ADVENTURE PARENTING #3: LOWER WOODS NATURE RESERVE, WICKWAR
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!
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 #3: LOWER WOODS NATURE RESERVE, WICKWAR
So this is what it's all about - sharing adventures and ideas for story-orientated play outdoors - and we've chosen a super spot north of Bristol to share with you today: Lower Woods Nature Reserve!
To find out how to get there and what to look for when you set out on your adventure, check out these websites -https://www.uksouthwest.net/gloucestershire/lower-woods/ and https://www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk/nature-reserves/lower-woods
We usually visit during the week to avoid there being many other people there! If we're lucky then we get to have a chat with the Wildlife Trust warden before our walk - a really lovely guy with lots of local knowledge about the area! (His dogs are great fun to greet as well!)
To get to the woods we usually drive across Hawksbury Common which is also an incredibly beautiful area to explore - http://www.hawkesburycommon.co.uk/ , https://www.southglos.gov.uk/documents/Hawkesbury-and-Inglestone.pdf
PHASE 1: LOOKING AND LISTENING. The girls are always desperate to disembark when we get here. Quick to grab their hazel sticks, they are soon off choosing the best route into the nature reserve. It's little enough that you can let them lead for the majority of the walk which makes the adventure all the more exciting for everyone! Alternatively, we often take our walkie-talkies (volume on low) and they stalk alongside me hidden by the trees or shoot off ahead to find fascinating flowers and scuttling bugs for closer examination! Their favourite game is to hide and make strange noises while mum listens for clues and creeps closer with every cry!
PHASE 2: WATCHING AND WONDERING. Once you are into the woods you'll find plenty of places to sit and be still for a while. We always enjoy reaching the stream and watching the little creatures that make this special place their home. Then it's time to build bridges with fallen branches and create grass people from pendulous sedge...
PHASE 3: STORY PROMPTING. Our outdoor storying often starts in the carpark when someone shouts 'Quick, we're being chased!' The numerous cow pats along the paths indicate that there are creatures are at large in the woods and my girls love to imagine they are killer cows that we need to avoid at all costs! (Upon meeting the cows, it quickly becomes apparent that killing is not top of their daily agenda.)
PHASE 4: TIME TO CLIMB. My little kamikaze climbers are straight up on the stump in the carpark and on every fallen log throughout the forest. The especially love skipping across tree bridges over the stream (mum follows a little more tentatively having been knocked off balance by the dog one slipperly summer's day!
PHASE 5: HEADING HOME. I cannot recommend enough the app Backcountry Navigator - https://www.backcountrynavigator.com/. It's cheap and absolutely superb at getting you home when everyone has had enough. Don't get me wrong - I love a bit of actual navigation, but you've plenty of other things on your mind when you're juggling the million things we all need to juggle on a day out with the kids. Make sure you download the areas map before you visit as there isn't any data signal at the nature reserve. Using this means that you can leave the kids to lead you about and still know exactly where to go to get quickly back to the car! You won't regret it!
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!
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