#LivingLifeWild – RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 

I loved reading everyone’s posts from last week, and seeing your pictures too. Thank you all so much for taking part! Even when it’s cold and you feel reluctant to venture outdoors, it can turn out to be lots of fun, can’t it Eps and Amy?! lol! (Check out the blog post to see what I mean!) 

I have chosen the following instagram photo to share by Mammas School but it was a tough choice! I particularly loved this photo because I never would have thought to do pond dipping at this time of year, but it’s a great idea! 

All of the photos are fab though, I really loved seeing all of your adventures and look forward to seeing more this week! Don’t forget to use the hastag #livinglifewild and also tag me too so I don’t miss it!

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This week we are preparing to do some citizen science for the Big Garden Birdwatch with RSPB. We have got our pack and made sure our garden is inviting and bird friendly! The Big Garden Birdwatch takes place this weekend from 28th-30th January. If you want to take part you can apply for your pack and download it here.

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Big Garden Birdwatch, RSPB, #livinglifewild, Living Life Wild, Living Life Our Way, citizen science, nature, wildlife, environment, outdoors, green living, home education

Share your posts (old or new) via the linky below. If you need further information about #livinglifewild hashtag and linky please check out the introduction, or contact me if you have any questions. Lastly, apologies again about the badge (teething issues!) – I am trying to work out how to resolve it, but have removed it temporarily until it is sorted. Please feel free to text link to my blog instead if possible, thanks. 

Have a fantastic wild week everybody!!!


Top Gardening Tips To Make Everyone Green With Envy!

Maintaining your garden to a high standard so that it gathers admiring glances from all quarters is high on the list of serious gardeners. Take a look at these gardening hacks from Rattan Direct and make your neighbours green with envy at your gardening prowess.

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1. Know your garden, the soil and the climate
Cacti survive in arid desserts for a reason, which is why having them in a garden in a wet and windy corner of the UK will not see cacti thrive. Knowing your patch of soil, whether it is acidic or alkaline and how you can change this, as well as making the most of the climate, will help in deciding the best plants to buy and plant, as well as the best spaces in your garden for these plants to flourish. Camellias, for example, prefer a north-facing wall in a court yard and an acid soil, so there is no point planting them in water-logged, alkaline soil with continuous cold draughts irritating their tender stems.

2. Water
Water is not a sustainable resource. But one of the key elements that turns drooping pansies into a flowery mass of colour is water. Whilst your neighbour’s lawn and borders become ever more parched during a drought, carry on watering your luscious blooms with water butts catching rain from all your down pipes.

3. Remove pesky weeds as soon as they pop their heads above the soil
They are a nuisance. They are everywhere. One minute, it is a tiny head, just popping above the soil surface. Next thing, they are running rampant across flower beds, anywhere they can get enough of a foothold with their shallow roots. Weeds are not a gardener’s friend. But the good news is that it takes only a few minutes to whip these pesky weeds out of the soil before they not only get a chance to become established, but turn to seed and spread across your entire garden.

4. Complimentary accessories
Many people are used to thinking of gardens as place to be admired – from the house. They look out, admire the dancing blooms in the summer breeze and yet, spend little time actually enjoying the fruits of your gardening labours. But gardens can be made comfortable enough for everyone to enjoy, and at any time, not just until daylight fades and the temperature drops. Make your neighbours green with envy with not only beautiful plants, but fantastic accessories;

  • Garden seating – from a practical garden bench to functional outside sofas, there are all kinds of options when it comes to garden furniture that suit all tastes and budgets.
  • Rugs, throws and cushions – ramp up the style and add splashes of fantastic colour with rugs, throws and cushions made from special material for the outdoors, which won’t fade, shrink or spoil in the occasional rain shower or bright, bleaching sunshine.
  • Lighting – solar lighting has come on leaps and bounds since the first dim, last-no-more-than-30-minutes solar powered fairy lights from decades ago. There are all kinds of solar lights that make for a bright, romantic garden when the sun drops.
  • Water – gentle running water caresses the soul. After a busy day at the office, talk a walk in the garden and sit by your water feature, enjoying its soothing tones as water trickles down, playing its soul-soothing tune. Or build a full-scale pond and welcome a whole new raft of wildlife in your garden.

5. Plant in pots
Planting in pots is the perfect way to add colour, form and texture to a garden, softening corners and adding interest. Keep garden pots of similar colours and shades to get a coherent colour palette running through the garden. Take time to consider the plants you will use in these pots too. Potted plants will need a little more attention, including a daily water (twice daily if the summer is hot) and bedding plants should be regularly dead headed to keep them putting their energy into flowering and not making seeds.

Rattan Direct have a range of garden accessories and furniture, perfect for dressing your garden and accentuating its glorious plants and design.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Littlesea Haven Holiday Park, Weymouth, Dorset

Last month we went to Weymouth for a mid week short break to Littlesea Haven Holiday Park. This was our second trip to Littlesea and, given it was one of our favourite Haven sites, we were very keen to return! It certainly did not disappoint.

