Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Gruffalo Child's Trail in Wendover Woods

Having followed the Gruffalo Trail in Wendover Woods several times this year, today we did the Gruffalo Child's Trail.

The Trail changed to feature this story at the beginning of this month. Little Miss A received the book as a present from her Nana a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of us doing the Trail so that she would already be familiar with the story.

This new Trail follows the same paths through the deep dark wood as the old one. The characters of mouse, fox, owl and snake are still there in the trees. It's just the activity boards along the way that are now different.

Little Miss A is still too young to do the activities but the game to her was to find the next board each time. She got really excited to see each one, raced towards it and then before we even had the chance to read it, she was off, trying to find the next one!

Some of the activities that we did manage to look at included 'Can you find things that animals use to keep warm in winter?' and 'Sit quietly for a minute... How many animal and bird sounds can you hear?' I'm sure we'll do this trail a few times so I might get to read different boards each time!

The statue of the Gruffalo is still in place which is a nice finale to the Trail. He certainly has a nice view from his position!

This afternoon we had time for a stop at the Cafe and then a visit to the playground. We discovered some instruments this time - two wooden xylophones and some airbags so we became our own little band for quite a while. Not sure anyone that could hear us would have been that impressed with our efforts, but we enjoyed ourselves!

There are Gruffalo Child's Trails in woods throughout the UK. The trail is in place until February 2015. Full details can be found on the Forestry Commission website.

It's a nice easy walk and Little Miss A can now manage the whole Trail herself. The activities are definitely aimed at older children and you can pick up an activity pack which includes a foraging bag, leaflet, pencil and sticker. However, there's still enough to make the walk interesting and fun for Little Miss A so we'll be there again soon I'm sure!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Autumn Walk along The Phoenix Trail

As we're experiencing such mild weather given that it's October, we wanted to get out today to take advantage of it and get some fresh air.

Due to the incident with the baby back carrier on our last walk (the strap broke!), we needed somewhere that was an easy walk where we could take the pushchair for when Little Miss A got too tired to walk. I remembered hearing about the Phoenix Trail and after a bit of research, this seemed perfect. 

We knew we couldn't do the whole trail (it's 5 miles) so we chose to start from Thame and walk for about an hour before heading back. Next time we'd start from Princes Risborough and come the other way along. 

The Trail is along a disused railway and was ideal for Little Miss A to be able to walk by herself. It's traffic-free so a really safe environment for her to wander and roam along. The tarmac path meant it was easy to push the pushchair (it did get used on the way back so was worth taking with us!). 

It was really great to see so many other people on the Trail. Walkers, runners and lots of cyclists, particularly family groups. If you want to make it along the whole Trail from Thame to Princes Risborough (or vice versa) then you'd definitely need to cycle!

Along the trail are various artworks and benches some of which reflect the route's railway heritage. Little Miss A particularly enjoyed exploring these! We passed under 2 bridges which we made a lot of noises underneath to hear the echoes! She was also interested in the graffiti artwork (good job she can't read the words yet!).

This walk was just what we needed today. We were out for about 2 hours in total but we definitely didn't cover that much distance along the Trail. We have to accept that it takes a lot longer now Little Miss A wants to walk so much herself, but it really is so much fun letting her just wander by herself and explore!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sunday Autumnal Stroll in Tring Park

We wanted to take advantage of the sunshine this morning and decided to head to Tring Park. I'm so glad we did as it was ideal for a Sunday stroll.

We parked in the new car park that has been created near the Tring Museum (parking is free). It was then a short walk over a footbridge to the Park. There are maps showing a few different walks. We chose to do the Woodland Walk as this took in some of the key features of the Park including the Obelisk and the Summer House Folly.

To start with we carried Little Miss A in the backpack carrier but then let her down to walk a bit. It was great fun seeing her run around in the fallen leaves!

From the Summer House, the walk goes along King Charles Ride where there were several viewpoints with really lovely views.

We also came across an interesting archway! There were animal heads carved into some of the wood and the lyrics to a song. After a bit of research, I think it's the lyrics to 'Pure Imagination' from the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory film with Gene Wilder. A very unusual sculpture!

Little Miss A ended up walking the last part as Daddy got a little bit carried away with jigging her in the carrier and a strap broke. Whoops!

We were out for about an hour and a half which was just right for this morning. We'll definitely be heading here again.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Chinnor Circular Walk

It's been a while since we've been on a family walk but we managed to get out on Saturday.

When we went on the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway a few weeks ago, we picked up a Chiltern AONB leaflet for the Chinnor Circular Walk. I always prefer circular walks so that you don't have to logistically work out how to get back to your car that you've left at the starting point!

We parked up in Chinnor (free parking) and after a quick pit-stop for a nappy change, we set off. We weren't sure how Little Miss A would get on in her carrier as she hasn't been in it for a month or so and is getting used to walking by herself more now, but she was quite happy to get in it. I think it's because she has such a good view up there! Mr MoaB was slightly less happy as each time we use the carrier, she's got heavier!!

The first part of the walk took us across and then alongside the train track. The trains were actually running that day and I was really hoping we'd see one as we'd been on that train journey recently but no such luck. We heard the train on two occasions but both times we weren't in a place where we could see the track. Shame!

