Wild Family Fun

Tales of living, working and enjoying life in the outdoors


The Big Lunch

The Big Lunch was a nationwide event that was recently celebrated, and was intended to bring people together to meet each other, share food and celebrate the communities that people live in.

I was very lucky to be invited to the Grangetown (Cardiff) community Big Lunch, when the Friends of Pentre Gardens held their own Big Lunch celebration, which included a fabulous selection of play sessions for the younger people, as well.

My husband made a lovely picnic to get us started, including sandwiches, fresh vegetable crudites and dips, thick slices of sponge cake and, (of course), a huge plate of cheese and pineapple on sticks! This is a firm favourite at our picnics and they were eaten very quickly. We put up more tables and, as we did, more and more people trickled out from the neighbouring houses, bringing tasty cakes, drinks to share, more delicious sandwiches and lots of nibbles for children to enjoy.

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The most wonderful thing was the variety of food that we were able to taste and enjoy from different cultural backgrounds. We had homemade spicy onion bahjis and pakoras, polish biscuits and cakes, middle-eastern cheese scones and sweet pastries. There was such a variety of tastes for everyone to sample and enjoy, and it was a great way for children to see what other cultures eat. This was such a positive aspect of the day.

With all the great play activities freely available, parents sat, chatted with friends and watched happily, as their children got messy with the paint wheel, played and created pieces of art with loose materials, played friendly team games with bats and balls, and then took turns to relax on the homemade swing and the hammock.

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It really was a lovely afternoon. We counted about seventy families, all enjoying a shared lunch in the sunshine, and all the children of the community enjoyed the opportunity of playing together in the park. Food and play are great media for uniting people in equal harmony.

I really enjoyed being a part of this event, and I really hope that we get to do it again next year!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

My Sunday Photo

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The shadow of my daughter jumping on her trampoline had me laughing out loud. I couldn’t believe we’d captured this on camera!

OneDad3Girls

Camping in the Sunshine!

Our first Duke of Edinburgh Bronze expedition was upon us and, for many young people, it was their first time camping and having to look after themselves away from home. It’s always a huge learning curve for everyone involved, and the staff often end up feeling a bit like stand-in mums and dads for the weekend.

As we weren’t staying too far away from home, my husband and daughter joined us for the adventure. We stayed at one of my favourite campsites, which is Biblins Youth Campsite. This is a Foresty Commission campsite situated in the gorgeous Wye Valley, near Monmouth. It’s a beautiful area right on the banks of the River Wye, with no mobile phone signal or WiFi, and so it has a realistic feel of being isolated from everything.

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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.

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

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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.

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Periodically, each group would pass through my checkpoint, and I’d make sure that they were refreshed, and then safely cross the bridge to continue on their way.

As each group finished, everyone was happy to see the mini buses at the end, throwing off their rucksacks and jumping on the buses ready to get home for cooked meals and clean clothes.

We were only out for one night, but the feeling and the atmosphere when camping at Biblins is just perfect. It’s a quiet and easy campsite, with no frills or fuss, but the setting is just amazing.

It always reminds me of why I love camping, and that it’s a great way of spending really great family-time together.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

My Sunday Photo

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Here’s my little action-girl, waterproofs on, and walking underneath a waterfall.

It may not be the best quality of photograph but, when I saw it, I was reminded of how much I absolutely love my daughters’ spirit for adventure. She makes an adventure out of every day, and I love being a part of that.

I guess that’s why we always enjoy our outdoor adventures.

OneDad3Girls

My Sunday Photo

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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!

OneDad3Girls

A New Beginning: A Karma Way Forward.

I’ve been very quiet with my blog over the past few weeks and, those who know me in the ‘outside’ world, will know that I’ve been going through a very drastic, life-changing experience during recent months.

For over a year, I’ve had the threat of redundancy hanging over me. I worked for the Local Authority delivering outdoor educational and non-educational activities to children and young people throughout Cardiff. We worked with children from age five all the way up to young adults of college-age, delivering a mix of adventures walks, canoeing trips, climbing, surfing, gorge walking….. suffice to say that if it’s an outdoor activity, we delivered it. We mainly worked with children and young people who weren’t in mainstream school, or who would normally be unable to have the opportunity to take part in these activities.

As we all know, Local Councils are facing the task of making huge budget cuts, and so lots of projects similar to mine, (such as play centres, libraries and youth clubs), have all been under threat of closure. We had a year of fighting for our cause with wonderful support from the people that we work with, the schools we deliver to, and families whose children who have attended our activities.

However, after lots of wishing and hoping that we’d be saved, we were told just after Christmas that we were definitely to be axed, and our project would be closed at the end of March.