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Pretty scenic views at Littlesea Haven Holiday Park

Littlesea is a lovely site, with scenic views and nice little ‘Tiger Trail’ nature walks. Squiggle really enjoyed following the Rory footprints on our map, so good for developing her map reading skills too!

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Tiger Trail on-site nature walks

There are also several playgrounds on-site, with a variety of equipment suitable for a range of ages. It is great that there are different play areas dotted around the park, as it encouraged us to explore further to find them all!

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Playground outside main entertainment complex
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
The playground in the campsite section of Littlesea
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
A lovely little natural playground

The holiday park is set next to Fleet Lagoon nature reserve, with pretty nature walks and coastal paths. We did find that some of the paths were abit too overgrown (and that is baring in mind we often explore wild overgrown areas!) and it was not always clear where to walk next, so better signage might be useful. However, I am not sure how much of this belonged to Haven, as it wasn’t clear at what point we left the site. Regardless, we had fun exploring and enjoyed a wonderful walk to Chesil beach.

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Beautiful nature walks overlooking Fleet Lagoon
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Exploring Fleet Lagoon

The caravan itself was clean and spacious, with everything we would need for our stay. We were also very kindly upgraded, which meant the quiet but central location of the caravan suited our needs perfectly. (A quiet area of the park is absolutely essential for Squiggle).

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Caravan at Littlesea Haven site

There is a good range of on-site amenities and facilities including; a Spar shop, gift shop, coffee shop, take aways, restaurant, bar, arcades, soft play, pool, golf, sports courts, entertainment venue and multiple play areas, as mentioned.

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View of golf
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Arcade

The swimming pool was newly refurbished last year and is lovely, with fun water features that Squiggle loves. Both indoors and outdoors there are shallow paddling pools, as well as the deeper family swimming pools. The changing rooms are quite small but adequate. There is also a separate pool for water sports and activities, for an additional charge, which we didn’t personally take part in but they do seem to be well recommended by others who have, and having a separate area dedicated to this is a great idea.

The showbar has been refurbished even more recently, just this year. It is a spacious venue with a good size stage and dance floor. The entertainment held in the showbar is a fun mix of discos, shows and competitions. Squiggle adores the Seaside Squad shows and she loves to meet them for cuddles; this is one of her highlights of Haven Holidays. Because of the nature of her needs, it is important that she feels unhurried during these meetings (otherwise it triggers her severe anxiety and OCD), which can be difficult during busier times or with certain members of staff present (and is difficult for me because I can’t mention it around her, as that also makes it much worse!) However, the majority of the team seem very understanding of SEND in many ways, and do a wonderful job generally. And Squiggle had a fantastic time meeting several of the characters!

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Meeting some of the Seaside Squad

 

The characters also give some great positive messages through their songs, shows and activities, for example about exercise, healthy eating and taking care of our environment. Squiggle often sings lines from Greedy’s songs such as ‘pick up all the rubbish and put it in the bin’ and dances around to keep fit like Rory. These are great role- models for children!

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Seaside Squad showtimes

This emphasis on healthy lifestyle and environment etc… runs throughout many of the daytime activities on offer too; with plenty of sports and games, and outdoor activities such as den building, exploring nature and wildlife spotting. I also really liked the information displayed in the corridor between Reception and the entertainment complex too.

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way, nature, wildife, outdoors, environment
Display in main complex
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way, wildlife, nature, environment
Bug Hotel

Overall, this was an absolutely wonderful holiday and we would highly recommend it. Thank you Haven for another brilliant time!

Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Littlesea Haven Holiday Park

(Photos of our previous trip to Weymouth are here).

#Blogtober 2016 – Day 20: 5 Things About Hertfordshire (Visitor Attractions, Days Out, Things To Do)

Hertfordshire has a wealth of parks, nature reserves, conservation areas and other beautiful outdoor spaces, important historical sites, major attractions, and other lovely places to go and things to do. It is just outside of London, with easy routes into the capital city, so that is also an added draw to the area.

I could easily pick far more than five things to mention but rules are rules, so here goes…

1. Roman Verulamium

St Albans is home to the ancient site of Verulamium, a large Roman town, features of which are still present today. There is a hypocaust with beautiful mosaics, Roman theatre (considered one of the best examples in the country), an award-winning museum, and even remains of the Roman wall within Verulamium park itself. There are also Roman baths in Welwyn. Great for history enthusiasts!

Other historical places in Hertfordshire include Berkhamsted Castle, Hatfield House, Celtic Harmony Camp  and Knebworth House.

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2. Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour 

Much of this world famous movie series was filmed at Leavesden, which is now home to the hugely popular WB studio tour. A must do for any Harry Potter fan. Film fans might be interested to know that Elstree studios and Pinewood studios are also nearby.

