Wild summer days

Welcome to the July 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Summer Fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about how to get out and enjoy the warmer season as a family.

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IMG_4671aA blog post about what we get up to in the summer months could be pages long, as we are a very active family regardless of the weather, but in the warmer summer months we are out and about even more than ever. To keep it concise I have broken up our activities into mini themes to help you navigate;

The Buzzards, a tiny campsite
The Buzzards, a tiny campsite

Camping; as a family we love going camping, using our trusty 3 person tunnel tent as our home from home, with a good size porch giving space to eat if the weather is bad and space for our Labrador to sleep. The Tiny Camp-sites book has really inspired us; all the

Our tent
Our tent

camp-sites are an acre or less, many rustic with rather basic facilities, which is just what we like. We prefer the feel of almost camping in someone’s back garden, as opposed to camping on a large camp-site with all mod-cons.

Tessa and Ewan by the camp-fire
Tessa and Ewan by the camp-fire

For instance, at the end of June this year, we returned to The Buzzards camp-site in Hereforshire, where we were again the only campers. This is a friendly, small camp-site with a compost-able toilet (and another toilet attached to the owner’s home with a shower too) and place to light a fire.

Camping when Tessa was  2 months old and Ewan was almost 3
Camping when Tessa was 2 months old and Ewan was almost 3

Camping can be a lot of effort with children, but it is worth all the preparation and kit which is required, just to see the children’s faces as they wake up under canvas and realise where they are, to see them running freely around the camp-site, to step out directly into nature and to cook outdoors, to name just a few of the many perks! We are now slowly ticking our way through the Tiny Campsites book; if you live in the UK, I’d highly recommend it.

Ewan waking up in his bivy whilst wild camping
Ewan waking up in his bivy whilst wild camping

Wild camping; as experienced campers, with a husband who has wild camped since he was a young boy, we have taken the children wild camping a number of times. Wild camping is define as camping away from organised campsites, in the UK there is no legal right to wild camp except in Scotland and in Dartmoor. For us the wonder about wild camping is camping amongst

A lot to carry!
A lot to carry!

nature away from a managed camp-site. It offers seclusion and a rich experience in nature, free from our ultra connected modern lives. In most of England, you must gain the landowners permission to wild camp, although camping for one night in the mountains, well away from towns and villages is generally accepted. We are very fortunate to have a good friend who owns a beautiful woodland in the Eden Valley in northern England, where we camp every year. This is wild camping, but without the long walk to a camping place a more typical imagb2270wild camp often entails, so it is ideal with a young family as we don’t have to carry our kit too far. When we were a one child family, we did wild camp in Scotland in more remote places with longer walk-ins, but we have yet to try that now that we have two young children. It is on our list though! See my blog post on wild camping for more inspiration.

Ewan on an expedition with Daddy in Snowdonia, Wales
Ewan on an expedition with Daddy in Snowdonia, Wales

My husband also wild camps in the mountains with our son, who is now 5, whilst on mountaineering expeditions. He is hoping to take our daughter along with them next year, but at present she is

Ewan and Daddy in Snowdonia
Ewan and Daddy in Snowdonia

nursing at night time so this isn’t possible. Wild camping takes even more preparation and some level of expertise to be successful, but it is possible and can be very enjoyable and rewarding with children, even toddlers. Tessa was only one when she first wild camped and Ewan went on his first wild camp in the mountains when he was just three.

Travelling the easy way!
Travelling the easy way!

Long walks; we are a family of walkers, very much helped by having a Labrador which means we have to get out on at least one walk per day. However, this is often an excuse as without a walk every day I go stir-crazy, as do the kids! As a busy mum juggling a home, children, work and various hobbies, going on a walk in the local woods with the children is one of my happiest, most switched-on times of the day. I feel more connected to the children, less distracted from the many jobs which are always looming when at home.

Setting out on a walk from home
Setting out on a walk from home

The children are so used to walking they are almost always happy to go for a walk, but both do have an explorers ruc-sac which contains a magnifying glass, binoculars, a map, a bug catcher, etc, which they sometimes take with them.

We head out in all weathers, our favourite haunt being the local woods where there is a stream for the dog and children to splash in, wild flowers to admire, a grassy bank to run down and a lake to admire the ducks on.

Ewan and Tessa on a local walk, summer 2014
Ewan and Tessa on a local walk, summer 2014

I take the sling for Tessa as well as the all terrain pushchair, so that both children can have a rest if needs be. This also means we can go further afield if we want to. We are fortunate to live close to beautiful open countryside,

Having fun making a splash
Having fun making a splash

which does make it easier to immerse ourselves in nature, but as we explore the local woods and hills my heart always aches, for my children are very much an endangered species in this natural environment. This saddens me immensely, confirming that many children are now suffering from nature deficit disorder.

