature pasties, cheeses and pickles, various ice-creams and mixed berries, all offered by different producers, sellers or supermarkets. There were also lots of cookery demonstrations, which all contributed to a great interactive experience for children to understand about Welsh produce. This was a good way of linking what we eat and where it comes from, how farmers work, and how produce arrives on our shelves.
One of our favourite displays was the put on by the RSPB. This took up a huge area offering fantastic learing opportunities and interactive activities for families. My daughter had a wonderful time pond-dipping. She was given a net with a pot, and the very friendly staff showed her how to safely dip her net into a pond, to try to retrieve some creatures to put under a microscope. She spent ages transferring her creatures into little dishes, observing their movements the microscope, and then working her way through the “spotting sheet” to identify her finds. Then we simply had to “Make A Bug Hotel”. She was given a piece of piping and natural materials to make her own Bug Hotel, that could be put into her garden to allow various wildlife to come and live in her hotel. We moved over to the tree section, where we learnt about the different trees that could be found throughout the country and their contribution to our eco-system, Finally, we were given our own Elder tree, to take home and plant in our garden.
We learned that trees don’t only produce oxygen and fruits etc, as well as habitats for wildlife, but also that if managed properly, they become materials for this like fencing, building and decorative features. We saw fantastic traditional Welsh fencing techniques, with the men building fences made from the indigenous bushes and trees etc. I loved this display of traditional crafts, and I hope that this skill won’t die out.
We watched the young farmers (ie children), showing their sheep in competition, and we were amazed to hear how some families had travelled from London and beyond, just to compete in the show. The young farmers were very confident displaying their sheep, and it was one of my daughters’ favourite parts of the day.
Another fantastic part of the day was that I was very lucky to have been sent some vouchers for Joules. For a link to the Joules site please click:
Joules are a high-quality brand that celebrate British heritage through their clothing styles. Joules started producing and selling clothes over two decades ago, when the founder, Tom Joule, started out by selling robustly-made, functional and stylish country clothing at equestrian and outdoor events. Joules had a marquee at the show, and so we decided to look in.
Thoughout the day, I’d seen and overheard so many people talking about their Joules bags full of goodies, so I was excited when I eventually found the marquee. Upon first glance at the queue of eager visitors, my heart sank a bit. I looked at my husband and thought “should we just keep going” but he said to join the queue as it was moving very quickly, and I’d been looking forward to visiting. We only queued for a few minutes and then we were in the door. It was a really good system, allowing only a limited amount of people in at a time, and it didn’t feel too busy or too full of people, especially on such a hot day.
We were able to wander around the store at our leisure, looking through the fantastic bargains. The staff were very friendly, helping people find different sizes and keeping queues down with kind words and engaging conversation. There were a huge variety of items on offer, all in every different size, which is something not normally found when hunting through bargains on this magnitude. I found two beautiful jumpers which will be really functionally warm and stylish when camping. Also, my daughter chose some comfy fluffy bed socks, which she immediately wore during her snooze on the journey home !!
My bag of goodies are wonderful, and I was very pleased. I was especially happy with my stunning yellow jumper, that I can’t wait for our next camping trip !! It’s colourful and bright, it’s not baggy but fitted, and I can wear it with a pair of jeans to glam up an outfit, or throw it on with a pair of shorts while camping. I love it !!
The clothes were beautifully-made, in a fantastic range of rich country colours and, what I liked, was the variety of styles. It can be so difficult to find outdoor clothing that’s fit for purpose, colourful and flattening for women, while still being very fashionable. Joules ticks all the boxes !!
There’s so much more to write about, including the fact that everything at the Show was very fairly priced. Usually, with events such as these, visitors are viewed as a “captive market” and subjected to the inevitable price-hike for food, drinks, etc. But everything was made available to suit a range of budgets, from the Members Tent a the top-end of the facilities, right through to outlets offering home-made pork sausage or vegetarian hotdogs for kids, priced at £1 !!
All in all, we enjoyed an amazing day, full of interactive displays and events for all ages. My daughter learnt so much about Welsh culture. She can’t wait to get back to school, to show and tell about everything she learned.
I was sent tickets for the Royal Welsh Show and vouchers for Joules for this review. My opinion is honest and unbiased.
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 !
For my Dad’s 60th birthday, recently, we went to Chepstow Diving Centre and had a very adventure-packed weekend. The whole family turned out en masse, and we all took part in lots of wonderful activities to celebrate my Dad’s birthday. I loved the Segway and, if I could get away with it, I’d have it as my new mode of everyday transport.
