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.

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.

 4 Ways Camping Can Rejuvenate Your Soul

As modern people, we often do not get out into nature half as much as we should, and certainly nowhere near as often as even some of our more recent ancestors did. Instead, we remain indoors for the vast majority of our lives, whether at home, at the office, at the local cinema, or restaurant, or club.

There’s nothing wrong with the indoors, of course. Nature can often be savage and unforgiving, and electric underfloor heating is a tremendous boon in the midst of winter, when would be left fighting for our lives against the elements if we were still hunter-gatherers. Nonetheless, connecting to nature is essential, for mind, body, and soul. So here are some ways that a good camping trip – in as wild a place as possible – can rejuvenate your soul…

Title image with faded camping picture in background

It can wash away the preoccupations of daily life

Over the course of our normal 9-5 workdays and the lives that surround them, we are caught up between a near-endless number of obligations and concerns and preoccupations of various types. These obligations aren’t just all in our heads, either, although many of them are. There are real obligations placed on us by society to fill in the right form at the right times, complete our projects by particular deadlines, top up our cars, and attend parent-teacher meetings. All these preoccupations – each small in their own right – can mount and become the kind of chronic stress that leads to breakdowns and unhappiness with life in general.

Camping can wash all of that away for a time. Suddenly you are no longer “plugged into the Matrix”, but are out in nature, with your days and nights stretching before you. What do you need to do out here? Eat and sleep. Everything else is optional.

Leave your phone off and only switch it on for emergencies. Leave all your fancy gadgets at home. Go camping and let nature remind you of a more simple mode of living, and wash your soul clean of its usual preoccupations.

It can get you back in touch with the cycles of nature

Chronic insomnia is one of the major issues plaguing modern man in the developed world. The reasons aren’t too hard to fathom, either. Instead of our days following a natural rhythm, we find ourselves in an “always-on”, world. We can wake up before dawn, watch YouTube videos, organise our days on our planners, have a strong coffee, and leave for work. After working for an entire day, we return home, switch on the blinding artificial lights, and watch Netflix until the early hours.

Camping gets us back in touch with the natural cycles of nature. We rise with the sun, are active while it shines, and then get sleepy – and sleep – moments after it sets. Things seem to fit into their proper categories and positions, and our mood and health begin to improve rapidly.

A tent pitched up on a large open field overlooking the beach and ocean below

It can remind you of your connectedness to the great web of life

We buy our food from the local grocery store wrapped in plastic. We hear about environmental crises, but it doesn’t really register. It can be easy to forget, when living in the city, that we are not just detached individuals floating through the world, but are in fact connected to the great web of life all around us.

Camping reminds us of our place in the order of things. It can make us feel more whole, less alone, and more in touch with the planet we occupy. It can remind us that we are part of a greater whole and have an important role to play in the world.

It can give you space to dream

One of the most damaging consequences of being caught up in the constant flow of information and distraction that makes up modern life, is that we are so drawn into the everyday complexities of things, that we completely lose our perspective and forget, or can no longer manage, to dream the big dreams that make life truly worth living.

Getting out camping in a wild location can truly give us a different perspective on life. Now, we see our normal lives as if from a great height. We’re in a different place, somewhat outside of space and time, and we can see more clearly than we did before. From this perspective – this place outside of our normal routines – we may once again find the space to dream, to wonder, and to plan our lives from a transcendent place of hope and excitement.

A tent in the forest

*This is a collaborative post.

Top Tips For A Plastic-Free Picnic

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the launch day events for Plastic-Free St Albans is a Plastic-Free Picnic at Highfield Park. This is also an awesome way to celebrate Earth Day too. So whether you are planning a picnic for this reason, or having one on any other day, here are my top tips for a plastic-free picnic…

Top Tips For A Plastic-Free Picnic

Shopping

Firstly, choose items that are sold loose or in recyclable packaging. Avoid plastic packaging as much as you can! It is hard to do, which is why there are several campaigns focused on holding shops and supermarkets more accountable for this too. If you are feeling abit rebellious, you could unpackage everything after you pay, before you leave and give the rubbish back to them… maybe it will help them to take the hint!

Better yet, head on down to your local eco store, if you have one, with your refill jars and avoid the supermarkets with all their unnecessary packaging full stop!

(Oh, and wherever you shop, don’t forget to take your reusable bags, obviously….)

Plastic Free St Albans eco friendly reusable bag organic cotton sustainable bag

Packing Your Picnic

Transporting

Use an old style wicker basket to carry your picnic! Or choose from one of the many reusable bag options available. This one is easy; just don’t use a plastic bag! Moving on…

Containers

Tuppaware containers are ok as they aren’t single- use plastic. However, there are even better alternatives! Stainless steel containers are more environmentally- friendly and will most likely last you longer too.

Keeping it Fresh

Rather than cling film, use sandwich bags or reusable wax wraps. These keep food fresh very effectively and are much kinder to the environment.

Reusable sandwich bag

Plates, Bowls and Cutlery

Taking your own cutlery that you use at home is a good choice. You don’t actually need different cutlery just because you are eating outdoors! But if you do prefer to use something else, invest in a reusable bamboo cutlery set if possible.

For disposable cutlery options, as well as bowls and plates too, choose eco- friendly items such as from The Blue Speck. They are 100% biodegradable and sourced directly from plants.

Drinks

Take a flask along with a reusable cup for hot drinks. For cold drinks, take along a reusable drinks bottle. If you need a straw, invest in a reusable one made from metal or bamboo, or buy disposable alternatives to plastic, such as paper straws.

