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Kärcher Mobile Outdoor Cleaner: sponsored post

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).

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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?

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Verdict

Pros:

  • 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!

Cons:

  • 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.

Adventuring with kids – 1 of 3 – the early years

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.

Inspiration

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Books are a great source of inspiration and let’s face it, there are plenty of them out there. One particular book that we loved when our girls were young was the Mission Explore book. It provides a list of short, fun, adventures that require little or no equipment and are easy to do.

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.

9 & 10. Sailing and Windsurfing

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.

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BC sail 3

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.


Pump up the Fun

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!

Sounds fun? Well yes that’s exactly what it was. A running course that is interspersed with inflatable obstacles every 200 – 500m.

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.

infltable5k-map

Running

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

The inflatable 5k run, organised by UK Running Events, takes places all around the UK throughout the year. You choose a starting slot and arrive approximately half and hour before. This gives you time to soak up the atmosphere, marvel at the course and take part in the Pure Gym warm up. All participants head to the start line a few minutes beforehand and after an enthusiastic count down the fun begins. This is not a timed event but those with a competitive streak can race against each other. At the finish line there is a choice of two obstacles: the Leap of Faith (a jump onto an inflatable area below) or the Plummet (a steep slide) then as you cross the line you are presented with a medal and a tee-shirt that proudly displays the Inflatable 5k logo.
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UK running events logo


8. Cycling

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.

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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.

Clumber chair
Clumber has a range of numbered tracks and a map providing the route. We entered the park and began following the nearest numbered track that took us around the perimeter of the park before gravitating towards the more populated central area where we stopped for the compulsory playground break. Taking a packed lunch meant we could stop and munch on food whenever hunger struck or we found a nice spot with a view.

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 through fiord

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

Five ways to make a weekend outdoorsy

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.

We returned to the picturesque town of Beddgelert and walked south along the river Glaslyn from Gelert’s grave. The manicured, clearly defined track near the tourist town becomes a pebbly track that undulates alongside the changing river, offering beautiful views as you turn each corner and the chance to spot some wildlife too. Keep a lookout for an old mine entrance. It doesn’t venture far into the mountain side but is a fun detour.
Bedgellert river walk

2. Get Wet

canyoning in Wales

Rather than just walk beside the river, it’s fun to get wet and clamber over the rocks. There are various companies that offer gorge walking (also known as gyll scrambling or canyoning) in the area. Our chosen provider (and thoroughly recommended!) was Tom from Canyon Wales who was patient and understanding with those that struggled, knowledgeable of the area and certainly made it fun! 
Canyoning group photo

Gorge walking waterfall shower
We had a fun few hours dressed in wetsuits climbing over rocks, standing under waterfalls and squeezing through crevices. The water was cold and your feet do go numb but the excitement and adrenalin overcome it. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and, depending on who and where you go, can be a challenging as well as fun experience.

3. One pot with a view

Snowdonia

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

wild garlic

At various times of the year there are possibilities to gather or forage for ingredients for a meal or to simply munch on.

During out visit to Wales in Spring we found an abundance of wild garlic, growing in a valley. It is most commonly found in woodland with moist soils. Best picked in high up places (to avoid any dog wee!) we snatched a few handfuls to take back with us and used it in both or sausage casserole at teatime as well as a tasty addition to Welsh Rarebit (cheesy scrambled eggs) in the morning. Another interesting spot was wild sorrel which we were told is an expensive addition to those meals in posh restaurants. We munched on a few springs of those too!
Cooking with wild garlic in wales

5. Camp

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.

Camping in Wales

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.


7. Gorge Walking

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.

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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/

Get Outside: whatever the Weather

Wake up – it’s time for adventure

Ella woke us up early this morning for an adventure; not the usual bleary-eyed girl we see during the week but one with a sparkle in her eyes as she was keen to get us up early in order to set off into the Peak District for a walk. We all wanted to blow the cobwebs away after the mundane work week and were all looking forward to spending time outdoors.

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.

Ella on Kinder plateau

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.

Girls on Kinder
Family selfie on Kinder platuea

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?

