Wild Family Fun

Tales of living, working and enjoying life in the outdoors


Our Pen-y-Fan Adventure

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.

penyfanpost1

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 !!

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Learning for Life

 

 


My Sunday Photo

bristollocks

 

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!

OneDad3Girls

A Wet Weekend With the Duke of Edinburgh.

2nd post

Duke of Edinburgh season is now in full swing.

Many young people are taking part in practice camping weekends, during which they’ll gain valuable skills and knowledge ready for assessment in a few months.

I’m lucky enough to be part of the teaching staff for all three levels of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, (Bronze, Silver and Gold). It’s a long-term commitment for the young people involved, and not just with outdoor skills alone. They also have to complete a personal skill section, a volunteer section and a physical section, all over different periods of time dependant upon whatever level they may be at. This, for many young people, is in addition to school work and other extra-curricula activities.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is available to all young people and I have been able to work with many young people, from a very diverse range of backgrounds and abilities. I think it’s a very positive and wonderful experience for any young person to be able to take part in.

These thoughts were confirmed, recently, as we had the wettest and utterly miserable weekend, while camping in preparation for a Bronze expedition. All through the week leading up to the “off”, I kept checking the weather reports for the Gower area. I kept praying and hoping that those dark clouds full of rain would disappear and we would see those lovely weather-chart images of bright sunshine, or a half-hidden sun, or maybe just a white cloud………..?

…. but they never changed.

When we all gathered, very early on the Saturday morning, the weather was OK with a clear sky. We held our breaths and didn’t mention the R**N word, so as not to bring a curse upon ourselves. However, as we started to pack the mini-buses, the rain came. It didn’t spot, or pitter-patter at first…… it just arrived in force, and that was pretty much that, until Sunday morning.

It either rained in heavy downpours, or continuous fine-mist, or somewher in between the two, (which was also very cold), so it was impossible to get dry, be dry or stay dry, all day.

I was lucky. I only had to walk to three checkpoints, and so I was only in and out of the periodically, rain for a couple of hours. However, my good deed for the day came when I offered up my waterproof trousers to a young girl who’d forgotten to pack any waterproofs for herself. I trudged along behind the group with my trousers getting wetter and wetter. By the time I was able to get some respite back inside the mini-bus, my trousers were stuck to me like a second skin and, worst of all…. wet pants are definately no welcome guest, in this situation!

Once inside the welcome cocoon of the mini-bus, I began the planned ride around the Gower, going to each of my allocated checkpoints. It’s a case of ensuring that each of the small groups walks through, and is aware of where they are and where they have to head for next.

As I sat, quietly waiting for each group to pass, looking at the dark, rain-heavy clouds just dumping gallons of water over all out in the open, I realised that this is part of the reason why I love working within the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

All the young people passed by me, completely soaked through to the skin. Wet clothes, wet hair, wet feet. They’d eaten a cold, wet lunch while nestled in hedges to keep out of the rain and, all the while, made sure they’d used their route card and map to ensure that they stayed on the right track. Each one of them stopped and talked to me and all the other staff. They adjusted rucksacks for each other, and asked “How long left”, but they never stopped. They could have shouted, “That’s it, I’m done”, and climbed en masse into a nice, dry, warm mini-bus at any of the checkpoints.

But they just kept on walking.

Eventually, they arrived at the campsite and put up their tents in the rain. There was still no moaning. The rain finally eased off, and so we advised the young people to cook their dinner on their little stoves while the weather held off a bit for them. The comforting aromas of pasta with a variety of sauces filled the air, with one small group even taking the adventurous leap to cooking thin slivers of steak, then rammed into baps with salad and relish.

After a tidy-up, all these young people sat around with full tummies and the night to themselves. A slippery game of football took place, and then the staff wandered around the site, checking on the young candidates and making sure that all kit and people were safely inside tents, protected from the stormy night ahead.

These young people had achieved so much in one very wet day, still smiled, put up a shelter for the night, cooked food and also had the energy to play a game of football in the rain…….. I really don’t know where they get the enthusiasm and energy from.

We often hear about anti-social behaviour in young adults. We hear about hostile reactions to difficult circumstances – either by choice, design or, sometimes, simply by no fault of their own.

Without wanting to be too generally judgmental, what I do know is that many young adults in todays’ society would run to the comfort of a car, or a warm bed, and ring the local take-away for their dinner, on a wet week-end like this one.

Some young people, but not all. For me, I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to spend my time with some of those very strong-spirited, focused young people, who completed a difficult camping expedition under extreme weather conditions.

