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!
It feels like we’ve had nothing but rain lately, and everyone’s feeling like they have cabin fever. Getting outside isn’t easy, and play activities are being constantly changed due to the continual wet and miserable weather.
My friend and I had arranged to meet up one Sunday, recently, and we made a vow to go outside, whatever the weather. We both agreed that the children just needed to get out and have a “blow-through”. To make the day nicer, she’d very kindly offered to make us a full, and very delicious Sunday roast, which is one of my daughters absolute favourites. It’s mine too, especially because of the bread sauce! This would give us lots of energy, and warmth in our bodies, to help us make more effort and get outside.
On Sunday morning, we woke up to blue skies and not a dark cloud in sight. It was a miracle, and I noticed how much my mood had changed because we had the windows open and a view of the clear day.
After an amazing roast dinner, (with second helping, of course), we pulled on our wellies and headed up to the forest and mountain areas of Caerphilly. Caerphilly has great walks, and all within a very close distance. This makes it so much easier to find the motivation to go for an afternoon walk.
My daughter and her best friend led the way, stomping along muddy paths, navigating through the brambles and finding good sticks to beat back the hedges to make our walk-ways clear. We got stuck in mud, made fantastic, squelching noises, and it just felt great to be outside and enjoying the good weather.
We were all very happy.
After finally completing the up-hill part of the walk, we came out onto a lovely open space, where the girls ran off and instantly enjoyed their freedom.
They were outside!
We two mum’s were able to sit back and relax, chat and catch up. The girls ran around, explored and wore themselves out. It was so lovely to see, and felt like we hadn’t seen them so free for ages. We didn’t have any shops, toys or other distractions. The girls just had an open space, and they were in their element.
After time spent at the top of the hill, we took a slow walk down a muddy slope, being very careful not to slide the whole way down! The girls took their own paths in the wooded area until they reached the really steep bits, when they edged back towards us as they needed our help.
After mastering the slippery slope, we reached the bottom and found a field with some horses. The girls loved ripping up the grass and testing their confidence feeding the animals behind the fence. As their confidence grew they would take it in turns to step into the field, taking longer strides and feeling very brave.
But as soon as a horse would move, they would quickly run back behind the safety of the gate.
As the afternoon came to a close we headed back, a little worn out but all with smiley faces. Such a lovely and easy afternoon spend with good friends, especially one who makes a mean Sunday roast!
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This Flashback Friday post is a slightly different story from the outdoor adventures that I normally share. The New Year tends to bring the notion of holidays and places to visit, but I felt like looking back to one of the favourite, but slightly different, holidays spent with my family.
Our adventure to Paris.
Paris is a place that I’d wanted to visit for such a long time, but we’d always tended not to choose a ‘touristy’ experience for a holiday. However, as a birthday treat, we decided to give it a go. My husband arranged everything for us to have a true experience of Paris. The travel details, the accommodation, visiting the sights – he arranged it all and also invited my parents, so that we could have a big family adventure, and the experience was amazing.
We stayed in a beautiful converted farm-house on a working farm. This gave us a holiday combined with a bit of the outdoors experience. We also had a swimming pool, and our back garden looked onto a little river which was home to 3 geese. My daughter would be up and out of bed early every morning, just to feed the birds with her Grandad. We were also able to roam the grounds of the farm, exploring the countryside and spotting the variety of animals that lived there.
It was idyllic.
To get to Paris, we took the train from the local station in the village and an hour later we were in the centre of Paris. It really was that easy.
We went to the Eiffel Tower, saw the Notre Dame cathedral and mastered the art of the Metro to get us across the city. We bought some beautiful street art and my absolute favourite was being able to do 3 of the things that were on my bucket list.
1: Going to the Paris catacombs.
2: Having coffee and cake in an outside Paris cafe.
3: Visiting the Louvre.
I manged to do all 3 things in one holiday. It was fantastic, a real once in a lifetime opportunity for me and we managed to take our daughter to Disneyland Paris, which was also a dream come true for her.
We all agreed that it was one of the most amazing holidays we’d ever had, and we treasure every memory of our experience. It was a great family holiday and we were happily surprised that we loved our ‘tourist’ adventure.
Sometimes, it’s good to take a step into the dark, and try something new.
You never know how great it may turn out.