Reusable eco friendly cup

Other Useful Info

Low Tox Box also has a fab zero waste starter kit. It contains several reusable bags, spork, cup and straw for £30 plus P&P. They also plant a tree for every box sold and send a certificate too.

Enjoy your plastic- free picnic!

Click here for more zero waste tips

Fun Ways to Get Children Active Outdoors

In this day and age, children have grown up with technology. Smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and instant access to the internet is completely normal to them – meaning it’s a different world from when we grew up. While technology is fantastic, it does mean it can be difficult to get kids outdoors. When they have the world at their fingertips they’re less interested in running around outdoors than previous generations have been. But it’s so important to get them away from their devices and outside, learning about the real world and what matters. Here’s how you can go about it…

 Fun Ways to Get Children Active Outdoors title with image of child throwing leaves

Get Them Involved in the Garden

Gardening is an active hobby, and also teaches children patience. It shows if you work hard now, something fantastic will grow later on. It shows them the importance of daily care and nurturing of the garden, helping to develop empathy for the natural world around them. They will also learn about things like soils, types of crops, fertiliser and much more.

Since the growing season is relatively short in most places, it’s worth investing in a greenhouse to stretch this out as long as possible. If you have an old dilapidated one in your back garden, you could bring it back to life with some new sheeting for your greenhouse and a good clean. Choose some crops that are easy to grow in your climate zone, and then work your way up to more difficult ones. Children are more likely to try foods that they’ve grown too, so could be a good way to encourage healthier eating.

Take Them Camping

Camping is a cheap and cheerful vacation that all the family can enjoy, and is a great way to get kids outdoors. From putting up tents to building dens, and generally running around and having fun, it’s a great way to get kids outdoors and away from their screens without it feeling like a chore. You could stay in a tent, an RV or more of a glamping experience in a ‘pod’- check out local campsites and see what kind of things are available. If you go away with friends and their children it could be a fun bonding experience too.

Two children outdoors studying something on the ground next to a pond.

Go on Hikes

Hiking is a great way to keep your family fit; even if you have younger children you could simply pick an easier hiking trail. You get to observe nature, you could print out fun worksheets from Pinterest and do a fun nature trail, take photos or look at birds and wildlife through binoculars. You could collect items such as feathers, pine cones and interesting pebbles, then use them to craft with later on. Or see if your local area does rock hunting even!

Make these walks fun, keep the conversation light and upbeat, and encourage them to really get into it. Even during the colder months, simply wrap up warm and wear wellies to keep your feet dry. If you have a dog you could take them along too, or alternatively you could all take your bikes out and follow biking trails instead.

Find An Outdoor Sport Or Hobby

There are lots of outdoor sports and hobbies that encourage children to have fun outdoors. From water sports and team games, to geogaching or traditional orienteering, there are many examples of lovely activities that will inspire children to spend time outside.

Another example is fishing; this isn’t just a fun hobby, there’s plenty that it can teach children. One of the main being patience, this isn’t a skill many children (or adults for that matter) are blessed with, and it’s something that could come in useful to them throughout their lives. Learning that good things come to those who wait and practicing calm and patience during uncertainty is a fantastic lesson.

*This is a collaborative post.

The Best Places to Find Birds on a Rainy Day

Here in Britain, we’re well accustomed to the rain and wet weather; and sometimes it takes a  little bit of extra work to find wildlife on a drizzly day. Despite this, with a keen eye and a touch of willpower, you’ll be able to spot some of the fantastic wildlife our country has to offer!

If you’re keen to spot a few birds on your next winter walk, the bird enthusiasts over at Kennedy Wild Bird Food are here to help! They’ve generously offered their top tips on where to find birds on a rainy day, to help you make the most of your next wildlife adventure. Read on to discover their helpful hints…

Take a look in nearby trees and bushes

Two birds sat in a tree full of red berries.

Birds are designed to withstand a range of different weather conditions, which is part of what makes them so brilliant! However, sometimes they need a helping hand to protect themselves from the cold temperatures when it rains.

In wet weather, you’re more likely to find smaller bird species nestled in the branches of trees. Small birds lose body heat more quickly, and therefore they have a higher risk of catching hypothermia. Staying tucked away in bushes and trees allows them to hold on to as much body heat as possible when it’s raining.

Check your bird feeder

A small bird next to a large hanging bird feeder.

When looking for birds in wet weather, they may be closer to home than you think! No matter what the conditions are like outdoors, birds need to eat regularly to give them enough energy to survive.

Unfortunately, this means that many birds will have to endure getting a little bit wet whilst feeding, but their bodies have some clever adaptations that make them highly water resistant!

Their feathers are made of a protein that makes them both flexible and resistant to water. As well as this, birds have an oil gland at the bottom of their tail. This is used to put a water resistant coating over their feathers, so the water glides right off in the rain – amazing, right!

Keep an eye on the sky

If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see a few birds flying from branch to branch when it’s raining! This is more tricky because birds usually only fly very short distances when it’s raining.

In heavy rain, the downpour may make it more difficult for birds to fly, therefore it’s safer for them to stay sheltered in trees and bushes. However, should they need to fly from A to B, their oil-coated feathers can protect them from the wet weather conditions.

A picture of a bird on a thorny branch with the title 'The Best Places To Spot Birds On A Rainy Day' and blog address.

It’s important not to be deterred by Britain’s rainy weather, as you’ll miss out on some of the best wildlife! If you’re taking the time to do some bird spotting this winter, don’t forget to log your sightings in the Kennedy Wild Bird Food BirdSpotter map!

*This is a sponsored post.