I don’t have a magic solution, I don’t know what the answer is, and I can’t save the world (though I wish I could). The young people that I meet through the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme have taught me that “size really doesn’t matter”, and the louder you shout doesn’t make you any tougher. These young adults find determination to succeed, and strength from within……….

……then they put that spirit into something good.

 

My Sunday Photo

breconpic

What a view for a break time!

OneDad3Girls

A Lovely Sunday Afternoon.

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.

oliviaella

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!

oliviaella2

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.

oliviaella3

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!

This post is linked up with:

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 and also  mummy mishaps

It May Not Seem Like It…. But Life Is Good

To start at the beginning, I’ve been little quiet recently. There are a lot of personal issues that I’m currently dealing with, which will become more apparent in future posts! Watch this space !!! Blogging is hard, to have to find the space, the free-time and the energy to post…….. but that’s another story.

Ummmm, perhaps you might also have noticed a …. blog facelift! A different look, but the same outdoor passion and adventures!

I’m going through a pretty miserable time, at the moment, and to say my mood is quite low is a bit of an understatement. I’m feeling very down in the dumps and finding it hard to be up-beat and positive. But, what happened today made me understand how spending time in the outdoors can change all of that.

The weather, at the moment, is horrendous. It’s very difficult (in my work) to deliver our usual trips. The rivers are flooded, it’s very cold, biking is too wet, and so we are finding that the only activities that we can deliver are walks. Luckily, as we are based in Wales, we have the most amazing places to visit. Today, we chose the Gower. This is one of my most favourite places to visit, as I have such wonderful memories both as a child, and with my work, but also as a parent. We’ve walked, camped, gone coasteering, and food foraging, we’ve surfed…. the list is endless.

Back to today. We jumped out of our mini bus with full winter kit on, ready for the wind and the rain. We headed along the Welsh coastal path towards Three Cliffs Bay. Being sheltered in a forest, we were very lucky to stay largely dry and, as we stepped onto open ground, I was surprised when the rain stopped and we were met with blue skies!

It was had to be a sign that it was going to be a good day.

As I came out of the forest, I saw the cliffs in front of me and I let out a huge sigh. I instantly felt relaxed, as it was so nice. Two of my young people and I just stopped, stood, and enjoyed the moment.

My beautiful view

gowerwalk

It really was an instant hit of relaxation. After spending some time enjoying the view, we headed over to the ruins of Pennard Castle. The castle ruins are perched on the edge of the valley and show a stunning view, looking towards Three Cliffs Bay.

We spent some time exploring the ruins, talking about the history of the castle and what it might have been like to live there. It was great to hear our group of inner city young people getting into the stories, and appreciating their new surroundings.

gowerpic2

After exploring the castle ruins, we headed towards the stunning view of the cliffs. The wind started to get stronger, but it was amazing to be outside, and not stuck in a small office feeling very sorry for myself. The scenery was stunning, and our group just loved being outside.

gowerpic3

Who wouldn’t be happy seeing these views. It absolutely made my day. After lots of picture-taking, we found a little area that was sheltered from the wind, and had our lunch. We washed it down with some hot chocolate from our flasks. A hearty lunch with a beautiful view.

After lunch, we strolled back along the path, swapping stories and talking through our problems, wishing that the day wouldn’t end.

I started the day felling the lowest of the low, not wanting to interact or talk with anyone. But, after a bit of effort, it turned into the most amazing day. Getting outdoors, and being blown around by the wind, I felt so different.

OK, my problems were still waiting for me when I got home but, for a day, I forgot them.

The interaction with the young people in the group, speaking of future plans, what our dream jobs would be, but, most of all, our dream, hopes and desires, kept me grounded, in touch with the real, immediate issues of life, but also in tune with the incredible, vibrant stimulus around me.

Some days, it’s great to be outdoors!!

gowerphoto5

 

 

The Deliberate Mom

Country Kids: An Evening Adventure.

This time of the year can make getting outdoors a bit difficult. It’s cold, it feels like it’s continually and constantly raining, and the evenings get dark so quickly that it’s no wonder that most people simply want to stay at home and hibernate.

However, hibernation is not an option, especially when I believe in promoting the enjoyment of the outdoors in all weathers.

I decided to try a new experience with my daughter this week. After school we headed down to a local nature reserve, called Cosmeston Lakes, in Penarth. Cosmeston Lakes was opened in 1978, and was designated as a local Nature Reserve in 2013. Visitors can explore over 100 hectares of lakes, reed beds, woodlands and meadows. It really is a fantastic place for a family exploring adventure.

