Eight hours. 


Earlier this week we spent eight hours in the woods. I’m not entirely sure what the kids got up to – I didn’t see them most of the time. 

We try to spend one day a week at Forest School. We come early, we stay late. Way late. 

The kids climb trees, make dens, chase zombie farmers, play at the mud kitchen, get stung by nettles, cook over the fire, fight (and make up) with friends, swing on a tyre. 

What do I do? A lot of laughing by the campfire. 

Because at Forest School, kids are friends with kids who are friends with adults who are friends with adults who are friends with kids. We’re all on a first name basis. 

There’s some babies, some toddlers, quite a few kids roundabout M and S’s age, and some older kids too. And mums, dads, aunts, grandparents, dogs. 

The whole place is an autonomous romp through the woods and the afternoons- everyone chooses what to do, what delights them. 


It’s a chance for kids to be totally reliant on imagination and nature. 

They get to take risks – starting fires, using knives, drilling holes in logs. They get to do big stuff – giant net forts, huge screaming games of running wild through the trees and fields, collaborative projects like the ‘summer house’ that’s been being created over the last month or so. 

But more than that, it’s full of tiny magic moments. Those are the ones I think are the most important. 

Two kids side by side on a swing, chatting. Someone playing alone with a bowl of water and some sticks. Sitting surrounded by friends while we eat lunch on the ground. 

This week we spent eight hours breathing deeply in the fresh air. Eight hours laughing. Eight hours with campfire smoke and drama and sunlight. 

It’s days like that I feel so grateful and connected and at peace. These moments are not tiny pieces of their childhood, it’s what most of their childhood is like. 

As a friend said after this week, how lucky the children are. 

Really, how lucky we all are. 

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Why, yes, I may just be that hippy parent YOUR parents warned you about.

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And so there we were, trooping through the woods. Running from the ringwraiths, climbing trees, finding stuff to stick to art pictures. Making fake campfires, pond dipping, seeing our first tadpoles.

Laughing with friends, eating, sometimes fighting. Stick swords flashing through the air, children balancing on small wooden platforms almost as tall as they are, learning to leap from post to post.

We wandered to the river. My two ended up nude, except for their sturdy little adventure sandals. Jumping and balancing, making rock towers, wading up the river to see what happens around the bend.

I marveled at their easy, unselfconscious frolicking. Their sun dappled skin changing from creamy white to the soft green of reflected leaves. Ripples and patterns dancing across bare legs, water droplets rolling down strong legs and soft skin.

Playing naked along the riverbanks, sliding down muddy hills with bare bums. Friends making up quirky rules to even quirkier games involving sunshine, clouds, and standing on rocks.

This is the marvel of childhood. Trees to water to food to play. Repeat as necessary, repeat all day long, run free and climb logs and expand.

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Sometimes it’s as simple as just showing up.

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Early yesterday morning, my daughter said, ‘Hey, I feel like flying our kite. We should do that!’

I will be the first person to admit that sometimes it isn’t so easy to follow your child’s inclinations. I was unshowered, we didn’t really have time to go to a park, it looked cold outside, I had no idea where the kite was.

But I’ve already written about how I think embodying ‘YES’ to a child is one of the most important things I can do. (And I recommend you check that post out , because it felt so important to me when I created it….) And that ‘yes’ is what I strive to hit.

Besides, the whole kite thing sounded kind of fun.

Aaaaannd…..surely there was no harm just doing it in our street? We live in a very quiet cul de sac. I half heartedly looked for the kite for about an hour, taking frequent little breaks to tell the kind people on twitter that no, I still hadn’t found the missing kite. I even tweeted a picture of the dreaded cupboard under the stairs.

But as soon as I really committed to finding the kite, it appeared. And in a place I was sure I’d already looked twice.

We went out, leaving the front door open as M just wanted to stay inside. S was almost dancing in anticipation, and she was off. Cheeks rosy in the wind, gleeful instructions telling me she could just run along the pavement, experimenting with string length and gusts of wind.

One elderly neighbour watched us from her window, clapping and laughing. Another neighbour bumped into us and said a rather amazed, ‘WHAT are you doing?’ before grinning and wishing us luck. Still another stopped her fitness fast walking to watch us and cheer us on. It felt like a whole community adventure.

I felt free and wild and empowered. People were waving at each other and shaking their heads (in a good natured way!) when I whooped with joy louder than my little daughter (who is so big and powerful) when the wind caught the kite and raised it up. Even better when she declared she could power the kite by running, excited and joyful, exclaiming, ‘It went even further that time!’

She powered us all. She made us all feel happier on a very grey morning. She had an odd idea and ran with it, and I was lucky enough to have decided to go along with her.

She is going to go further and further. She can make ideas soar, bring people together, and most importantly, remind me that the most important thing I can do is show up when I can. Support her ideas, help her realise them, enjoy it right alongside her.

