Blacks are sponsoring Children in Need this year and this is a charity that we regularly support and try to fundraise for. Therefore it made sense as Blacks family ambassadors that we don our Pudsey hats and head for the hills for some fresh air and fundraising.
We sat for a couple of hours in the winter sunshine providing fellow walkers with warm drinks. Serving them in reusuable mugs meant that we not only avoided using single-use plastic but encouraged people to stop, chat and admire the view. Snowdon may have a café at the top but on this day Kinder Plateau had a Plastic Clever café at the top.
This ramble was rewarding in so many ways; we enjoyed a walk in the fresh air, spent time together as a family chatting along the way, provided a service for thirsty and cold walkers and raised £59.17 for a worthwhile charity.
Why going outdoors is important
We’ve been a family who love the outdoors for a few years now, and we are constantly striving to spend as much time together outside as we can, regardless of the time of year, season or weather. Why? Well, it’s simple, really: being outdoors makes us all feel happy, and relaxed and contented.
Whenever we are outdoors together we feel alive and free. And in actual fact, it was our craving for outdoor time and family adventures that was a fundamental reason why, very recently, for nearly 3 years we left the rat race (work and school) and went travelling together – by caravan and motorhome. We had great experiences together; we created shared memories that will last forever; and we helped our children to maintain a healthy balance between ‘screen time’ and ‘green time’. Sometimes the simple things re the most important.
We’ve returned to a ‘normal’ life again now, but our enthusiasm for adventure and outdoor time is still alive and kicking: making us feel alive and giving us the kick we need to get outside and do more!
Enthusiastic but not expert = help needed
And this enthusiasm, or passion, for the outdoors has lead us into many an outdoor retailer or distributer over the years; after all, you need some essential kit to make sure your adventures and experiences are safe and as comfortable as they can be, right? And without naming names, it is fair to say that not every retail experience has been good or better than average, never mind great. You see, as non-outdoorsy experts like us (NB. being enthusiastic doesn’t = expert), looking for clothing or equipment for an outdoor activity can be a difficult experience. After all, outdoor kit can be expensive so making the right purchase is important.
Thankfully, it became apparent to us during our first of many visits to Go Outdoors Leicester, that two of our criteria as shoppers were bring met:
- There was a range of equipment at discount prices
- The staff were both knowledgeable and friendly
Since then, and as we travelled the UK we always look for a Go Outdoors whenever we need to replace kit or buy extras. And nearly a year to the day of writing, when we arrived back from our European travels to Nottingham we were excited to see that Go Outdoors had opened a new shop very close to where we live. So, it will be no surprise to read that I’ve since made several visits in the year we’ve been back and GO have been open, whether to go in to get DofE advice for a new group a colleague have set up, price up and buy new kit for our family adventures or to just go in and browse.
Celebrating an anniversary
When the team from GO Nottingham asked me to help them celebrate the 1st anniversary of their Nottingham store, it was a no brainer. I went in to chat with the staff to learn about how heavily they invest in their staff (training and morale) to ensure us, the customers, get the service we are looking for (and our (above) shopping criteria met). And with a modest voucher to spend, I went with a particular mission to get some new footwear for every day adventuring with a key requirement being they need to keep my feet warm and dry – I was heading to an outdoor weekend festival and the weather was looking wild (Storm Brian was on his way).
Sam from GO talked me through a whole range of options (how does he know about so many different shoes!) and guided me towards a reduced pair of Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX Men’s Hiking Shoes: waterproof and reduced from £115 to £85.
Thankfully, after a weekend of being up to my ankles in mud and slop, my feet remained warm and dry – thanks Sam for the recommendation!
Time for YOU to help GO celebrate the first anniversary of their Nottingham store
The team at GO really would like everyone to help them celebrate, and leave their store on their birthday weekend with a smile on their face. Be that from the fun activities they have planned for kids: face painting and more, or the free discount card and extra discounts they are putting on EVERYTHING over that weekend.
So, get yourself down to grab some bargains on outdoor clothing, equipment and accessories for a whole range of sports, including: camping, walking, climbing, cycling, riding, fishing, skiing and running.
Maybe I’ll see you having a great time in the great outdoors soon?
Details: Fun weekend: 28th and 29th October 10 % off everything in store from the 27th – 30th October Discount cards will be free for all over the four days
Address: Mansfield Road, Arnold, Nottingham, NG5 6BP
44,700 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.
Last weekend (Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th October) were the official days for the BBC Countryfile Ramble for Children in Need – a charity event that encouraged us to get outside and walk in the autumnal countryside. Nationwide, groups of people donned their yellow woolly hats and took to the trails.
During our four-hour ramble we managed to pick up 257 pieces of plastic litter – another successful hoard to add to the total.
No yellow woolly hats this time but they are in the post and we’re looking forward to wearing them soon for another ramble!
Part of being a parent involves making sacrifices. Life changes after children and some people embrace it better than others. We weren’t particularly adventurous before we had children but when the girls arrived we wanted them to have an adventurous mindset and a love of the outdoors and nature so from an early age we made efforts to get outside and do something interesting and challenging – a family adventure.
Anyone who has been on an adventure with others knows that everyone has different capabilities; age, fitness, experience / confidence and mental strength can all affect how someone approaches an adventure. The same thing can be said when adventuring with children. The age of the child will affect greatly what can be done and how; younger children aren’t able to sustain strenuous exercise for long periods of time, get bored more easily, get tired quicker, need food more regularly but that shouldn’t stop us as adults involving the children. A bit of creativity and flexibility means that adventures can be done together; they might be shorter, there might be more rest breaks, the kids might need help but they can be done. Then as the children become stronger and more able to challenge themselves further, the adventures then can become longer and more challenging.
Whilst running a workshop at the Basecamp festival we attempted to illustrate this with a graph! Scientifically speaking it may not be accurate, but it illustrates the differences that need to be considered when adventuring with children.
Our graph very simplistically shows the abilities of an adult and a child. Adults, obviously older, have varying degrees of capability but, in comparison to children will appear much higher on the graph. The ability of an adult will also fluctuate according to fitness, age and health but will realistically gradually decline. The ability of a child, on the other hand, will increase. It is important to note that the ability isn’t just physical but also mental. In the early the years, whilst the child is learning to do amazing things such as walk and talk, their ability to go on an adventure is low but this rises with age. There will be one point on the graph when the child and adult are almost equal – this will differ from family to family.
This might not be the case for everyone but this is the case for us. In the early years, we went for short walks and tailored adventures around what the kids could do. At age 4, Ella was able to walk up Snowdon but caught the train back down whereas Amy that little bit older walked up and down; their age difference meant that the challenge was adapted to suit them. Now aged 14 Amy is able to do challenges alongside adults. At age 12 she completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge in 12 hours and the National Three Peaks challenge in 24 hours. We as the adults in the last decade have probably slipped down the graph and are now at optimum point where all our abilities are about the same. How long this will last, who knows since the girls will no doubt continue to climb up our graph and overtake us!
So, for us this is our optimum time and we need to make the most of it!
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.
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.