Thursday 31 May 2018

A Wild Weekend

This last long weekend has been just wonderful, and the continuing good weather (we've barely had any rain here) has been the backdrop for a getting back to nature,  barefoot paddling, rope swinging time. I feel like I'm on a post holiday come down, and any doubts I previously had about not having booked a trip away this year have been firmly put to rest. We have so much to enjoy right here, and as  much as I love the outdoors, I'm not the type to be out in all weathers, so it's even better to be able to seize the opportunity to get out while the sun is shining.
On Saturday we needed to run an errand, but rather than letting it interrupt our day, we made it part of it. So, as is usual here, a picnic lunch was packed and off we went, and as soon as we had collected our parcel, we went down to the nearby nature reserve. The fine golden sand felt so soft and warm beneath our feet we had a lovely time collecting shells and much to our surprise we discovered some Oystercatcher eggs. To say it was breezy would be a bit of an understatement, it was so blustery we couldn't even manage to fly our kite, but the air was warm and we enjoyed our lunch sheltered among the dunes, on which we all had a great time climbing up and down  and trying to avoid the prickly grasses.

The following day we took ourselves off to the woods and completed one of the  National Trust Wild Trails. We had such  a lot of fun. Of course, it is designed for children but I'm proud to say I managed it all! 😃 We followed the written clues around the woods, crawling through a wall, climbing over rocks, balancing on trees and finishing at a rope swing which was Lily's favourite part. A great little adventure.

For a while now I have been hoping to get Lily camping, and last week, with the promise of some good weather,  I decided at the weekend would be  a great time to do it, completely forgetting, of course, that it was a Bank Holiday and there was no availability. I didn't want to chance one of the sites where you just turn up, so it would have to be Monday night. No problem, that would be fine, and the site sounded perfect for us. Lily began counting  down the days.
On Monday morning, as soon as we were packed ( how much stuff for just one night?!!) we set off and made our way to Ullswater. Our first stop was Aira Force, a beautiful waterfalls walk through ancient woodland. The climb was quite steep and it was such a hot day we were grateful for  the shade of the trees. Having walked up to High Cascades, we made time for a paddle in the stream on the way back down, before stopping for a picnic lunch. We then followed the pathway down to lake shore for a rest and another paddle before making our way to the campsite.
It has been a good few years since I've been camping so I was a little anxious, but I couldn't have chosen a nicer site for Lily's first time. It was a small, friendly site and we were given a lovely pitch with it's own water supply, overlooking the play area and just a few metres away from the shower block. The tent was soon pitched and as Lily went off to play with new found friends, I was able to relax in the sunshine, read a book and even do a little crochet, although it felt a little strange to be working on a woolly blanket in that heat, so I didn't spend too much time on it.
As afternoon turned to evening, the faint aroma of barbecues started to waft around the site and we cooked the sausages on our little camping stove, then as the sun began to set, we drank our hot chocolates, before snuggling down for the night in our sleeping bags.
The following morning, after breakfast, we walked up the lane from the site to Little Mell Fell. We had planned to climb it the previous day but as it was so hot I didn't think it was a good idea. Still warm, but a little overcast, the morning made for a much more comfortable walk and it was a lovely way to end our long weekend. We returned to the site, packed up the tent and made our way back home.
We've had the best few days, and did Lily enjoy camping? Apparently, it was 'awesome!' and she's looking forward to the next time.
J. X

Friday 25 May 2018

Beautiful May

The month of May usually brings with it a good few days of decent weather, but this year has proved to be exceptional, with some particularly sunny, dry and warm days. In fact, to use Lily's current favourite phrase it's been 'pretty awesome!' 

It has meant we've been living life outdoors and  enjoyed some lovely walks, with our evenings mostly spent sat out in the garden. For now, at least, the paddling pool appears to be a permanent fixture on the lawn and sun cream has become a part of our daily routine.
The delightful melody of the dawn chorus through the open window makes for a far more gentle start to the day than my alarm clock even if a 4am start is a little too early for me. It can be a chance to get a few chores out of the way before the day properly begins. There is a wonderful, heady, sweet scent in the air you can almost taste, an abundance of butterflies and bees going about their business and the pathways are slowly disappearing underneath the blossoming wild flowers. It's been glorious and I've been soaking it all up. Life feels so much better with a bit of sunshine.

Last week, Lily's class took part in a forest school in some nearby woodland. A letter arrived home explaining this new 'Scandinavian concept of learning' and I had to laugh. We had trips out to the same woods when I was at the school. There was nothing Scandinavian about it then, we were just having a lesson outdoors. The children all had a great time, however, and following a (very) short learning session and picnic lunch they were allowed to do their own thing, as long as they remained within the marked boundaries. Dens were made, trees swung from and children got dirty. It was great to see them enjoy a bit more freedom than is allowed in the school playground and the delight on their faces when they discovered some blackbird eggs in a nest. These particular woods are full of bluebells and although they are beginning to go over now, the colour was still stunning.