The news was devastating. I was one of the lucky people in the world who could say, with all sincerity, that I loved my job. My experiences through this job have been amazing, and I’ve been able to share those experiences with family, and loving and enjoying the outdoor world is a huge part of our family life. I started on a three-month secondment which happily turned into an eight year career, and taught me the job and career that I wanted to have in life.

A big part of the rewards of that job is that I’ve worked with some amazing and talented people. It’s really hard to put into words how much fun we had, and how much we laughed. Of course there were down-days, but the good days definitely outweighed the tough days. Fantastically, silly days. We were definitely young at heart having snowball fights, tumbling down sand dunes and enjoying the activities as much as the children and young people we worked with.

The people I worked with also saw me at my worst. Crying, (actually sobbing), when I was confronted with a caving activity, as this was my biggest fear. There were moments when I would be crawling through a cave with tears streaming down my face! But I had lots of support and cwtches, and it was only when we were in the car park that my colleagues would make jokes and lighten the mood.

I have also had the opportunity to work with wonderful coaches, who always shared their knowledge and experience to teach me so much. I know that without their help and guidance, I really would not be in the happy position that I am now, with my outdoor pursuit career. I will always be grateful for the help and guidance I received while in work.

Over eight years, we worked some brilliant groups and met such wonderful young people. Working with these groups showed us that delivering outdoor activities were immensely beneficial. Some of those young people we’ve known since they were teenagers, and we’ve seen them grow into wonderful adults, and it’s been a pleasure to know them and now call them friends. I don’t mind saying that in particular Lauren Jones this bit is about you!

Without getting on my soap box, I worry for, and also feel very angry about, the children and young people who we worked with most recently, and what opportunities they’ll have, (or not), now that we’re gone. We had experiences of taking young people to the beach for the very first time because, sadly, they were never taken as a child. One child even asked me if you had to pay to go on the beach, not understanding that it was free and open to all. There were young people who found that mainstream education just didn’t suit them but, by getting them outside, it showed them the huge potential and learning opportunities in a tactile environment. It taught them about important life and social skills, things that can’t necessarily be learnt in the classroom.

As my title of this post says, it is a new beginning in my life. I think we all understand that a job is never for life, nowadays, and I’ve struggled hard to find a way to make something positive out of this experience.

So I’m going it alone!

I’ve been very, very lucky to be able to form a small business, (albeit a name to start with). I’m very grateful to all my colleagues who’ve helped point me in the right direction in order to gain freelance work. I’m also very lucky to be able to draw upon my qualifications and experience, which is allowing me to deliver Forest School free-play sessions, as well as stepping up my teaching and support within the local D of E organisation.

And I have to say a huge “thank you” to my husband who has supported me throughout this difficult time. Not just with my loss of my job, but he has given me the strength and support to show me I can work for myself. His support has been what’s helped me through this experience and, when I would wake at 2 o’clock in the morning panicking, he would tell me everything will be ok, and I’ll be fine! It’s really pulled us together.

My old post formally dissolved just over a month ago. Throughout that time, this is the first chance I’ve had to actually sit in front of a screen, and write a post to express my feelings.

To sum up, I’ve been scared when the cuts were announced. I’ve been strong by trying to maintain a professional front in work, and I’ve tried to support my colleagues and clients to the best of my ability. I’ve had to learn a great deal, in short order, about setting up on my own, pitching for work, and so-on. But I’ve had loads of help along the way.

I think I’m beginning to understand karma. Try to be nice, and people respond nicely. Help, and you’ll be helped back. I really hope I can continue to help, (in some small way), to bring some fun outdoor adventures to those young people who wouldn’t normally get that chance.

The benefits are boundless, and the rewards aren’t always obvious, but can be found in so many different ways!!

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Thank goodness for wellies!

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!

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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.

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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!

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall



Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Half-term Outdoor Fun

Half-term holidays are great for my work, as the children we deliver activities to have all day to be in the outdoors with us.

We can have longer outdoor activities and adventures, and so we decided to use a whole day of Forest Schools activities for our group on the Monday of the half-term. We use a local woodlands near to Cardiff so; along with my daughter, my sister joined us with her two boys, who were all so excited to take part.

We donned our wellies and waterproofs, (ready for the mud and the puddles), and carried our equipment to our little hide-away area at Cosmeston Lakes near Penarth. The first priority was to build a shelter as it was due to rain, and it’s always good to have a “dry” area for bags, equipment and lunch.

We had a variety of activities planned, and the children loved having the ability to choose what they wanted to play with. They loved having wild freedom and soon dumped their bags and were off playing in mixed groups.

