Friday Fun

We went to WWT London Wetland Centre today.. one of our most favourite places to visit. And for the first time since becoming members over a year ago I remembered to take the kids swim things today, so they finally got to play in the water part of the playground! They were over the moon!

A1I did, however, forget to take any towels to dry them off with so they got to spend some time playing in the sun to dry off too!

A2After a good play we stopped off at the cafe for an ice cream and then walked along the West Route over to Headley Hide and the Wildside for some wildlife spotting. We saw a few dragonflies and damselflies, butterflies (but not many), insects, spiders and plenty of birds!

A3Yes, that is a spider on Jasmine’s arm! Looks like I did a good job of hiding my fear of spiders and I haven’t passed it on to her at least!

Highlight of the day was Thomas on the zip wire .. last time we went he wouldn’t go on because he decided it was too fast. No such fears this time :-)

And my non-child based highlight is this photo (which looks better full size but that would take too long to load on here!) ..

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How hot is too hot?

I do find it funny sometimes.. us Brits moan all winter about the cold and tell everyone how much we are looking forward to the hot weather returning, and then when it returns we all moan that it is too hot! And yes, I am just as guilty as anyone else!

So lets talk about yesterday. It was simply too hot! It was so hot in fact that I couldn’t even persuade the kids to go in the garden in the morning. So our first day of aiming to #StayWild and we all stayed inside! Well, until the afternoon that is, because of course Wednesday afternoon is Forest School for the kids. Lucky them, they got to play in the shade of the trees for two hours. They swung on the rope swing and made pens from elder (I believe.. I never really get a full answer out of any of them as to what they actually did!)

I was in two minds whether to shelter indoors somewhere or go for a walk. With Gordon working nights this week I am missing my morning walks and where I would normally be walking 5k before breakfast I am struggling to hit 5k over the whole day this week. With that in mind I managed to talk myself into walking and I did have a lovely walk from Warren Farm over to Nonsuch and around the park. I walked to the meadow and even braved the hot sun to cross through. I am so glad I did though as I was treated to an amazing display of flying from some birds of prey! I’m not great at ID-ing them but, as a guess, I think they might have been the peregrines that have bred in Sutton. I only had my phone with me but I tried to take some photos and did manage to get a bird in a couple 😉

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I love this photo because it shows what a glorious day it was..

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I also managed a new butterfly spot. The meadow was full of beautiful Marbled Whites, a butterfly I’ve not seen before.

Nonsuch3Back home later in the afternoon and it had cooled down sufficiently to enjoy the rest of the day in the garden. We got the hose out and had great fun spraying each other and the kids loved running through the “rain”

Today was supposed to be cooler with a few rain showers. I suppose it was cooler but we didn’t really get any rain and so the kids stayed inside all morning again. When we did get a short (and I mean short) light shower, Jasmine decided that was the moment to go outside! I have to admit I went out briefly as well and it felt lovely to stand under the cool rain!

This afternoon we went to our local HE group. It was really quiet with only a handful of families there but we still had a good time chatting and playing. There was one moment near the end where Thomas chose to use the railing between the path and the astroturf as a balance beam! One of the older boys came to tell me and I just caught the end of his stunt.. It was one of those moments where you don’t know whether to be impressed or cross! In the end I chose to be impressed.. he looked so confident up there!

30 Days Wild | Day 30

Day 30.. we’ve done it.. 30 days where we have done something wild every day! While we haven’t quite done as much over and above our normal as I had hoped, I have been pleased to discover how much is normal for us. Being outside and enjoying nature is just part of our life and I am so lucky that we are able to have this freedom :-)

Today was, ironically, almost too hot to be outdoors! But we had arranged to meet friends at a local nature reserve so we packed water, food and sun cream and hoped for shade!

