50 Things To Do Before You're 11&¾ At Yeo Valley

Earlier this week, The Boy and I were invited to the wonderful Yeo Valley in the Mendips to work with the National Trust on their 50 Things To Do Before You're 11&¾ campaign. This was perfect for us as I've spent much of this year promoting the campaign through this blog and my outdoor play posts, and I also thoroughly enjoy visiting Holt Farm as it is a beautiful site.

Yeo Valley have partnered with the National Trust to help promote the outdoor play campaign, and during the course of the day we were given the opportunity to complete several of the 50 Things which The Boy thoroughly enjoyed. Many of these The Boy had already completed, however the one we haven't managed to tick off yet is 'hold a scary beast'; we did complete it when I placed a worm on his hand. It may not seem very scary to you or I, but to a four year old who doesn't like slime, it was a terrifying creature!

50 Things at Yeo Valley

We had a great day in a wonderful setting with good friends. And what better proof is there of the fresh air being good for you than The Boy falling asleep on the way home?

From October to January this year, Yeo Valley fans can win one of ten fantastic holidays each worth £1,000 on special packs of its natural and fruity yogurts. Simply pick up a big pot or one of its 4-pack varieties from any major supermarket, visit the Yeo Valley website and enter the code on the pack for the chance to win one of ten unique breaks to a magical National Trust cottage, for a tranquil ‘staycation’ in spectacular locations across the country. In addition to this fabulous offer, Yeo Valley is giving away 250 family passes every day, giving families the chance to experience the National Trust’s enchanting places absolutely free of charge.

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A Welly Walk Through Leigh Woods

It was a brilliantly sunny day last week when Lucy and I decided to meet up in Leigh Woods on the weekend for the boys to play together, and for us to play with our cameras. And then we developed this idea further and hatched a plan.

Sunday morning dawned grey and dreary, and Mr. TBaM looked at me quizzically. I responded by handing him our wellies and macs, and pointing at the car. Unfortunately when we hit Bristol, the torrent against the windscreen meant that I had to avoid eye contact with him for a little while.

But Lucy and I had a plan, which needed adhering to.

We had fun racing around Leigh Woods, finding sticks and playing hide and seek.

Playing in Leigh Woods

And then it was time for the plan to come into fruition.

Coming together in memorial, we threw pink and purple flowers to baby Tilda, and then squealed with laughter when they fell on our heads!


We broke out the pink bubbles and sent them up to her in the sky.

Bubbles for Matilda Mae

And then due to the monsoon, we had a thoroughly British picnic in the car.

A very British picnic

But most of all, we remembered a wonderful little baby girl who is no longer with us.

Remembering Matilda Mae

On Saturday 2nd November 2013, you too can join in on a Welly Walk in memory of Matilda Mae; the beautiful daughter of Jennie and David who died suddenly, and without warning, in her sleep. She was nine months old. The 2nd will be nine months since that dreadful night, and the Welly Walk at Beale Park Wildlife Park and Gardens in Reading will be a magical memorial to remember a little girl who meant so much, to so many.

Tickets cost £9.99 for 11years+ with children younger admitted free. There will be an abundance of activities available throughout the day, with the proceeds from the entire event being donated to The Lullaby Trust in memory of Tilda. It will be a wonderful day with a huge amount of activities in both the Beale Centre and the main park itself. We're very much looking forward to the steam train ride, and the sparkler farewell around the lake.

Linking to Country Kids and Flashback Friday

Why Our Children Need Outdoor Play

I'm not going to bombard you with words or images in this post, just please spare the two minutes that you might normally sifting through all of that to watch this video.

PROJECT WILD THING – official trailer from Green Lions on Vimeo. David will be touring nationwide with the film, dates available here.

This is the man that made me realise why I have to ensure that we get plenty of outdoor play time in a week; because I can't have The Boy be one of those statistics.

Linking with Country Kids

Oxwich Bay Explorations: #37 Check Out The Crazy Creatures In A Rockpool

One of the things that I'd set on our Summer Bucket List was to visit Rhossili beach on the Gower Peninsula with The Boy. It's something that I'd wanted to do for a while with him, having visited it with extended family around seven years ago, but despite it being one of the top three beaches in Europe, I was put off by the steps down the cliff-face. They're perfectly safe, but it's a long way down and therefore a long way back up again for a toilet break!

However, when my sister-in-law suggested at the beginning of the Summer holidays that we go to Oxwich Bay for the day that seemed like the perfect compromise; it's not as far as Rhossili and there isn't a long walk down to the beach from the car park. In fact, the car park stops at the edge of the beach and there are fairly alright shower and toilet facilities within a hundred yard walk of the beach's edge.