It was all fairly flat and easy going to begin with. However, then it got more challenging! From 'The Lions of Bledlow' pub it was uphill towards The Ridgeway National Trail. Quite a steep climb. Got the legs going!

The path evened out again for a bit as we walked along the Ridgeway, which is described as Britain's oldest road. Lulled us into a false sense of security though as we had an even steeper bit to go in the Chinnor Reserve and Barrows. It really was head down and keep going. So glad that Mr MoaB was carrying Little Miss A and not me. Would have been very slow progress as it was a narrow path as well! I'm glad the weather was dry as well as it would have been very slippery and even more hard going.

It was worth the climb though as we got to the viewpoint at Chinnor Hill. The view would be even better on a really clear day.

Of course what goes up, must go down so then it was time to start our descent back down to Chinnor.

There is an additional part to this walk that takes in the Chalk Pits, but we'd been out for a good few hours and decided to head back. We'll try to do these another day.

So this walk is not for the faint-hearted and you definitely need a baby carrier. The steep bits will be a struggle for Little Miss A for a while yet.

Was really nice to get out for a family walk. Little Miss A was pretty good at the map reading and there was only one place where we had to backtrack our steps a little bit as the instructions weren't that clear.

Here's a direct link to the pdf of the Chinnor Circular Walk if you'd like to give it a go!

Monday, 22 September 2014

A very special Naming Ceremony

Happy Naming Ceremony Anniversary Little Miss A!

A year ago we held an informal Naming Ceremony for our daughter with our closest family and friends. It was a really special day that we'll never forget.

I was not writing this blog last year so I thought I would post today as it's the anniversary so that she has a record of this important day in her life.

Mr MoaB and I had lots of discussions about what we should do. All we knew is we wanted some sort of celebration for Little Miss A that brought our friends and family together. Our nearest and dearest are spread far and wide around the country so this was the first time we were bringing them altogether in one place. An excuse for a party really!

We discussed a Christening but neither of us is religious or attends Church so this didn't seem right. We then investigated having a formal Naming Ceremony with a Celebrant but this would have cost over £300 yet it has no legal standing and we would be restricted on venue.

So we went down the informal Naming Ceremony route and made the whole thing up as we went along and put a plan together!

The venue:
We love the outdoors and thought it would be great to be outside for the day which led us to Wendover Woods where we booked one of the BBQ pitches.

We had everything crossed for good weather and luckily we had the perfect day. Just as well as the marquee that was ordered was a bit smaller than we thought it would be - it would have been a very very tight fit for everyone to shelter underneath it if it had rained!

The decorations:
All hand made. We didn't go overboard with decorations as we just had one marquee. We had some banners with Little Miss A's name on. I'd also handmade lots of lilies out of tissue paper and paper plates. I was pretty happy with my handiwork. It was nice to have personal touches.

The Ceremony:
I trawled the internet for ideas and poems to use and then put together the script. We asked Mr MoaB's brother-in-law to be the 'compere'. He welcomed everybody and did an introduction. Then Mr MoaB and I made some Parent Promises and each read a poem.

We had asked two of our friends to be Little Miss A's Guardians. They made a set of promises and also read a poem each. We finished the Ceremony with a Pledge of Support from everybody.

The poems we chose were:
Mother's Heart - Author Unknown
Daddy's Little Angel - Jason A. Hodges
Footprints - Anon
The Example of Parenthood – Author Unknown

Each of us who read a poem struggled. The poems were very emotional! I'm not sure how I actually got through the whole of my poem as I was crying! Mr MoaB had to clear his throat a few times to hold back the emotion and he never cries! I don't think there were many dry eyes in the audience either!

Every time I read the poems even now I end up welling up!

The food:
We asked the owner of Cafe in the Woods to cater for us with a really delicious BBQ.

My Mum and I spent all of the day before doing the puddings. We had mini banoffee pies, trifles, jellies, fairy cakes and meringue nests. I loved how the trifles looked as we put them in plastic cocktail glasses from Poundland! It was a busy day getting all the puddings done and then the next challenge was actually getting them to the Woods. Amazingly, they all survived and they went down very well (most people had at least 2 different puddings!).

We decided to have cake for the adults and cake for the kids. We did cheat with the adults cake and bought 2 cutting bar cakes from M&S. By choosing cutting bars rather than a traditional round cake, it was easier to cut into slices and meant we could personalise the bars - one with Little Miss A's first name and the other with her second name. We cut out her name from pink icing and also used ribbon and small organza lilies from Hobbycraft for additional decoration. The cakes looked really lovely.

For the kids, my Mum made a chocolate cake (always a popular choice for kids!) in the shape of a teddy bear. We had fun choosing different sweets for the decoration. So much so that we actually did this cake again for Little Miss A's 1st birthday!

We provided some refreshments including Champagne for the toast but asked everyone to bring their own drinks. A lot of people were driving (due to the location) so it was mostly soft drinks anyway!

Kids entertainment:
None was needed as they were in the Woods so more than happy to explore, climb trees etc!

