FAMILY TALK: Screw Work (and school); it’s time for family EdVenture

Screw work (and school)!

Two years ago we decided to escape the rut of everyday life: working too hard and not spending enough time together doing the things we all enjoyed. So we hit the road in search of education, adventure and a life that values doing more than having – and we haven’t looked back since.

During this talk we will offer insights and advice to others based on our experiences (and mistakes), and whilst doing so cover some of the following themes:

  • How to focus more on the 5 to 9, not the 9 to 5 and enjoy more fulfilment
  • Why kids really need to get out more
  • disposable time is the most valuable of commodities (so spend it wisely)
  • If you live for the weekends, then you at least should make them worth living for
  • How to have mini BIG adventures and reach new heights (often literally)

Come and join us, ask questions, and find out how a brave decision to live differently has opened lots of doors and presented exciting opportunities that we never could have expected.

Our family motto is that ‘Adventure is out there; you just have to go and find it.’

Why? Well, life’s too short not to… isn’t it?

** freebies and spot give-aways… plus the odd free book!

Book a seat!

Click here to book a seat.


5 Countries in 5 Weeks

Earlier this year, we spent a couple of months travelling through France and Spain promoting spending family time in the outdoors, via caravanning and motorhoming, making our bookings through The Caravan Club.

This time, we decided to take a different direction into Europe and spend five weeks heading into central and northern Europe, stopping at various campsites and places of interest in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – yep that’s five countries in five weeks! The schedule is hectic; staying at 20 different sites and moving on every one or two days. We’ll be clocking up a few miles in the Eldiss AutoQuest 180 so it will be interesting to see how the fuel economy goes.

Week One in the Netherlands

Our first week was spent in the Netherlands. We set off from Hull on 25th July and arrived in Rotterdam the following morning after a calm ferry crossing. Arriving in the early hours meant that we had a full day in our first country. Rather than head up towards Amsterdam and Delft, as we have on previous visits, we turned right and towards a cluster of islands south of Rotterdam.

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Our first campsite was Camping International, one of many along the coastline, near Renesse. It was close to the beach (’strand’) and we spent our first day on the sand admiring the North Sea from the continental side, as opposed to the English one.

Our second day in Holland was at the nearby Oosterschelde National Park, located to the south. It is the largest national park (a coastal park with flood defences) in the Netherlands and offers many cycling and walking routes on which to explore the surrounding area.

We spent time flying the kite on the beach before the weather turned. Grey clouds descended around us and the rain quickly set in so we took shelter in the motorhome. The advantage of driving around in the motorhome meant that we had all the comforts of home around us. We had a bite to eat and drink and the girls even got out the Lego to play while we waited for the wet weather to pass.
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After a couple of days on the coast, we headed inland to our second site: Beekse Bergen – a fantastic resort that contained an African themed holiday park, water park and safari park (all included in the site price). We loved the water park!

One of the reasons for booking the Beekse Bergen sites was its proximity to Efteling theme park. Ella’s birthday always falls during the summer holidays and more often than not we are away. This year is no different. Since we knew we were going to be in the Netherlands at the end of July, we planned our stops so that we would be near Efteling theme park on the big day.

Efteling is the biggest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. It boasts a range of adventurous rides as well as fairy tale themed shows and events. We were interested in the rides! Ella’s favourite was the Dragon, which she went on 5 times! Amy’s favourite was the Baron, a newly built ride with a 30m vertical drop. She returned to queue for this ride 4 times! Efteling was a fabulous, magical place to spend a birthday and a great family day out. One of the perks of driving the AutoQuest into Efteling was that the motorhome parking area was really close to the park entrance!
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Getting near the end of the week we headed to our last site, Heumans Bos in eastern Holland, near the border with Germany. This was a quieter site, or so we thought, until the Saturday night entertainment kicked in! We enjoyed two nights stay at the site, exploring the area and returning to enjoy the swimming pool.

Nearing the end of our first week of five, we left the Netherlands and crossed the border into Germany. We will be back though, in about 4 weeks time.

Week Two – Germany

The start of our second week coincides with arriving in our second country: Germany. Having cross the border, we drove to Rieste in eastern Germany to our next stop, a five star campsite called Alfsee.

It was busy; full of families enjoying the summer sunshine. We were booked in for our usual two-night stop so had a full day and more to make the most of the facilities… and we did: water skiing in the lake, riding the electric bikes around the reservoir, playing on the playgrounds and visiting a local farm.
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Our second stop in Germany was on the other side of the country so, yep it meant a long drive literally all the way across from East to West. We had planned to break the journey up by staying at a Stellplatz but the one we chose ended up being a car park near a busy road (not quite the romantic, picturesque spot we had hoped!) so we drove the extra miles and got to our site earlier than planned. It was a long journey but worth it in the end.

So, our second stay was actually in Potsdam, a historical region not far from the capital.


The area is covered in lakes and is famous for its association with Prussian kings who resided here in the late 19th century.

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We stayed in a lovely forest campsite called Sanssouci next to the gorgeous Templinar Lake. Leaving the motorhome behind, we hopped on public transport and spent two days exploring the sights of Berlin and the historical buildings and gardens of Potsdam.

Memories of Berlin

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Check point charlie

The direction of our route then took a turn in a northerly direction. We headed into the countryside of Userin region, to a secluded site (Havel Tourist) in the middle of lakes and woodland. The site was one of nine linked together by lakes, rivers and canals. Many of the visitors in this area were travelling by canoe or kayak, carrying their camping gear from site to site. We decided to join them and hired a four-man canoe and hit the water for a day of paddling (some of us, anyway!)
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Our stay in Germany is coming to an end as we have only one more stop before we reach Denmark. In the last seven days we’ve learnt a lot about some of Germany’s important historical events and used seven different means of transport to get about: water ski, bike, tram, train, feet, canoe and of course our trusty Elddis Autoquest!

Week 3 – Germany to Denmark

Our third week began in Germany but ended in Denmark!

At the start of the week we were staying at Wulfener Hals campsite on an island in Northern Germany linked to the mainland by bridge. The site is positioned in the south of the island at the end of a peninsular with views over the Baltic sea. Although it felt quite remote there was lots to do.

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The main attraction for us was the windsurfing. It has the biggest and most well-known windsurfing school in Germany. We, of course, had to have a go! Back in Nottingham, where we used to live, we were members of a sailing club and Tim has always been a keen windsurfer. In the past, we’ve been on watersports holidays and it felt very reminiscent of them.

Tim headed out on the water and loved it! I jumped on a board as well and the girls spent a few hours learning the ropes – two future windsurfers in the making!

Onto Denmark

It was then time to go to our third country – Denmark – a country that none of us had ever visited before and not surprisingly we felt excited at the prospect. We only had two stops planned – one in the middle of Jutland, the main Danish peninsular, and the other at the far top of the country. More long drives!

Our first Danish stop was at Riis Feriepark. Riis is a small village which does not necessarily have much significance but it is close to a very well-known attraction…Legoland, which is one the biggest and most popular tourist attractions in this area.

No we didn’t go.

