Wild Family Fun

Tales of living, working and enjoying life in the outdoors


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

My Sunday Photo

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The warm weather is on its’ way! We found this gorgeous little creature hiding in sticks, while we were on a walk. It’s great to see the changing of the season, and wildlife starting to show themselves again.

OneDad3Girls

365 Project Week 8

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39: A nice relaxing Sunday and I had to take this photo as proof. My daughter watching a movie and picking from a bowl of salad. Yes salad, my husband and I were amazed!

40: A brilliant start to the half term holidays. Lots of lovely outdoor fun with a full day of Forest Schools. Lots and lots of mud.

41: Another busy day and a walk to Skirrid yr Eira waterfalls in Brecon. A long but lovely walk without any moans and groans.

42: We took a group of children to Porthkerry park on Wednesday. Another great day in the forest and we all ended up to our knees in the stream splashing and having lots of fun.

43: A day of cooking at home. Lovely banana cakes and strawberry jelly ready for homemade trifles.

44: We met up with some friends today and all went for a walk to Caerphilly mountains. It’s a great place to explore and is right on our doorstep. Of course the girls found the muddy puddles and were straight in.

45: A morning game of Bingo with prizes as well. First to a line and then for a full house!

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

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



365 Project Week 7

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32: A wonderful walk on Aberavon beach. The weather was beautiful and was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

33: Monday evening is my daughters kayaking club. She loves her club and it has given her so much confidence and skills to be safe in the water.

34: Bushcraft day in work. Learning how to light fires using different skills, then we able to boil some water on our Kelly Kettles for some warming hot chocolate!

35: A new pair of walking poles for my daughter ready for our planned walks in the half term.

36: A day I was dreading a little. We had a paddling session at Cardiff’s White Water Centre with a group and it was so cold! When my canoe got tipped in by the group I really wasn’t a very happy paddler.

37: This magnetic board is a great little thing to keep in the car. When my daughter gets a bit bored she doodles and I was very surprised to see her practicing her Maths on the way to school.

38: A little afternoon bike ride and of course my daughter wanted an ice cream in the little cafe. A lovely treat.

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

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 6

A bit of a quiet week this week, doesn’t hurt once in a while……

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32: A quiet Sunday but with lots of planning for the future. Exciting things happening this year!

33: A lovely day in work teaching parents from a local school Heart Start first aid skills. Heart Start was created by the British Heart Foundation and is a brilliant course teaching simple first aid skills for all ages.

34: We have lots of new groups in work so its been a week of indoor climbing which is lovely as the weather is very, very cold. It also means I can have a lovely caramel latte from the little cafe, a little treat.

35: A team challenge of cooking on camping stoves, bit of an outdoor Masterchef. Spicy chilli noodles with veggies. Very delicious and filling. A big success.

36: While my group were having lunch I managed to get some climbing in while at our local climbing wall. The young people are always much better than me.

37: My daughter had some friends over after school and my husband found these in Asda. It’s a sign of the times when instead of potatoe letters we have potatoe hashtags now!

38: My daughter loves Chatterboxes and she gets me to make them all the time. As she is learning about Space in school we did a Space theme Chatterbox with fun facts inside.

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Is “Risk” a Benefit within Play?

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time and, after completing my Forest School training, I now feel suitably qualified and confident enough to talk about “risk” within play.

My training covered so much about why risk is important within play, how we can manage risk, the value of risk assessments (a vast and lengthy topic), and what are the benefits of “risk” within play. For someone like me, who’s worked in play and outdoor pursuits for many years, it can be easier for me to accept that risk is a part of play, and that children need it to develop many important skills.

I’m comfortable with my daughter taking risks. We mange her adventurous nature. We teach her about appropriate behaviour and boundaries. I feel she’s developed a safe and responsable attitude to risk-taking. She knows how far she can climb up a tree and what branches are safe to take her weight. She understands when that, we go kayaking, Mum is there if she falls out and because she has on a buoyancy aid, she’ll pop up to the surface and I’ll be there to keep her safe. I believe these are important life skills for the future.

But what are the benefits of risk within play?

Children develop their emotions and intelligence through play. It offers a chance to enhance a variety of important developmental needs such as emotional development, social interaction, physical improvements, confidence skills, as well as communication and language skills. And that’s just a small example of what play opportunities and play experience offers to children.

Risk will always be a factor in most forms of play.

It can be a scary word to use. When working for a Local Authority, it means that it is easy to become caught up in lots of red tape, when trying to convince people and parents that allowing children to engage in well-managed risky play is a benefit. I wish that I had a penny for each time I’ve had a conversation with a parent, who vehemently says “My son is not going out for a walk in the woods as it’s too dangerous”.

Of course, (as with all things in life), there will always be a danger. However, our activities are always risked-assessed, and there are always a minimum of 2 well-trained, vigilant and responsable staff present. We provide appropriate outdoor kit and clothing, and (really) why would I let anything happen to a child under my care. I wouldn’t accept any misfortune to a child as an outdoor worker, or as a parent. Luckily, the majority of parents we work with trust us, and know us well enough to accept that their children will be well looked after when they’re out on an activity with us and, most importantly, those children will be safely supervised while they have fun, being left to their own imagination!

What we’ve found, in recent months, is the heightened level of health and safety, and risk assessment that we must go through, in order to show how well we have assessed our activities. We constantly re-assess those qualifications needed to run any activity and, as professionals, we continually look at every aspect and potential danger, in order to ensure that all our activities are as safe as they can be.

However, I understand why we have to do this, (and to complete mountains of paperwork), as it protects us, and the people that we take out on various activities. Sometimes, I do wonder when will risk assessments, and the “cotton-wool” society in which we live, stop worrying quite so much.

As my father keeps telling me, it’s not like it was in the 70’s, when kids played in the streets ’til dark, came home when they were hungry, and we all looked out for our youngsters. But, we can, (and do), do our best to keep that spirit alive, albeit within “managed risk” activities.

365 Project Week 5

It’s scary to think we are in February all ready. Its been a week full of mud and chicken pox…..

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25: On a Duke of Edinburgh walk and while waiting for my group I managed to capture this little Robin just sitting in the tree. He was great company at lunch time.

26: An evening trip with a playcentre and we travelled to a local beach for a fire and toasted marshmallows. This was the beautiful sunset we saw while we warmed by the fire.

27: I came home to a lovely husband who was busy making cakes. Caramel and pineapple upside down cake! Yummy.

28: My daughter came down with chicken pox this week. Thank goodness for my Mum who helped out and I had a sleepy child who didn’t miss the alarm clock going off in the morning.

29: Sour cherry sweets were much-needed after a very cold and wet paddling session in work. Sitting in a raft for the afternoon and being splashed with river water numerous times by teenagers wasn’t the greatest of days in sub-zero conditions.

30: With my daughter being ill we had Friday on the sofa and watched family films all together. I captured her and my husband holding hands while watching The Goonies. I love this shot.

31: Another Duke of Edinburgh walk and we went along the coastal path along Llantwit Major this week. However it must have been one of the most muddy walks I have ever been on. Lots of cleaning kit come Monday!

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

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