Horton Country Park local nature reserve is about 20 minutes drive from us but somewhere we’ve not been to before. It is 400 acres in size and its recorded history goes back to medieval times. There is an online map with directions around a circular walk of the reserve but of course we didn’t print it to take with us and so we just wandered for about an hour before walking back to the picnic tables for lunch! If we had taken a map we might have seen more of the reserve but it was actually probably too hot today to explore properly so now we have the perfect excuse (not that we need one really!) to go back and explore again.

Today we found a gorgeous meadow, buzzing, chirruping and fluttering with life. It was beautiful! And we had one last go at completing something off our #30DaysWild list .. we had a “counting race”. I set 60 seconds on my phones timer and the kids ran around counting how many butterflies they saw, how many buttercups they found and how many bees they spotted in the time. And then as one final challenge we all followed the chirruping of a cricket or grasshopper and tried to find it in the long grass. This was much easier said than done and even Jasmine (bug eyes!) struggled! We managed to see a few in the end though, and they were big ones!

Wild53And so that’s it. #30DaysWild has finished. Luckily The Wildlife Trusts have started a new hashtag for us all to join in with .. will you #StayWild and share on #MyWildLife with us? I do hope so!

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30 Days Wild | Day 29

What a hot day it has been today! We picked a perfect day to go to Mayfield Lavender, a 25 acre organic lavender farm not too far from us.

It is such a beautiful place to visit.. fields of purple and the wonderful lavender scent everywhere. Being organic, the farm doesn’t use any chemicals and have come up with a unique way to get rid of their biggest “pest”.. if you fancy helping out you can collect a pot from the shop and as you walk round you pick off any Rosemary beetles you spot! Of course, the kids love this part!

Wild47I don’t know how many we collected in total as we lost count but Thomas alone had more than 50 so I’m certain we got more than a hundred!

Of course, its not just Rosemary beetles. There is plenty of other wildlife around. The farm is full of bees, more than you can imagine! We also saw lots of speckled bush cricket nymphs, froghoppers, crane fly, hoverflies, lacewings, ladybirds and other beetles, and a few butterflies and moths (although not as many as I had hoped.) Jasmine did her best to catch as many as possible, whereas I took photos..

Wild48Wild49Wild50Wild51It really is such a beautiful place to visit when the lavender is in flower. We spent two hours there today and only our rumbling tummies told us it was time to leave, or we could happily have stayed a lot longer.

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30 Days Wild | Day 28

We had a lovely walk around Morden Hall Park this afternoon. We actually went to look round their Summer Garden Party but it wasn’t quite what we expected so we didn’t stay long, choosing to explore by ourselves instead.

We saw so much wildlife, it was fantastic! The kids got chatting to some other children who were river dipping too and it was great to meet some other people who love wildlife as much as we do!

Here is a selection of what we saw today

Wild43Banded Demoiselle

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Peacock caterpillars on nettle

Wild44Essex Skipper

Wild45Comma

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Smooth Newt

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30 Days Wild | Day 27

I can’t believe it is almost the end of June and the end of the #30DaysWild challenge! We have really enjoyed joining in with it and I have to admit to being a little sad it is nearly over.

At the start of the challenge I wrote a list of 50+ wild ideas and activities and I bet we haven’t even done half of them! A lot of our wild time is just playing, or being outdoors. We all enjoy going out walking, exploring, but I really did want to do some of the activities on my list! I guess it just means we have to do them another time :-)

Today has been a perfect example of one of those days. We have spent most of the day in the garden, enjoying the beautiful hot sunny weather. The kids have played, climbed the tree, tended to their weed garden and looked after their bugs! We had a BBQ dinner and as a final attempt at completing something on the list, we had toasted (BBQ) marshmallows! Not quite as I would like but they tasted just as good as if they’d been toasted on a camp fire!

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30 Days Wild | Days 25 and 26

Yesterday (day 25) was another quiet-ish day. We got our wild time in the garden, where we enjoyed both lunch and dinner. We do love a picnic in the garden and, even better, the birds have got so used to us that we are frequently joined by starlings, a robin and blue tits and occasionally a sparrow or wood pigeon! If we sit quiet and still enough they will come within just a few feet of us! It’s a great way to enjoy our meals!

