Birds and Bees… and Click Beetles! (A-Z of 30 Days Wild)

B is for….

Bee image. A-Z of 30 Days Wild

Birds and bees!

We have both loved bird watching and listening to bird sounds as part of 30 Days Wild; this is an annual favourite for me personally! It is amazing when you stay so still and silent, and just really tune into just the birds, how many different ones you will hear! Especially if you catch the right times of day, but really anytime, if you listen closely enough, there are so many different bird voices even in a city. I love just listening. But I also love watching them too!

We did some research on bees, and loved observing a bee close-up; we gave it some sugar water then carefully relocated it after this video clip…

C is for…

Click beetles! We found one in our cloakroom. It was such a fasciniting little thing; such a clever defense mechanism. Insects are amazing!

Which are your favourite activities so far?

Anca’s Lifestyle – 30 Days Wild Guest Post

Sorry, I have been super quiet regarding 30 Days Wild – I haven’t got very far with my alphabet, or any other posts I intended to write for this! It has been a challenging week though to be honest. Onwards and upwards…

Anyway, here is a brief guest post from Anca in Liverpool. Do check out her blog ancaslifestyle.co.uk It’s a lovely blog, she writes about some really cool stuff. We seem to share similar tastes!

30 Days Wild guest post. Image of steel man sculpture at Liverpool beach.

What is your favourite nature activity?

I love walking and exploring. There are so many wonderful things to see in nature and I think the slower pace of walking makes it great for admiring it.

Where is your favourite wild place?

As I love discovering new places, I don’t have a place where I go again and again. I like a local farm though, that has a lovely nature walk besides the farm shop, there are peacocks too.

Who or what inspired you to take part in the challenge?

I want to go out more, hence taking part in this year’s challenge.

Hannah Elizabeth – 30 Days Wild – Guest Post

Today’s 30 Days Wild guest post is from Hannah Elizabeth, aged 21. She is currently studying at university and shares her time between Nottingham, Leeds and London. You can find her over at Hannah Elizabeth.

30 days wild guest post

What is your favourite nature activity?

My favourite nature activity is walking the dogs around new parks, especially ones with wildlife and art because I also love taking photos and it’s the perfect opportunity.

Duck and ducklings in a lake

Where is your favourite wild place?

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is one of my favourite wild places. I love the art and the mixture of wildlife. Now that I’ve been so many times, I feel comfortable going off the path a little and into the woods for the slightly more wilderness side of things.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Hannah at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Who or what inspired you to take part in the challenge?

Honestly, I’d never heard of the challenge before but now that I have, I’m definitely going to do a post about it. It’s such a great and meaningful challenge to be involved in so thank you!

Sheep in a field around a picnic bench

What has been your favourite random act of wildness so far? Tell me in comments!

The Dozy Owl – 30 Days Wild (Guest Post)

Today’s guest post is from Kieran, aged 24, from Glasgow. He really loves sleep! (Don’t we all?!) You can find him blogging over at The Dozy Owl.

30 Days Wild Guest Post text, Scottish Highlands image

What is your favourite nature activity?

Walking around the local park, it gets tough in a big city trying to keep in touch with nature so it’s important to do it when you can!

Where is your favourite wild place?

The river where I grew up in the Scottish highlands, a long winding river with a great natural pool for swimming in. You can see fish swimming around if your lucky!

Who or what inspired you to take part in the challenge?

I’m always trying to improve my sleep and wanted to find out what effect going outside would have on it. It helped massively! Slept like a baby after getting into nature for a day.

I agree getting outside in nature helps with sleep, and overall wellbeing? Do you agree? Let me know in comments!

30 Days Wild: Guest Post – Butcher Baker Baby

As promised, today is my first 30 Days Wild themed guest post. This one is written by Jules from Derbyshire. It is her first year taking part in the 30 Days Wild challenge! Here is her post…

30 Days Wild guest post. ilam peak district image

What is your favourite nature activity?

Woodland walks particularly when they are full of snowdrops/bluebells. It reminds me of the change of seasons and that spring/summer are not too far behind. I’m lucky to have a stunning snowdrop wood (Dimminsdale) and bluebell wood (Serpents Wood at Calke Abbey) on my doorstep. We make sure every year we visit to take the beauty in.

