Category Archives: Outdoors

Exploring RHS Garden Wisley

We had a really fantastic day exploring RHS Wisley today.

We have been to Wisley a few times before and hold membership but we have tended to stick around the main garden part and the glasshouse. Today as the gardens were very busy we ventured further and discovered so much more!

We arrived at lunch time and enjoyed our picnic on one of the lawns before walking towards the lake. We saw some very cute ducklings and some huge fish! Just past the lake we stopped by a Buddleia so I could take some photographs while Gordon and the kids had a few wheelbarrow races and played Hide and Seek.

Wildlife at Wisley

Playing with DaddyAfter I had secured several butterfly shots and the kids had exhausted all the hiding places they could find we carried on walking and followed the signs towards the bird hide and Pinetum. We have not been to this part of the gardens before so there was lots for the kids to explore. We found pine cones of all shapes and sizes and some interesting trees to play under. At the end of the Pinetum we found the Heather gardens, which we beautiful and full of bees and butterflies. The beds were arranged with small paths between them and the kids loved running through these “mazes” and finding different ways in and out.

Wisley GardensAfter running through the Heather we reached the bird hide (but didn’t see any birds) and explored the bug garden. We saw more bees and butterflies before starting the walk back to the cafe as we were all in need of ice cream!

On the way back we walked next to the river. We spotted a rabbit hole, collected yet more pine cones, found some bird feathers we need to identify tomorrow, ate blackberries and saw some impressive mushrooms.

Wisley Gardens 2By the time we reached the cafe we were all quite worn out! But ice cream gave the kids a bit more energy and so the final place we went today was the play area, where they climbed, balanced and scrambled while Gordon and I sat down for a bit!

Wisley Gardens 3We had a lovely day at Wisley today. Every time we go I am reminded what a beautiful place it is with so much to do for everyone. We’ll definitely be going back soon.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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We’re Giving Nature a Home

Do you have an outdoor space? Have you thought about the wildlife that calls your space home?

I have been browsing the RSPB website and reading about the campaign to Give Nature a Home. I was shocked to learn that out of the 6,000 British species assessed recently, more than one in 10 are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

But we can help. We can make sure our outdoor space is wildlife friendly and we can create homes for all sorts of birds and bugs. We can let the grass grow a little longer, we can plant wildflowers and hedges, we can make a pond or build a bug house, feed the birds or put up a nest box.

Over the last two years, as I have become more and more interested in wildlife and the world of minibeasts (thanks to my bug loving children) we have worked hard to make our garden a haven for birds and bugs alike. We have buried a bucket for beetles, we have dug out a small pond, we have made a nest box, and the plants we chose for the borders this year were picked to be butterfly and bee friendly.

We regularly enjoy watching some of the creatures that call our garden home and this year we are really seeing the benefit of our efforts.

We have a large apple tree at the bottom of the garden and hang several bird feeders in the tree and have a ground feeding tray for the larger birds. We regularly see Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackbirds, Magpies and Robins and have occasional visits from Woodpeckers, Starlings, Jays and Goldfinches.

Every day we see butterflies and bees enjoying the flowers and long grass. The Speckled Wood butterflies and both Small and Large Whites are very common visitors and we have lots of caterpillars. Yesterday I saw a Blue Butterfly in the garden for the first time, I think a Holly Blue.

The pond is thriving. We have several tadpoles left but are also now enjoying watching the frogs.

The kids frequently go bug hunting and find worms, woodlice, beetles, spiders, centipedes and for the first time this year we have grasshoppers.

Garden WildlifeCan you give nature a home? The RSPB Website had some great ideas to help you get started and you’ll soon be enjoying the wildlife that moves in!

 

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Let’s Go Fly a Kite

A lot of people I know have written “bucket lists” for the summer holidays – a list of things to do and places to go. Now while we aren’t really on any summer holiday I still thought it would be nice to get a few ideas of things the kids would like to do over the next few weeks and really try to do these things.

Both Jasmine and Thomas have mentioned things recently that they would like to do; Jasmine wanted to make soup and we managed that last week, Thomas has asked to make bread and hopefully we will do that this week. Thomas has also asked to go swimming and Jasmine wanted to go kite flying.

Today we ticked kite flying off the list.

We went to Epsom Downs, somewhere we haven’t been before. It was a lovely warm day, not as hot as it has been recently. The sky was really beautiful.