We parked the car as it was just getting dark. I know the environment there very well, so I wasn’t worried about walking and exploring in the dark, and I always carry hand torches and head-torches in our kit. Cosmestion is well-known for the swans that live on the lake, and I can remember my mum and dad taking me there, as a child, on Sunday afternoons to feed the swans. It’s a great place to introduce young children to wildlife and the wild environment.

coslakepic

We trampled through the smaller parts of the forest that surround the lakes, looking for animal homes and tracks, but mainly just getting our wellies covered in mud by jumping in the puddles.

We then headed over to the bird watching hut. It’s located away from the normal public path, so that it the noise doesn’t disturb the experience of looking and listening for a huge variety of wildlife that you’re able to encounter.

Then, after a quick bite to eat we sat cuddled together on the benches and just listened. We could hear the geese flying around and making their calling noises, we heard splashes in the water from other nocturnal birds and animals swimming around. There were little tweets from the dozens of birds that live in the area, rustlings in the surrounding trees, and the best sounds were from distant owls, hooting messages to each other.

It was so relaxing just to sit and take time out to listen. Every time my daughter heard a new sound, her face would light up with excitement and she would point and twist her body around to try to get a better position to hear the noises. It was a great experience.

As it started to get colder, we headed back through the forest, squelching in the mud and making ghost noises to try to scare the whits out of each other.

PicMonkey Collage

It really was a fantastic experience for my daughter. It would have been so easy to say we couldn’t go out because of the weather and the darkness, but we made the effort and we had a fantastic time.

It really doesn’t matter when you try to venture outdoors, as long as you do it within safe guidelines and within your own capabilities and experience. I really would recommend trying to get outdoors at twighlight. It doesn’t even have to be at a nature reserve, because simply going out in your garden and exploring with torches would be just as exciting……. especially for little ones.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

My Sunday Photo

Lomogram_2014-01-12_09-55-42-AM

OneDad3Girls

On Your Bike!

With that post-Christmas, heavy-body feeling, we decided to make the most of one of the few dry days and go for a bike ride along the paths of the Afan forest. Tentatively testing out my Dad’s new bike rack; (we managed to get him a useful, proper present this year), we loaded up our 3 bikes and set off for a fun-filled day of mountain biking.

 Afan Forest Park has a number of different bike trails, ranging from a good family ‘Rookie’ route, up to more difficult levels such as W2 and The Wall.

I made the mistake of trying The Wall once, with my team in work. I couldn’t walk for 2 days afterwards.

However, have used the ‘Rookie’ route for groups in work and felt that it would be an excellent track for my daughter to start her first proper mountain bike adventure. We have been on many flat tracks throughout Cardiff, but I wanted her to improve and build her skills, her confidence and her ability to negotiate a variety of paths.

The green Rookie route is mainly tarmac’d, fairly flat and with only short up-hill gradients, which gives good endurance practice. A positive aspect for children is it’s wide trails with no scary drops alongside. This allows children to progress slightly ahead, without your heart jumping a little. The route also includes a “skills area” which can be avoided if needed.
It allows young riders to develop technical skills by curving around bends and dropping down small steps and stones. My daughter loved this challenge and her confidence developed within minutes as she whizzed around the corners, rode up and down the man-made hills and practiced applying her brakes to safely decrease her speed.
‘Safety sign for technical skills park’
mountainbkieblog2
What’s lovely about the rookie route is that there are picnic tables and rest stops along the way, which mean that (with a well packed rucksack) you can enjoy the day out, take your time and stop when you get hungry and, yes, we had turkey sandwiches for lunch!!
mountainbikeblog3
We also visited the cafe located in the visitors centre, where we enjoyed a steaming cup of tea and a delicious slice of homemade cake. We noticed some of the lunch orders coming out of the kitchen, and I think I saw the biggest plate of jacket potato with cheese and beans EVER!! The cafe was busy when we were there and so people were told that there would be a slight wait for food but, since the food was being freshly-prepared, it seemed excellent value for money and people didn’t mind taking a few moments to sit down and de-brief their experiences on the various routes.
Feeling re-energised after a brief rest stop, we headed back out and did half of the rookie route again, practicing different skills and trying harder parts. It’s another reason why this is a good family bike route, because you can just do a short journey, or increase your distance, depending upon abilities and ages.
Also, while out ‘en route’ we saw a lot of families walking, so this a great location for enjoying both activities.
We had a really lovely day. It was great to see my daughter’s confidence grow throughout the day and she really got into the mountain bike  adventure, demanding to go back the following weekend!!
Also, it was good to be able to take my Dad out and show him the some of the environment that I work in. Three generations of family spending quality (and a very muddy) time together in the outdoors.
mountainbikeblog
I would highly recommend visiting the site on-line before going, just to check the park and cafe opening times. It also gives up-to-date changes of the bike routes due to weather conditions or maintenance work.
For trail information, you can telephone
Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre on: 01639 850564
Afan Forest Park Website: http://www.afanforestpark.co.uk/
The Afan visitor centre opening hours are:
April to September: Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5.00pm(6.00pm on weekends and Bank Holidays)
October to March: Monday to Friday 9.30am – 4.00pm(5.00pm on weekends and Bank Holidays)