Where is your favourite wild place?

Ilam near Dovedale in the Peak District. A beautiful valley that can be popular with walkers but it’s still possible to find pockets of calm. The drive down to the village provides stunning views across Dovedale/Manifold/Thorpe Cloud and the riverside woodland is a haven for plants. Late spring the wild garlic takes over. Come autumn the range of colours from the trees in the valley is stunning. Truly a beautiful place throughout the seasons.

Who or what inspired you to take part in the challenge?

Some friends did it last year.

You can find Jules over on Instagram: @butcherbakerbaby

What Random Act of Wildness did you do today? I would love to read about it in comments!

A – Z of 30 Days Wild: A is for… Ants!

As I explained yesterday, I am not going to be blogging about 30 Days Wild as heavily this year due to other commitments. But what I do intend to do is share an A – Z of my highlights from previous years, with a few snippets of our activities this year, and some guest posts too! So today I thought I would kick off with my A – Z of 30 Days Wild Highlights.

A - Z of 30 Days Wild text Forest of Dean image

A is for…. ANTS!

One of my favourite highlights was in the first year of taking part (2016) when Squiggle discovered a large groups of yellow meadow ants in our garden. I took a quick video clip, then we observed them for a while – they were fascinating!

At the time I thought it was just grass seeds they were crawling over, as we had just put some down the day before. It was only when I shared the video to the 30 Days Wild Facebook group that a wildlife expert (Sean Foote) told me that actually they were pupae, which I was really excited about! I had no idea!

The video clip is poor quality unfortunately, but still very cool! Here it is…

Coming Up…

Tomorrow will be the first of my 30 Days Wild themed guest posts. So look out for that! And remember if you would like to take part, email me at livinglifeourway@outlook.com or fill in my google form.

What Random Act of Wildness did you do today? Tell me in comments!

Welcome to 30 Days Wild… Our Way!

It’s the 1st June and that can only mean one thing… today is the start of 30 Days Wild! For those who don’t know, this is a challenge to carry out a ‘random act of wildness’ everyday (or as many as you can!) throughout June, to encourage people to get closer to nature – wherever we happen to live and work.

What is a random act of wildness?

The website states ‘a Random Act of Wildness is any thing that you can do in an average working day to bring a little nature into your life. They can take a few seconds, a few minutes, or if you lose yourself completely, a few hours!’

So in other words, it can be anything that helps you connect with nature! There are tonnes of ideas on their website and you can also download their app, so you never need to be stuck for inspiration!

You can also check out my previous 30 Days Wild posts for ideas and inspiration too! You can find a whole section dedicated to it under the nature tab on my menu, or click here.

30 Days Wild logo

The Wildlife Trusts

The challenge is an annual event throughout June, run by The Wildlife Trusts. I am sure most of you will have heard of them, but incase you haven’t (where have you been?!) they describe themselves as ‘a grassroots movement that believes we need nature and it needs us.‘ I couldn’t agree more! Find more information on The Wildlife Trusts website and check out your local branch.

Living Life Wild

This is the third year of 30 Days Wild for us personally. For the previous two years I have signed up to their blogger challenge; the first year I took part I got shortlisted as a finalist. Then last year I was highly commended as the final runner up in my category. So I am pretty pleased with those achievements to say the least!

This year however, due to the level of my other commitments at present, I have sadly taken the (difficult) decision not to officially take part in the challenge this year. However, I will of course still very much be supporting the idea behind the challenge, and participating in a more low key way! Just less heavy on the actual blogging!!!

30 Days Wild… Our Way

As the name of my blog suggests, we do like to do things in our own way sometimes! So this year, I will be throwing myself (gently) into the challenge by creating an a – z of my previous years highlights, along with a few new activities, and a selection of guest posts too! So there will still be plenty on the 30 Days Wild theme appearing on my blog throughout the month – just not quite in the usual 30 Days Wild format!

So do stay tuned! More coming soon…

Last but not least, would you like to be featured in one of my posts?

If you would like to feature in one of my guest posts this month, you can do so by completing my google form here or email me at livinglifeourway@outlook.com

I would love to hear from you!

