#Blogtober 2016 – Day 10: One Thing You Can’t Live Without

Ok, my daughter! She is the first and only thing on this list in reality. But that goes without saying, so I will try to pick something less obvious. The planet? Definitely cannot live without that! Friends and family? To be honest, I think that one is a given too. 

Sopwell nunnery. Exploring nature and outdoors. Freedom to learn. Childhood unplugged.

And I am assuming for the purpose of this question that essentials (food, water, clothes, shelter) are taken care of already. If not I would go for those. It reminds me of that show that was on recently, when the participants were stripped of literally all possessions including essentials (except shelter) and could choose one thing per day. What was it called? It was interesting viewing, quite thought provoking! But I don’t think that was the intention behind this topic. So I’ll keep thinking…

Freedom. To live life our own way, to travel, and even to educate my own daughter and for her to have that freedom to learn in her own way. That is the one thing that I couldn’t live without.

(That answer was cheating? Maybe! I really couldn’t think of one non essential material item though lol 😉 But if I HAD to pick, I think I would definitely go for my phone!)

 

#Blogtober16

Stay Wild: Changing Seasons

The season is changing. This past week we have spent some days on the beach, swimming in the sea, whilst other days we have been hunting for conkers and looking for signs of autumn.

Seaside, autumn, childhood unplugged, outdoor life
Day out at Southend-on-Sea beach

I love this time of year. It has an air of peace and tranquility about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s like everything is shedding remains of the past and preparing to start afresh, hopeful for the future. Wonderful.

Changing season, nature, outdoor life, get outside
Signs of autumn

Days Out: A Trip to the Seaside (Southend On Sea, Essex) 

Southend On Sea in Essex is a popular seaside choice for many. It boasts stretches of both pebble and sand beaches, play water fountains, play areas on the sand, plus a brand new lagoon for paddling and swimming. 

Days out, things to do, places to go, family fun
Water play fountains

For those looking for a little more action, there is a Sealife Centre on the seafront, an award winning funfair, indoor play centre, pier, traditional style amusement arcades and a large selection of shops, restaurants and cafes. 

Places to go, days out, family fun, childhood unplugged, get outside
Beach, overlooking pier and funfair

For us, it is a relatively short drive away from Hertfordshire that offers us a fun and relaxed day out by the sea, so is definitely a winner! 

Seaweed, childhood unplugged, get outside, outdoors, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun
Investigating the beach

For more information about Southend, including special events, things to do and places to stay, see Visit Southend

Family fun, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoors, get outside, childhood unplugged
Collecting shells

Three Shells Lagoon, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Three Shells Lagoon at Southend-on-Sea in Essex is a newly built man made lagoon that opened this summer. The lagoon is the size of a football pitch and is 1.1 metres at its deepest points. 

Swimming at Three Shells Lagoon, Southend on Sea, Essex
Squiggle was laughing at how I reacted to the cold water initially- but she wore a proper wetsuit, I didn’t!

Despite visiting in the last week of September, it was still warm enough to wriggle into our swimsuits and go for a swim. It was cold, but we soon got used to it! Squiggle enjoyed practising her swimming skills in the sea water, as well as paddling and splashing around in general. I think it’s wonderful to be able to enjoy swimming in a natural environment, whilst not being entirely in the open water with an inexperienced young swimmer. I imagine it would also be great for learning water sports.

Swimming at Three Shells Lagoon, Southend on sea, Essex
Three Shells Lagoon

One thing I did wonder about was how the lagoon water is kept fresh and hygenic. So I did some research and found the design quite interesting. “Sheets of welded metal inside the rock walls retain the seawater when the tide comes in, whilst rubberised material at the base of the wall will prevent silt and mud from entering and exiting the lagoon. Valves have been installed into the wall so that the lagoon can be emptied and refilled, ensuring a high quality of regularly-replenished bathing water.” (Southend government website) For further information about the lagoon www.southend.gov.uk

Stay Wild: Ladybirds

During a nature walk, Squiggle and I were lucky enough to a spot lavae, pupa and adult ladybirds, including a mating pair, all on the same plant. Such a wonderful real life demonstration of the lifecycle of a ladybird! We studied them closely for quite sometime, fascinated by our exciting discovery. Squiggle was interested to know that the two ladybirds were making eggs that would then complete the lifecycle before us.

Ladybird lifecycle

If you look closely enough you will notice that nearly the entire lifecycle of a ladybird is captured in this one photo!

 

Ladybird lavae and pupa

A closer look at the lavae and pupa. 

 

Ladybirds mating

Ladybirds mating.

 

Stay Wild: Bird’s Nest

Whilst walking through a local woodland, I spotted on the path this beautiful bird’s nest… 

I looked around for any signs of distressed adult birds, babies or eggs, or any other indication there had been a disruption or predator attacks, but it was clear it had been naturally discarded. A quick google search suggested it was therefore fine to remove it as it would be disposed of anyway.

Squiggle held it and studied it carefully, then we discussed how it was made. Look closely at the way the twigs, moss and grass on the outside are woven together, very impressive! We agreed that would be a difficult challenge even with fingers, yet birds manage it with their beaks. It really is so incredibly clever!