3. St Albans Abbey

This stunning cathedral is voted top by Tripadvisor for things to do in Hertfordshire. It has the longest Nave in England, bell tower, extensive medieval wall paintings and gorgeous glass painting, The Rose Window, unveiled by the late Princess Diana in 1989. People have been visiting the shrine of St Albans for over 1700 years and it is a national pilgrim site.

St Albans Clock Tower is also nearby.

4. Parks and Nature Reserves

There are plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces to visit in Hertfordshire. Some of the most notable places include Cassiobury parkVerulamium parkAldenham Country ParkAshridge estate and Fairlands Valley Park to name just a few.

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Cassiobury Park, Watford

5. Family Days Out

Paradise Wildlife ParkWillows Activity FarmNatural History Museum at Tring and Hatfield Aviation Museum are all popular days out within Hertfordshire, with many more nearby in neighbouring counties and London boroughs.

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Willows Activity Farm, St Albans

#Blogtober16

Sylvanian Families Trail, Hatchlands Park (Guildford, Surrey)

Recently we visited Hatchlands Park, which is a beautiful National Trust site in Guildford, Surrey. Being a huge fan of Sylvanian families, Squiggle was keen to do the Sylvanian Families nature trail, open until the end of this year.

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There is a small charge to enter the park, including the Sylvanian Families Trail, of £6 per adult and £3 per child, or £15 for a family ticket (these prices are for park only, cost to enter whole site including house is extra. Prices are on the website here). National Trust members get in free.

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The trail has a series of signs as you walk through the wood, each with nature questions and clues from members of woodland Sylvanian families. There is a more difficult question at each stop, making it fun and informative for all ages.

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We did get abit confused when we reached the end because there was no obvious finishing point. We probably should have realised from the number of clues but even so, a clear indication, such as a finish sign or message from one of the Sylvanian families, would have been a nice additional touch.

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Regardless, we really enjoyed the trail and the wooden sculptures were lovely. Squiggle got so excited each time she spotted one and loved cuddling them!

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For more information see their website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatchlands-park/features/sylvanian-families-trail-at-hatchlands-park

Whilst we were there, we also went to Hatchlands Park playground. It has lovely natural play features, including a wonderful treehouse. Squiggle really enjoyed playing here and it fitted in beautifully with the surrounding natural environment.

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Treehouse
National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Balancing
National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Den seating
National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Climbing

All in all, it was a fun day out!

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.

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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.

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Signs of autumn

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

Precious Moments From Our Week (Living Arrows)

As I look back through my photos from last week, I am reminded we have been on alot of adventures and had so many special moments. Choosing just a select few to share is hard! But here are my particular favourites, in celebration of childhood…

Monday: We went to a local park to play ball games. 

Squiggle was so excited when she scored!

Tuesday: Squiggle made Haven Seaside Squad finger puppets. In the afternoon, she loved doing some of her favourite songs at music class. 

Wednesday: We made ourselves a pretend lagoon in the garden (with our paddling pool and lots of imagination!) Later, we went for a picnic and enjoyed watching the local wildlife together.

Squiggle stood in this tree watching a squirrel.

Thursday: We went exploring at a local nature reserve. Squiggle took a seeds and berries ID activity from Nature Detectives website.

Friday: We had a lovely day at Whipsnade ZSL Zoo. It was a very wet day but we were still lucky enough to see many of the animals close up.

Squiggle observed the sealions swimming around underwater and showed them her cuddly toy sealion!

Saturday: We had a lovely day out at Willows Farm. She has been hoping to return here to revisit Peter Rabbit’s Adventure Playground since June so she was very happy!

Squiggle was thrilled to meet Lily Bobtail for the first time.
I love this action shot!

Sunday: We visited Aldenham Country Park SEN playground.

Living Arrows

Morris Playing Fields (Paddling Pool and Playground), London Colney, Hertfordshire

As the summer clutches on for one more burst of sunshine before autumn descends, I thought I would share some information and photos about Morris Playing Fields in London Colney, Hertfordshire. This is a popular summer destination amongst locals, mainly because it has a small outdoor paddling pool that is great for warmer days (or not so warm days too, if you are anything like us!) 

The paddling pool has a walk-in shallow end and steps for the deeper end, which is approx 1 metre (disclaimer: this is my own estimate so no idea on actually accuracy of this statement!)

The only downside is, because it is a very small local outdoor paddling pool in a confined space, that it can get extremely busy and this can be abit too overwhelming or overstimulating for some children, especially those with SEND. 
However, if the visit is timed right, during a quieter period, it is a lovely place to play!

The paddling pool is in a fenced off area behind the separately enclosed playground. 

There is a small carpark adjacent to the playground that serves this and the paddling pool, as well as sports facilities at the playing field itself.

The playground has a variety of equipment, suited to a range of ages in the younger age bracket. I believe there is another facility for older children/ teens at a different nearby site but I have not yet visited this. 

It has a slightly retro feel about it, it reminds me of the playgrounds I visited as a child. Very old style, but well loved all the same!

The helter skelter slide is a particular favourite…

For more information about Morris Playing Fields see pdf flyer

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!