30 Days Wild text with Forest of Dean faded image background

Happy 30 Days Wild xx

Forest Holidays: Our Winter Retreat to Forest of Dean

Back in January we decided to book a last second escape to the Forest of Dean for a winter retreat at Forest Holidays. This was our first time visiting but it came recommended from friends who have stayed at a different location on one of their other sites. Squiggle’s anxiety was high, so we figured some extra time relaxing outdoors might be just what we all needed. It didn’t work miracles in that regard (but then again, I am pretty sure they don’t claim to either though!) but it was still a lovely holiday! Here is our review…

Title written on image of Forest Holidays cabin.

The Cabin

There are three main styles of cabin; golden oak, silver birch and copper beech. The main differences between them are that silver birch has a hot tub, and golden oak has both a log burner and a hot tub. We intentionally wanted to avoid having a log burner for personal reasons, and silver birch was fully booked, so that made it pretty easy to choose!

Despite copper beech being their cheapest (and most basic) option, we were absolutely amazed by the size of the cabin! The whole place had a wonderful air of luxury about it, whilst also feeling very homely. I loved how beautifully in keeping the decor is; very natural. I was very impressed! And everything is eco- friendly wherever possible too, which we were really glad to see.

Eco friendy kitchen kit

I was quite worried that it might be chilly in winter but the underfloor heating took care of that! If anything, it was actually abit too warm when we arrived but the thermastat was easy to use and had separate settings for each room too, so that was soon remedied. I don’t know how hot the cabins might get in a heatwave with all that glass though! But given that they seem very well designed overall, I am assuming there are measures in place to maintain optimum temperatures. We were certainly able to do that during our winter stay anyway, despite having both sunny days and snow in the time we were there! They are really cosy and it is easy to feel right at home there.

Here is my video tour of the cabin…

The Setting

The cabin we had was in the meadow so it was very open, whereas some of them are tucked away amongst the trees. Honestly, in my opinion, regardless of where your cabin is situated, you can’t go wrong.

Our view from the cabin. A meadow with cabins spread out.

The site is in a beautiful location, in the Forest of Dean, with stunning scenic walks all around. Regardless of the time of year we visited, even in Winter, we couldn’t fail to be in awe of the forest setting. Here are just a few of my pictures taken, the first onsite and the others literally a few moments walk off the main site…

Stunning forest setting of the Forest Holidays site.

Beautiful views at the Forest of Dean

Winter scenes at Forest of Dean

Forest of Dean

By the way, the sheer drop on the above photos is less breathtaking and more heartstopping when your autistic child suddenly bolts!!!! Especially if you happen to suffer from vertigo as well, like I do! So I recommend if you explore this area with a young child, or one with SEND, that you not only have nerves of steel, but a very tight grip of their hand!

We don’t have a dog personally, but the site is very dog- friendly and it would be the ideal holiday to take a dog if you are an owner. This is probably also worth noting though if you are nervous around dogs though I guess! Squiggle loved seeing all the dogs about going for walks, she was delighted!

Facilities

Forest Retreat

The Forest Retreat is the main hub where you check in and book activities, and is home to the shop and restaurant. It also has pottery activities for children.

The shop sells a lovely range of gifts, books and activities that are carefully chosen to be perfectly on theme for the nature of the holiday. It also sells a wonderful selection of food and drink; including an extensive range of cider, wine and beer, fresh produce and a range of Cook meals for easy self- catering dining options.

Forest Retreat photo strip showing selection in store.

Food

The menu has plenty to choose from, to either eat in the restaurant or take away. The food was consistently good and service was prompt.

Bike Hire

Bike hire is available onsite from £28 per break per adult or from £25 per child. It is recommended you book these in advance. We didn’t hire bikes on this occasion but Squiggle did ask about it (towards the end of the holiday!) so we would definitely consider it next time.

Cycle Hire building from the outside.

Play Area

The play area was sectioned off during our visit as they were carrying out work on it. It looked more suitable for younger children, but Squiggle would have had a quick go if it were available no doubt!

Bug Hotel

Granted not really one of the facilities per se (at least not for humans!) but I wanted to mention the bug hotel anyway. We have seen these in many places but this one is particularly well made!

Large bug hotel with information sign. Squiggle is stood next to it.