Today (day 26) we’ve been to Eastbourne visiting family. Gordon’s mum lives just a five minute walk from the beach so we spent a couple of hours enjoying the sea air this afternoon. The kids played in the shingle and sand and Gordon and I designed our very own wild art. This, of course, inspired the kids and soon they all joined in and our small part of beach was full of stone and shell sculptures :-)

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(My computer is being very slow uploading photos this evening so I will add more tomorrow!)

We have also been setting our trap camera and last night we got some brilliant video of our regular fox visitor..

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30 Days Wild | Day 24

As usual today the kids went to forest school, giving them a great 2 hours of wild time. Today they were learning all about Galls, specifically Oak Galls. Over the next few weeks they are going to be making ink from it.

At home our Wild activity was checking the camera trap. We have got it all set up and working after a couple of days of trial and error so we were excited to find out who had visited our garden last night!

Wild39The camera went off ten times between us setting it at around 10pm last night and stopping it at around 10am this morning. We got the cat twice, the fox visited us just after midnight and then again at dawn when he stayed for almost half an hour, and then from 5.50am onwards the birds set it off three times! It is very exciting to see what goes on in the garden when we are all in bed!

The camera doesn’t just take photos either, we’ve set it up to take a 20 second video. So here are a couple of short clips from last night.

(I know at the time of publishing the blog the second video isn’t working but I am hoping that it will work soon! If not, I’ll try again in the morning!)

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30 Days Wild | Day 23

Today saw us walking at Headley Heath again. After our trip last week I was keen to go back with Gordon so he could see how beautiful it is at the moment. The day started off cloudy but we did see a bit of sunshine and that brought out lots of insects for us to find! Also, having Gordon with us today meant I could concentrate a bit more on getting some good close-up shots of some of the bugs.. something I really enjoy :-)

We did exactly the same walk as we did last week, along the Lizard Trail, although with a bit more exploring off track as well. Jasmine remembered all the best spots for to find grasshoppers and again this was her main focus all day!

Wild33While Jasmine loves catching grasshoppers – and at one point today we had 12 in our pop-up bug catcher! – I love taking photographs of them. My favourite from today is this one, and it is actually Thomas holding it. He doesn’t catch many and was so pleased with himself for getting this one.

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We also managed to build a small raft today, and it actually floated! I meant to take some string with us but forgot so I wasn’t hopeful we’d manage it, but the boys were keen so we gave it a go. They all collected some sticks of around 20cm long and we managed to find some very fine silver birch branches from trees that had been felled to use instead of string. We built a square frame tied with the silver birch and just lay some other twigs on top to act as a platform.

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After some discussion about what to set sail we agreed on some flowers, so Gordon pushed them off at Aspen pond and we watched it float :-) We did try to get it to sail across the pond but with no sail and no wind it just wouldn’t manage it!

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Other Wild highlights from today include seeing a Lunar Hornet Clearwing moth (although we actually thought it was a hornet at the time), lots of froghoppers again, a few butterflies, moths and ladybirds, a couple of teeny frogs, and a crow who followed us around for almost the entire time we were there, watching to see if we’d left him any scraps every single time we stopped!

Wild37And there was, of course, the usual amount of running, jumping, splashing and climbing :-)

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30 Days Wild | Day 22

Despite today starting out very wet, it brightened up this afternoon so we still managed to get some time outdoors. We went to a friends house and the kids had a lovely time playing together. We all did some junk modelling and boats became the theme of the afternoon! They used plastic containers and tested them out by floating them on our friends pond! It sparked a discussion about raft making and Thomas remembered that was one of our Wild activities, so we agreed we’d try and do that later this week.

Our other big Wild news today is that we got our camera trap set up! We bought it from Aldi on Sunday (bargain buy but reviews are pretty good!) so we’ve set it all up and put it out in the back garden to see what visitors we have in the night. We know we get foxes so I am hopeful we’ll see something over the next few days :-)

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