ADVENTURE PARENTING #4: TY SCULPTURE TRAIL
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 #4: TY SCULPTURE TRAIL
So this is what it's all about - sharing adventures and ideas for story-orientated play outdoors - and we've chosen a fab one to share with you today: Ty Sculpture Trail, Wraxall. To find out more and have a peek at the trail map, visit http://www.tysculpturetrail.co.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/piersthecarver/
This magical little sculpture trail in a 16 acre wood near Nailsea is owned by the Woodland Trust and hosts a collection of fourteen stone carvings of animals that live in and around the ancient woodland (it's mentioned in the Doomsday Book!) Careful seeking is required to find the sculptures, including a dormouse, badger, fox, buzzard, hedgehog and robin as they aren't always obvious. It's not long before the little ones are busy peeking behind trees, souring the ground and racing ahead to be first to find the next one!
The trail is the inspiration of his Piers Partridge who, helped by Phil Carter, created the walk and all the beautiful carvings to celebrate the life of his son who grew up in a house on the corner of the wood.
The best place to park is at Jackland Fishing Lake - https://www.google.com/maps/place/Jacklands+Fishing+Lakesfirstname.lastname@example.org,-2.7624243,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0xbaff514ad946cdb2!8m2!3d51.4414541!4d-2.7624243. There's a good size car park and a little tea shop,. The owners are incredibly kind and welcoming, we've had many a lovely chat and delicious home made cake following a walk, and it's always a bonus to return home with several fresh trout as well! (Opening times will be affected by lockdown.)
PHASE 1: LOOKING AND LISTENING. On our first ever visit, we had a fairly hilarious experience / encounter at the start of the trail. We told the children that the sculptures often come alive when the woods are silent and the people all gone. We suggested that, if they crept quietly along the path at the start, we might see the creatures for REAL! Clutching our map from the cafe, we had a bit of an idea about which sculptures to seek near the beginning but we all stopped dead when we came face to face with the first one much earlier than we could ever had expected. A deer! A proper little Bambi! We all froze and I whispered 'Wow! What incredible work - it's like it's alive!', followed by, 'But why have they put sculptures on the other side of the fence and not along the path?' It took us at least three minutes before we realised that it was an ACTUAL deer we were looking at - frozen in position while we all stared! Unsurprisingly, it scarpered as soon as my youngest yelled 'HELLO BAMBI!'
So, our biggest tip here is to be as quiet as you can (a near impossibility for us usually, yet seemingly achievable if you fib at the beginning about the sculptures themselves!)
PHASE 2: WATCHING AND WONDERING. Once you are up and into the woods properly you can really get into your walk - you are spotting rock sculptures as well as those carved into stumps, so encourage the kids to keep their eyes on the path as much as on the trees alongside. There is so much more to seek as well of course - rabbit burrows, deer prints and foxes dens. Ours are always really keen to track animals with their poo and footprint book. At every sculpture, scat and print, we ask about what they think the animal was up to and where it is now. It's not often we see them in the flesh but sometimes, if there are sandwiches to nibble, the kids will wait and watch the entrance to animal hidey-holes and listen for sounds of them scrabbling about.
PHASE 3: STORY PROMPTING. Each time we reach a sculpture, we leave the kids to look at it a while. It doesn't take long before the creature that has been carved becomes an element of their own story. One of us usually pings a 'Once upon a time...' over and they are off! Ours are also big fans of 'minituraisation' in their play and if we ask them to find some friends for the creature that's been carved, they'll grab some grass, grub for some nuts or pick Lego from their pocket, animating the objects to provide some company for the carvings!
PHASE 4: TIME TO CLIMB. Woods mean trees and climbing is a favourite family past time. Fortunately, you'll find plenty of sections along this trail that make perfect climbing, sliding, splashing spots - offering every kind of excitement that a wood can provide and it's never too far back to the carpark, which is a bonus!
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!