We made tree monsters from clay, made dens from tarpaulins and string, hunted for a variety of bugs, (observing how and where they lived), made bows and arrows, waded up the nearby stream, (splashing each other along the way), made a make-shift swing with a rope and two trees, and toasted marshmallows with the fire from our Kelly Kettle. It was great to see how the generational gap was filled, as all the children and adults played together.

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New friends were made and hands got dirty and everyone had so much fun.

We were all disappointed when it was time to go. It was a fantastic start to the holidays, and my sister said she was amazed that (apart from her packed lunch) the day didn’t cost her a penny and her boys had the best day ever.

So much so that they wanted to join us on our next activity the following day!!

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I really do enjoy our Forest School days. Everyone involved has so much fun, and it’s a great excuse for me to eat lots of toasted marshmallows!

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A muddy, wet forest…… what’s not to love ??!!

{Sadly I am unable to post images of the children I work with, all images are of my daughter and my nephews from todays adventures.}

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Learning for Life



Why I Love Living in Wales!

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.

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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.

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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… !!!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

Learning for Life

365 Project Week 4

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.

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TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Not Letting Winter Get in the Way

Recently, BritMums ran a photography project, (via Twitter and Instagram), to get families outdoors and enjoying themselves even though it’s Winter time.

The challenge was to take a photo a day, adding the hashtag Hibernot. This is a great word, as the weather currently really can put even the hardened outdoor lovers off from venturing outside.

I loved sharing my photographs on Instagram, and it was really worth the effort and meeting the challenge to push ourselves to make the effort, and get outside every day. It also showed me that you really can enjoy the outdoors in all and any weather, to a greater or lesser extent.

It really isn’t hard work. We made sure that we were wrapped up warm, we had a good set of waterproofs and (of course) a flask full of hot soup to keep the cold at bay!

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So, just because the Winter’s here, we shouldn’t hide away. Let’s try to embrace the challenge of Hibernot!

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall



Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

A New Year “To Do” List

I’m not very good with New Year resolutions, and never understand the whole “dieting, no drinking”, et al, that people try to start on this one day. However, I do like the idea of goals and challenges. It’s a good way of trying out new things and having some brilliant adventures. So, as an outdoor-loving family, we’ve come up with a list of goals that we’d like to achieve this year!

1: Explore Wales. I’m so lucky to live in Wales, as we have some of the most wonderful beaches and forests. We want to discover new places this year, and I also want to share areas I visit in work, by taking my family.

2: Learn outdoor crafts. I’m currently taking part in a willow weaving course and I’m loving every moment. I made a variety of Christmas decorations and a cute little basket. I’ve booked myself onto more courses to improve my skills. It’s great learning and developing new skills. However, my house is slowly filling up with my creations!

3: Grow and cook our own foods. When the weather gets a little better, we really want to take the time to grow and cook our own foods. My husband is an amazing chef, so we have the knowledge to create wonderful dishes. It also teaches my daughter where foods come from, and also encourages us as a family to eat healthily.

4: Take my daughter kayaking on rivers. Her kayaking is improving so well, now, that she is desperate to experience paddling on open moving water. We had a very brief experience, last year, and she was fine (though I was slightly nervous). My husband really wants to join us, so it’ll be a great excuse for a family adventure.

5: Improve my map reading skills. I’m starting to feel that I’m not pushing myself with my map and navigation skills. A colleague is trying to encourage me to go walking on my own, and get confidence in navigating for myself without safety blanket of having other people around. Strangely, I keep avoiding this one!

6: Camp more. We love camping so much, as a family and, as no major holidays have been planned this year, we’ll be doing more camping in new areas throughout Wales. We’re even buying a new tent, so it’ll have to be used more than a few times, this year!

There are a few other things that I want to do for myself. Like everyone, I suppose, I’d like to get a bit healthier. I’m not a big fan of diets to lose lots of weight, but would like to start a yoga class, or swim more. However, I do have a huge challenge that I’ll be aiming to achieve, this year.

Climbing Ben Nevis.

It came out during a conversation with my boss a few months ago and, rather than rolling around laughing on the floor, he said “You’ll be fine doing that”. So, it stuck in my head for a few days, and then I mentioned it to my husband. He said, “Brilliant, when do you want to do it? Let’s start planning”.

That’s how it started. So, later on, during the summer this year, I’ll be climbing Ben Nevis with a good friend of mine and, of course, my wonderful adventure-loving daughter, who said I’m not allowed to do the walk without her.

That’s our little New Year “to do” list of adventurous, fun-filled challenges and goals for the coming year.

I’m going to try to complete my list, and the other really great thing is that I get to share all my adventures on here!