I've never been to Oxwich Bay before and I think it has quickly become one of my favourite beaches, because it has everything there; sand, rockpools, wildlife, facilities, decent parking, and more importantly it is sufficiently off the beaten track to not be over-run by tourists.

My sister-in-law had recently undergone some 'Beach Schools' training and guided The Boy and Fiery Cousin around the rockpools, demonstrating how to find crabs and what the difference between a limpet and a barnacle is (guides can be found here). We also learnt the phrase 'Green Is Mean' courtesy of my brother, i.e. algae is slippery, as The Boy found out when he landed on his bottom in a rockpool!

Oxwich Bay

We shared a picnic lunch sprawled out over the sands with the children playing around us. Normally I'm quite cautious at keeping The Boy within a twenty yard distance of us, at Oxwich Bay it is so vast that the next family could well be over 150 yards away and therefore it allows the children a little more freedom to 'free-range' play.

After we'd finished snacking, I showed the children how to create a shell-shaker which they then pranced around with, making music.

Beach Shell Shaker

As the tide was reaching it's lowest point, my brother was desperate to go cockle-hunting (he's a chef) and so we all waded down to the shoreline to search for the much sought after cockle. We found plenty, but we also found jellyfish, crabs, sea anemones and sea urchins!

Oxwich Bay

As The Boy was beginning to get cold and exhausted, the mums and children trekked back up the beach to our beach tent while the dad continued their search for cockles. My sister-in-law and I glanced down to the shoreline and beyond to the rapidly darkening sky.

Oxwich Bay

This resulted in us quickly gathering our belongings into the tent along with the children. We had three seconds to spare before the quickest rainstorm I have ever come across deluged us! We thanked our lucky stars for the tent until we realised it was vented at the bottom where the children were and they were getting soaked. My sister-in-law raced them up the beach to the shelter, then came back for me and the tent. By which time the dads had returned, drenched to the skin. They were literally dripping! We carried everything back up to the shivering children in the car park and proceeded to assess the damage and dry various bits and bobs off, while standing and laughing hysterically at how wet we all were!

I was astounded at the lack of people who were at the beach that day, even before the rain came. It must surely be one of the best beaches on the south Wales coast with such wonderful ecosystems to explore!

Linking this up to Flashback Friday and Country Kids

Much of the Gower Peninsula falls under the protection of the National Trust, it currently cares for 157 miles of Welsh coastline. The National Trust are running a competition until the end of October 2013 to find the best loved beach location in their care. 

"Tell us why you love your favourite National Trust place and you could win a day’s kayaking and/or coasteering for you and 4 of your friends with our qualified instructors at the amazing Stackpole Quay, Pembrokeshire."

Entry is simple via the I ♥ Welsh Coast app on their Facebook page and takes only a few moments. The most original and inspiring comment will be chosen on the 31st of October and the lucky winner has a year to claim their prize.

Escaping To The Trees

I've now got us into the habit that we have to get out and about into 'nature' several times a week, or I begin to feel contained and imprisoned. It's so easy to settle into domesticity and confine yourself to the house, but I always feel better for getting out and exploring the wonderful world we live in.

Several weekends ago we spent the Saturday doing the 'chilling out' in the house thing, and then had to go to a new classmate's birthday party. By the time we came out of the party, I felt like climbing the nearest tree myself; I felt really trapped by all the bricks and windows etc! We headed over to Victoria Park in Cardiff to find conkers and wander amongst the trees, where we discovered the most plentiful conker tree I've ever seen at the top of which sat a squirrel systematically stripping the conkers from their shells, nibbling the casings off, and then throwing the discarded conkers down. Luckily The Boy still had his helmet on as quite a few were bouncing off our heads!

Escape to the trees

En route home, I texted my brother (not the one who's buggered off to Australia, the eldest one) and arranged to go to Cefn Onn the following day. My sister-in-law works in the great outdoors professionally, and their daughter (Fiery Cousin) is a 'wild child' just like The Boy so it's good to get together and let the children be 'feral', just as they should be, while we catch up.

As soon as we arrived at Cefn Onn (one of Cardiff's best kept secrets), The Boy and Fiery Cousin were off! Trees were no obstacle to them, and scooters were soon abandoned in favour of walking up the hillside through the stream. And yes, they both had canvas shoes on. And yes, we let them.

Country Kids in Cefn Onn

We'd been to Cefn Onn in the Spring when the rhododendrons were in full bloom, and I was desperate to come back and see the colours on the leaves. We were a little early this time, but we did explore up further than the lake this time, where we came across the part-built Summerhouse for the original owner's son. The whole park was originally created as a recuperation location for his son who was suffering from tuberculosis, unfortunately he died before the Summerhouse could be finished, it stands forlorn at the top of the park.

