Those times I wonder “why”?

In this post, I’d like to share a fond memory with you.

The reason for this, is that I’m currently sitting on my sofa cwtched up under a blanket and, as I write this, I’m listening to the wind howling and the rain hitting my window outside. Safe and warm inside my home, I love these sounds. I feel relaxed, calm and it makes me think of one of my best memories of being in the outdoors.

It was our first big camping adventure as a family. We’d decided to be brave and travel to France for a camping holiday. We’d bought a big family tent and lots of extra things like stoves, etc, to make life a little bit more comfortable, and we thought we’d done really well.

The weather started (out sort) of OK. It wasn’t too bad, and we managed to enjoy some sunny days. We walked on the beach, swam in the sea, went hunting for cockles and did the typical holiday activities. Sadly, the weather didn’t stay that nice throughout the whole of our week, but it was the worst night with the most horrible and wet weather that gave me the greatest memory.

When I say “it rained”…… I mean it REALLY rained. It felt like a power hose was being jetted at our flimsy little covering all night long and, when you’re sitting in a tent of thin material, it felt 1000 times worse. What could we do?…. It was only 6.00pm and camping involves dealing with whatever the elements throw at you.

Thinking about it with hindsight, I don’t know why we didn’t just go to a restaurant and hang out but, if we’d done that, then I wouldn’t have this great memory.

The evening started with me having to make my husband some homemade waterproofs 9all our other kit was saturated!!) out of the ever present and handy black bags. With a few well placed holes, he looked amazing. He did, however, look even more amazing running around the tent making sure that pegs were well in, ropes were tied down and then began trying to cook us our dinner.

We managed to construct a little porch for him to cook under, as cooking in the main tent is a total no-no from a safety perspective. He chopped garlic, stirred sauce and kept an eye on the spaghetti while I kept my eyes on the porch roof, carefully poking it so that big puddles of water didn’t form.

My daughter, being quite young at the time, loved all the excitement, and sat snuggled in her sleeping bag laughing at mum and dad running around frantically trying to keep things dry and not letting the rain seep in!!

Throughout the campsite, all of the other families were doing the same thing. Children were sitting in cars, washing lines and clothes were being bagged up in a hurry, and everyone was just going 50 miles-an-hour to ensure that their kit, family and everything else could stay as dry as possible.

As darkness set in, we’d set up all our lights inside our little porch area and it looked pretty warm and welcoming. We had done our best to keep the ‘dining area’ dry, so we were able to set up our camp chairs and a little camp table to allow us to dine in style. Putting on some dry clothes instantly made us feel better and, with a couple of extra warm layers, we were able to sit in what soon became warm and cosy surroundings. Also, a couple of medicinal glasses of the local plonko vinyardo could only add to the “ambience” of the evening.

Our dinner was a steaming bowl of spaghetti Bolognese, which is my daughters’ absolute favourite. On the side, we enjoyed a fresh and beautiful French green bean salad, cheese from the local market and traditional French crusty baguette.

It was amazing, perhaps because we were so hungry, or maybe because the weather was so treacherous, but we tucked in and hardly came up for air. It really was the most delicious spaghetti Bolognese I have ever tasted, and after two helpings each, we mopped up the sauce with the left over bread.

For pudding, we’d bought some mini pastries from the market earlier that morning, and they were polished off just as quick as we’d eaten our main course.

As a family, we sat through the storm, we ate together enjoying our food, and were in awe of my husband cooking such an amazing dinner in those difficult circumstances. We didn’t have a television, computers or phones to distract us, and we sat and talked. We played games, told stories, and my daughters’ favourite turned out to be about the day we got married. “Tell me, tell me”, over and over again. It was such a perfect family experience.

I’m not sure that, (at the time), my husband or I fully understood how important and enjoyable that night was. Looking inwards on this post from the outside, people must think that the circumstances were a flippin’ nightmare, but I always think back to that night and smile. I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat as I write this post.

When people ask me why I’m so passionate about spending time outdoors, this memory helps me to explain a little about it.

Being in the outdoors, whatever activity or experience you engage in, gives you time to stop, relax and enjoy precious time without the material distractions that normally accompany everyday life. We couldn’t control the bad weather, so we had to adapt and overcome, and make the most of it. This led to a pretty amazing evening.