We chose to visit the Home of Vikings museum in nearby Jelling where we learnt about the Viking history associated with the area. The location is famous for its two large Rune stones, placed by King Gorm and his son Harold Bluetooth. The museum told their story and the influence it had on the land – we came away having learnt a lot.
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By the end of the week, we had travelled from northern Germany to northern Denmark. We stayed at a campsite called Rabjerg Mile camping. It got its name from the migrating sand dune called Rabjerg Mile, only a few miles away. We walked to the sand dune. It was an impressive sight even under grey skies and heavy drizzle.

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 Week 4 – Sweden and Norway

Our fourth week of five was spent in Sweden and Norway.

It began with a ferry from Frederikshvn in Denmark across the Baltic Sea to Gothenburg. We crossed on beautifully calm waters in glorious sunshine therefore after driving the motorhome on the ferry we headed straight up on deck to soak up the sun and take in the views. The approach into Sweden was impressive as we gazed down on the Gothenburg achipeligo sitting in the calm blue water.
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Lake swim
We arrived mid afternoon and within quarter of hour were at our next site (Lisebergsbyn), a city site not far from the centre of Gothenburg. It was a large site that catered for caravans and motorhomes as well as providing chalets and bed & breakfast. We quickly discovered a nearby lake and Amy and Tim went for a chilly but refreshing wild swim. Wild swimming is something we’ve discovered that many people of all ages seem to do more freely over on the continent, whether it’s a river, lake or the sea. It’s something we enjoy and want to do more and more.

The following day we went exploring Gothenburg. With a one day travelcard each (for adults) we were able to hop on trams, buses and ferries allowing us to get about the city easily. The girls became our tour guides for the day and took to a couple of well-known sights. We also explored the Gothenburg archipeligo by the public ferry.

On our second day in Gothenburg we went to the Universeum, as family museum based in the popular Liseberg park (not far from where the amusement rides are located) before driving up the coast to our next stop, Hafsten, a site on a peninsular, surrounded by the sea. The sea was sheltered by the surrounding landscape and looked and felt like a lake when there was little or no wind. It was saltwater though and affected by the tide.

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Sweden lake

We had a relaxing couple of days on the Swedish coast, swimming in the site pool and in the sea, running in the woods and admiring the gorgeous views that surrounded us.

Fifth county: Norway

 

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It was then time to drive to our fifth country: Norway. We crossed the border and spent a night in Oslo. With very little time to spare, we wandered from our city site down the hill to wander around the marina and Opera house.

The following day was one of the most beautiful and dramatic drives of our trip. We drove out of the city and into the Norwegian countryside, along roads that were bordered by lakes, reflecting rocky hillside covered in tall pine trees. Stopping to stretch our legs on the six hour journey didn’t involve finding a nasty service station but a picturesque view point over water where you are encouraged to stop for a swim!
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Norway view
We didn’t have long in Norway but our last two days were spent in Byglandsfjord, in the south at a site called Neset Camping. We were pitched up by the water’s edge with amazing views up and down the fjord. We borrowed the site’s canoe and kayaks and explored the fjord for a morning.

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Norway campsite

So, after four weeks, we had managed to reach our fifth country and fell in love with Norway and its beautiful landscape. With so little time here, we felt frustrated to leave and will definitely return one day to see more of what is an impressive country.

Week 5 – the return journey

We are now beginning the return journey. Having spent four weeks travelling through the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, we frustratingly have to turn the motorhome around and head south again.
It was an early start to the day since we had to leave our last site in Norway at half past five in order to drive to the ferry port in Kristiansand by half past seven (an hour before the scheduled departure).
The trip over the Baltic sea was short; we were on the twin-hull speed ferry and arrived in Hirtshals, northern Denmark, mid morning. After stopping off for food and fuel (much cheaper than in Norway) we drove to our campsite for the night, not far away.

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As time is limited, more and more of our stops are one-nighters. This is the case for our first night back in Denmark. It feels rushed and we can’t fully appreciate all that is around us but we try to make the most of the time. The journey after all is an opportunity to see as much as possible but we also manage the day, leaving early when necessary so that we can arrive at a place in good time and explore. Gronhoj Strand, our first stop after the ferry is on the beach on the East coast of Denmark. It is a great family site with many playgrounds dotted around. There were also some resident goats and ponies that proved popular with children as well.

Our last couple of days in Denmark were spent in a site called Hvidbjerg Strand – a luxurious site in Blavand. Included in the cost of our stay was access to a swimming pool, indoor play centre and spa. The site was five star and felt extremely luxurious. Not surprisingly we filled our time with what was on offer at the site as well as visits to the picturesque beach nearby. The two days here flew by and the girls certainly didn’t want to leave.
The return journey then continued as we drove through Germany, stopping off briefly to spend a night in two different campsites on the way. Both sites were near lakes and, in the hot weather, many locals and people from the sites spent time on the banks and swimming in the water – very different to England where people walk, cycle, sail, paddle or sit by lakes but few people actually venture in the water.
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The last three nights of our trip were spent in the Netherlands but this time we crossed the border further north and stopped in a less well-known region of Overijssel. Pitched up at a site (Arendshorst) beside a river, that of course we had a few swims in, we then explored the area by bikes from the campsite. The girls wanted to spend the last of their holiday money at the nearby town of Ommen and we stopped to admire a couple of local windmills.

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Our final stop was in the historical city of Utrecht. The main reason for this stop was to catch up with a Dutch friend and her family. It had been many years since we, as adults, had met up and the children hadn’t met each other before. We all clicked and got on like a house on fire. We had a wonderful 24 hours, swimming at a lake, hiring a boat and exploring the canals and wandering around the city of Utrecht.
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Before we knew it, time had run out and we had to make our way to Rotterdam for the ferry.

We arrived in good time and were hoping to get on the ferry in plenty of time to enjoy the facilities. For some reason, we were the last ones on! We watched as the cars, vans and lorries all drove on ahead of us and began to worry as the car deck looked increasingly full. Finally, we were asked to reverse down the ramp and on to the boat, squeezing on amongst the lorries. This meant that the following morning, we were the first ones off and drove quickly out of the port ahead of all the other passengers.
Our Five Countries in Five Weeks tour has come to an end. We’ve seen some stunning sights, learnt some fascinating facts, met some fantastic people and experienced life in five wonderful European countries. Travelling around in our motorhome meant that we were able to pick a route that took in many different places. It was a lot of driving but we certainly saw a lot!


Kids need help to find their “I CAN” super power

From thinking “Can I?” to believing “I CAN!”

Design for Change (DFC) is an innovative and exciting project for children that might just change the world! It aims to empower children by helping them make a shift towards an ‘I Can’ mindset.

Through DFC project work, children learn to believe in themselves, their potential and their abilities to solve problems. By encouraging children to use design thinking they design solutions to problems in their community and then make it happen.

Here’s an example of a project from a school in Singapore.

More than just academic achievement

Design for Change recognises children not only for their academic achievements but more importantly, for being socially aware and proactive change agents in their community.

It promotes enquiry-based learning and overlaps neatly with Investors in Pupils aims and values.

Design for Change encourages:

  • Passion and compassion
  • Doing well and doing good
  • Leadership skills
  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Collaboration and team work

Projects don’t have to be huge or complicated

School children can achieve change and a positive impact if they are encouraged to.

Perfect for families, too

Design for Change doesn’t just have to take place in a school context. In fact, working as a family on a DFC project can be a very rewarding way to spend quality time together.

Find out how to enjoy the  “I CAN” Summer Challenge as a family task.

