We are avid magpies – stealing ideas from other adventurers and making them our own. All of us seek inspiration and we have many inspiring adventurers that we turn to for ideas, e.g. Alistair Humphreys, Dave Cornthwaite, Sean Conway and Anna McNuff to name but a few. The problem is that these hard-core impressive human beings are often doing exciting things that are beyond the realms of the every day family.
So with that in mind, we decided to steal the essence of adventures and make them our own. We’ve nicknamed this approach as DIY adventures – Do It Your way. See our latest adventure ideas here: www.dotrythisathome.com
Whilst running workshops at the recent Basecamp festival we attempted to impress our participants with a bit of science – graphs! This particular graph attempts to illustrate (very simplistically) the way to approach adventuring with kids.
The y axis shows the length of time an activity or adventure can take, increasing as it moves up the page, while the x axis shows the difficulty, increasing as it moves right. These scales are not in anyway accurate and are relative to whatever content is put on the graph, but do give a rough impression of two areas of consideration when planning adventures.
Examples of more gnarly adventures would obviously appear in the top right corner of the graph – they take time and are at the difficult end of the spectrum; these are the adventures that would be difficult or impossible to do with younger children, e.g. Alistair Humphreys’ cycle around the world in four years. The idea is to find suitable alternatives that fit in the bottom left corner of the graph initially when planning adventures with kids. The time taken and difficulty will vary depending on the age and ability of everyone in the family and this will and does change as we get all get older (see next blog post – part 3). Who knows, one day, you might end up doing an adventure in the top right corner!
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner
When I was asked to try out the Kärcher OC3, I thought ‘why not?’. As a fairly outdoorsy family – with a fair bit of kit that we take out-and-about, it seemed like it might come in as a handy little thing to have. I mean, I thought – and it’s proved to be the case – that a portable little low pressure could be used to:
- clean the mud off muddy boots after a walk
- get the majority of wet mud and mess off a mountain bike or two after a muddy ride
- hose down garden patio furniture
It’s also ideal for rinsing down anything you might want to put in your car to prevent you taking in mud, such as: the muddy wheels of a buggy, a gold trolly, any outdoor play equipment you might have, and even sandy/muddy/smelly children’s feet.
But once you have one of these compact and neatly designed gadgets, your mind starts wondering and wandering as to what other uses it might have. Surprisingly, we’ve found the washer so far most useful when we’ve been actually doing water-based activities! I know, this might sound a bit strange, but as anyone who paddles in rivers, the sea or lakes knows, when you take your boat/craft out of the water, the chances are there’ll be a fair amount of mud, silt, sand or all of the above both on the inside and outside. In such situations, a low power washer comes in very handy – OK, you still might get a bit wet when you turn your canoe upside down to put it on the roof rack, but at least it’s clean water that drips on you! Thought: maybe you could wash your craft with water + shampoo so that when you put it on your car roof, you get a soapy shower at the same time. (NB. not tried this).
Another use we’ve found for the Kärcher OC3 is for rinsing out – or should I say ‘flushing out’ wetsuits after a day of sailing, windsurfing and wild swimming when occasionally the wearers of said wetsuits may have taken a sneaky wee (as a relief or source of heat). C’mon, don’t react like that – we all do it …. don’t we/wee?
- Well designed and very portable
- Genuinely has some uses for outdoorsy folk
- Fun to use (which means the kids will get involved in cleaning stuff after an adventure)
- No more smelly wetsuits!
- A bit more power would increase its versatility
- You can’t transport it full of water (the valve on the top can leak)
For more information visit the Halfords website.
When the cat’s away…
We recently went to Basecamp festival, an adults-only adventure festival in the Peak District. Yep we ventured out without the kids and spent a full weekend squelching around in mud with other adventure-seeking adults, listening to inspiring talks and chatting around the campfire. Ironically our first weekend away from the kids in a while was spent talking about them for large chunks of the time! Not because we were pining after them but because we were there doing a talk about Family DIY adventures and running workshops on Adventuring with Kids.
It’s NOT the end of the world as we know it (ref REM song)
Adventure doesn’t have to stop when you have kids. It might just have to be a little different! We spoke to a keen climber and adventurer at a festival once and he’d said that he’d had to stop all of his previous exploits when the kids came along. But why? – that doesn’t have to be case. A little creativity might be needed and yes some adult-only time to do the hard core stuff but adventure can still happen with kids.