That’s what being in the outdoors does. It makes you stop, it makes you HAVE to give in. You have to lose a bit of mundane control in order to establish positive control in other areas.

You HAVE take time to focus on each other. With so many distractions in our normal day, isn’t this a nice thing to do for yourself and your family?

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05/01/2014

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OneDad3Girls

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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’
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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!!
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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.
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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

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Remembering 2013

Today marks the start of a New Year, a time for people to make plans, fresh resolutions for change and, hopefully, are able to look forward to the coming year with a fresh, positive outlook. It also makes me think about the outgoing year and what, (both as a person and a family), we’ve all been through.

For me, 2013 has been a bit up and down…… mainly up’s, which I’m very grateful for. It’s the year that I’ve seen my blog really take off in a great way. Through some hard work and a lot of help and guidance from my family; (you know who you are), I’ve been able to overcome my fear of computers and technology to be able to incorporate my blog as an addition to my outdoor life. In turn, I’ve been able to pass on my experiences to a wider audience, out there in the “www.e-wilderness”. I’m truly amazed at how welcoming people in the blogging world are, and I really appreciate the comments, feedback and stories that I get to share each week.

However, this was also the year that our family suffered a great loss. My grandmother (Nan) sadly passed away in July. She was a truly amazing woman and I treasure my last week with her. We were able to come together as a very close family. We talked, cried, shared stories of family holidays, and laughed together. We passed around lots of happy memories of a remarkable woman who will not be forgotten.

With my daughter getting older, we really got into our outdoor pursuits during the past year. We camped at St Davids in Pembroke, which is a stunning area of natural beauty. We swam in crisp, clear blue seas, went on long coastal walks and had ice-cream everyday. It was the year that my husband proudly caught a huge spider-crab, which we cooked on a camp-fire for our dinner, and we ate with a simple tossed salad, crusty bread and a homemade seafood-style dressing!!

We went for our first family gorge walk at Dinas Rock. The whole family took part in jumping into very cold pools, scrambling across the rocks and crawling through the waterfalls. It was a great day with lots of smiles and giggles, mainly at the expense of my husband and my dad not realising how cold the water would be, and watching them jump straight in….. and right back out again!

It was the year of the mountain bike, too. My daughter mastered her biking balance, and we were off. We rode in the sunshine and the rain. We rode all along the Taff Trail and had some brilliant adventures on some great Welsh tracks.

Another adventure saw us become a family of food foragers. We’ve spent many Sundays at Oxwich Bay, in the Gower, in all types of weather. We hunted for cockles and mussels, then hurried back home for my husband to prepare a delicious meal, which was very fresh, tasty and, (let’s be honest), FREE!

We’ve gone on lots of long walks, enjoyed cooking on open fires, gone through 3 pairs of wellies EACH and discovered a passion for rock-pooling and driftwood collecting. Great family times that I really treasure.

So, I would like to say a GREAT BIG THANK YOU from myself and my family, to new blogging friends, for all the lovely comments and the feedback. Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories, and thank you for the continual help and support that I’ve received from different people, not just from my family.

Here’s wishing you all a New Year filled with fun and exciting outdoor adventures.

Happy New Year!!

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29/12/2013

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OneDad3Girls
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“These are a few of my favourite Christmas things…..”

A competition being run by Center Parcs, celebrating the things that get your family into the Christmas spirit. The question asked was, “What 12 things truly get you into the Christmas spirit”.

It really did get me to thinking about the traditions and things that, as a family, we love to do together, to capture the feeling that Christmas is coming. It has been a lovely family exercise, pondering our favourite Christmas traditions.

My 12 favourite Christmas activities are:

1. The day of baking. We have a Sunday where we don’t venture out of the house until all the cooking of cakes and other delicacies are done. Five traditional Christmas cakes for presents for neighbours and aunties, a whole range of Christmas cookies put into sparkly boxes ready for teachers as a thank you and the start of the puddings for after Christmas dinner.

2. Going outdoor ice skating gets us into the Christmas spirit. We all wrap up warm with hats, scarves and glove. We enjoy Christmas music playing and having the first cup of mulled wine.

