Wild Family Fun

Tales of living, working and enjoying life in the outdoors


My Sunday Photo

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My Duke of Edinburgh expeditions have come to an end for this year, and this picture was taken during my last expedition.

We were staying in the Fishguard area and I was on driving duties very early, (so early that I had to dress by headtorch light, as it was so dark!).

Fortunately, I was able to stop for a few minutes and enjoy this beautiful area.

If I wasn’t heading to meet a group of young people, I really could have stayed here all morning.

It’s great to discover a little bit of hidden beauty every now and then.

OneDad3Girls

A Visit to Cardiff International White Water Centre

Recently, we were very lucky to enjoy a multi-activity day at Cardiff International White Water Centre. My daughter and three friends spent the day taking part in three very different adventurous experiences that are available within a vast programme of various activities offered by the centre.

Cardiff International White Water Centre offers a wide range of outdoor activities for children and adults, ranging from Flat-water Paddling, Outdoor Climbing, Stand-up Paddle Boarding, White-water Rafting and Gorge Walking to name a few. Our little adventurers had the most amazing day, taking part in Indoor Surfing, High-ropes Air Trail, and then White-water Rafting.

Their first activity was on the Indoor Surfing, which is a very powerful, simulated surf machine. What’s great about this activity, is that it’s suitable for beginner skill levels, and upwards. So, for children, it’s a great way of getting a first experience of that wild, surf-spray feeling, in a totally safe, controlled environment! Also, it can be enjoyed any time of year, as it’s indoors.

Priced starting from £22.50 per person, up to £35 per person, this is for a session of about 1hr 30min, with all equipment and coaching provided.

They were all so excited! They couldn’t wait to get their wet-suits on and jump right onto the waves. Each child is coached, to help with getting in, and staying on, the wave. As they jumped in their faces were beaming, and they fought against the wave to practice going forward, backwards and side to side.

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As the session went on, they were encouraged to try some tricks, by pushing the boards forwards and catching it. They learnt turns and spins and also kneeling on the board. They gained in confidence, waving to parents, who were happy watching all the fun. They also had a go at launching themselves from the top of the wave, occasionally getting some air as they jumped into the flow.

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With plenty of turns between the group, everyone had lots of time on the wave, getting better and better with each go, all being able to try more tricks, coming of the wave with big smiles and asking when they could go again.

Next was the Air-trail High Ropes Course. Set above, over and across the Centre, the trail crosses the water. The challenge is to complete high-air obstacles and zip-wires, in order to move across the course to the end, all-the-while dangling high in the air, suspended by a safety line. Before the session each participant is kitted with a harness and a helmet to keep you safe. One by one, the group are encouraged to move across the course at their pace.

The cost for this activity is £10 per person, which includes one fully coached circuit of the Air-trail course.

We all watched, wondering if they would be brave enough to move from the first step. It didn’t take them long to take that first BRAVE step off on the first zip wire. What was lovely, was that we were able to walk around the course at ground level, following them around with words of supporting encouragement, as they went past each obstacle.

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We had a few wobbles and high-pitched screams, but we also had lots of laughter and giggles as they moved along. We all watched as they got to the end and zipped wired down to cheers from the mums!

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This activity is a great confidence-builder, at only £10 per person including coach, and you can move through this activity leisurely, at the participants’ own speed.

After a bit of lunch, our group moved over to the White-water Rafting session. They were so looking forward to this, as they’d watched other rafts going around the course throughout the day, and so their anticipation and building excitement of White-water Rafting had been building throughout the day.

After suiting-up with wetsuits and safety kit, they first had to practise various skills and techniques in the flat pool. This where they learned the safety commands, and what to do while in the fast-flowing water. It was the best to get ready for what to except on a REALLY fast-water course.

Parents are able to walk around the course, and watch each stage, especially as they came up the conveyor belt which took them to the beginning of the course. There were lots of smiles, screaming and nervous giggling!

Throughout the first run-through, all we could hear was the happy screams as they hit waves, moving on rapidly around the course. It was lovely, as we could watch every move as they went around. We were able to take photographs and shout encouragement but, mostly, we could see how much fun they were having.

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During different times of the week, the water level is raised or lowered, depending on the style of paddling required.

We went it was a “family rafting” session, and so the level of water was lower. This helps when younger children want to take part. If you’d like a harder, (read “SCARIER”) paddle, then you could choose to arrange your visit when the level of water is higher. This offers something for everyone and, for our children, the water level was great. They had some edgy nerves to begin with, but were put so at ease by the coaches that they were soon keen to raft!

It really is a great way of getting inexperienced people onto fast-flowing water, and to develop confidence, while still having lots of fun.

The price for a family raft experience starts at (between) £22.50 to £25 per person, and is available on Wednesday evenings, Sundays mornings and School Holidays. All coaching and specialist equipment is included and each session runs for approximately 2 hours.

Our little group had lots of time around the course, and we were really surprised at how much they were able to fit into the session. At the end, in the flat-calm pool, the children were all encouraged to finish the session by jumping into the water from the raft. This was an amazing, confidence-building end to a brilliant session.

They all rushed up to meet us, and were so excited, full of energy and with faces glowing with the biggest smiles. It was so amazing and heart-warming to see. They really did have the most amazing day and couldn’t choose what session was the best. I think that they all agreed that each one was equally as fantastic or exciting as the next, but for lots of different reasons!

Friends have suggested that it could become quite expensive but, what’s great about this easily accessible centre, is that it offers such a huge variety of activities with a vast range of prices, from as low as £10 per session.

This multi-activity centre really can cater for every age and skill-level, as well as corporate groups, stags or hens, and group party-treats or special occasions. It’s a wonderful addition to the “Cardiff experience”, as well as offering an accessible and controlled experience into wild-water activities.

For our group, it was a very positive day. Not just because of the excitement and fun of the activities, but that it was so wonderful to see all the children’s’ confidence grow throughout the day. I would also like to thank each coach on the activities, as they really did make our children’s day so enjoyable and fun!

For all the details and full list of courses, activities, sessions, prices etc, please visit: http://www.ciww.com/

My Sunday Photo

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We recently had a chance to learn about our wonderful and interesting Welsh mining history at Big Pit National Coal Museum.

It’s an amazing place, where you get to dress up like a miner or, (as our miner-guide called our group), ‘Mini Miners!’ and then go underground and explore the coal mines.

It’s a really brilliant place to learn about our history, and entry with the underground tour is completely free.

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My Sunday Photo

 

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This was the first photograph that I shared on my blog in November 2013.

Below is a photograph that I took recently, and wanted to share with you for this week’s Sunday Photo. The very muddy and very wet shoes might have changed over the years, but she still enjoys splashing around in streams and jumping in mud. For me, it shows that my daughter still has her adventurous and wild outlook on life, and that makes me so happy.

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(Thank goodness for washing machines!)

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My Sunday Photo

We had a wonderful day out at this week at Cardiff International White Water Centre. Indoor surfing was just one of the amazing activities that my daughter took part in, and she loved it!

CIWW is such an exciting, fun and adventurous place to visit in Cardiff.

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I have so many more adventures, which I’ll share with you in future posts.

For more information, prices and activities, please contact the friendly staff at : http://www.ciww.com

OneDad3Girls

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!

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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.

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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!

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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