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
The people that attended our workshops included those with and without children and the ages of the children ranged from babies to teenagers. So the first part of our workshop was how to adventure with really young children. We believe you can start to instill a love of adventure and the outdoors in children from young age. Taking the kids on hikes, bike rides and camping can and should be part of an adventurous family . Whatever activity you choose, it is important to make sure that young kids have fun and are kept comfortable – after all you don’t want to put them off at an early age. This might mean you limit the amount of time that is spent in the outdoors, prepare for all weather conditions to ensure that they are kept warm and dry and accept that the activity will be tailored around their capabilities. Most parents will take joy in watching their kids having fun so whilst it might not mean a treacherous scramble up a mountain or exhilarating mountain bike ride through the woods there are simpler family alternatives that will give the young ones the thrill of an adventure and you the enjoyment of sharing it with them.
Here are some of our favourites:
- Go on a random walk. Every time you reach a junction, flip a coin to decide whether to go left or right.
- Kick a football through the woods. Take turns kicking a football through the woods and follow where it takes you.
- Let your dog take you for a walk. If you have one! It might mean crawling through bushes!
- Draw a simple map of the local area. Place some treasure in a chosen spot and identify it on the map. Stick the map on to the back of a picture / photograph. Cut it up into pieces and send them to a friend who have to piece the jigsaw back together and find the treasure.
Basecamp Adventure 9 and 10: Sailing and Windsurfing
For us family life – or just life in general – is about some simple principles: being active, being together and being outdoors… oh, and most importantly, being happy. We are lucky that we all share these common values as it makes it super-easy for us to make decisions about what we do with our time collectively and with equal ownership and buy-in. We see time as a precious commodity, one way more precious than money… one we should spend wisely, and waste at our peril. This is one of the reasons we set ourselves the 25 BaseCamp Adventures challenge.
Windsurfing and Sailing
We always imagined completing these two activities during a single trip out in the Basecamp in the summer months as we are, I think we’d all agree, fair weather sailors (although I do anticipate or at least hope we’ll entertain the idea of windsurfing beyond the summer months – let’s see).
So, it was with excitement and anticipation that we parked-up by the side of an idyllically located sailing lake ready to sail, windsurf and of course, camp. And after two days of time on the water – OK, and at times in the water (to intentionally cool-down…ahem) – we were feeling sun and wind-kissed, and authorities on our tacks, gybes, tillers, kickers, dagger boards, skegs, super 7s and the capsize drill to name just a few of the technical vocabulary associated with these sports.
It’s true, sailing and windsurfing can be a bit daunting to beginners, and the terms and technical stuff can be a bit off putting, but remember …at the end of the day, whether you call a sheet a rope, or the rudder the ‘bit of wood that steers the boat’ doesn’t matter. What matters is that you give these sports a go. So, you fall in… so what. So, you do things wrong…. So what. Of course you need to make sure you stay safe: warm, in the right gear i.e. wetsuit and buoyancy aid, protected (you are covered by a safety boat), but that’s just common sense, isn’t it?
Our advice would be: go down to a local sailing club and take part in an ‘open day’ or a RYA ‘have a go day’. Give it a try. If you like it – great! If not, at least you’ve given it a go.
So that’s that – windsurfing and sailing ticked off in a single Basecamp adventure.
Now to go and get two-sheets to the wind – hic!
For more information about Swift's Basecamp, visit: swiftbasecamp.co.uk RYA (for clubs and courses), follow this link.
43,117 pieces of plastic (the big 4 polluters) collected to date!
We’re aiming to pick up 100,000 plastic bottles, lids, cups, straws (and microplastics) from all around the globe – beaches, forests, road-sides, anywhere we find them. Why 100,000 – this is the number of sea mammals killed each year from being trapped in plastic or eating it.
Along with others who wish to help us reach our total, and do their bit for the planet, we’re making progress – all of which is recorded below.
The hall of Fame
28.4.16 – 3 pieces of plastic litter collected from along the Hadrian’s Wall Walk (Chesters Roman Fort – Steel Rig)
4 pieces of beverage litter collected by Aleks Kashefi.
171 pieces of plastic litter collected by Jason Rawles!
22.4.16 – 7 bottles picked up by Jason Rawles.
3, 2, 1 GO!! The crowd cheered as another group crossed the start line. We were amongst them, a family of 4, surrounded by men, women and children of all ages and sizes, dressed in lycra, tutus and tiger suits. Ahead of us loomed the first obstacle – a rubber inflated mountain that we needed to climb up and slide down the other side. This was the first of many because unlike any other race we’d entered this was a 5k inflatable!
The distinctive black, red and white obstacles, aptly named with exciting titles such as Ripple Runner, Bish Bash and the Gauntlet involve crawling, weaving, climbing and sliding alongside fellow participants. It brings out the childish thrill of being on a bouncy castle or in a fun house and provides a welcome break from running for those that don’t enjoy it.
Each obstacle is manned by a friendly and encouraging marshall and there is a refreshment stand halfway around the course offering water, energy drinks and energy bars.