It's a wonderous area to explore, play hide and seek, and stop for a snack! I love how my niece is working the camera, The Boy is sporting his fake smile.

Barny biscuits

I'm linking this up to Country Kids and Flashback Friday.

This post is also an entry for BritMums ‘Little Adventures Challenge’ in partnership with Barny, the bear-shaped snack providing a little discovery in every bite. Find out more about Barny here.

The Pumpkin Patch

We intended to spend a quiet day in the house, pottering around and baking, but the weather had different ideas. Unlike yesterday which was grey and dreary, the sky was azure and the temperature balmy for late September, and I really didn't want to waste the day inside. I'd also seen one or two photos recently of pumpkins being harvested, and so we headed down to Hendrewennol, our local pick-your-own farm.

Fortune was on our side, as today was the last day for pumpkin picking; the inclement weather meant that the chap in charge was harvesting them all today to prevent them going manky. We were handed a pair of secateurs (with instructions not to hurt ourselves!) and trotted off through the field exploring with our trusty trug.

Hendrewennol PYO

It was great fun examining all the different sized pumpkins, and finding the right coloured ones too. Orange are perfect for eating now, but green with a slight hint of orange will keep for several weeks until the end of October, especially if kept in a dark space and brought out a fortnight before Hallowe'en. We also picked a load of lovely 'munchkin' pumpkins, which I have great plans for!

Hendrewennol PYO

After we'd unloaded the trug into the car, we went off in search of acorns en route to the maize maze, which was empty of people but full to bursting of sweetcorn cobs. The Boy was fascinated by them and I did take the liberty of stripping a few down (on the plant) to show him that under the silks and leaves were wonderfully, juicy golden cobs.

Hendrewennol PYO

This was the second time we'd been to Hendrewennol this season, the first was in July to pick strawberries. Within a few weeks they will be closed until May as there will be no crops to harvest; that really brought home to me how seasonal fruit and vegetables should be. We spent a wonderful Autumn afternoon here, learning about the food we eat, finding 'loose parts', navigating the maize maze, and then exploring the fabulous sandpit in the play area.

Hendrewennol play area

I also really enjoyed getting to grips with manual on my camera a little bit more, it's starting to make a little more sense to me, and where better to work out the best settings than in this beautiful location?

Hendrewennol PYO

Linking this up to Country Kids and The Outdoor Play Party for outdoor fun, and The Sunday Prop Shop to show off my wonderful trug and how gorgeous it looks with miniature pumpkins in it being carried by The Boy.

country kids Outdoor play party SUNDAY-PROP-SHOP

Why We're Happy It's Autumn

As the wonderfully warm Summer draws to a close in the most spectacularly dreary fashion, I have found myself contemplating which is my favourite season. Surely the blue skies and kaleidoscope of Summer is more of an attraction than the drabness of the colder months?

But with September comes the wonder of the natural world:

Finding the first conker of the year.

Prising it open it to discover that the much longed for and anticipated conker is still white, with just a smidgen of chestnut brown.

But then spotting another one floating in the dammed stream in the gutter.

And there it is, the first shiny conker. The one that no-one in the world has ever seen before.

Why we love Autumn

And then, there's the water.

All the water.

Why we love Autumn

So you can let it beat you, stay in and moan about the incessant rain running in rivulets down the windowpanes. Or you can put on wellies and a mac and go and enjoy all the water.

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Learning for  Life

50 Things Challenge: #18 – Create Wild Art

Playing outdoors over the Spring and Summer months is easy and enjoyable for all; it's normally dry, warm at least, and the world is full of greenery to fill the heart and soul. I know that during the Summer holidays we've spent more waking time outdoors than we have in, and have almost forgotten what the television is.

I started in February or March of this year vowing to play outside with The Boy for at least fifteen minutes every day, and we've managed it every day since. So much so that it's now part of our routine and we both feel like we're going stir-crazy if we stay in for too long.

However, with school starting and Autumn (and the other season which shall remain unnamed at present) approaching, play tendencies change; the temperature drops slightly, another layer of clothing is needed, wellies not sandals are the footwear of choice, and sometimes time just doesn't allow for a huge amount of outdoor play. Regardless of all of these factors, our need to reconnect with nature doesn't diminish and it's a well-documented fact that time spent in the great outdoors can have massive benefits for all involved; specifically our children.

So MumOnTheBrink and I had an idea in the Natural Childhood Facebook group to set a challenge to help people continue the National Trust's 50 Things To Do Before You're 11&¾ project during the forthcoming, less-inspiring months.

Each month we will identify one of the 50 Things as a project, and open up a blog-hop for the month to encourage other bloggers to get outdoors and complete their lists.