My daughter really does amaze me with her love of the outdoors.
I feel so blessed to be able to develop her interest and love of outdoor adventures, starting at such a young age. It’s been fantastic for myself and my husband to watch her grow, gain confidence and find her own unique personality, all because of the experiences she’s had by taking part in her outdoor activities.
A good example of this is our adventure at Cardiff White Water Centre, recently.
I had to do some weekend work at Cardiff White Water Centre, and decided to make the very most of the day. When I finished my work, my husband and daughter met me at the Centre. We all changed into wetsuits and safety gear, ready for an afternoon of padding on the flat pool. It was my daughter’s first time in a kayak, and I was so nervous. I’d had a few bad experiences in a kayak while on a river (albeit in fast water) and it put me off for a bit, but I was very keen for my daughter to experience kayaking.
My husband stood in the water alongside us for those first wobbly moments. We handed my daughter a paddle, sat her in a boat and launched into the water,
She had a few nervous wobbles to start with, but after a few gentle hints, pointers and some light coaching, she got better by each stroke.
The biggest challenge was to see if she would be comfortable tipping out of her kayak and into the water. It’s a good exercise as it helps to build confidence and takes away the fear, by creating an understanding that you’ll just pop out of the boat if it should tip.
I don’t know I was worrying about, as my little water-baby threw herself into the water and emerged giggling, asking if she could do it again, again, again!
We had a gorgeous afternoon, improving her paddling techniques, playing games and tipping our boats, so that we could cool off in the water.
I was one proud Mum watching my daughter on the water, and she enjoyed herself so much that she has joined a local paddling club.
She’s started her journey; from tadpole to water-baby to an outdoor-active adventurer!!
I love this photo.
While on a day out in Bristol we wandered across a bridge and discovered these beautiful love locks dotted along the bridge. I can remember seeing them in Paris and adored the idea.I love that the idea is catching on here.
Hopefully they might find their way to Cardiff soon!
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 !
This is a special photograph for me.
I can remember my parents taking me to Porthkerry Park when I was a child and I did this same thing. Jumping over the stream, it was such a scary but thrilling thing to do when I was young.
I get to do it now with my daughter and at exactly the same place.
I think that is why this photograph really makes me smile.
I know that allowing children to take risks can be a scary thought.
Some people recoil in horror and run a mile when I explain that some element of risk for children is a good thing. In work, we spend a lot of time managing risk, and making sure that our activities are as safe as possible. It’s such a benefit to a child when they tentatively take a little risk, and the resulting confidence they gain from that experience is huge.
The element of outdoor risk, in our little family, is definitely increasing as my daughter is getting older, so I thought that an activity involving an introduction to fires would be a new and exciting experience for her.
While on holiday recently at Coombe Mill, we visited the beach at Polzeath.
It’s a beautiful beach with the most amazing panorama. There are wide open spaces for children to run and still be seen by parents. There are small cliffs and rock pools for exploring and, of course, little pools of sea water which are great for jumping in and splashing around.
We found an area that was sightly hidden and eroded into the rock face. It was really functional, as we were sheltered well out of the wind. I had brought a Kelly Kettle with me from work. The Kelly Kettle is a great way of introducing fires to children. You build the fire part on the bottom ‘bowl’. This keeps the fire small and contained.
Then, you put the main Kelly Kettle part on top of the fire. This becomes a kind of funnel. You put water into the outer “skin” or jacket and the flames send heat up through the middle of the Kettle. This heats up the water and, as the design acts like a chimney, one is able to keep putting little bits of wood directly into the fire bowl, to keep the fire going.
The interesting thing was that my daughter was, initially, very interested in learning about the fire. How it’s built, what was needed to keep it going and so-on but, rather than wanting to constantly “play” with the fire, she ending up being very aware and behaving very safely. She understood the dangers, kept her distance, didn’t put too much wood in the fire and, while waiting for the water to boil, became more interested in getting creative with bits of wood, string, cotton wool and the tub of vaseline we’d brought along to help initiate the fire!
We sat together, watching the smoke billowing lazily out from the top, and waiting for the water to boil so we could enjoy our hot chocolate on the beach.
So, when a it’s managed conscientiously, and explained simply and concisely, a little bit of risk has a great learning potential and confidence-building outcome for children. We had a lovely afternoon in a stunning environment, and our risky activity resulted in us both enjoying a delicious cup of steaming hot chocolate!