Kite flying 1

We found somewhere to base ourselves, under a big oak tree so we had some shade. Unfortunately we seem to have picked a very still day to go kite flying! There was hardly any breeze at all. Luckily Gordon had packed a frisbee and a football as well as the kites, so the kids burnt off some energy and happily played with these for a while until we felt some wind.

kite flying 2As soon as we felt the breeze we got the kites ready. The kids have two kites each, a pocket kite and a Brookite single line fun kite. Gordon had also taken two of his kites to try and fly.

We got the Brookites out first and Jasmine and Thomas both flew theirs. It takes quite a lot of work getting the kites in the air when there isn’t much wind so we only managed two at a time today. I tried to get one of the pocket kites up for Ben but it wasn’t quite windy enough to manage on my own.

kite flying 3After another short break for football and frisbee the wind picked up again and this time Ben flew the pocket kite and Jasmine flew her Brookite butterfly again. The wind came in fits and starts and it was hard work to keep the kites in the air. When they were up they flew beautifully, but they didn’t stay up for long. It gave me and the kids a good amount of exercise though, running up and down the hill trying to get them flying!

kite flying 4After a good stint of wind we decided it was time to pack the kids kites away and get Gordon’s out. He only flew his smallest one, but it is still quite big and impressive to watch.

kite flying 5

We spent all afternoon out and had a really lovely time. We can’t wait to go back on a slightly windier day!

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Another visit to the Ecology Centre

Yesterday afternoon we went back to Sutton Ecology Centre for a wander around while it was a little quieter. We had such a lovely time on Saturday at the BioBlitz event that the kids were keen to go again and knew just where they wanted to look and what they wanted to find.

When we arrived they spent a bit of time playing in the teepee frame and jumping from log to log before we walked towards the meadow, stopping at the log circle to hunt for toads and newts.Ecology Centre 1We found lots of toads, both small and large but only one small newt. Thomas looked under one of the carpet tiles and found a rather large slow worm, which we were all pleased with as we didn’t see any the day before.

We walked through the meadow and saw lots of butterflies, did some minibeast hunting in the woodland, and then walked over to the pond and the kids enjoyed peering in and trying to catch things with their hands!ecology centre 2Jasmine wanted to find more grasshoppers – her latest favourite animal! – so she went off to the long grass and the boys enjoyed a run around the gardens. While the kids were occupying themselves I managed to get a couple of nice photos of a Gatekeeper butterfly.ecology centre 3As we were getting ready to leave, our friends from Caterpillar Tales arrived! They had brought nets with them so the kids enjoyed a bit of pond dipping before it was time for us to walk home. I say walk, but Thomas and Jasmine somehow managed to run almost all the way home with me struggling to keep up with them! (I had taken a buggy for Ben, knowing he wouldn’t manage the walk there and back.) I don’t know where they get their energy from, but sometimes I wish they could pass some over to me!

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Sutton Bioblitz

Today we took part in the Sutton Bioblitz at the local ecology centre.

We arrived around 11.30am and collected our recording sheets and activity booklets for the kids. The area had been split into three zones, aqua, amber and jade. As you recorded in each zone the kids got a stamp in their booklet and once you’d been to all three zones you got a free garden wildlife calender.

We started off in the aqua zone, where they were pond dipping.

As I was on my own with the kids today I decided against looking in the main pond – see here for what happened last time – so we got our nets and looked in the smaller raised ponds.

We spent quite a long time pond dipping and found lots of different animals including damselfly larvae, lesser water boatman, a whirligig beetle, a ramshorn snail, a pond snail and mosquito larvae. We were so engrossed in finding and identifying that I completely forgot to take any photographs! But I did get this one after we had put the nets away and I was trying to convince Jasmine to move on to something else.

Bioblitz 1Once I had convinced all the children we should stop looking in the pond and do the next activity we moved into the amber zone to look for bugs. We didn’t really find many today, just the odd woodlouse and snail; I imagine because all the logs had been turned over several times previously!

On the volunteers table however, we did see thisBioblitz 2Eurycantha, or New Guinea Spiny Stick Insect.

Pretty scary looking if you ask me, but both Thomas and Jasmine were very keen to hold it.

So, after holding the giant stick insect and finding no minibeasts, we headed over to the meadow to complete the final activity and collect our last stamp.