School sports day was held this week. I didn't really know what to expect as a lot of schools don't really embrace competition these days, but it was a really lovely event. A mixture of team games and competitive races with the children cheered on by family members. Picnic lunches were enjoyed on the school field and, of course, the weather couldn't have been more perfect. And my girl? She came first in the sprint and the sack race. Hurray! Not that she cared. She was more excited that she was given a sticker. Oh, to be five years old.
Yes, five! Lily celebrated her birthday this month. I have no idea where those five years have gone, but my baby girl is growing up. Following the excitement of the balloon discovery, the following day we went to Inflatanation in Manchester and the evening of the day itself was spent playing in the garden with her friend. She was thrilled with her new bike and has been out on it every day. Of course, Lily requested her favourite chocolate brownie cake with a Smartie topping, just like in previous years.

Yesterday was horrible for me. Mog went missing!
With  the brighter weather she spends more time outside and on Wednesday evening she went out as usual and I expected to hear her return through the cat flap during the night but she didn't. She didn't return the following morning either, nor when I returned from work later that day. I checked her usual sleeping places, her food was still untouched and I began to worry. I know cats can disappear for long periods but Mog is usually to be seen somewhere around and I know she doesn't wander much further than the field behind the house - mice!  After school, I took Lily swimming and hoped I had been worrying for nothing, that she would be home when we returned, but sadly still there was no sign of her. The house felt empty and I became despondent. I went to bed really early but couldn't fall asleep, feeling guilty at how I get angry at her when she wakes me during the night by nudging me and purring in my ear, desperately wishing she would be there to irritate me now.
Suddenly at 10.59 (I checked!) the sound I'd  been longing  for. The click of the cat flap! The relief, thank goodness. I dashed downstairs to make sure she was OK. Had something horrible happened to her? Was she hurt? No! She took one glance at me as if to say 'what's your problem?' then turned to eat her food. 
J. X

Thursday 17 May 2018

Into the Woods

I feel as though I've hardly stopped lately. Not that my life is  fabulously busy doing wonderfully exciting things, far from it. It's just regular family life, those day to day mundane chores and the general business of trying to keep on top of them all. It is so good (and necessary), therefore, to take the opportunity for some time out now and again, and what better way to feel more grounded  and to engage with nature than to take a walk in the woods, especially at this time of the year.

Last weekend was wonderful, and relaxing though it was,  it still required a certain amount of organisation and planning. With already having made plans for the following day, last Saturday we decided to stay close to home and enjoy one of our favourite walks through the woods.
We followed the track alongside a shallow stream on the edge of some farm land, before trecking across the fields to reach the sheltering canopy of the trees.

The trees are really coming back to life now, with the fresh new leaves  such a stunning and vibrant shade of green. The  still, warm air with it's damp, earthy woodland fragrance  occasionally gave way to the pungent aroma of wild garlic and then, as we turned a corner the woodland floor suddenly became the most gorgeous shade of blue. There were swathes of Bluebells as far as the eye could see, woven amongst the trees, although sadly, no matter how hard I tried to take a decent photograph, I  couldn't quite manage to capture the intensity of their colour.

After a game of Pooh Sticks we  enjoyed our usual snack break, the sunlight still managing to make it's way through the light covering of the tree tops. Our walk nearly complete it was lovely just to stop for a while and take it all in.
I expect you're wondering about the balloon. When we started out on our walk, we discovered it gently tangled in the hedge alongside the stream. With Lily's birthday being this week, it was as if it had been left there just for her. So as well as not wanting it to cause harm to any wildlife, we brought it home with us.
J. X

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Happy Weekend

I don't know if it was the same for everyone, but the weather here last weekend was simply glorious. It was such an unexpected surprise, as predictably for a Bank Holiday weekend, the original forecast for us wasn't great. And doesn't some sunshine make all the difference? We spent most of every day outside having fun, and it was for the very first time that I could see Lily's disappointment at the thought of having to return to school on Tuesday morning. We had such a relaxing time we could be forgiven for thinking we were on holiday.

On Saturday Lily was at a party for a couple of hours , so while she was being entertained it was fish and chips by the beach for me. They are not something I eat very often but accompanied by some fresh sea air and eaten with one of those little wooden forks they are so delicious.
The rest of the day was spent in the garden.  The vegetables don't appear to be making much progress but the same cannot be said of our little trees! The Oak tree and Horse Chestnut are coming on a treat with the warmer weather. These were grown from an acorn and a conker we picked up on our walks so I do hope they continue to grow and thrive.

Dinner that evening was leftover Thai fish curry from the previous night. This meant, very little work for me, and therefore, a tidy kitchen. Being such a small space it looks so much lighter and brighter in there with the evening sunshine.

On Sunday we decided to go for a short walk in the Lakes. We were fortunate in that we were awake nice and early, so set off in good time and managed to avoid any busy traffic. The pathway up the hillside is a short, steep climb but once through the cool shade of the trees the views are worth it and it has the advantage of the small tarn which is ideal for cooling off with a paddle. It would also be the perfect spot for a picnic, but instead we chose to eat on our way down at our favourite high bench, so it involved a bit of leg swinging.

As far as Lily is concerned, hot, sunny weather means a day at the beach, so on Monday morning after hunting out the bucket and spade from the back of the shed, that's exactly where we went and spent several hours relaxing, collecting shells and making sand castles. It felt so good to feel the sand between my toes, although after we had both laid down on the beach to make sand angels it was in lots of other places too!
Once home again, with the paddling pool up in the garden for Lily, I set about making some Focaccia using Mitzi's recipe here. It was so simple, didn't take long, and served with some some cheese, olives and a glass of white wine, eating out in the garden was the perfect, indulgent way to end such a lovely weekend.
J. X