50 Things Challenge - Create Wild Art

September is #18: Create Wild Art

You could decorate picture frame, make a forest face from mud or air-dry clay, create a beachcombing treasure tile, or a whip up a woodland weaving. There are oodles of other ideas out there too, check Pinterest for some great ideas.

Please enter your wild art activities completed during the month of September into the blog-hop below, Monika and I would love it if you'd copy the code into your post as well as it will spread the word about the 50 Things challenge.

Now pop outside and have fun!

Don't forget to link these up to Coombe Mill's Country Kids weekly; Fiona is the main reason that I continued last Winter to play outdoors before we started working with the National Trust.

A Day On The Beach

Over the course of the Summer, we've been to many different places in a bid to have a 'great family day out' and they've all been pretty damn near perfect. We've garnered many memories and had a lot of laughs along the way, but the one place which is always guaranteed to make us feel at ease as a family is the beach. And while we've been to quite a few spectacular beaches during the past two months, it's the one that is on our doorstep that always brings out the child in all three of us.

Barry Island.

barry island

For most it's synonymous with Gavin & Stacey, or Butlin's holidays in the 1970s, but the holiday camp days are long gone, and most of the programme wasn't even filmed in the locality. Barry Island is so much more. A blue flag beach with golden sands and clear water, protected from strong winds by the rocky peninsulas at either end of the Whitmore Bay, the sounds of the funfair fade once on the beach and the sandcastle building begins.

A fortnight ago we decided to pack up for the afternoon and head down to sate The Boy's incessant pleas to visit the Island. It was August Bank Holiday Sunday, and it was sunny. I expected to have difficulty finding a car parking spot, let alone a spot on the beach. However, it may as well have been a weekday in December, it was so vacant.

And we did all the things that you should do at the beach; built the most enormous sandcastle fortress, buried each other in the sand, ate chips, splashed in the sea, kicked sandballs, flew a kite, and then washed our bits off in the sea afterwards (that might have just been The Boy though).

A day on the beach

Gavin and who?

barry island 1

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The Woodland Trust & Yeo Valley

Yeo Valley

Ever since the first time I visited the Yeo Valley farm overlooking Blagdon Lake last Summer, I have had a fondness for the dairy company which has seen my shopping tendencies change. Gone are the Onken yoghurts, gone is the cheap milk for £1 and blocks of butter produced by a company which doesn't pay British dairy farmers a fair price. In has come Yeo Valley. It's not only a company which I'm proud to associate my blog with, but a range of products which I'd rather have in my fridge and our tummies. And ultimately, on my conscience.

As an ethical company, Yeo Valley have teamed up with The Woodland Trust to plant 10,000 trees and help preserve Britain’s wonderful woodland. On the underside lid of the special packs of Yeo Valley (marked with the Woodland Trust campaign) is a code which when entered onto the Yeo Valley & Woodland Trust page could result in one of 10,000 trees being won, either to plant in your own garden or donated to The Woodland Trust.

However, their partnership goes much further than that, and that's why a bunch of parent bloggers (including us) were invited to a Woodland Trust day at the Yeo Valley headquarters to meet with the people behind the campaign, and introduce our children to learning about their world via forest exploration and play.

We were welcomed to the Mendips by the larger than life Les, the head ranger at Yeo Valley, who explained to the children all about the different rocks that make up the strata of the hills. Introduced to the forested area by the Woodland Trust, we were invited to complete a leaf trail and a bug hunt which the children were completely engaged in. I was very surprised just how interested The Boy was in the different leaves around, and we quickly identified about ten different trees and bushes in a very small section of wood. Enlisting the help of the kind lady behind the Nature Detectives (the children's Woodland Trust club), he was able to find several different minibeasts as well.

Woodland Trust

After a luscious lunch prepared by the chefs at the Yeo Valley kitchen, we were revived enough to create dens for woodland creatures (or tiny aliens as Les told the children), and then produce a truly wonderful wizard's wand using detritus from the forest floor.

The wonderful sheets we used are available to download for free from the Nature Detectives website here. They are great generic sheets, and I would really recommend downloading them and using them during the forthcoming Autumn months.

The Woodland Trust have a club for young explorers called the Nature Detectives Club, which has a wealth of resources and challenges available for children. Membership is as little as £12 for one child for a year, as little as 25p a week.

Woodland Trust & Yeo Valley

We received a goody bag of Yeo Valley yoghurts to try out, marked with The Woodland trust campaign (and we've entered in our codes and donated trees) and a selection of the wonderful wildlife identification swatch books available to buy from The Woodland Trust directly. The Boy finds these fascinating, in particular the leaf book; it was his bedtime reading for a week after our trip to the farm!

We were invited as guests to the Yeo Valley farm to help promote their campaign with The Woodland Trust, and received the above items free of charge.

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