In the meadow we did some butterfly catching with nets and discovered how hard it is to catch, and then keep the butterfly in the net! I did most of the catching and got a few butterflies in the net but took a long time to work out how to keep them there! The only one I managed was a ringlet butterfly. While we were there though someone caught a small blue butterfly, the first one of the day.

As i was trying to catch butterflies, Jasmine and Thomas had found a volunteer turning over logs looking for toads. He found a couple and then as I was chatting to him all 3 kids began their own toad hunt. They did well and Jasmine brought over a small toad and Thomas found a newt.bioblitz 3It was now almost 2pm and we still hadn’t had any lunch. We went to get our calenders and wrote comments on the event tree. Thomas wrote “I found a newt” and Jasmine wrote “I found a toad”! While Thomas was writing Jasmine did a spot more bug catching and managed to catch a couple of grasshoppers by herself! Her eye for spotting and her ability to catch almost any small bug astounds everyone and the volunteers nearby were very impressed with her patience!

But then it was time to leave. I don’t think any of the kids had thought about how hungry they were while we were there because they were having so much fun. But I bought them all a cake on the way out and suggested we go to Macdonalds for some chips, and I didn’t have too many problems getting them back to the car!

We had a really great time today and each time we do something like this I see the kids enthusiasm grow and grow. We’re so lucky to have such a wonderful place nearby!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Another day, another lavender field

After a very lazy morning this morning we met up with friends at another local lavender field this afternoon.

Mayfield Lavender is a family run lavender farm about 10 minutes from our house. It is free to visit and you can walk through the lavender, soaking up the amazing smell and view. There is a shop and cafe, where you can relax with an ice cream or purchase lavender products, gifts and plants.

Today we walked round the fields, well actually the adults walked round the fields while the kids ran, wrestled and chased each other round! They hid amongst the plants, spotted bees by the hundreds, saw many different butterflies, played Fruit Salad and Duck, Duck, Goose and had a wonderful time.

It is a lovely place to visit and we will definitely be going back soon.

Mayfield Lavender

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Lavender Picking

This weekend was our local lavender harvest fair. We went for the first time last year and really enjoyed it so we were keen to go back this year.

We arranged to meet our friends from Caterpillar Tales there but we were so late with everything this morning that we ended up arriving just as they were leaving! We chatted for a few minutes and they invited us over to their house once we had finished instead.

We collected out bucket and scissors from the Carshalton Lavender stall, and found a good spot in the field to start cutting our lavender.Lavender HarvestWe had been there about 20 minutes and collected about a handful in the bucket when all of a sudden Ben was crying and holding his hand. There was a lot of blood and he had obviously cut himself with the scissors. We rushed him to the first aid area and they did a great job of bandaging him up and keeping him calm. At this point we hadn’t managed to stop it bleeding so really thought we were going to have to take him to A&E to get it seen to.

Gordon went to pay for the lavender we had harvested and the lovely ladies who did the bandaging gave all 3 kids a lavender cake for being so good! We kept Ben’s hand elevated and walked back to the car.

Ben had calmed down quite a lot by this point so, knowing how busy A&E could be on a hot Sunday afternoon, we decided to go to Caterpillar Tales house as they only live 2 minutes away from the fields, and have a better look at the damage Ben had done. If it was still bleeding we would leave Jasmine and Thomas there and take Ben to A&E, but if not we would clean it and dress it again ourselves, knowing Caterpillar Tales would have a fully stocked First Aid box!

Thankfully, it had stopped bleeding. Once we’d cleaned it up a bit It didn’t look as bad as I had feared either. It is a bad cut, but not quite as big as I first thought, so we bandaged it up again and he went out and played happily with his friends for the afternoon. Poorly FingerWe enjoyed a lovely afternoon with our friends and Ben was only slightly disappointed that he couldn’t play in the water! He did play in the sand pit though so when we got home we changed the bandage for the third time and the cut looked much better still. I think as it is such a clean cut it will heal very quickly. Fingers crossed anyway!

I still don’t really know how he managed to cut himself. He uses scissors regularly at home and has never come close to doing this sort of damage! He did tell me just before he went to bed that he was “being silly and the scissors snipped me” so maybe it wasn’t quite as accidental as it could have been.

I guess sometimes they just have to learn the hard way don’t they, especially as a headstrong 3 year old! I don’t suppose he will do it again in a hurry!

 

 

 

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A picnic and fruit picking

Yesterday we spent a lovely day at Claremont Landscape Gardens and Garsons PYO Farm.