Why don’t you get involved? Start by visiting the Design For Change UK website.


Beauty of the Beasts

Exploring the world of mini-beasts

Episode 6 – Bees

Bees may be considered a nuisance to some, but there is no doubt that we ALL rely on them for our survival. Find out why and how to help this amazing animal.

Episode 5 – Cuckoo spit

Cuckoos don’t spit, but at this time of year (late spring and early summer), there is a lot of cuckoo spit around. Find out what it is and what lurks in the frothiness.

Episode 4 – Snails

Snails are very common and often considered pests. Today I get to take a look at some small garden snails to show just how amazing these molluscs are.

Episode 3 – Wasps

Wasps are insects that are feared by many but are actually amazing creatures. Today I get to take a look at a wasp nest in the making, look at how it’s built and see a wasp and its body parts close up.

Episode 2 – Woodlice

We see woodlice all over the place and quite often because they are so common, but there is so much that we don’t actually know about them. I get to take a look at a woodlouse tell you some of the fascinating facts about woodlice.

Episode 1 – Ghost Moth Caterpillars

Ghost moth caterpillars live underground so are quite hard to find but if you look closely under rocks and in damp, dark places you might be in with a chance of finding one. In this episode I show you the ghost moth caterpillar and explain how they get their name.


The National Three Peaks

3 Peaks, 3 walkers and 24 hours of grit

I had hoped we’d have good weather during our National Three Peaks Challenge. It would be undoubtedly more enjoyable to walk the UK’s highest mountains in sun, rather than tramping along in pouring rain and high winds. And, in fact, as we started the long, eight-hour journey from Cambridge to the foot of Ben Nevis, I was hopeful. But it took about half an hour for the blue sky to turn to grey clouds and a splattering of rain, in the good old British way.

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At least at the rain had stopped when we arrived at ‘The Ben’ as our Three Peaks companion Jason Rawles called it. We met him at the Youth Hostel at the base of Ben Nevis and, after hellos and a brief catch-up, we said goodbye to my mum and sister, who were staying at the car, and began our accent at around 6 o’clock in the evening. I was pretty nervous climbing the first section of the mountain, not because I was tired or because I could see a rain cloud gradually making its way over to us from a peak to the south – but because we had done absolutely no training.

 

Now, don’t think we’re reckless – we had packed carefully, brought along the correct OS map (the new Ordnance Survey 3 Peaks Map which includes route and road maps for the whole challenge) and, really, we’re quite outdoorsy people anyway, always out for walks or cycle-rides. But still, I couldn’t dispel that worry from my mind that we wouldn’t complete it in time, or even at all.

We were making good progress up Ben Nevis. It didn’t take too long for us to reach the ‘Halfway Lake’ and start up the zigzags into the cloud. Soon we were surrounded by mist, able to see a few stone slabs ahead but no more. Cairns loomed out of the fog and sometimes people did too, but it was hard to tell the difference until they got close. The whole thing was rather like a scene in the film ‘Up!’, when large boulders and stones are mistaken in cloud for people. It was pretty eerie, especially as we were walking to the summit at around 8-9ish at night. We reached the summit in the same mist but were surprised to find no snow at all, which meant that the trig point was raised a few metres off the ground, and we had to use steps to get to it. A little different to the previous time I’d summitted the mountain, when the whole plateau was coated in a thick snowdrift that meant the trig was actually level with the top of the snow.

 

We were back at the car by midnight. My legs were as tired as my eyes by then, and we were navigating back down by head torch. All I wanted to do was sleep, so it was no surprise that as soon as my head hit the pillow I went out like a light. My mum drove us through the night, while we all slept, and Jason drove his own van. He became pretty sleepy on the drive, so halfway through the journey, my dad drove his vehicle while he took his own nap.
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We set off up Scafell Pike at half six. The fresh mountain air revived me, and we powered up the peak. We hardly passed anyone on our chosen route, the shortest and most direct one that led from the National Trust car park by Wast Water. Scafell was, like Ben Nevis previously, blanketed in mist from about two thirds up. But, as we progressed closer to the summit, the sun was trying its hardest to break through the fog. Patches of blue sky were occasionally visible and by the time we reached the top, we could see a little more of our surroundings, as a bit of the cloud had lifted.

We’d timed it perfectly, and couldn’t really ask for better. Scree-littered landscape stretched out around us and we could just, just, spot the town of Keswick in the distance, along with the prominent peak Skiddaw and Derwent Water down below it.
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A sausage sandwich awaited us as we reached the cars, which was welcome, as we hadn’t stopped for a break on the mountain. Devouring them, we were soon on the road again, ready to tackle our third and final peak – Snowdon. It was slow going to begin with, weaving along narrow mountain passes only to reach slightly more main roads and be stuck behind a motorhome. Eventually though, we were speeding down to Wales, making good progress towards our final destination. That was then Jason had to pull over at a service station, the climbs and night drives again taking their toll. I was fretting a bit about the time – we would, from our calculations, have about four hours to complete Snowdon, which meant we would have to push on really hard to get up and down in time. But, Jason definitely needed to sleep, so he stayed at the service station for a half-an-hour kip before grabbing a coffee, while we carried on to Snowdon. As soon as we were there, we leapt out of the car, shrugged on sodden waterproofs and set off, hoping Jason would catch us up, as he insisted he would.

 

That was when the drizzle started. And that slight pitter-patter of rain on our coats soon turned to rain which, the higher we trekked, soon turned to sleet. We were taking the Pyg Track, the shortest and most direct route up the mountain, but meant were at the complete mercy of the weather (which, is seemed, didn’t seem in the mood to take pity on tired, innocent walkers). The wind soon joined the party and we were being buffeted around, slowly working our way higher up, the slippery slabs of stone not making the journey easy or, considering the amount of energy we were burning, particularly productive.
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I was cold and wet, even my Gore-Tex waterproof not quite able to hold out against the horrific weather. And by the time we reached the summit, all my layers were soaked, socks included. But, despite the fact we were freezing, and all we could see was (yet again) mist, I felt jubilant finally placing my hand on that pillar of stone, knowing that we’d completed the National Three Peaks. That I’d somehow battled through it all and reached this final summit. And I knew that all the pain and fatigue and cold we had experience was, in the end, worth it.

Because we had completed the three peaks in 23 hours 35 minutes.

Amy, aged 12

 


The Refuse 4 July Challenge

It’s July – and time to make a change!

This month, people far and wide are taking part in Plastic Free July, a campaign which encourages people to stop using single use plastic during July, whether for a day, a week or even the whole month! Now, this is pretty hard for most of us, right? Everything is wrapped in plastic these days, and Plastic Free July acknowledges that. As part of the campaign, you can choose to refuse just the four main plastic polluters, which we nickname the ‘Big 4’. These are plastic bags, coffee cup lids, straws and plastic bottles, which are much easier to refuse and is a manageable challenge to try and tackle.

But how does this relate to us? Well, Plastic Free July has inspired us to refuse plastic and reduce our negative environmental impact, but we know it’s hard to do. So, we brainstormed a challenge by the name of ‘Refuse 4 July’, which aims to encourage people to refuse the ‘Big 4’ and encourage others to do the same. There are only four steps you need to do to complete the challenge – and they’ll only take you a minute.