3. That family time of Christmas. As the festive season builds, we deliver cards and presents. We make the time to sit, chat and catch up with family members. I find that we really make an effort to see everyone, and I believe it’s a very special part of Christmas.

4. Our Christmas decorating ritual is wonderful and when we start decorating the tree, I get to look at the ones we made when my daughter was a baby. Paper Christmas puddings with her face in the middle, and special ornaments with past family Christmases on them are a lovely way of remembering Christmases past.

5. The time of stopping is quite momentous. The first taste of time off work, the children finish school and having the first real time to enjoy the little things are such a joy. We may go for walks, we enjoy old movies that are always shown on television, we take the time to sit and play games together, we enjoy festive foods and soak up that lovely, relaxing feeling of not having to rush around any more. “It’s all done!”.

6. On Christmas Eve, we love a hot chocolate in our Santa mugs. We open a box of Christmas chocolates and watch a Santa Claus movie, all snuggled together on the sofa under the duvet.

7. Christmas pyjamas are a bit of a tradition in our family. We all have new Christmas pyjamas that we wear on Christmas Eve, snuggled up warm and cosy, but ready for that busy, early start in the morning.

8. The Christmas game is an institution, too. As a family, we each take in turns to bring a family game to play, to break up the afternoon and to stop people nodding off due to Christmas food over-load. It starts off with fun and laughter, but can then descend into the various teams really getting into it! You’ll soon see the competitive streak coming through!!

 9. Our Boxing Day afternoon welly-walk is a “must”! We pull on our new “outdoor clothes”, and all go to our nearest forest trail for a good crisp winter walk. After that, we’ll all go back to my mum and dad’s house for an afternoon buffet of cold-cut meats and home-made soup from the leftover vegetables from Christmas dinner. The fire is always on and it’s a lovely, cosy feeling coming in to warm, friendly surroundings from the crisp cold.

10. At this point, we have to talk turkey. It’s great thinking up new and inventive ways of using up the Christmas left-overs. Not just turkey sandwiches, turkey curry, turkey pasta bake, but spicy turkey filo parcels and turkey tagine are winners!!

11. My day of mountain biking. During the holiday period, I have a day where a group of my friends and I all take off to ride along the Taff Trail, in South Wales. We ride past lovely scenery and listed buildings, call into one of the coffee shops en route, and and also enjoy packed lunches……. with the obligatory sandwiches of turkey, cranberry and stuffing!!

12. For the last 5 years, we’ve had the tradition of a big New Years Day walk, in an effort to burn off the wondrous excesses of Christmas. This year, we’re going to try Pen-y-Fan in Brecon, with the family, (weather conditions permitting). This is somewhere I’ve gone many times with work, and I can’t wait to get my 7 year-old daughter to the top, for her to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

This post has been amazing to think about what Christmas means to our family and I hope, by reading this, you to have the chance to think about those 12 festive things that make Christmas great for you.

All of these things can be enjoyed anywhere……. be-it a Center Parcs holiday, or with extended family, or with close family at home, because it’s all about that cosy, warm, friendly feeling of spending special, quality time in the company of the ones that you love.

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 December challenge. If I am chosen, I would like to visit Longleat Forest Center Parcs, Wiltshire.

My favourite tip from Center Parcs winter wonderland expert Nick Oot, was about getting out and about. We love being wrapped up warm, going for walks in the cold, crisp air, enjoying what nature shows us and being together in the environment.

We also love it when our little family comes in from the cold, snuggles together in a warm, safe home and we’re lucky enough to enjoy a hot chocolate and other Christmas treats, together.

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Have a Merry Christmas everyone

It’s finally here, all the running around, the last minute dash to the shops, forgetting a present for at least one family member, getting those endless Xmas cards out, going through rolls and rolls of wrapping paper, not having enough tags, counting down the hours till you finish work, and it’s all for today.

We have been up for hours, (we have
an alarm clock call that sounds like an excited 7 year old). The dinner is being prepared and it smells delicious. New toys are being tested out and happily played with.

So, I would just like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope you all have a lovely day. Enjoy this festive time.

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Sunday 22nd December 2013

xmas sunday photo

OneDad3Girls

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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.

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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.

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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 !!

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Silent Sunday

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  OneDad3Girls

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