ADVENTURE PARENTING #1: UBLEY WARREN
Updated: Jun 25
Sharing adventures and ideas for story-orientated play around Bristol
The easing of lockdown has made it possible to exercise and explore a little further from home and we've been making the most of it! It's no secret that we spend our lives outside at every opportunity, but we also love sharing the adventures whenever possible as the kids find the wild outside all the more exciting when shared with friends. Recent events make this tricky - spending time with other families isn't an easy option at the moment. So, we've decided to share ideas about where to go and what to try out via my blog - providing fellow parents with information that can help them plan their next adventure and offer ideas about what to get up to when there!
Two feasting kings recline happily at the summit of their apparently impenetrable fortress, blissfully unaware of the approaching danger - a creeping pyjama-clad attacker moving stealthily (and possibly quite uncomfortably) up the stone strewn path...while Mum sits peacefully at the bottom of the fort enjoying a well earned cup of tea!
Keeping it clean
Before I begin, I ought to mention that we always endeavor to keep our adventuring as unobtrusive as possible. The countryside communities who are lucky enough to live in our favourite exploration spots have suffered enough from inconsiderate parking, thoughtless toilet habits and the leaving of a lot of litter. In order to counter this mindless exploitation of beautiful places we've been doing the following and I know many others are approaching their exercise from home in the same way:
Timing: visit at times when the area is quiet - avoid weekends and instead go for dawn or dusk during the week (the light it inevitably better and we're all convinced we spot more fairies - or at the very least deer - at these times of day!
Parking: read up on where best to park - local communities are keen to direct people away from hot spots that cause them problems and welcome questions about where it is better to leave your vehicle. Fellow walking bloggers, community Facebook groups can all be helpful for this.
Toilet: a lot of these spots don't have toilet facilities. I'm spoilt because I have one in our van, but if we're ever caught short - which is often the case with small offspring - I pick it up with a dog poo bag, place whatever wiping material happens to be the choice of the day (hazel leaf, tissue, sphagnum moss etc) and put that in the bag also. We bag it, take it home and bin it. It's pretty stinky if you get down wind of me, but the kids have learnt to walk ahead when this happens and we proceed without making a mess of the place we're visiting.
Litter: My girls have been horrified at the increase in litter we're finding. To combat this, they requested a family set of litter pickers so now we can collect and clean each time we visit an adventure area. To maximise their sense of superhero, add a high vis vest and bike gloves.
Dogs: We have one and he stays on the lead if there is livestock at large in the field. He's trained to ignore whatever animal is about, but the signs request compliance and we do as they ask. His poo comes home too. Simple.
ADVENTURE #1: UBLEY WARREN
So this is what it's all about - sharing adventures and ideas for story-orientated play outdoors - and we've chosen a favourite to share with you first: Ubley Warren in the Mendip hills.
To find out about the area, follow this link - https://www.somersetwildlife.org/nature-reserves/ubley-warren.
When we visit Ubley Warren we usually do it in the following style...roll out of bed, grab bags, boots and food, jump in van and get there before most people's day has even begun!
PHASE 1: LOOKING AND LISTENING. Morning is the quiet time when we can spot rabbits and sit in trees listening to the early birdsong. As you will have noticed in the picture above, some of this is even done in our pyjamas.
PHASE 2: WATCHING AND WONDERING. Having breakfasted on snack bars and bananas, we spend some time hunting about the dune-like hillocks of the old lead mine right where we've parked (I always keep the kids near me with it being a bit of a holey landscape) and we compete against each other to be the first to spot animals tracks and establish the approximate age of each pile of rabbit poo.
PHASE 3: STORY PROMPTING. It's usually about now - when we've warmed up enough to remove several layers of clothing (illogically of course because it's probably wet, windy or freezing), that we race up to the topmost point of our adventure area and begin spinning a story. Mum shouts 'pretend' and we all set about yelling our illustrious names (we're knights of course) and seeking something with which we might batter our opponents into submission and reign unmolested at the top of our fort.
PHASE 4: TIME TO CLIMB. The brilliant thing about this particular adventure area is that you are spoilt for choice when it comes to sections to explore. When we've exhausted the 'fight for the fort' game, it's a short walk up the track to a grove of the most magnificent beeches (due South of the carpark down the track by the outdoor centre) where we all magical transform into squirrels and scamper up trunks that have seen a great deal of history by the size of them!
PHASE 5: EXPLORE THE WARREN. From here, it is simply a matter of fifty metres at most down a number of little weaving paths (watch out for the gorse guarding the edge of many) before you arrive in the warren itself - a magical landscape of mini limestone cliffs, fossil rocks and the delightful dips and curves of the now grassy mine. This is where we get all excited about our wildflowers - scouring the ground for Bird's Foot Trefoil, Bugle, Wild Thyme, Heath Bedstraw and a multitude of others. (We use a flower identification app called 'Flora Incognita' to tell us right away what we're looking at.) WARNING: This area is exceptionally exciting for kids and adults alike - but it can also be dangerous. Although adding a not-altogether-unwelcome 'exhilarating' feel to our explorations, children must be kept close. The cliffs aren't always visible and drops are dangerous should children go over the edge. Once down low, they are pretty safe but it's still sensible to spot them if they choose to scramble about and follow close behind when they test out their mini ridge walking abilities around and about the site.
PHASE 6: OFF FOR A WALK. After a quick snack on wild strawberries or - more likely - the contents of your pockets, we usually head back down to the bottom, near where we parked, and head west towards Velvet Bottom. We travel through the tunnel that slips under the road, shouting 'echo' and fleeing from imaginary bears along the way. Once on the other side, we head along the path, stopping by the biggest trees to built dens from mossy dropped limbs and filling our trousers with black 'dragon glass' (the slag by product of the past mining processes).
PHASE 7: HEADING HOME. It's about now we start to feel tired - after all, we've been playing constantly since we arrived and have now lived through at least seven different self-created stories at the very least. It's time to crack open the skittles and start weaving our way back to the car!
So, why not try out this little adventure for yourselves and send us some pictures! Feel free to add to the comment box and let us know what you got up to, and join me next week for the sharing of another adventure!