All you have to do to complete the challenge:

  1. Refuse one of the ‘Big 4’!
  2. Take a picture of you with your non-plastic alternative (eg. Your cup with no straw, your paper bag, your coffee cup with no lid)
  3. Post it on Facebook (with the hashtag #Refuse4July) and then
  4. Challenge and tag four other people to do the same

And that’s it – simple, right? Only four simple steps to do in order to make a change this July.


6 Reasons not to buy bottled water – film

Amy explains the reasons why we shouldn’t be hitting the bottle

As part of our Clear Plastic UK project inspired by the UN’s Global Goals we have been learning about the environmental and social impact of our use and abuse of single-use plastic bottles, and the red herring that is recycling.

Amy (12) took upon herself to make a film about some of the reasons she thinks we shouldn’t drink water from plastic bottles. She wrote, directed and edited the film.

Take a look and see what you think.


Width Of Great Britain Family Triathlon

Family-friendly adventure

Whenever we get inspired by elite adventurers or tales of epic expeditions, we get our heads together to think about how we can interpret them into something that we can do as a family. Of course, we accept that we have limitations (skills, age, experience, financial) that might mean we can’t always do some of the adventures we would like to do, but we’ve found that with a bit of creativity and imagination, even the biggest of adventures can be made accessible to a family.

And so when we saw adventurer Sean Conway’s Length of Great Britain Triathlon, it got us thinking. Before not too long, the idea to complete a width of Great Britain Triathlon seemed pretty obvious.

Leg 1 – Paddle the Great Glen Canoe Trail

Great Glenn canoe trail map

Prior to this challenge, we’d done very little paddling before, so we had to make sure our approach to what could have been quite a dangerous journey (there was cold water and kids involved) was as safe as possible. Our solution was to paddle the Great Glen Canoe Trail, using the official website as our planning guide, and to paddle it as a tag team.

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Kerry and Ella would paddle all of the canal sections – and the smaller loch called Loch Oich – where the waters were calmer and less affected by wind and currents.

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Amy and I paddled the longer lochs Lochy and the famous Loch Ness. The wind blowing down these larger lochs can result in some rough water – in fact, Loch Ness is classed as an inland ocean and the waves can be a metre or two in size when it is windy.   

Leg 2 – Walk the Hadrian’s Wall Coast to Coast path

Hadrian's wall map

OK, so we’d done lots of walking before (in fact we’d already walked the 100 mile long Ayrshire Coastal Path) so we felt pretty confident about this leg. It was just a case of breaking the journey down into manageable chunks and then getting our heads down and plodding on.

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Kerry and the girls walked the full distance of 90 miles from Tynemouth to Bowness on Solway in seven days, having had a day off in the middle due to very bad weather.

Leg 3 – The Trans Pennine Trail

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Earlier this year, we were staying in Southport for a couple of nights and whilst out for a morning run along the seafront, we noticed a sign and map of the Trans Peninne Trail, a 215-mile cycle route across the country that starts in Southport and ends in Hornsea (or vice versa). We immediately knew that it was something that we wanted to do. As a family we set ourselves a challenge to complete a Width of GB Triathlon. Having already completed the Great Glen Canoe Trail by kayak last year and walked the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail last month, this then became the third leg of journey – the cycling part.
 
The journey began on Bank Holiday Monday. Just as everyone else was enjoying the sunshine, lying on Southport beach or spending money in the amusements and on fairground rides, Tim and the girls were strapping on their helmets and jumping on the bikes to head south towards Liverpool. It was my turn to be the support driver this time and our motorhome  was once again the support vehicle. I hadn’t done much of the driving since getting the motorhome and felt quite excited at the prospect. Sitting behind the wheel of a large vehicle can initially seem intimidating (which was how I felt when we drove out of the Elddis factory back in November last year) but I was looking forward to this.
 
The first day began with an easy cycle into the north of Liverpool; this allowed us to clock up a few miles towards the big total and warm up the legs for the days to come. I drove to meet the cycling trio in Netherton and we returned to our base for the night at Southport Caravan Club site. This was how we planned to it; each day we’d drive to where we stopped; Tim and the girls would begin cycling and I’d meet them at a designated finishing point for the day. I’d find laybys, RSPB reserves, streets or car parks in supermarkets or pubs that were close to the trail. our stopping / starting points along the trail were Netherton, Thelwall, Portwood (Stockport), Dunford Bridge, Sprotbergh,Selby and Hessle and the mileage covered each day on bike varied from 12 miles (first day) to 35!
Some days were slow going – for me not them – as I sat in traffic jams in Liverpool or manoeuvred the windy roads up and over the Peninnes. The cyclists made good progress, increasing the miles that they covered each day. The stretch over the Peninnes was difficult and very tiring, and this led to a mid-week dip in energy levels but not enough to stop them! They all got a psychological lift after passing the halfway point.
 
As we progressed across the country we stayed at various caravan sites, according to how far the cyclists could travel in a day. As the legs got stronger and the determination to complete the challenge became more resolute, the miles were quickly ticked off and after 8 days of hard work the third leg of our Width of GB triathlon was complete. The finishing point for this journey was Hornsea on the East coast and I was joined by the grandparents to welcome and congratulate the weary but proud cyclists as they completed the 215 miles across the country.
Image credits: 
Googlemaps
Trans Pennine Trail


30 Wild Ideas for #30DaysWild

30 Wild ideas for wild families

We are BIG fans of the Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild campaign to get families re-connected to nature and to appreciate and enjoy spending time outdoors.

Last year we collected litter every day for 30 days; doing our bit to try and make roadsides, waterways and natural outdoor spaces a bit cleaner for the wildlife with which we are luckily enough to share these places.

This year we thought we’d share our own list of 30 ideas for outdoor fun and adventure. Some are perfect for mid week or at the weekend, others might require a bit more time. All-in-all though, they are easy to complete and don’t require specialist skills or equipment – just the will and motivation to get outside and give them a go.

There are 6 categories: Night Time Adventures, Weekend Adventures, Midweek Adventures, Mini Wildlife Adventures, Camping Adventures, and Little BIG Adventures

So what are you waiting for? There’s a wild world for you to explore and enjoy.

Go wild!

Night time adventures

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1. Night walk in a wood

Going for a walk at night, in the dark is a completely different experience to the daytime, even if it is in an area that you are familiar with. Your senses are much more heightened; you’ll be more aware of each and every sound since your vision is impaired and this, aided by your imagination, can be a thrilling experience.

Different animals come out at night and ones that you might not be familiar with. Look out for any signs of movement, shadows in the dim light and listen carefully for sounds such as bats screeching, owls hooting and foxes barking. Take along a headtorch but try not to use it if possible. Ideally use a headtorch that has a red light beam since this won’t impede your night vision if it shines in your eyes.

Night walk 2

2. Night time skate/scooter

2. Night time scooter
Everyone loves to get on skates, skateboard or scooter during the day but who says you should only scooter or skate during the day? As darkness descends and the streetlights come on, head out into the streets for some excitement. Choose an area that you are familiar with and wear a headtorch so that you can see in front of you.

3. Star constellations – 5 to spot

The best place to try star gazing is where there is little or no light pollution. This isn’t always possible but try head away from the street lights and up onto a hill. Choose a clear night, with little or no clouds and take along a pair of binoculars or a telescope if you have one.