Running divides us a family; some of us love it and some of us hate it. I hate running and always have. I’m waiting for that moment when it becomes enjoyable and I just want to do more and more…but it hasn’t happened yet. So for people like me the inflatable race was perfect. There was a fun, friendly, relaxed atmosphere and the ten different inflatable obstacles pumped up the fun even more (pun intended!) There is no pressure to compete and many took the course at their own pace, some walking while other raced.
UK Running Events
Basecamp Adventure 8: Cycling
Our latest Basecamp family adventure (number 8 out of 25) was one that involved a day of off-road cycling in the forest. Road cycling has never appealed as much since we like to appreciate the environment and escape into nature plus there are no vehicles to content with….only pedestrians and the odd tree root! We love cycling because it is something that we can all do together, some maybe slower or faster than others.
We chose a campsite (Camping and Caravanning site: Riverside Gardens) not far from the National Trust site, Clumber Park which meant that we could cycle from the site to the park and then explore the trails – a good warm up really.
Cycling is great exercise and a fun way to spend time outside. Unlike walking and running which we also love to do, you can cover more mileage. For this cycling trip we had no set route and spent a few hours exploring the park freely. In the past we’ve followed set tracks of varying distances and even completed longer trails such as the Trans Penine trail over consecutive days. There are all sorts of tracks and trails around the country of varying lengths – some of which are linear or circular – so there’s always somewhere to cycle!
Cycling has become an increasingly popular sport but you don’t often see whole families out enjoying it together. We had our bikes stolen last year and certainly missed going out for pedal. We’ll be looking our for more places to explore by bike in the future.
For more information about Swift's Basecamp, visit: swiftbasecamp.co.uk
5 ways to make a weekend outdoorsy
As a family that love to spend time in the outdoors we’re always looking for places, new and old, to visit and activities to do. So on a recent trip to North Wales we went in search of an fun-filled, action-packed weekend. Here are five ways we made it outdoorsy:
1. River / valley walk
There’s something magical about being near water and in Wales there’s plenty of chances to walk beside the sea, a lake or a river. The Welsh landscape has been sculptured by rivers cutting through rock to create valleys of lush vegetation.
2. Get Wet
3. One pot with a view
When the weather is dry and clear, hiking up a hillside or mountain can be a rewarding experience. Rather than take out a crumpled sandwich or bag of crisps, sit and enjoy the view with a cup of soup or one pot that you’ve rustled up in the outdoors.
We love to cook up a one-pot with a view and made the most of a sunny day in Wales, walking up a hillside in Snowdonia, stopping to cook and eat while looking down on the valley below. The ‘tucksack’ carries a few essentials: basic, compact cooking equipment and a few simple ingredients.
4. Forage and cook with a wild ingredient
At various times of the year there are possibilities to gather or forage for ingredients for a meal or to simply munch on.
Lastly, to stretch those weekend adventures over more than one day, spend a night or two under the stars in a tent, bivy, hammock or caravan.
We certainly didn’t want to leave Wales in a hurry and took both our Basecamp caravan and a four-birth Berghaus tent with us. Both were pitched up by the river at Dolgan campsite near Capel Curig – it was the perfect location for exploring all that the area had to offer and somewhere I’m sure we’ll be returning to in the future! The kids loved playing by the river and the surrounding mountains offered a fantastic backdrop for the evening sunsets.
BaseCamp Adventure 7: Family Gorge Walking
Our 25 basecamp Adventures Project includes many adventures we did for our first book 100 Family Adventures when we were all a few years younger. We wanted to revisit some of them in order to enjoy them again, of course, but also to experience them at a slighter more adventurous level now that the girls are older.
What is gorge walking?
One of the activities we had as one of our favourites was Gorge Walking (or gill scrambling depending where you are). The basic idea is to scramble up or down a flowing river as it travels down steep terrain where the water is quite shallow, but fast flowing. It can involve jumps into plunge pools, rides down natural flume sections and climbs and abseils. Oh, and quite often you are partially (or fully) submerged in cold – no wait, very cold – water.
So, as you can imagine, the combination of adventure, adrenalin and water temperature makes for a thrilling experience.
Managing the risks
It’s worth saying at this point, that – for obvious reasons – there are some risks involved with kind of activity: slippery rocks, deep fast flowing water etc This means you ought to either have all the kit and local knowledge to your own scramble safely, or you go with an experienced activity provider. We did the latter and went with Canyon Wales. Not only did this ensure we were all kitted up in high-quality wetsuits, dry socks, harnesses, buoyancy aids and helmets, it also meant we were in the hands of someone with great experience of the landscape and water conditions. This meant we felt as safe as we possibly could (given the nature of the activity). It just so happened that Tom – founder of Canyon Wales – was great fun and brilliant with the younger members of the group – an added bonus.