The photography:
We could have managed without a professional photographer and just asked the guests for their photos, but I'm glad we asked Lovely Things Photography to be there. Frankee had done a photoshoot for us when Little Miss A was tiny and captured her really well so we asked her to do the photography for the Ceremony. We decided as this was a rare occasion of getting all the families together that we should take this opportunity to get photos of Little Miss A with each of the families, the grandparents etc. We then had most of these printed as thankyou presents.

The guests:
Not sure how many of those that were able to attend will read this but would like to take this opportunity again to thank them for coming. For many it was a long way to travel but it was greatly appreciated.

The gifts:
Of course everyone ignored the part of the invitation that said 'no gifts'! We just wanted people to be there. However, Little Miss A was really spoilt and received some really thoughtful and lovely presents.

We asked all guests to write '3 wishes' for Little Miss A:

I/We hope you enjoy...
I/We hope you aren’t afraid of...
I/We hope that you...

We had some fantastic responses. I am planning on getting these bound into a book for her with some of the photos (another thing on my to do list!).

We managed to keep costs really low for the whole day but it didn't feel like we'd scrimped on anything. We saved a lot by doing lots of it ourselves with the decorations and food. By having it in the Woods, we didn't have expensive venue hire costs to worry about. It really was great to have a natural, outdoors backdrop to the whole occasion.

I'm so very glad that we chose to have this Naming Ceremony and do it ourselves in our own way. I loved it. It was all very personal and special. I wouldn't have changed anything about it. It really was such a memorable day.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Royal County of Berkshire Show

Having enjoyed our time at the Bucks County Show last month, today we had the opportunity to visit the Berkshire County Show in Newbury.

It took just over an hour to drive from Aylesbury to the Show. It's very well sign-posted along the whole route. The parking is well organised and we had a good spot where we could easily remember where the car was!

Unlike many of the other Shows in the area, this one runs over 2 days and it is huge. Much much bigger than the Bucks Show, which at the time I thought was big!

As soon as we entered I got a sense that we were only going to be able to cover a fraction of the Show with Little Miss A in tow! Particularly now as she wants to walk so much on her own rather than go in the pushchair, so you really can't cover much ground, very quickly!

Luckily the weather was dry as it must be a mud-bath if it's wet! It was ideal weather for pottering around today.

Where we entered were some of the shopping stalls but we didn't dwell too long at these as we wanted to find the stand that Mr MoaB's company had as some of his staff were manning it and he was interested to see the set-up and check they were ok. The stand looked great and was really busy, which was good.

We then headed off round some of the other stalls. We spent a bit of time at the emergency services stand. Little Miss A enjoyed another chance to get into a fire engine and a police car!

We passed one stall that was giving out great freebies! Mr MoaB and I each got a bag that had a bottle of water and a really nice piece of cake! Yum! Little Miss A was given a little red toy truck. (She's played with it a lot since we got home!)

We found a great area for Little Miss A to wander around as there were some donkeys from a donkey sanctuary and lots of different animals from the Vauxhall City Farm. She got the chance to stroke a 5-day old chick. She also got nipped by a duck which upset her, I think it was more shock than actual hurt as she soon recovered!

It's best to take lots of change with you! Many of the stands are for organisations and charities who ask for a donation. As usual, we took a packed lunch with us but everywhere there are food and refreshment stalls. It all looked really tasty but we were good and stuck to our sandwiches. The only thing we succumbed to was a coffee for Mr MoaB and an ice-cream for Little Miss A!

There's just so much going on. We didn't get the chance to go around the livestock areas or see anything in the arenas. We also didn't visit the funfair area - plenty of time for things like that when Little Miss A is older and has a choice of how to spend her pocket money!!

We were fortunate enough to be able to get in to the Show for free through Mr MoaB's company. It's £20 per adult for tickets bought at the gate, £7 per child (5-16 years), under 5s are free. So not a cheap day out once you add in petrol, any refreshments and shopping you buy, plus the donations you make!

I think you need to have a definite plan of action before you go to the Show with what you really want to see and do. It's easy to just meander around but then miss the times when there are shows in the arenas.

If you're local to the area, then it is a good day out with absolutely loads to do. I think maybe there's a bit too much as it was all a bit daunting and I have come away feeling a bit like we missed out on some good stuff but we just couldn't get round it all.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Messy Play - Jelly!

For a bit of fun this afternoon, I let Little Miss A loose with a load of jelly!

She wasn't sure at first but then got stuck in. I'd given her a few of her toys that she uses in her sand pit along with a whisk.

She was soon busy transferring the jelly from the box to the bucket. Even attempting to do this with the whisk!

At first she was a bit reticent to actually touch the jelly. I kept putting my hands in and offering it to her. She preferred using the tools rather than getting her hands in. I'm surprised that she didn't even try to eat any! At the end though she got her feet into the box and stomped around a bit. Great fun!

Will definitely do this activity again with Little Miss A. I used two packets of jelly for this activity and made it up the day before. Maybe next time I'll try using different flavours of jelly so there are a variety of colours.

So we've now done spaghetti, shaving foam and jelly. Anyone got any ideas for other messy play?