The most obvious thing to look out for are satellites and in particular the International Space Station. Satellites look like shooting stars or fast moving aeroplanes. You can spot them with the naked eye and you are likely to see them quite regularly. The International Space Station looks like an even brighter satellite. It is the third brightest object in the sky.

star signs

Try to spot some of the most recognisable constellations:

  • The Plough (also referred to as the Big Dipper) is a group of stars that form part of the larger constellation called Ursa Major or Great Bear. It is one of the most familiar star shapes in the northern hemisphere. The plough is shaped like a bowl and handle or saucepan. Three stars make up the handle and four stars make up the bowl. It is really easy to spot.
  • The North star, also called Polaris, is the brightest star in the sky and is an important navigational tool because its position in the sky is almost exactly lined up with rotational axis of the earth. So if you are in the northern hemisphere and face Polaris you are looking directly north. Polaris should be easy to find because it is the brightest star in the sky but you can also locate it using the Plough. Draw a line continuing from the two outer stars that make up the bowl of the Plough (these are referred to as pointer stars).
  • Orion is one of the more famous constellations. It is most identifiable by the hunter’s belt, three stars lined up in a neat row.
  • Orion’s Nebula is where a beautiful cluster of stars are forming. To locate the nebula, look at the vertical row of three fainter stars that hang off Orion’s belt. Orion’s nebula is the fuzzy patch in the middle.
  • Cassiopeia is easy to find because it is a zigzag row of five stars that form the shape of a W (or M, depending on its position in the sky).

4. Hide and seek by torchlight

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Hide and seek is a fun game that most people love to play. You can play it anywhere, anytime. Playing hide and seek in the dark, is even more exciting! Grab your torches and you’re ready!

The way to play hide and seek by torchlight is; someone is chosen to be the seeker and they have to close their eyes and look away from everyone (no peeking!) while the hiders (the rest of the players) run and hide. Once the hiders have found their hiding spot they turn off their torches and try to stay silent. When the seeker has counted to 30 they then begin the search for everyone using their torch. The hiders could be anywhere – behind trees, logs – anywhere really! Watch out for and hidden obstacles when you run in the dark! The seeker catches a hider by shining their torch on or at them. If the seeker finds someone, the person that has been caught has to follow the seeker around, helping with the search by also shining their torch on other hiders. The first person to be found is the seeker for the next round.

5. Night time wild life ramble

Unlike us humans, many animals are nocturnal – meaning they sleep during the day and become active at night. So heading out at dusk (or later) gives you an opportunity to see creatures you wouldn’t come across during the day. A good example of this wildlife is bats. On a walk through the woods you may find these incredible creatures swooping above your head, catching flies and other insects for their dinner. There are also hedgehogs scurrying around, owls (listen carefully!) and even deer, if you head out just as light begins to fade. And remember: the quieter you are, the more likely you are to see animals – most nocturnal creatures rely on their ears as a guide during the night!
1. Night walk in a wood

Weekend adventure ideas

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6. Sea life sculpture

Weekend 1.sealife sculpture
Unfortunately our beaches are covered with litter that has been dropped by careless visitors or washed up from the sea or ocean, having travelled from far off places. A lot of the litter that you find is plastic which never biodegrades but only gets smaller and smaller and often ends up in the stomachs of fish, sea mammals and birds. If you look carefully most beaches have tiny pieces of micro-plastic on them. It is shocking! So, rather than stand by or walk past and ignore the issue, help raise awareness by creating a piece of art that will get your audience thinking.

Collect as many pieces of plastic debris from the beach as you can. Using the different shapes, sizes and colours, create a sea life sculpture – it can be as realistic or imaginative as you want. Consider leaving a sign or message that explains why you created your art and where the materials were from. Leave your audience thinking and maybe they’ll do their bit.

7. Whittle something

Weekend 2. whittle1
Whittling involves carving wood into an object or shape and requires careful knife skills. The use of knives by children can be frowned upon but if taught well and supervised, children can and should be able to use a knife safely and skillfully. The choice of knife is important and should be a short fixed blade knife or a locking folding knife.

Don’t expect to be carving masterpieces straight away! Start by simply stripping bark off twigs that can then be used a skewers for cooking over the fire. Also try sharpening the end of a stick to make a spear which can be uses to spear litter.

As you gain in confidence and ability, you can go on to make butter knifes, letter openers and forks!

8. Get to know a wild place

We spend so much of our lives indoors due to school and work commitments but getting outside has amazing health benefits. You don’t need to go far to find a new and wonderful wild area away from the hustle and bustle of modern living – it could even be in the garden. Visit your wild place as often as you can and really get to know it – think about visiting at different times of day. Use your senses: look carefully all around at plants and wildlife, listen to all the sounds and try to identify any interesting smells (good and bad!), touch the different textures but be careful when it comes to taste – some things just aren’t meant to be eaten!
Weekend 3. get to know a wild place

9. Make and sail a mini raft

Weekend 4. miniraft
A game of pooh sticks is all well and good but why not take it to the next level and build your own mini raft that you can race down a stream or brook? Find or cut some sticks that are the same length – you’ll need about 10 (depending on the size of your raft). The easiest way to get started is to fix your sticks together using loom bands (yep, remember that fad?).
  • Use loom bands to attach two hazel sticks to 7 or 8 cross sticks of similar length placed at 90° to create the classic raft structure (as seen in the photograph right)
  • Take a piece of garden string and tie it off onto one of the two main sticks using a timber hitch (image right).
  • Then trace the loom band with the string, keeping it nice and tight, to create a square lashing.
  • When you have lashed one (or more) of the cross sticks (or you are running out of string length), tie off with a clove hitch (see images right).
  • Keep repeating the process until all of the cross sticks have been attached.
  • Your raft is not ready to sail!
knots

Image credit: SAS Survival Handbook

10. Have breakfast with the birds

Okay, so getting up early can be a bit uninviting, especially when you first force open your eyes and wish you’d never woken up. But, it’s worth it – having breakfast outside in the early hours of the day can help you see wildlife not around later in the day. Take your stove, sausages and eggs into your local woods or park and eat your brekkie with the creatures of the forest. Oh, and don’t forget – take some seed for the birds as well!
feeding

Mid week adventure ideas

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11. Jigsaw map adventure

Jigsaw map
Why not use your mapping skills for a bit of fun and challenge a friend or family member to find something that you’ve hidden?

The first thing to do is to hide a surprise / treasure in a suitable location within easy walking distance. Then draw a map of the area (as accurately as possible) on a piece of paper and indicate where your treasure can be found, e.g. x marks the spot. Once your map is complete you can then turn it into a jigsaw. Draw a picture on the back of the piece of paper or stick it securely onto a picture / photograph. Then cut your map into jigsaw pieces – you can make this as difficult or as easy as you want depending on the size and number of your jigsaw pieces. Put all the jigsaw pieces into an envelope and post to a friend or family member. You never know they might give you one in return.

12. Create a map

Maps are fascinating and provide so much information about an area. Reading a map is an important skill but so is creating one. If you have a favourite spot that you enjoying visiting, create a map of it, adding as much detail as possible. Make it as accurate as possible and don’t forget to include a key, explaining what you are showing.
treasure map

13. Scooter safari

Can get higher res if to be used
Scooters are a fun way to get about and you don’t have to be a kid to have one; lots of kids have scooters but there is a growing trend for adults to own one too. If you don’t have one, you could always borrow one from someone you know.