And as she carried the kite back to the house, she looked up at me and said, ‘This was so fun.’ Those four words erased an hour of kite hunting, of wind strung cheeks, of my sore body from chasing the kite when it went astray.

I showed up, I was present, and boy….did I have fun.

Best of Bristol – Willsbridge Mill

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There is one place we’ve gone that we have never had a bad day at – Willsbridge Mills. Whatever the weather or time of year, whether we’re on our own of with friends, it just never fails. There are so many different areas to explore, but what really makes me love it there is the aura of a bit of magic.

You can park on the main road by the mill, or disabled parking is available right on the site, but we always park in the ‘official’ carpark (on Long Beach road) which means we get to have a lovely little walk through the woods to get to the main area. And in the summer, the first thing you pass are masses of blackberry bushes. Yum!

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There are hills to climb, rocks to explore, odd little paths shooting off in many directions. Not to mention the big paths that feature history walks or bat walks! There are also brass rubbings, wood carved benches, and the like. But our favourite bit is always standing on the first major drain cover and listening to the water rushing underneath us.

The main pull to Willsbridge Mills is the little river/stream running through it. We’ve spent many summer days splashing in it, and this year we plan to see how far upstream we can hike in it. The rocks are very uneven, so very little ones may need hand holding to help keep their balance. There are loads of larger flat rocks, and you can stack them to make quite amazing rock towers in the water.

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There’s a long dock that runs along the water, with amazing carved benches (to be honest, the carvings everywhere are one of the main things I love about this place!). The dock also has a couple of steps with a handrail to help smaller or less able people get into the water easily.

Behind the seating area is a sloped small hill covered in vegetation. My kids spent a full forty minutes last week pretending to be ninjas as they created a circuit of climbing up the hill, then sliding down a muddy part on their bottoms.

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Also near the water is a large pond that is used for pond dipping. There are more wide, carved posts in this area – ideal for a snack break. There is also a larger lunch area that is ringed with curved tables and benches.

The final main bit of Willsbridge Mills is the nature garden. They’ve created beautiful gardens with lots of little areas to explore – more water, reclaimed tyres/sinks/baths full of plants and flowers, an amazing and colourful tile path, more carvings talking about what plants need to thrive, recycling, snails, etc. Plenty of little paths, sunny spots, and more little circle areas that would make for great picnics with friends.

There are also a number of large paths around the area – we’ve not gone far down many of these. Apparently one leads to a quarry, so we will definitely be exploring that in future visits.

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Last summer.

On sunny days, the area is quite shaded so it stays cool – and protected on windy days, so even in colder weather it doesn’t feel exposed or brutally cold. Last week was neither particularly warm or cold, and we went in the water wearing wellies and waterproof trousers (though I just wore sandals and barefeet! First spring water splashing is fantastic!)….though my wellies plan backfired somewhat as I didn’t account for the fact the river would be very swollen from recent flooding. So as the kids stepped into the water, it was just high enough to immediately spill into their boots! But such is the magic of the place that no one complained…

This is a spot that is usually quite calm and quiet, though obviously we are often there during school hours so that has an impact. There are flowers to smell, letters to trace with fingers, sticks to be floated along the water. I can’t recommend it enough!

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We love mud. Usually.

I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to see if we went to the woods last Friday. Some of you probably have been unable to sleep, the anticipation was so great.

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WE WENT. It was colossally muddy, a bit chilly, and everything was very wet, but it was fab. In a massive forest, and one of those playgrounds that mostly consists of huge stumps, trees on their side, a quirky balance beams. The highlight was, of course, the manic rush through the woods afterwards to hunt a dragon, swords and sticks at the ready.

It was altogether lovely, but I’m still thankful it wasn’t pouring with rain!

I’m still totally embracing damp weather. Our plans yesterday to meet with friends fell through, so we drove to Bath, met Suzy for lunch, and then had a quick play in a park (it had a big slide leading right down to an overflowing river. That bit was awesome!) despite the black clouds swirling overhead. Nature repaid my efforts by not cracking the heavens open until the literal second I’d shut the second kid into the car. Of course I got a bit wet, but hey, I’m a rainy day goddess now. Or something.

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Today after pottery, the nine kids and four grown ups in our home ed pottery class all ended up at a friend’s house, after having a quick outdoor play at the pottery teacher’s house. Let it be known, it was not my idea to shun the outdoors today! Had a really lovely time, and we are now back home for some de-muddying and hot chocolate-ing.

I promise this won’t just become a log of what we do each day, but come on. I’ve been trying to recapture my youth, when I lived outdoors with no electricity for five months a year without thinking I lived an odd life. I thought it was a remarkable life, and I was amazingly lucky to be living it.

I’m getting back to that place.

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