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

The path up to Pen Y Fan

One of the most common and feared phrases I hear throughout December is…..

“……You’ve still gotta go out in this weather!!”

My philosophy is, as an outdoor worker, you have to adapt and just get used to working in the outdoors in the worst types of weather.

When it’s summer-time and I’m at the beach, applying the sun tan lotion and jumping into the cool blue seas……. well, let’s face, it my job is pretty amazing.

But, within the change of a season, I have had to go canoeing and kick lumps of ice off the front of my boat or, (and this is a favourite), after a particularly cold gorge walk, I’ve had to pour hot squash from my flask gently over my feet to get the feeling back into them.

After six years in this job, I’m used to the highs and the lows, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Most days, I love my job and feel very blessed to be in this amazing role.

The motivation for this post is that, during this month, we took a group of young people for a walk up to Pen-y-Fan in Brecon. A photograph that was taken en route proves that I still have to go outdoors in all weathers.

Pen-y-Fan is the highest peak in South Wales, and is 886 metres above sea level. What I find great about this walk, is that it’s accessible for so many different people. On so many different routes to the top, you get to meet people of different ages and abilities. This is a lovely way of meeting and chatting to other outdoor people.

It’s also wonderful, as getting to the top is so achievable for our young people. We take it slowly, with plenty of rest stops, but we also get such an amazing response when we get to the top. Lots of tired but smiling faces. It’s such a great confidence-building activity.

So, if I could, I’d like to paint a picture of how my day started. On went my walking boots, which, after many outings, fitted my feet like a glove. Also went on the thermal under-garments, jumper, coat, hat and gloves…. that was the ferocious weather that I was going into.

InstagramCapture_66706a02-575f-4655-a1b4-fb2e553857a6_jpg

With hot flasks of sweet tea and my favourite banana loaf, we made our way onto the route that starts off at the Pont ar Daf car park. By walking through the woods, you pass through the kissing gate and walk over the wooden footbridge over a small river.

You’re on your way to the top if you stick on this path. It’s a good solid path that can be taken at steady pace. It does take a bit of effort, but I think that’s probably the reason why most people are there.

This path will take you first to Corn Du.  Don’t be mistaken, as this isn’t Pen-y-Fan proper, and you’re not at the top yet.

The weather en route often gets colder, windier and much foggier. On this occasion, the weather changed in a heartbeat. By the time we got to Corn Du, we made the sensible and proper decision not to continue, because the weather was getting so bad.

The fact that we had to shout to each other to be heard kind-of influenced our thought process!! Before we started our descent, however, both I and my partner in “work-crime” wanted to take a photo just to say what we had endured. I think this image speaks for itself in describing the coldness and general winter-weather conditions that we found ourselves in.

penyfanpost

I forget how many layers I have on in this picture, and I think my eyes are slightly closed because of the wind slapping me in the face. It really was a cold one, that day.

So, yes, lot’s of people say “I would love to have your job”………. But mostly only in the summer time!!! I still have to go out in rather nasty weather, but I do enjoy it.

That first cup of sweet tea after being out in a storm, really tastes so good. Getting home and putting on fluffy socks and curling up on sofa feels heavenly.

I guess you have to reap the benefits and rewards wherever you can. For me, the sense of achievement in overcoming adverse odds, and also seeing the triumph in other peoples eyes in these circumstances, is a real motivator.

When all the cold-slog is done and dusted, I always think how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. I guess that my message is that you can, too.

I’m not super-fit. I just set myself little challenges and goals, and I do a “Yay” if I crack them. Little steps, and gentle stages, that’s the way to go.

My job often seems like I’m living the dream but, trust me, if I can hack it, you can, too !!

Wild Family Fun, 2017. All Rights Reserved