Adventure day. 

We’ve been so busy lately. Busy with all sort of ‘enriching’ things. Classes, time with friends, busy busy busy. Even though during the summer most groups and classes are off, we have been alternating our normal ‘busy’ with total crushing downtime.

Last night I thought it was time to get back to what life has always looked like for us – at least before the busy bug struck.

Time to explore new places, with no constraints to rush back to anything else. A day with just the three of us (though Suzy was missed); no friends to consider when we decided what to do.

Last night I had a little google, looking at English Heritage, the National Trust, the CADW, and plain old ordinary maps. That’s how I discovered we don’t live that far from a big ass chalk horse carved into a hill in Wiltshire. I decided that could be a loose destination, a way for us to be pointed in.

This morning I told the kids it was Adventure Day. As we drove, if we saw anything cool we’d stop. We did – at a garden centre cum pet supply shop, with a cafe charmingly named after the camp where Suzy and I met. We marveled at cactus displays, venus fly traps, compasses and swiss army style cutlery. Then we got back in the car.

Oh, white horse on the hill, how I love you. We drove up a very narrow, winding road to the top of a hill. The whole carpark was chalk; it was so white. We pulled out a blanket and had a picnic on the flat grass expanse, looking at books, chatting, laying back in the sun.

Eventually we headed off to see what we could see of an Iron Age fort and a white horse.

There were grasshoppers singing, blue skies, a gentle breeze rippling the long grasses. We had pastels and oil crayons, scavenger hunt books and a kite, and all the time in the world.  With nowhere to be, we found we were in exactly the right place for exactly the right amount of time.

We stood on the hill and searched for the other two white horses visible from the peaks. We walked ages along a chalky path (which made me feel sick at points, so high and steep were we!). We saw a train pottering along in the distance and wondered if the people onboard would notice the horse.

And I felt happy. Happier than I’ve felt in ages. It was just me and the kids, just me and this wild, gorgeous place, just me and all the time in the world. Never have I felt so enriched.

As we move towards September, we are rethinking how our days and weeks will be ordered. We are leaving some things behind, trying one or two new things, but largely – we will hopefully be exploring, be adventuring without having a specific day set for that purpose, wandering and thinking and making art.

We’ll invite friends along, and gladly go along with others, but I think we’ll try to have more time just us. More time drinking in the beauty of wild spaces, time lazy and ripe. Because, really, what could be better?

Advertisements

On the water, untethered.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost myself in motherhood; sometimes being a mother gives me a chance to find myself again. 

When I was a child, one of my favourite places to be was my grandmother’s cottage. From her house, we’d drive about an hour to a ferry. It held twelve cars. If you were lucky you were in the front row or on the sides. Waves often splashed up onto the windshield, boats danced in the waves, you paid with a shiny purple token for your passage. On the other side of the ferry is where the magic started. One road ran the length of the small island, where people had summer cottages.

Reeds lined both sides of the road, marshses beyond it. Water was everywhere, long grasses, birds, the smell of freedom and sunshine and possibility. After a few minutes drive, we’d park behind my aunt’s cottage and run round to the front to wave madly at my grandparents – for their cottage was on a tiny island within the bigger one. My grandpa would acknowledge us with one wave, you’d hear his tiny boat – nothing more than a platform of wood over a few flotation barrels, an engine on the back – puttting towards us. Out came luggage, out came smiles.

As a young child, I was often dropped off to spend weeks with my grandmother on this island-within-an-island, this otherworldy place where I was cherished and neglected in equal portions. My grandfather would leave my grandmother Annie and I alone on the island, which had two houses – my grandmother’s and my aunt’s, a sunny yellow boathouse, and a collapsed storefront. From her island you could see into the huge, deep channel that ran between America and Canada, a channel of freight ships, waves, the feelings of flying fast on those waves, sitting in impossibly dangerous parts of their motorboat. 

In the evenings I’d go inside to watch tv on Annie’s tiny tv screen. It felt like such an honour, there in that small room, the sunset floating around us. Sometimes she’d tell me stories of what it was like to be there with my mother. Sometimes we’d have popcorn. Sometimes we’d watch a show or two, and then off to bed.

But the days?

I ran wild and free. Inside that yellow boathouse was a yellow canoe. I’d climb in it soon after sunrise, no lifejacket, no plan. And then I’d disappear for hours. My grandmother couldn’t swim, and she sure couldn’t yell far enough to reach the wilds I found. I knew every watery canal between houses, the bridges I’d have to lay on the bottom of the canoe to get underneath, and sometimes I knew the power of being alone in that canoe on the Channel.

