Adventures in Nature
Come February and the half term break we may be yearning for the spring and to get outdoors, but the weather often has other ideas. I have grown to dislike the oft-quoted saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes,” as even the best dressed individual can soon get fed up when the rain is lashing down sideways for hours on end, as it has done this winter. Through working with large groups of forest school children in pouring rain or bitter cold, we have learnt a few things about having a positive experience outdoors even in the most challenging weather. (more…)
Over the years at Get Out More we have gathered a raft of ideas which make the most of the season, the weather or seasonally available materials such as leaves, berries, mud and snow as a way to connect with the environment around us. Our mission is to help people engage with nature to feel better about themselves in mind and body, so we’re always keen to share ideas that get people enjoying the outdoors. Last year I blogged about my Microadventures in a bid to show how anybody can sneak a bit of outdoor adventure into a busy life. This year, I’ll be blogging each month to share some ideas for ways to get out more and connect nature throughout the year. The blog will kick off properly at the start of February with ideas to inspire you to get out, even in really awful weather, but to get the ball rolling, here’s a January activity we enjoy as a family. (more…)
A new year’s day swim is a well established custom in this country. Like cheese rolling or fell running there is something particularly masochistic and British about our traditional customs and taking the plunge in a chilly lake or river at the coldest time of year is no exception. Still, it had been a very mild winter so far so the water shouldn’t be too cold, I told myself. However, on waking up on new year’s day I noticed a frost on the ground and wondered why I had chosen to do this. A band of fellow swimmers from the night before transformed into a team of supportive towel holders and bag carriers, but with 2015 already over I had no choice but to commit to the challenge to complete my Year of Microadventures. (more…)
Christmas can be so overwhelmingly busy, sometimes I feel I need to step out of it and take some time to reflect on what it’s all about. By the 11th event in my Year of Microadventures I had cottoned on to the fact that what makes a successful idea was not necessarily anything particular adventurous or strenuous, but something that you wouldn’t normally do, that challenges you to look at and do things differently. For the December event it felt natural that it should have a seasonal theme, so I proposed that I would go and collect the family Christmas tree on foot this year. We have a handy garden trolley that could take the strain, but obviously it would be empty on the three mile journey there.
This year I have been working with groups from the Keighley Food Poverty Action Partnership; every day of the week one of this fantastic band of voluntary organisations hosts a free hot meal service to those in need and are also distributing food to struggling families via a series of food banks. That these services are so necessary and so well used in modern Britain is shocking and unjust. I decided to fill the trolley with food to donate to the food bank on the way to get the tree. I’d put the idea to Louisa on our dawn walk last month, and being the kind of friend that is always up for adventure, she jumped at the idea.
So one Sunday in December we, plus our two youngest daughters, two dogs dressed as reindeer and one decorated trolley set off on the walk to the Christmas tree farm, (the older girls were too embarrassed to walk with their mums in Santa hats!). We were full of good spirits and Christmas cheer, spurred on by occasional drivers beeping their horns and waving. We stopped at our local chippy and took it in turns to pull the trolley so we could eat our chips as we walked. Calling in at the supermarket to top up more food for the trolley, I was extremely proud that Bea chipped in her pocket money to buy some cans of soup to donate.
We arrived at the Salvation Army as families were gathering for a Christmas service. Ushered through the congregation we wheeled the trolley round to the storeroom to unload. The Salvation Army officers warmly accepted the donations and came out to take pictures of the girls for their Facebook page.
We now set off through Keighley to go any get the tree at the other side of town. It was already starting to get dark and the farm still seemed a long walk away. With a much lighter trolley, the girls took it in turns to have ride, pretending the dogs were huskies towing them along. At last the lights of the farm were in sight and we went into the barn to pick the right tree – big enough to make an impact, small enough to push all the way home. The walk home was in the dark and the girls were starting to flag, with no room in the trolley for tired legs. We challenged them to spot the Christmas trees in the windows we passed, with sweet money for each one they spotted. 24 trees later the girls were snacking on sweets and chocolate while Lou and I recharged with mulled wine outside a pub. The last leg was a walk past the Christmas windows and lights of town, then the big push up the hill back home. We sang songs to spur us along and despite being shattered, everyone was full of the spirit of Christmas.
Every family who celebrates Christmas has their own traditions, some handed down for generations, some just appearing by default because you do something fun and decide to keep it. This microadventure had been cooked up to try and put some meaning back into Christmas. We came home proud, glowing and looking forward to the season ahead. It felt like the way we should always collect our tree and the start of a new tradition.
How do you fit in a bit of adventure when there aren’t enough hours in the day, particularly daylight ones? Since our wild camping trip together back in April, Louisa and I had hoped to do more microadventures together, but had not managed to find enough time when we were both free. And with short days and wintry weather upon us we were running out of opportunity before the end of my Year of Microadventure.
One Saturday night in November we defied the freezing weather and sat chatting in the garden all evening. Sitting around a blazing campfire, it wasn’t so different from our summer evening get-togethers, except with snow on the ground and many, many more layers of clothes. We decided we would revive an idea that had not got off the ground in the summer, to see the sunrise with a picnic on the moors.
The advantage of doing this in late autumn is you don’t have to get up nearly as early, although it still felt like the middle of the night when we got up and left the house just after 6am. The village was strangely still and only a single taxi returning late night revellers passed us on the road. I’d brought a torch but never turned it on as our eyes soon became used to the darkness and as we reached the top of the hill, there was a light on the horizon. Not the first signs of dawn but the orange glow of Bradford street lights reflecting off the low clouds. In fact as we headed onto the moors in the half light, it was clear that there would be no stunning sunrise as a thick bank of cloud covered the sky. At least it wasn’t raining.
The light snow and the slowly brightening sky lent the scene a surreal light so the moors where we often walk our dogs looked strange and unfamiliar. However Lou’s sheepdog knew the way and we followed her up and down the heather-clad hillocks of the abandoned quarry workings to reach an escarpment of rocks which overlook the valley. ‘Cassie’s rock’ is where Lou scattered the ashes of a much-missed dog and is a favourite spot on the moors for views and quiet reflection. Here we lit the gas stove to cook a bacon and egg breakfast and wait for dawn.
As predicted there was no glorious sunrise, just a gradual lightening until it was definitely daylight and the murky landscape slotted into its usual habit of greys, greens and browns. After toasting our early morning adventure with tin mugs of hot chocolate, we made our way down the hill to start the day again with our just-woken-up children. And that was it; no thrills and spills, no adrenalin rushes or flashes of grand inspiration. But this microadventure was a fantastic chance to spent time with a friend and see the world in a different light. And seeing as we had been up since the crack of dawn we managed to do the impossible and add some hours to the day.
Postscript: proving nature does not dance to our tune, the sunrise on the following morning was all you could have hoped for – golden swathes of light highlighting rippling clouds in pinks and blues. Sadly I was in the car rushing to work with no time to stand and stare. By text Lou and I vowed to make time for another dawn picnic soon.