Mark making
Mark making

The natural environment offers many learning opportunities for the children (and for me!), such as learning the names of plants and trees, learning abut weather and looking after oneself, as well as opportunities to practise counting and the skill of writing and drawing in the soil and on rocks.imaga034

Launching a home-made raft
Launching a home-made raft

We also love foraging, every summer picking elder-flowers to make cordial and blackberries in the autumn. One of my aims is to be more adventurous with foraging, as there is an abundance of natural foods just waiting to be picked from our local hedgerows and woods. Watch this space…

When Ewan is at playgroup I often put Tessa in the sling and go for a long walk in the beautiful Longshaw Estate. This

A sleeping Tessa in the Burbage Valley
A sleeping Tessa in the Burbage Valley

is my time to reflect, recuperate and stretch my legs. Tessa often has a long nap in the sling, then when she wakes she walks a little and we have a picnic. I love this special time with just my daughter, as a second child it is important she has this one-on-one mother daughter time. We return to pick up Ewan refreshed and ready to face the rest of the day.

Wild picnics; When we are out on long walks, we often take a

One of our many wild picnics
One of our many wild picnics

picnic with us so we don’t have to head home for lunch, or sometimes if it is later in the day I pack an evening meal. I carry the picnic and a Thermos flask with me, finding a spot on the way for us to eat. I use a lightweight picnic blanket so we always have somewhere dry to sit down, and if it is raining we sometimes erect a tarpaulin shelter too.

Tessa and Ewan in the woods
Tessa and Ewan in the woods

This way we can stay out longer, which brings it’s won rewards we we experience nature at different times of the day. It also means the children are well fed and hydrated, making exploring a far more enjoyable experience for us all! Even if we don’t have a full picnic, I always take a number of appetising snacks with us, as the children always work up an appetite in the great outdoors, as do I!

Using the Kelly Kettle
Using the Kelly Kettle

Time in the woods; I am currently training to be a Forest School practitioner. To help practise my skills, when time affords we take the tarpaulin shelter and a Kelly Kettle (a portable device for boiling

Under the tarp
Under the tarp

water outdoors using twigs and other combustible materials) and head into the woods to practise woodland skills. In the past my husband always put up the shelter, lit the fire and made a brew as I focussed on the children, but now we

Erecting the tarp
Erecting the tarp

both do and the children also muck in too! Ewan has been attending forest school for two years, so is very familiar with woodland activities and happy to help me. In fact he teaches me as much as I teach him! I love sitting under a shelter sipping a cup of tea with the children on my lap or off playing close by in the woods. The woods offers a true sense of peace and tranquillity and moments of mindfulness rarely experienced elsewhere.

On the Cromford Canal
On the Cromford Canal

Days out; We also like to go on day trips to local outdoor attractions as a family at the weekends or in the week as part of our home education, such as Criche Tramway Museum, Cromford Canal, Chatsworth House,

Ewan climbing
Ewan climbing

many National Trust properties and park-lands, such as Longshaw Estate and Hardwick Hall, and to local nature reserves. We also support Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, going to events such as walks at nature reserves and family craft

Ewan with his balance bike
Ewan with his balance bike

activities, as well as every month to the Wildlife Watch club for children.

We are introducing the children to climbing outdoors and to cycling, both important skills we would like the children to learn in a fun way. We also enjoy outdoor theatre events, where we can enjoy a special picnic before watching a children’s theatre show in the great outdoors. Again, we are fortunate to live in an area which is rich in natural resources, living on the doorstep of the Peak District National Park.

Chatsworth
Chatsworth

Time in the garden; Even when our days are too busy to head further afield, when swimming lessons, martial arts class and other scheduled activities limit what we can do outdoors, we still like to eat our meals outdoors in the summer on the patio, letting the children play in the garden in their little playhouse and in the sand. The children sometimes simply while the time away in the hammock or the swing when it is hot or for a break, for it is important to have time to just be, looking up at the trees and sky above and listening to the birds chirruping.

Eating in the garden on my birthday in August 2014, the rain did not deter us!
Eating in the garden on my birthday in August 2014, the rain did not deter us!