Choose a suitable route (ideally a cycle path or tarmacked surface) that is near to where you live. Chuck some bits and pieces in a rucksack (waterproofs, water and snacks) and head out on a scooter adventure. It’s a great way to take in the surroundings whilst getting some fun exercise at the same time!

14. Fly something

Okay so flying a life-size plane might be out of the question but there are plenty of other things you can fly, depending on what you own and your skill level. Drones and other radio-controlled flying toys require some skill but you’ve got to start somewhere. Maybe it’s time to dust off that Christmas present and fly it in the Great Outdoors. Alternatively, on a windy day, go fly a kite. If you don’t have one, you could borrow one or even make one for yourself. If none of these ideas appeal and you really do want to fly a plane then getting folding some paper and make your own paper aeroplanes. Decorate them and see whose plane flies the furthest or does the coolest stunts.
Kite copy

15. Rename a viewpoint

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Go out and find somewhere with a good view. Stay a while and spend some time soaking up the sight but before you leave think about what you’d call your viewpoint.

Be creative and have fun thinking of names that give people of hint of what they might expect to see when they are there.

We once renamed a local wood that we visited regularly to walk and bivvy in ‘Campfire Wood’ Whenever we drive past it now, we all shout out ‘There’s Campfire Wood!” and look fondly at a place that is special to us.

Mini wildlife adventures

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16. Hide and peek

Many animals are quite shy around humans and it is difficult to spot them; in fact, they’ll actively avoid being spotted. So to have the opportunity to see that unusual bird, mammal or insect, you need to stay hidden. It’s a bit like hide and seek but no-one is trying to find you. Wear dark clothing and try to blend in with the surroundings. Hide behind a tree or rock, in a bush or, you can, a proper hide! Whilst hidden, remain quiet and keep your eyes peeled for any movement or sounds. Good luck.
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17. Hedgehog house

Hibernation shelter
Hedgehogs like to hibernate in the colder months of the year and will snuggle down in damp, untidy, cosy areas like compost heaps, log piles and under sheds or bushes but you can give them a helping hand by making a hedgehog house for them.

The easiest way to do this is to turn over a sturdy crate and cut out an entrance (and even make a porch for them!). Where you position the house is important and will determine whether you actually get any visitors or not. Position the house in a damp, untidy, quiet area that won’t be disturbed, e.g. against a wall or fence and under plants or vegetation. Ensure that the entrance to the home is facing south or south-west to avoid a north or north-easterly wind. Don’t be tempted to decorate the home for them; part of the hedgehogs’ preparation for hibernating involves furnishing the home with leaves and debris from the garden. If you do get any visitors later in the year, don’t disturb them.

18. Csi Murder Scene

Oh dear – what’s that I see? Could it be… a mini-beast murder? Take on the roll of Sherlock Holmes in this crime-busting activity. See a squashed bug, a dead worm, a cruelly killed creature – find out the cause of its death! Note the murder down, along with the date, time and any clues, in your own detective’s booklet and investigate. There’s no crime big enough for this detective! (Don’t forget your magnifying glass).
dead animal

19. Make a natural collage

Beach art
When you’re feeling artistic you don’t need to turn to the pencils or paint brushes but get outdoors and use what nature has to offer. Wander around the garden, a woodland, river bank or beach and you’ll find a wide variety of materials that could be used to make an interesting collage. Choose a suitable background, such as paper, cardboard or a large piece of bark and arrange your broken seashells, flowers, grass, seaweed, straw, leaves, seeds and nuts or pebbles artistically in a pattern or to make a picture. You can also glue them onto the background for a more permanent collage that you can bring home with you to remind you of your day out.

20. Clouds – find out the name and predict the weather

We often see the weather being presented on the TV. The presenters predict what the weather will be like over the next few hours or days. But these presenters don’t just guess what the weather will be like. They have knowledge to back them up (as well as satellites orbiting our planet). If you want to show your family your knowledge of the weather then why not do some research into clouds and what different shades and shapes mean.
Clouds
Here are a few you could research:
  • Cumulus
  • Stratus
  • Cirrus
Once you are able to recognise the shapes of clouds and name them accurately, you can start looking out for them and predict what the weather will be like. Tell your family if it is going to rain or worse!  Jotting down some notes will help; you can use them when you are making your weather forecasts. Once you become an expert, you could record yourself making a weather forecast outside, explaining to people what the clouds heading their way mean.

Camping adventures

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21. Shadow puppets

shadow
Once the sun has gone down and the torches come on, it’s a great time to have some fun making shadow puppets and the tent walls are the perfect backdrop. Shine a torch or headtorch onto the canvas / nylon and then create shapes in front of the beam of light with your fingers and hands. You could even use props to create extra shapes. How many wild and wonderful animals can you make? If you’re feeling really creative you could turn your talent into a performance.

22. Camping cookout

When you are camping out for a night under the stars you’ll need to eat and eating food outdoors tastes so much better. There are different ways to cook when you are camping: BBQ, gas stove or on the campfire. For a true camping experience, a campfire is a must but check that you are allowed to build one. Try baking your jacket potatoes in the fire and top with cheese or cook your sausages over the fire and serve in freshly baked rolls, which you could even make yourself. 
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Take along some prepared bread dough. Remove a handful of dough and roll it into a long sausage. Remove the bark from the end of a freshly cut stick, such as hazel. Twist the dough around the stick, making sure that the dough is not too thick. Hold the stick over the hot embers of the fire and allow it to cook. Once the dough starts to brown and harden it will slide off the stick and you can put the sausage in the ready-made hole.

23. Make a tent peg

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Pegs are important when you are camping; you use them to put your tent up. But what if you run out, forget them or bend a couple… you’re stuck! A tent is no good without a set of pegs. So, as a back up, it is a good idea to know how to make your own peg from a piece of wood, such as hazel.

Hazel is a brilliant wood to use because whenever you cut some wood off it, another branch grows back. TIP: when you cut your hazel tree (which you can distinguish by the leaves in the shape of a duck’s foot) cut it at a 45 degree angle as it means the rain will run off the wood! Once you have done this cover the stump with mud to disguise it.

How to make a tent peg:

  1.  First, find a piece of wood that is a suitable thickness and saw it (like explained above).
  2. To make the pointed end, that will go into the ground, do a shoulder push (with a straight arm, press your knife a few centimetres away from an end and push down away from you)
  3. To make the notch where the guy rope goes, hold the piece of wood firmly in one hand and place your knife blade at 90° across the wood. Press the knife into the wood where you want the notch to be, rocking the knife from left to right to help make the cut deeper.
  4. Place your knife a few centimetres below the cut that you just made and thumb push (push your thumb on the back of the blade) towards the cut. It will stop automatically when it reaches your cut. Repeat this process until you have a deep notch for your guy rope.
  5. When you hammer down a peg you need to make sure the top doesn’t crack. At the opposite end of your point, bevel the end using the thumb push technique.

Follow these instructions but be careful not to cut your fingers and there you have it, your very own tent peg.

24. Solar oven

Fancy making your own food, kids? Wanna do some D.I.Y? Well, here’s your chance! Solar ovens are a safe and fun way to cook your food, as long as you have a bit of creativity (and sunshine).