Wet girls
Drying coats

Thanks to Blacks for sending the girls two 3 in 1 jackets to keep them dry and warm.


Triathlon 2017

Triathlon 2017

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 triathlon, 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 km: running 1000 km, cycling 1000 km and swimming 17 km. 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.

Current total:

Run = 556 km   Cycle = 1,040 km  Swim = 25 km

#Run1000km

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.

We are aiming to complete the 1000 km 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 kms 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.

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Cycle 1000 km

The second part of our 2017 triathlon is the cycling challenge. We are aiming to cycle 1000 km 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 distance in order to complete this part of the challenge.

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Swim 17 wild km

Swimming in the outdoors is not something that we have a lot of experience of but are looking forward to this part of the triathlon 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 km. Although it is the smallest amount of kms to cover, this might end up being the most difficult!

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6. Wild Run

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

Wild running or trail running is a sport that involves running in the outdoors on trails away from roads, in more rural environments. You can follow set routes or create your own and you don’t have to be an ultra-elite athlete to be able to do them! So if you’re going to run, it makes sense to choose trail running or wild-running since it not only gets you outside exercising but enjoying the views at the same time.

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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.

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Trail run through the woods

Sherwood Pines 5km route
Last weekend for our family adventure we left Basecamp and drove to Sherwood Pines, a nearby Forestry Comission site, popular with cyclists, dog walkers, families and now runners. They have a Wild Run trail – a circular 5km route that winds through the woodland. Whilst the rest of the country seemed to be threatened with snow, we were lucky enough to bathed in winter sunshine and certainly enjoyed the beauty of the woods as we ran together as a family. We all completed the first circuit but some of us went on to complete it a second and even third time, clocking up a total 23 miles! 

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

25 Basecamp Adventures

25 Basecamp Adventures

We are a family that love to get outdoors and do adventures together. In the past we’ve done 100 Family adventures  and various projects outside. Our latest project is called 25 Basecamp adventures.

Why Basecamp? Well, we love the concept of having a base from which to travel from and return to after a family adventure whether its a house, caravan or motorhome. Our base is our home or should we say our home is our base and this is something that has changed quite a lot over the last few years as we’ve moved from caravan to motorhome to caravan and house.

DIY Adventures

We strongly believe in doing not having and rather than dedicate time to DIY in a house, we’d rather dedicate time to DIY (Do It Your-way) adventuring: adapting ideas and making adventures family-friendly.

Our 25 Basecamp adventures include various adventures around the country as we find locations to travel to in our Swift Basecamp caravan; this is the base from which we adventure. The adventures can and will be done as a family; some of which cost very little (or are completely cost-free) and some of which will require a provider. Hopefully they’ll give others an idea of adventures that can be done together as family.

The adventure list

 


5. Scooter Safari

BaseCamp Adventure 5: Scooter Safari

It’s been a while since we last got the scooters out, so this adventure was one we were all looking forward to. What made this scooter safari extra exciting was that Amy and Ella were bringing a friend each along to join in. After all, there’s nothing better than having an adventure together with your mates!

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sam-and-ella

We headed out of BaseCamp with the scooters in our van and into Nottingham. This may sound like an odd choice, but the plan was to have a safari that mixed both rural and urban landscapes, and being a linear route, it meant we’d have to work out a way of getting back to our start point. The answer, split up: one group is dropped off at one end of the route while the other group then drove to the other end. Two start points meant two end points, and one group finishing where the van was left and therefore able to drive to pick up the other group when they finished (and of course, we’d pass each other somewhere near halfway).

scooter-selfie

A route that mixes rural and urban adds variety and interest. Following a river makes the journey even more interesting with sights ranging from a nature reserve, house-boats, heron and sparrow hawks to football stadia, impressively engineered bridges and canal systems that take you below the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

So, get those scooters out – or borrow some if you don’t have your own – and go on safari! It won’t cost you much (perhaps, only an ice-cream or two).

icecream
scooter-shower

For more information about Swift's Basecemap, visit: swiftbasecamp.co.uk