Activities

There are a range of forest ranger led activities available for various ages. Some are shorter at 90 minutes in duration, whilst one survival course is half a day. As well as daytime activities, there is also a night-time ranger adventure so you can spy on the nocturnal forest inhabitants after dark! Dogs are allowed on some of the activities but not all courses, and some have a minimum age for children, so do check details before booking. There are also a selection of activities off- site that can be booked through Forest Holidays as well.

Squiggle on the winter trail.

Squiggle wasn’t up for any of these due to her anxiety, so we opted to do their self- guided seasonal trail instead. This cost £6.95 and she got a prize at the end for completing it. This was a really engaging activity. She started off reluctant to join in but as soon as we got to the first few stops and solved the clues she was hooked! We really enjoyed it and it was definitely one of the highlights of our holiday.

Seasonal trail clue

Local Places To Visit

There are numerous walks nearby surrounded by beauty and tranquility. Aside from that, there are several local places to visit that might be of interest. Forest Holidays have some suggestions of what’s nearby. I would really love to visit Clearwell Caves and also Puzzlewood sometime in future.

We did go to Beechenhurst, mainly to go on the sculpture trail. However, Squiggle was very near tired and nearing meltdown, so we didn’t actually find any sculptures and ended up just having a quick wander instead. I would love to return when it is better timing for her though; it looked like a lovely place to spend a day and I really want to see the sculptures – from the photos they look brilliant!

One thing I will remember from our trip though was that, as we drove up into the carpark, something moving in the forest caught my eye. As I turned to look I thought at first it was dozens of rabbits scurrying into the bushes. But then I realised, whatever they were, they weren’t hopping – they were running. It was a huge group of baby wild boar!

Now I know they are very common to the area and especially at that time of year, but I had never actually seen any before. I was so excited! They were gone in a flash; no time to grab a camera or even point them out to Squiggle, but that was a personal highlight that I will always remember.

We also visited Symonds Yat briefly, on the bank of River Wye. I took a few photos, but I could have taken many more of these stunning scenic views…

River Wye

Stunning scenic view of river Wye

Symonds Yat

In Summary

We really enjoyed our stay at Forest Holidays and loved exploring Forest of Dean. We are very keen to return here sometime in the future, and also would like to try other Forest Holidays locations too. We would definitely recommend it – at any time of year!

Last but not least…

Here is a video clip I put together summarising the highlights of our holiday:

*Disclosure: I was given a discount when booking this holiday in exchange for a review post. However, as always, I have expressed my honest opinion and all thoughts are my own.

Beautiful Accessible Reservoir Walks in Yorkshire – #RediscoverReservoirs

Yorkshire is a beautiful county filled with many stunning scenic sights and lovely walks. As the second largest landowner in Yorkshire, Yorkshire Water is currently striving to
enhance access across it’s reservoirs. These are some of the most gorgeous walking spots in the entire UK, and their aim is to ensure more wheelchair and mobility aid users are able to enjoy them too. They are therefore developing routes that are accessible to those with mobility needs by improving the paths around reservoirs, by making them flatter and addressing surfacing issues, allowing all visitors to fully experience these amazing, tranquil countryside spots.

Swinsty Reservoir.Image credit: Busy Mum Lifestyle

These routes may be of particular interest to disability rambler groups, inclusive outdoor groups who wish to ensure all members can participate, and those individuals and families with mobility needs who enjoy seeking out the countryside. Here is a map of the accessible reservoir routes for reference…

A map of accessible reservoir routes

This project is close to my heart because, although the nature of Squiggle’s disabilities are largely invisible, she does also have some mobility issues. But mainly it is important to me personally because, as an SEND parent, I am very aware of the various barriers that can prevent even a simple activity from being accessible. Whether it is because it is physically inaccessible for a wheelchair user, or for one of the many other less obvious reasons, it can be difficult for those with SEND to participate in things that others may well take for granted. Inclusion matters.

I also think the benefits of being able to access these routes should not underestimated. After all, there is far more to being outdoors than just getting some fresh air and exercise. It is just as essential to our mental health to be able to enjoy spending time outside in pretty, natural surroundings. And water in particular is very therapeutic. As Dr Nichols, who coined the term Blue Mind explains, there is science behind how being near water helps people to be “happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do”. I firmly agree that being around water, such as these lovely reservoir walks, is very relaxing and supports our health and wellbeing in far more ways than we might realise. So of course it is crucial that everyone can benefit from this!