All you need is an old cardboard pizza box, cling film, newspaper, foil and black card.

  • First cut a square hole in the lid of your pizza box, leaving one edge attached so that you have a hinged flap.
  • Next, cut some foil out and stick it onto the inside of your flap.
  • After you’ve done that, stick some cling film over the hole in the lid of the pizza box.
  • Now open the lid and cover the inside base of the box with black card, and stuff rolled up newspaper in the edges of the box for insulation. Then voila! You have your own oven, powered by the heat of the sun.
Solar oven

Here’s the sciency bit

The foil reflects extra sunlight into the box, the black card absorbs heat to cook your food faster and the cling film prevents any thing from falling in from the outside and keeps any heat inside. Try melting a Haribo, making a s’more or even baking cookies (I don’t think you’ll be able to roast a turkey though!).

25. Arrowhead trail

Arrow 1
Following trails is really fun. Whether it’s a treasure trail or even a set of footsteps following something is an exciting thing to do while you are out walking. Also, making a trail can be fun.

While you are out walking find some sticks and place them on the ground to make the shape of an arrow. Do this every few metres so there is still some searching involved. Try to make them quite obvious so you don’t leave people wandering around, lost, in the middle of a forest. Choose a a good place to put a prize (like a tree stump or rocks on a beach). Leave your reward in a sheltered or secure place to make sure it doesn’t blow away. Make sure that your arrows lead to your prize. You could challenge your family and friends to complete your trail so make sure there are enough prizes!

Little BIG adventures

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26. Climb the height of…

If the family enjoy walking or hiking up hills and mountains turn it into a bigger challenge by attempting to climb the height of a famous mountain, e.g. Everest, without experiencing the death zone, altitude sickness or frostbite. This can be done in stages, by climbing a series of smaller mountains that will total the height of Everest (8848m) – it will still be a challenge but at an appropriate level for youngsters and people of varying abilities / fitness.
DCIM100GOPRO

Here’s a link to our attempt at climbing (the height of) Everest.

27. Tag team cycle ride

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The tag team approach to a long ride or trail makes it possible for a family (with the young, old, or slightly out of shape) to complete an outdoor experience they might not be able to complete otherwise. It is also a good way to build a sense of team-spirit and shared fun.

The idea is to select a cycle ride that is a bit (or a lot) longer than the usual ride you might normally complete, and then share the riding between the riders. So, the first riders are dropped off at the start of a section to start riding while the support car or van drives to the end of the section. When the riders arrive at the end of the section, they swap with the driving team and then drive the support vehicle to the end of the next agreed section. Repeat the process until you reach the end of the trail. You don’t have to do the driver/rider swap at the end of every section, but the idea is that everybody takes their turn to ride at least some of the trail.

Look online for ideas in your local area, but some that we have completed have been the Tissington Trail in Derbyshire, the Tarka Trail in Bideford, Devon; and Drake’s Trail from Tavistock to Plymouth (and back if you can).

28. Hike/camp/hike

Sleeping outdoors in a tent or bivvy bag is an exciting experience, but for a bigger sense of adventure and excitement, go on a hike that involves carrying the gear you need for an overnight camp out. You’ll be surprised how little you decide you actually need (or don’t need) when you are having to carry it on your back! It’s a worthwhile exercise for this reason alone, never mind the fun and excitement you’ll have camping out under the stars and then waking up to walk home again.

If you meet other walkers on route, you’ll notice a glint of respect in their eyes (or in the tone of their conversation) when they realise that you are hiking with the intent of staying out over night.

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Some tips:

  • keep heavy things close to your back to help keep your centre of gravity
  • pack things in the order you are going to use them
  • keep waterproofs near the top, just in case
  • put gloves and hats in outside pockets
  • use dry bags to keep valuables – and clothing etc – dry in case water gets through the outer layer of your rucksack
  • pack snacks and take plenty of water, and keep them handy too
  • tell someone where you are going and when they can expect you back
  • take a first aid kit and know how to use it
  • always carry a map and compass (and know how to use them)

29. Wild swim / float

float2
There’s a sense of being at one with nature when you have a wild swim (a swim in the outdoors). The water is usually colder too, so this wild idea is likely to take your breath away (in more than one way).

Take a wetsuit, a towel, some dry clothes and some snacks and warm drinks to help warm you up when you come out of the water.

If you are swimming with children, make sure they have some flotation device (buoyancy aid if they are young or a weak swimmer, or a safety tow float).

Places to wild swim:

  • the ocean – try coasteering or just playing in the waves – be aware of currents and tides
  • lakes – the larger the lake, the colder the water (usually). They are free of currents but make sure you can get to the shallows if you get too tired or cold.
  • rivers – slow flowing rivers are fun to swim (drift) down – be aware of white water
  • water fall plunge pools – don’t go too near the falling water itself though

If you are not a strong swimmer, or don’t fancy exerting yourself too much but you want an exhilarating experience, find some gentle rides to float down. An inflatable ring or car tyre are great for riding small rapids on. Make sure you check the rapids are safe to float down before you jump in, and that you can safely get to shore at any time should you need to. A buoyancy aid is a must for both children and adults alike, and you might want to pop a helmet on the younger rapid riders.

30. Family fun run – park run, 5 or 10 k fun run, fancy dress run, run the shape of

“Hands up who wants to go for a run?” will most likely result in everyone in earshot putting their hands as close to the ground as possible!

Why? Well, unless you’re fit and err… a runner, running is nothing but hard work that gets you hot, sweaty and looking like a beetroot on legs.

But with the right approach, and a bit of creativity, running can actually be fun… for a family. Honest.

scooby gang

Ideas for making a run, fun

  • Take part in a fancy dress fun run.
    Fun runs for charity (like Sport Relief) give everyone a good excuse to get dressed up and having fun – and raising money for good causes, too. The fact that most people are not serious runners makes fun runs relaxed and informal, and very supportive environments. If you find a local fun run and are tempted to join in, then do! And if there’s the option of running in fancy dress, then do that as well; when you see everyone in their costumes on the day, you’ll wish you had worn one too. Plus, wearing a fancy dress costume gives you an excuse to run more slowly and to stop and chat to people on the way if you need a rest.
  • Join Park Run
    Get a Saturday morning off to a nice startPark Run is an organisation that runs 5km timed runs all across the UK (and beyond) every Saturday morning. It is run by volunteers and even runs junior events in some locations. OK, so there are some serious runners that attend Park Run, but this shouldn’t put you off trying one – there are runners of all abilities and from my experience, they are very friendly and no-one actually judges you on your look, gear or ability. The beauty of Park Run is that every respects everyone for enjoying and sharing the experience of running together.Look out for fun Park Runs i.e. runs that take place on special occasions like Christmas.
  • Run a shape
    Running a shape is really good fun and perfect for families. All you have to do is open Google Maps and use the Distance Measure tool (right click on the map) to mark-up a route you want to run, trying to draw a shape or an outline of something. The beauty of doing this is that not only have your created an interesting route for your run, you’ve also worked out its distance! Clever eh?At Christmas time last year we drew the shape of a reindeer using the roads and streets of the local area, and then we ran (jogged slowly) the route dressed with Christmas fairy lights, Santa hats and singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It was amazing how many people said hello or even Merry Christmas as we passed them. They either thought we were nutty or we helped to fill them with some Christmas cheer.