I researched and concluded that this nest was made by a Song Thrush. It is similar to a Blackbird’s nest on the outside but, as you can see from the photo below, inside it is hard, which differs from the interior of a Blackbird nest. 

The female Song Thrush uses her chest to compact together mud, dung and rotten wood to form this hard interior. This technique is exclusive to this one type of native English bird. 

It was so interesting to stumble across this exciting find on our walk. Very fascinating! 

Stay Wild: Den Building (and Yellow Meadow Ants!)

Squiggle specifically asked me to write this post, as she is very proud of her first attempt at building her own den and wanted to share her excitement!


Here is a video clip of her building the den…

She also collected sticks to make her Sylvanian Families their own den in the garden…

Under the bricks she moved to support her den, she found some yellow meadow ants, which we observed…

And Squiggle (very carefully of course!) held some too…

Another great day spent outdoors!

June Round-Up

Aside from our 30 Days Wild adventures, here are some of the other things we got up to in June…

Played games, indoors and outside…

We had lots of other garden fun too, such as painting with water…

Put on shows with her toys…

Blowing bubbles, and quality time with our pets…

Squiggle also enjoyed celebrating a friend’s birthday…

These are pictures of them celebrating together that she drew for her as a present…

She also wrote a poem about cats…

We had a lovely time at Oaklands College fun day…

She then acted it out the next day at home…

Squiggle’s love of Sylvanian families is well known! She spends alot of time using them for imaginative play; such as pretending they are on holiday at Haven, going to buy ice creams, visiting Peter Rabbit’s adventure playground and at the sylvanian families Whitchurch event meeting sylvanian characters and wearing sylvanian hats like the ones she got! Cute…

She also built them an excellent tree house independently…

Other creative activities included scratch art…

And bubble art…

She did some fun science experiments (details to follow on a separate post!)…

And we also got some cool new hexbug stuff to explore…

Lastly, she had some sensory (and therapeutic!) fun splashing around in water…

30 Days Wild – Day 30: 7 Reasons To Love Nature

Wow, we have come to the final day of 30 Days Wild! So to mark the end, today I thought I would write about why it is great to spend so much time outdoors in nature.

There are so many reasons to love nature! Here are my top 7…

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1. Good for the mind: Being outdoors in a natural environment helps our mental health. It reduces anxiety and depression, and generally decreases our stress levels (which brings me nicely onto reason two…)

2. Good for the body: Being outside has physical health benefits. The fresh air is great for our bodies, being outside helps us dose up on much needed vitamin D, walking boosts fitness levels, outdoor activities builds our immune system whilst also improving our sleep, and even our eyesight!

3. Good for the soul: Being in nature encourages organic mindfulness and meditation, which helps us to feel calm, relaxed and happy. Feeling connected to nature and the earth increases empathy for others and helps us to gain inner peace.

4. Sensory activities: Our natural environment offers great sensory input that helps to intergrate our senses and align our central nervous system. This helps us feel more balanced.

5. Helps to develop essential skills needed to learn: Time spent outdoors helps with cognitive thinking, problem solving, attention span and focus.

6. Provides learning opportunities: Being in nature means exploration and real-life firsthand experiences! It leads to many discussions about nature, our environment, the world around us, sustainability, and being a responsible global citizen.

7. Last but not least, nature inspires us and sparks creativity!

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And here are some examples of such inspiration and creativity from Squiggle today…

Squiggle designed a nature game. Take it in turns to roll the dice and move around the board. First to get all the way round is the winner. If someone lands on a challenge square and completes it, that person gets another turn.

These are the player pieces to move around the board…

She also made up a song about nature (I put together the video quickly to match the lyrics, just so I could share the voice recording)…

Stay wild, everyone! 💚

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30 Days Wild – Day 27: Identification Challenge

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I found identifying wildflowers and other flora really challenging, much more difficult than I thought it would be! Thanks to members of the 30 Days Wild group and some other friends who helped me and shared their knowledge.

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1. Bluebell seed heads- When the flowers die, green seed pods are formed. By July these will be dry and brown and full of small black seeds. The seeds may take 5 years to develop into a mature flowering bulb.

2. Sheep’s sorrel (rumex)- This is edible with a sharp lemon taste.

3. Statchys- Nicknamed lamb’s ears because it is soft and furry. My daughter loved the feel of these, and bees love them!

4. Red leaved cherry tree- I don’t know if these are edible or not!

5. These red ‘eggs’ are caused by parasites (mites?) inside the field maple leaf so the leaf reacts by producing a growth.

6. Blackberry brambles- I look forward to some foraging when they fruit, yummy!

7. Gorse bush- The seed heads explode when ripe so that the seeds spread widely. It also has yellow flowers that smell like coconuts!

8. Chicken of the wood- This edible fungus tastes like chicken, hence the name.

9. Cow parsley- Short lived but very common, it can be found spreading wildly along roadsides, meadows, woods and other places in early summer.

I am going to make a simple identification chart for Squiggle to use to find out the names herself and I will also use these pictures/ descriptions to make a matching game for her too.