Map of Swinsty Reservoir route and facilities

One example of these accessible reservoirs is Swinsty. It offers stunning views and has picnic areas, a disabled carpark and facilities. It is a fabulous way to spend the day, as Rosemary at Busy Mum Lifestyle agrees: “I stayed just outside Harrogate on a girls’ weekend last year. We spent one day walking around Swinsty Resevoir and it was absolutely beautiful. It was a gorgeous May Day and the bluebells had just come up.”

A photo of the bluebells in the woodland at Swinsty reservoir

Swinsty Reservoir (above and below)

Image credits: Busy Mum Lifestyle

A photo of the reservoir - Swinsty

I think it is fantastic that Yorkshire Water are ensuring that these lovely surroundings are accessible to all. A wonderful, relaxing day out that can be enjoyed by everyone!

Have you visited any of these Yorkshire reservoirs? Join in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #RediscoverReservoirs and/ or let me know in comments!

*Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Yorkshire Water.

Mud & Bloom Nature Crafts and Gardening Subscription Box: Review, Discount Code and Giveaway

Mud & Bloom is a fab new monthly subscription box for nature lovers. Each month the box contains two seasonal activities; a gardening activity and a nature craft. There are also quizzes, spotting cards, information sheets and so on. The boxes include everything you need to complete the activities, except occasionally for everyday items that would generally be around the home anyway, such as finding some kind of pot for planting – a yogurt pot or other such item would suffice. It is aimed at approximately 3- 8 year olds and costs £7.95 per month with free UK shipping.

Mud and Bloom nature crafts and gardening subscription box - image of contents

About The Creator

This lovely idea came from a mum of 2 young children, Anja, and was inspired by her love of nature. The activities have been created by qualified teachers and are influenced by various educational approaches.

About The Box

The box I reviewed (February) contained the following activities; grow your own cherry tomatoes, grow your own basil and paint your own pebbles. (This doesn’t get old even if you have done it before!) The only things we needed to get ourselves were the actual rocks and pots for planting, plus a plastic bag.

It also contains a nature spotters activity for things you might see in February, which is a nice little activity to do whilst outdoors on a nature walk. (And might encourage you and your littlies to venture out in the cold even if you don’t usually!)

A Sample Activity

We have only done the grow your own basil activity so far. (Squiggle is still unwell and hasn’t felt up to it but was keen for me not to do it without her!) It was a simple activity that children of any age can enjoy doing.

Grow your own basil - mud and bloom - packet of seeds and instruction card image.

The instructions are detailed but still written in a straightforward way. They are well explained and easy to read/ follow. They are high quality and very well produced in my opinion!

Image of Squiggle reading grow your own basil instruction card.

I liked the fact that it came with soil pellets that are part of the fun – and save messing around bringing soil in from the garden!

You just put them in warm water for 10- 15 minutes and they expand. I used that time to grab the stuff we needed (pots and a plastic bag) while Squiggle watched them grow.

An image of everything needed for grow your own basil. Soil pellets expanding in water.

Squiggle did find it tricky to get the seeds in the hole – you would think we have never planted seeds before! However it would be very simple if she had been carefully pinching a few seeds from her hand or the packet with thumb and forefinger, rather than just pouring them – I would think this goes without saying generally though of course, she just wasn’t quite with it bless her!

Our Verdict

We really like these boxes! The packaging has been carefully thought out to avoid waste wherever possible. The activities are good for a range of ages and are still fun if you have done them before. The instructions are clear and everything about the contents feels high quality. I personally feel they are reasonable value for money given the price includes postage and the subscription is flexible; it can be stopped or paused anytime. They get a thumbs up from us!

Discount Code

For 50% off your first box please use the code LIVINGLIFEOURWAY

Giveaway!

One lucky reader can win a 3 month subscription to Mud & Bloom. Enter via rafflecopter below. UK only. Ends 25th March 2018. T&Cs apply. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclosure: I received a 3 month subscription in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.