Reindeer-Run-9-485x440


Dirt is good

Dirt is good

When Persil said they wanted to send us a Dance Kit as part of the promotion of their Dirt is Good campaign, we were delighted: our two girls love music and making up their own dances, and Kerry and I are both big fans of Sir Ken Robinson and his work on the importance of  creativity in the learning process. We are also advocates for Learning Outdoors and passionate about the UN’s Global Goals (two other areas that Sir Ken Robinson is involved in).

So, when the kits arrived, we had a little think about how we could use them to promote the idea that kids should be allowed (encouraged) to go wild a little, to play outside and enjoy it, to have fun and importantly, not worry about getting dirty!

We decided to make a short film (a remake of an old Persil advert – cos we like making films). As you can imagine, we certainly had fun making it. We hope it encourages a few other parents to let their kids loose and get dirty.

We Will Rock You


So you want a drink of water….think before you buy

How should we drink (buy) water?

Water is a refreshing, healthy drink that is often the number one choice for quenching thirst. It is found almost everywhere: in our homes, offices, shops and restaurants. Most, if not all, of our supermarkets sell bottled water; there are shelves stacked full. It is often a common sight to see people walking round with a plastic bottle of water in their hand. Has this become the norm or is the tide turning? Don’t we need to think before we make that choice to buy a plastic bottle of water? What is its impact before and after the five minutes of drinking from it?

The selling of water

plastic-bottles

The selling of water has become a real money making business. We regularly see water bottle adverts on billboards and on our TVs. On the front of the water bottles that we buy, we see images of fresh water running down mountains and we are constantly reminded of the health benefits.

The water in plastic bottles isn’t always what we are led to believe it is.

Sometimes bottled water is actually only tap water that might have been filtered and water bottled from a source does not follow the same strict regulations that tap water does.

That’s the water. What about the actual plastic bottles?

Plastic bottles

There are also health risks associated with drinking bottled water. Most plastic bottles contain PET (polyethylene terephthalate) which is safe but when stored at high temperatures can leach chemicals into the water. So leaving a bottle of water in the sun on a shelf or in the car causes the chemical balance to change, making the chemicals leach into the water faster. Antimony is a chemical that is used to make PET and in high concentrations can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. German scientists found that bottles left lying around will develop increasing levels of antimony.

Another chemical associated with some plastic bottles is BPA (bisphenol A), a chemical found in polycarbonate (often used for products made of harder plastics). This chemical has been proven to cause brain and behavioural problems in kids and problems linked to the brain, female reproductive system and immune system in adults. Most water bottles don’t include BPA these days but some other products that are made from harder plastic compounds.

Plastic is a great invention; it is a strong, durable substance but that is its downfall. It lasts for thousands of years meaning almost every single piece of plastic ever made, still exists in some form.

Plastic isn’t good for the environment for many reasons. Every single plastic bottle requires virgin petrol and water for its production. In fact, more water is needed to make the bottle than what is stored in it. The Pacific Institute, an American non-profit research institute, “estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full with oil.”

So, plastic isn’t good for our environment or our health and we need to find alternatives.

 

Alternative choices to plastic that are out there

Cartons

cartons
Water is available in cartons; Aquapax and Vivid Water in a Box are two companies that produce water in cartons.

Good points

  • Unlike plastic bottles, cartons come from a renewable and sustainable source – trees.
  • They can biodegrade.
  • They are recyclable.
  • They don’t contain PET and so don’t leach chemicals into the water

Bad points

  • Cartons need plastic lids
  • Many cartons use layers of plastic and sometimes aluminium in order to keep the contents fresh

 

Cans

cans

Water can also be purchased in cans; Ugly Drinks and CanO Water are two examples.

Good points

  • They are 100% recyclable
  • They are light, and therefore easy to transport
  • The water stays cooler for longer
  • Some (CanO water) are resealable using small amounts of plastic which can be recycled with the metal

Bad points

  • If it is not recycled an aluminium can can take up to 500 years to degrade
  • Aluminium is not a renewable source and therefore if not recycled it has to be created from scratch

 

Refillable bottles

water to go
All of these alternatives are one step closer to a more environmentally friendly solution to reducing plastic. But there is one more option.

Buying a refillable bottle.

Whilst these bottles are more expensive than a single-use plastic bottle initially, they are cheaper in the long run. Rather than having to buy bottles, cartons or cans, it requires remembering to take the bottle out and fill it with tap water. Tap water is just as good, if not better, as plastic bottled water because it is highly regulated.

For those that dislike the taste or the minerals that are in tap water e.g. fluoride, there are filter options like Water-to-Go that filter out any chemicals or dirt in the water.

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Water is a key life ingredient but everyone has their own circumstances and although refilling is the ideal option, it might be necessary to buy water. The problem is that most shops only provide plastic water bottles.

We need to see cartons or cans in supermarkets instead of plastic. If you agree sign this petition and support our campaign to introduce more non-plastic water packaging to supermarket shelves.

By Ella (aged 10)

Plastic bottle photo from www.publicdomainpictures.net
Main image and running water from www.flickr.com
Water to Go bottle from www.watertogo.eu


Everest Peak 8: Our Final Peak, Scafell Pike

Height: 978m

Location: The Lake District National Park – overlooking Wast Water and Wasdale Head – Scafell, Sty Head and Great Gable nearby.

Well, after 7 stunning peaks, we came to the conclusion that our Climb Everest Challenge should go out with a bang, and what better way to do so than climbing the highest peak in England – Scafell Pike.

Picked up by our Great-Uncle from Gosforth village, not far from Scafell Pike, we trundled along a country road in his small motorhome to Wasdale Head. The weather forecast did hint at rain during our walk, so we kept our fingers crossed, as we packed the waterproofs, that they would be used as windjammers rather than raincoats. We set off walking up a less touristic path that wove between Lingmell Crag and Great Gable, following a river. The terrain was fairly steep and there was just some worn grass as the path, but it did the trick and was a very picturesque route. We then passed some dramatic crags and deep gullies as we clambered up the grassy slopes, stopping for lunch and to say hello to some hardy mountain sheep. It was then just a short walk, joining the main Scafell Pike path, to the summit.

Piers Gill
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When I was seven, I climbed Scafell Pike with my dad, and all we could see from the summit was mist. My dad had climbed Scafell a few times previous to that and he didn’t get any better views. So it was a first for both of us to be able to see the mountains surrounding us, the town of Whitehaven in the distance and even Keswick and Skiddaw vaguely visible on the horizon. To top off this, on the way back down, we bumped into the Ordnance Survey Press Officer, our conversation sparked by mutual branded hats. It turned out that they were doing some filming with Ben Fogle, who walked past while we were speaking and nodded a brief hello. It was their second day filming on the Scafell Pike summit and they were re-measuring the height of the mountain.

 

So an unexpected surprise on our final Climb Everest Peak, but it was certainly the perfect way to end what has been a brilliant challenge. We have now climbed 8848m to what would be the summit of Everest in a safer, family-friendly and more enjoyable way.

Amy.

Other peaks in the Climb Everest Challenge: Carauntoohil, Galtymore, Cachiporrilla, Ben Nevis, Ben Lawers, Bienn Ghlas, Coniston Old Man.