We also have a fire pit at the bottom of our garden, which we light and even cook on when we get chance. We grow rhubarb, gooseberries, apples, strawberries and mint in the garden, in the past also managing a small

Ewan and panda sitting by our fire pit
Ewan and panda sitting by our fire pit

vegetable patch which I would like to utilise again with the children. It is very satisfying to grow food in the garden, whilst teaching the children a valuable lesson in where our food comes from, not just the fruit and veg box we get delivered or the man in a van with our online food shop! We really live outdoors as much as possible in the summer, as our living room is hardly used!

Tessa and Ewan on the Isle of Mull
Tessa and Ewan on the Isle of Mull

Holidays; One of our favourite holiday destinations is Scotland, which holds many special memories for my husband and I and now for our children too. We love the beauty, remoteness and the wildness the islands and highlands of Scotland offer, which is why we head back year after year after year! We also head further afield, this summer planning a fortnight in the Alps in France. We are quite adventurous travellers, having

In Nepal
In Nepal

ventured as far afield as the Himalayas of Nepal last year and Bali in 2012; we have also been to the Sheltand Isles and to French Canada as a family, and have aspirations to travel to many more adventurous destinations in the future. Adventurous travel with children,

Travelling in Scotland
Travelling in Scotland

like camping, takes commitment, preparation and the right kit, but reaps so many rewards, in the form of sacred family time, the opportunity to discover new places, cultures and natural environments, and countless learning opportunities for the children and for us, to name just a few.

So there’s my list! It is not exhaustible, but is an insight into what we get up to in the summer months. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.

Foraging for elderflower, to make cordial; one of the first photos my son has taken
Foraging for elderflower, to make cordial; one of the first photos my son has taken

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 14 with all the carnival links.)

12 thoughts on “Wild summer days”

  1. It was so lovely reading about your summer adventures. My older children are all grown now and have their own commitments but I am so excited that I get to look forward to activities such as camping with my new baby daughter. It is very important to me that she experiences the natural world as much as possible. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Barefoot Mama, I loved reading your post. Thanks for your comments about mine. I hope that you enjoy camping and other wild activities with your baby daughter, I’m sure you will.

  2. Lots of camping…and fun, I see! Your adventures both look and sound exciting. We haven’t quite gotten into actual camping yet, though we really want to sooner rather than later. With our second child on the way, it has become apparent to us that sleeping in our vehicle overnight in the mountains before we adventure for the day is not the best. Thankfully, we recently spotted a decent sized tent we might purchase for a relatively low price to take care of this! 🙂

    1. Hi, thanks for your comments. I hope you manage to find a tent suitable for your growing family, please give us a bell if you need any advice and happy camping

  3. Your camping adventures sound so FUN! We just started family camping trips last year, but so far we have stuck with the mostly modern campsites (showers/bathrooms within walking distance). I’d love to do more rustic camping – now to talk the hubby into it!

    1. Hi Dionna, thanks for your comments. It takes courage to move from a modern to a rustic campsite, and is a jump, but it is worth it as you feel more connected with nature and your surroundings. It’s also lots of fun, but takes a leap of faith. It was a bit if a shock for me the first time, but my husband was brought up going to remote islands and bothying or wild camping, so is very experienced with it. I hope you get the opportunity to go more rustic camping, you’re welcome to ask me and my husband any questions you have. Enjoy, and thanks again.

  4. We’ve been camping most every year, though this was our first time with THREE children. As it turns out, that was our max. 😉 We might come up with an easier way to engage with the outdoors next year…

    But, we’ve also been going out walking every day. I seriously now can’t stand it if we miss a day, and my kids have gotten used to it as well!

    1. Hi Lauren, I don’t know how we’d manage three children either, 2 and a dog is enough but maybe in time it will get easier for you as they get older? There are always other ways to engage with the outdoors as you say. I agree that unless we get out everyday walking, I start to go stir crazy and so do the kids, it’s really a necessary part of our days. Thanks for reading.

  5. Your post makes me want to go camping! I have yet to take my 3.5-year-old, but I want to someday… I guess I just find the entire idea a bit intimidating, even though I’ve gone camping so many times myself. We do spend a lot of time walking and exploring though, and we try to get away to nature preserves and other nice outdoor spaces as much as possible (here in Southern California, natural spaces are kind of at a premium!). Thanks for sharing your ideas and your lovely photos!

    1. Hi Holly, thanks for your comments. I hope you get the opportunity to go camping with your young child, I’m sure they’d love it, though I know what you mean about it feeling intimidating, new things generally do. I’m very fortunate to have such an out-doursy husband with a lot of camping experience. It sounds like you do get out a lot though, I visited California including Yosemite pre-children and remember being blown away by how beautiful it was. You’re lucky to live there.

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