The trip itself was fantastic fun and as good – if not better – than we had hoped. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was – dare I say it – ‘gorge-ous.’ (sorry). Rather than describe things in words, the following pictures will probably do a better job.
Don’t just look at the photos! Here’s a film we made of our gorge walking fun:
So good, we want more!
So, that’s gorge walking ticked off, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves doing it again – particularly if we are in Snowdonia and Tom has a few spaces we can book!
For more information about Swift's Basecemap, visit: swiftbasecamp.co.uk When in N.Wales, visit: http://canyonwales.co.uk/
Wake up – it’s time for adventure
The forecast didn’t look good; a high percentage of rain was expected throughout the day and the remnant winds of Storm Doris were still reeking havoc across the country and countryside. We refused to be deterred and set off determined to get outside together for some family time in the outdoors. Knowing that the conditions on Kinder Scout were going to be wet and wild made us feel even more excited about the day ahead and we had some reassurance knowing that the girls’ would be toasty and dry in their new Berghaus jackets.
After a hearty breakfast on the way, we arrived and got ourselves ready – in the right gear for the predicted wet and windy conditions, after all there’s no such as things as bad weather only bad clothing which luckily we don’t have. The rain came and went throughout our walk and the wind buffeted us about as we climbed up Crowden Clough up to and across the Kinder Scout plateau. We’ve been up the Clough before, but every time the water level is different, and on this crazily wet day, it felt like a new adventure for us all. And that’s the great thing about going into the outdoors: the experience is always different with elements of the unexpected – I guess that’s why as humans we get so much from the simple act of going outside… it reconnects us to natural world that our modern lifestyles so often deny us.
Okay the weather didn’t allow us many amazing views but there was something exhilarating about being outside exposed to the elements. We all loved being in the outdoors together and returned to our van at the end of the day a little weary, wind-swept and smiling, oh and with a pile of wet gear to be dried out back at Basecamp.
So, where shall we go next weekend?
Thanks to Blacks for sending the girls two 3 in 1 jackets to keep them dry and warm.
Last year we completed a triathlon of the width of GB, kayaking the Great Glen Canoe Trail in Scotland, walking the Hadrian’s Wall National trail and cycling the Trans Pennine trail.
This year we are aiming to complete another triathalon, this time doing the conventional trio of running, cycling and swimming but the mileage that we cover will be greater. It’s 2017 so we’re aiming to complete 2017 miles: running 1000 miles, cycling 1000 miles and swimming 17 miles. As with other DIY (Do It Your-way) adventures we’ll be completely the miles together as a family. We will seek opportunities to #getoutside whether by foot, bike or in cossies and will be recording how we get on below.
Run = 221 miles Cycle = 442 miles Swim = 16 miles
Running is a subject that divides us a family – some of us love it with passion and some of us hate it with vengeance – but it has become something that unites us as we have chosen to take the Trail Running magazine’s #run1000miles challenge (http://www.trailrunningmag.co.uk/run1000miles/).
We are aiming to complete the 1000 miles as a family, not individually, so over the weeks and months we will find places to run, and events to join in that will mean the miles will trickle in and we’ll record them below. Running for us is about spending time together in the outdoors, getting exercise and fresh air. We are not aiming to compete but enjoy it. Who knows, those of us that hate it might even end up changing our minds?!
It can be difficult to stick to New Year’s resolutions or challenges that you set yourself but being part of an organised challenge will mean we should be able to stick to this.
Cycle 1000 miles
The second part of our 2017 triathalon is the cycling challenge. We are aiming to cycle 1000 miles during the year. Last we cycled the TransPenine trail as part of our Width of GB triathalon (LINK) and will be looking to find suitable family-friendly routes that will allow us to clock up the mileage in order to complete this part of the challenge.
Swim 17 wild miles
Swimming in the outdoors is not something that we have a lot of experience of but are looking forward to this part of the triathalon as much as the others. We’ll be looking for various places (lakes, rivers, lidos and the sea) around the UK where we can swim various distances that will total 17 miles. Although it is the smallest amount of mileage to cover, this might end up being the most difficult!
BaseCamp Adventure 6: Wild Run
Project BaseCamp, for us, is all about finding a balance between work and play (or family adventure time as we call it); looking for opportunities to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. This week we wanted to #getoutside for some exercise and to appreciate the environment by doing a wild run!
Running with a view
Getting outside for a run is an easy family adventure; all you need is a pair of trainers. Then find a nearby location to explore. Since the sport of trail running is becoming increasingly popular, it is possible to find set routes to follow at places such as Forestry Commission sites if you don’t want to make up your own.
Running is going to play a large part of our lives in 2017 as we try to complete the Trail Running Magazine’s #run1000miles challenge. We enjoyed this trail and will no doubt return to run it again as well as look for similar ones.
For more information about Swift's Basecemap, visit: swiftbasecamp.co.uk