We started off at Claremont, arriving at lunch time and enjoying a delicious picnic in the shade by the lake.

Once everyone had eaten we set off round the lake to discover and explore. The kids and Gordon walked up the hill, all the way to the top, and ran back down again! Then we headed over to the woodland, explored a ditch, hunted for grasshoppers and found a cherry tree with some delicious cherries growing on it that Gordon and Ben enjoying tasting!Claremont 1As were walked round the grassy area and woodland we counted butterflies and recorded our results with the Big Butterfly Count. We saw lots of Ringlets and Small Whites and a Gatekeeper.

We continued round the lake, watching the fish jump out of the water to catch flies and the dragonflies zipping around. At one point we stopped to watch a dragonfly flying around the edge of the water and Jasmine noticed a Southern Hawker Dragonfly laying eggs in the bank right below where we were standing! We watched  it for quite a long time, having never been that close to a dragonfly before we were all amazed by how big it was!Southern Hawker DragonflyWe walked round the lake and back to the car park, and then drove the 5 minutes to Garsons Farm.

We have only been to Garsons once so far this year, for the asparagus picking, so there was lots we wanted to get today! We started with gooseberries and raspberries then went to the redcurrant field. Next was carrots, peas, mange tout and finally cucumber.Garsons PYOWhile the kids do enjoy picking the fruit and vegetables, they also enjoy taste testing what they can! I don’t mind them eating a few, however I try and make sure most of what they pick goes into the punnets!

It was so late by the time we’d finished at the farm that we decided to eat out at Pizza Hut, the kids favourite! After dinner of pizza and ice cream we went home, well past the kids normal bedtime but well worth the late night as we’d had such a lovely day.

Once all 3 kids were tucked up and asleep, Gordon and I started the long process of removing the redcurrants from the stems, ready for me to make jam today.

And that is where I must go now, The fruit was stewed and the juice strained over night. Now to begin my first jam of the year.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Sports Day in the Park

This time of year is the traditional time for kids to take part in Sports Day. This afternoon we went to the park with our home education group and had our own races, including Egg & Spoon, running and an obstacle race involving water pistols!

We met later than normal to try and take advantage of the cooler weather so we all took a picnic and enjoyed the whole late afternoon/early evening at the park.Sports Day 1After some races we sat down and enjoyed our picnic tea, before a couple more races and a game of Rounders.sports day 2The kids all did really well today and joined in with all the races, and even had a go at Rounders. It was really nice to see them joining in, listening, taking turns and enjoying the organised activities. It makes me realise how much they have changed in this last year and how their confidence is building every day. They had their moments of course – Thomas ran off with the hula-hoop batting circle during rounders and Jasmine didn’t join in with the first running race as she hadn’t listened properly to how it was being done (we did it in ages) – but generally they were really good and we didn’t even have any tantrums about not winning (although I think the “taking part sweets” may have had a role to play in that!)

All in all it was a very sucessful Sports Day and a really lovely afternoon spent with friends.

We ended the day with some giant bubbles!sports day 3We were having such a good time we didn’t leave the park until 7.30pm – the time my kids are normally heading off to bed! Sadly the combination of heat, excitement and tiredness meant that Ben was sick in the car on the way home. My poor little one was very good though and didn’t complain once bless him. By the time I had cleaned the car and car seat and showered Ben, it was so late Jasmine actually asked to go to bed! 

We are trialling a new Dance class tomorrow morning so I really hope that, after the success of today, Thomas and Jasmine aren’t too tired to join in..

watch this space!

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Hottest day of the year

So today has been the hottest day of the year so far.

And it really has been hot. Too hot if I am honest.

This morning the kids wanted to do some sticker books and drawing so we all sat at the table and did some mazes, doodling and stickers.hot day 1This afternoon we went in the garden and used water to cool us down again!

We got the water slide out for the first time. The kids quite liked it but weren’t keen on using it as a slide, preferring to just run and splash around. It kept everyone cool though, so achieved the aim!hot day 2We also finally got ice today. I have completely failed to make any ice cubes yet but we really needed some today so I did the very lazy thing and bought some! Bought ice cubes.. frozen water. Can you believe it! I paid money for something I can do at home in seconds! But it was so hot we really needed some. This was proved by Ben, who enjoyed eating them!hot day 3And now it is raining. It is still boiling hot, but raining. I might go and stand in the garden for a while!

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