I went and went. Hours were spent paddling along, further and further, with no idea of destination or specific activity required. I’d go back to her cottage if I was hungry, but sometimes I’d be out till almost sunset. I was so alone, so free, and so safe. Being on those watery passages is one of the best places I’ve been in my life, and just being in a canoe again brings that back to me.

My kids loved it. I loved it. I wanted hours to sit and float and explore and feel. I laughed with friends, I missed my grandmother, I imagined a life where we canoed every day.

In these moments, in the times when my children try something new to them but as old to me as the fibres of my being, I find myself again and again, the young me and the older-but-possibly-not-wiser me, floating along the waters but not alone anymore.

Awesome places to visit, galore!

We have recently been doing a lot of little road trips and travelling. Here’s just a few of the places we’ve been in the last few weeks – we definitely recommend visits!

Sand Bay, near Weston Super Mare

img_2650
img_2649

This is one of our go to haunts. It’s got a bit of woodland, a bit of rocks, and a whole lot of beach. There are mini sand dunes to explore, a nice firm sandy beach, and rarely other people. There’s even a little pub opposite the beach.

We have actually been here twice in the last week or so. We stayed well past sunset to see the elusive tide come in, and every second was worth it. 

Stourhead National Trust property 

  

This place is overflowing with magic. Yes, actual magic. The trees are what really do it for me – so many different kinds, all growing a little bit crooked, all old abs magnificent. You can climb them, slide down them, do bark rubbings, or just take endless pictures. 

It’s also got little pagan temples scattered around, watery grottos, amazing flowers,  a big lake, and an excellent pub courtyard to get ice cream at. 

Caerphilly Castle, Wales

 
  

A truly fab castle to visit. It’s got a giant dragon statue (complete with smoking nostrils!) emerging from the ground, an oddly challenging children’s trail to follow, an unexpected statue man holding up a turret, and a film you should not let younger children – or sensitive ones – get within a mile of. There are also tonnes of Canadian geese outside in the large and free park. 

Of course all castles in Wales are free for home educators – I’ll have to write a post explaining how to access that!

St. Fagan’s, Wales

  

This is officially called the National Welsh Living History museum. Or something like that. 

It’s a bunch of very old buildings – thatch roofed cottages, a gazillion year old church, stables, etc set in a gorgeous, huge outdoors space. (Free to enter for all, barring carpark charges.) You can easily spend all day wandering and playing – and still not see everything. 

We particularly like the village green, bordered by ye olde shoppes and businesses. 

Kenilworth Castle

Near Birmingham and Coventry. And other places. 

img_2652
Flipping fantastic!!! We had a mini trip to Birmingham for a few days, and hit up this castle on the way home. Largely ruins, but with an excellent, kid friendly visitor centre museum place. Lots to see and explore – our kids were absolutely wowed by a massive hill at the rear of the castle. This is the steepest, highest hill. Pictures cannot do it justice.

They climbed and rolled and played for literal hours on the thing while Suzy and I sat at the top and watched as the sun set. Pretty near bliss, I’ll tell you. 

 

We have been a few others places and done a lot of other stuff, but that’s all best left for future posts, perhaps. 

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas of places that are great days out….and please, if you guys ever go anywhere fabulous, leave a comment! I’m in the mood for new places. 

Tick!!

  
Every year I make a list of 100 things I’d like to do that year. Big, small, silly, dead serious. 

Every year for the last three years I’ve had ‘go on a mini break adventure alone with the kids’ and never managed to get around to doing it. 

While this may not quite count as ‘alone’, it does to me as Suzy wasn’t there and she’s definitely the more adult/responsible one. 

So that’s a big tick off 2016’s list.  We had such a good time I think I can probably backdate my tick to 2014. 

Score! 

Never say no to an adventure! 

About a week ago, a friend said, ‘Hey, do you want to go to Spain with us?’ A couple of days after that we were on a plane with her and her adorable kids. 

Today’s our last day here. After a few days of sun and heat, it’s cooler and windy. Obviously we feel at home on cold beaches. Ha. 

  
  
I was worried if I’d cope on my own with the kids. All the bedtimes, all the nighttimes, all the picky eating that new countries and food allergies bring. But you know what?

It’s been a joy. A time out from normal life which has reminded me a bit more of what I’d like normal life to be like, what it once was before all the classes and clubs and meet ups. 

A little bit slower, a little bit more joy and instinct led, a little more flexible. 

Of course, excellent company helps. So does Spanish sunshine and water with lemons picked fresh off a tree. 

  

Perhaps the biggest lesson (and reward) in these past few days comes from the reminder of how good it feels to say a resounding YES whenever you can.