All- Weather Camping: Why You Should Get Outside (in any season!)

We love being outside, whatever the weather. It is a wonderful way to relax, a natural stress reliever; great for mind, body and soul. It feels good to connect and engage with our natural environment, and the fresh air certainly blows the cobwebs away! As this article from The Independent explains, going off-grid i.e. turning off devices and relying on natural light, combined with staying outdoors can really help sleep too. And we all know how enough good quality sleep makes all the difference to everything! So it really is true that any and every season is the perfect time to go on outdoor adventures.

From motorhomes to caravans and log cabins to pop-up tents, there are a huge range of options if you want to plan for a more natural outdoor getaway. Whether you will happily pitch up on any basic available space, or you are more of the glamping type, you will find a selection of sites to choose from throughout the UK (and elsewhere!) open all year round. 

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For example, there are lots of lovely places to camp via Camping and Caravanning Club, such as this wonderful Tavistock site in Dartmoor National Park, Devon – which is somewhere I haven’t been to since I was a child myself, but I would love to return and take Squiggle too. 

More locally, this campsite in Hertford is very popular amongst our local home ed friends! Also closer to home, we really love Aldenham Country Park, which also has camping facilities on-site too. 

Another area we have passed through briefly but would love to stay longer is the New Forest. I spotted this fab place called Setthorns Campsite that has a stripped back, closer to nature feel about it. For somewhere a little more luxurious, Sandy Balls Holiday Park has been recommended to us by various friends numerous times. 

Or check out this eco-friendly campsite, Skyside, set in a gorgeous spot of Penrith, Cumbria. Situated in the valleys of the stunning Lake District, you can use this base to explore (in my opinion anyway!) some of the most scenic parts of the country. It has been years since I last visited this area, but I can assure you it is absolutely beautiful at any time of year! 

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We firmly believe that there is no such thing as the ‘wrong’ weather for spending time outside, all you need is suitable clothing and the right equipment; be prepared with the necessary gear and there is nothing stopping you! Oh and don’t forget to grab yourself some insurance before you head off, such as Camping and Caravanning Club insurance for example. Now, what are you waiting for?!

Do you have any top camping tips? What are your outdoor essentials? Where is your favourite campsite or overnight outdoor spot? Share in the comments, thank you!

*This is a collaborative post.

Sports Challenge: Celebrating Sports For All

On Friday we took Squiggle to the athletics track to do some races. This reminded me that I never actually properly wrote up our fantastic sports challenge (100 days of sports) last year! 

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Athletics track

I had started out by doing regular round-up posts about it but then for one reason or another, I decided to just do a big summary post at the end, once we had actually finished. But it never happened! We successfully completed the challenge, and had a great time doing it – I just didn’t get round to writing the post to share all the sports activities we did and brilliant fun we had! Oops! So I figured better late than never; Squiggle and I are excited to finally share this post with you… at last!

During the sports challenge, Squiggle took part in a wide variety of sports. Some activities we arranged ourselves, often with her home ed friends, whilst others we attended were organised sessions. I was pleasantly surprised during my research for this challenge at how many inclusive sports sessions are available, including some aimed specifically at SEND children. 

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Netball

This has also led me to reflect on the great importance of sports being accessible to everyone and the huge value of disability sports for both physical and invisible disabilities. I think back to London Olympics and Paralympics 2012 and how we opted to take Squiggle to watch the Paralympics specifically, as not only is it truly inspirational and an incredible honour to watch live generally, but we felt it particularly important for Squiggle to have such role-models from a young age.

I am thankful that there is such a great awareness within the sports sector and for the investments that have gone into disability sports and developing inclusiveness. Bristol Street Versa have also created this infographic to celebrate the pioneers of disability sports; because without them, of course, probably none of this would ever have been achieved. 

(By the way, if you happen to be looking for a wheelchair vehicle, check out their website bristolstreetversa.com/new-wheelchair-vehicles)

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So anyway, back to the sports challenge! Here are some of the sporting activities that Squiggle took part in as part of 100 days of sports…

  • Athletics (long jump, hurdles)
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Beach tennis
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Beach tennis
  • Cricket
  • Football
  • Foot golf
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Foot Golf
  • Golf
  • Hockey
  • Netball
  • Rounders
  • Sports day (including flat races, relays and fun races e.g. egg and spoon race, beanbag balancing race, sack race etc…)
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Sports Day races
  • Table tennis
  • Tag rugby
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball

She invented her own sport too; a game she called ‘Round and Round Tennis’. She also acted out sports with her Sylvanian Families and played indoor versions of games; such as finger tennis, desktop table tennis and blow football.

We had a fantastic time doing this sports challenge and there are still plenty more ideas that Squiggle is keen to try out sometime in the future too! Such a great experience and very motivating!!!

What is your favourite sport? Let us know in the comments section!

*This is a sponsored post. 

Squiggle’s Guide to Protecting Our Environment (#LivingLifeWild Linky)

Thanks to Views From An Urban Lake and Agent 54 for sharing their beautiful photo posts, and to Mamma’s School for sharing her island adventures.

My IG pick this week is this adorable photo by The Penny Three. Do check out the hashtag #LivingLifeWild on instagram yourselves though, there are lots of really lovely outdoors photos!

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This week, Squiggle would also like to share her top tips for green living:

Pick up rubbish when you see it🚯🚮♻

Use recycled pacaging insted of rubbish ♻or better still none♻

Using Straws&cups made with *natrle meterils 🍹or reusable ones

Use organic cottens or hemp or Bamboo for cloths👕

Try not to make too much food waste and put eny in the food waste bin ♻🍎🍉🍑🍒🍓🍇

 *(natural materials)


Do you have any other green living ideas to share? Comment below!


Stay wild and green, see you next week!

#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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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!

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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!

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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Display in main complex
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Bug Hotel

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

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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
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Den seating
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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