Here at The Smaller Explorer, we have a BIG family travel bucket list. Some places are listed because of the one-of-a-kind wow factor. Some places would be an eye opener and hugely educational. Some are pure childish escapism. I’ve listed some tour operators that do similar trips, but there’s no reason why you can’t plan and organise it all yourself. In no particular order, because how could you choose?!
Purple sprouting broccoli is a straggly but attractive sister to the round broccoli, and is in season over Easter. Broccoli is packed with nutrients including vitamin C, caretenoids, iron, folic acid, calcium, fibre and vitamin A, and it is thought to have anti-cancer agents too. This recipe is a good one to hide vegetables for small people that might be a bit fussy (who’s isn’t?!) and it’s also a good alternative to a lunch on the move. Move over sandwiches.
To make the pastry, put the flour, ground walnuts and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the lemon zest and egg yolk, then pulse, gradually adding the water until the mixture just comes together. Tip out on to a lightly floured surface, bring together with your hands, then knead briefly. Shape into a disc, wrap in cling film, then chill for 15 minutes. Or if you don’t have time for this, use pre-rolled shortcrust pastry.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin and use to line 20cm quiche dish, pressing the pastry right down into the tins and into the sides. Chill for 10 minutes.
Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice, then blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans/rice, then bake for 5-10 minutes more until golden. Remove from the oven. Reduce the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas
Meanwhile, blanch the broccoli spears in salted boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and refresh in ice-cold water. Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and mushrooms for 10-12 minutes until very soft and golden.
Whisk the eggs, yolks, cream, wensleydale and cream cheese in a jug, then season. Add the mushrooms and onion. Spread the broccoli florets over the base, then pour over the egg mix. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and just set.
Take out of the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tins and cool to room temperature. Serve with a few green salad leaves. And follow with some easter eggs.
Recipe adapted from Delicious magazine.
The March hare is hopping mad right about now, as it’s breeding season. You might be lucky enough to see them boxing too. This is actually the females fending off unwanted male advances.
Hares are larger and rangier than rabbits, and can be found in open fields or flat grassland in early mornings or at dusk. They are super fast, so you may need some binocular practice beforehand.
Frogs and toads come out of hibernation in spring to lay frogspawn, so March is a good month to spot them (with April being the best time to hunt for tadpoles).
Greenwich Ecology Peninsula Park hold an annual frogs day every March (20th March in 2018), where families can get up close to frogspawn, have a go at pond dipping, see some newts and get all crafty making amphibian-related pictures and paintings.
Don’t foget to tick off a #50things if you see frogspawn, as it is on the National Trust’s list of 50 things kids should do before they are 11 3/4. The National Trust also list many places where you may be able to see frogspawn.
One of our favourite birds, the comical puffin arrives back at breeding colonies from March, until mid August. Puffins are actually teeny tiny at under 30cm long, but they are super hardy seabirds.
Most puffins breed on islands –
1 Hermaness and Sumburgh Head, Shetland
2 Lunga, off Isle of Mull
3 Fowlsheugh RSPB, Aberdeenshire
4 Isle of May and Craigleith Island, Fife
5 Farne Islands, Northumberland
6 Bempton Cliffs RSPB, Yorkshire
7 South Stack Cliffs RSPB, Anglesey
8 Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire
9 Rathlin Island, County Antrim
10 Great Saltee, County Wexford
Going on a boat trip to see pint-sized puffins is an adventure in itself, though Bullers of Buchan north of Aberdeen and Bempton cliffs in Yorkshire are two mainland places where you may see them too.
Our book review of Amazing Family Adventures by Jen and Sim Benson.
Let’s be honest, we’d all rather be off trekking up a mountain somewhere, running halfway across some exotic country or just disappearing on a whim one weekend with a map and a vague idea of what to do. But, we’ve got small folk depending on us. So it’s hard to get out the door in under half an hour, let alone any of the above.
Plus kids are exhausting. Sometimes the thought of being extra active when you have children is just too much, and we’d admit that we’d rather be sat in front of the television watching a boxset and eating our bodyweight in biscuits. And that’s ok.
Yes, there will be occasions where some big adventures CAN happen, or you want them to, and we’ll be sure to feature them here. But this post is about challenging you to start having smaller adventures, microadventures, on their doorstep. It can be done.
What does adventure mean to you? Before children, it probably would have been something along the lines of exploring somewhere new, getting out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself mentally or physically. It can still mean the same thing after having children, it just means redefining where and what you do slightly, depending on your circumstances and feelings.
Adventure can be found everywhere. It doesn’t have to be found from trekking half way across the world. Last month, I wanted to do something different with my children, so I dipped into Jen and Ben Simpson’s book ‘Amazing Family Adventures‘, decided I wanted to circumnavigate a lake, found one half an hour away, and had a fab time with my smaller explorers. We pretended we were discovering ruins and bridges for the first time, making up stories about this new adventure.
Back in November, I took my littlest to Richmond Park, as it was deer rutting season. We took the backpack and a lunch and went ‘trekking’ into the park to see if we could get up close to the wildlife. It gave a bog standard trip to the park a different slant, and I talked about it for days afterwards.
Alastair Humphries neatly summed up slower walking microadventures by saying ‘In the time span you have available for an adventure, you will see the fewest places if you decide to walk, but the places that you do see, you will truly see.’ The same is true when exploring with children, and seeing the world through their eyes. Everything is done at a much slower pace. Sometimes, it’s frustrating, as those five miles you wanted to cover may only end up being one mile, but that one mile is explored in great detail. Kids, then, can open our eyes up to things that we might not have seen as adventures on our doorstep. Deep, right?
Try a night walk or run around your neighbourhood.
Visit a new National Trust and tick off some of their #50things
Wild camp in the garden
Wild camp elsewhere
Camp overnight in a bothy
Try a new activity you have never done before like canoeing or climbing
Take a boat trip somewhere
Book a cheap flight somewhere for the weekend
Leave the kids at home
If you are desperate for some adventure time on your own, it can also still be done. Al Humphries’ book ‘Microadventures’ has tons of good ideas, though most are only feasible if you have a willing other who will babysit overnight or for the weekend.
But, similar to the above philosophy, if you redefine what adventure means, there is lots that is achievable close by.
Tackle a long distance path section by section.
Take a bus somewhere random, then run home.
Do a mini triathlon, including a wild swim.
Cycle home from an unknown destination using just a compass.
Challenge yourself to something new, like rowing or kayaking.
As this blog grows, we’ll focus on individual activities in more detail to give you even more inspiration and tips, and don’t forget to let us know about your own doorstep microadventures.
On 3rd March, it’s World Wildlife Day, held to celebrate the world’s plants and animals. This year the theme is ‘big cats- predators under threat. Unless you are lucky enough to live in Africa or Asia, you’ll only see them at safari parks. Much as we’d rather just see big cats in the wild, the parks listed below are all fantastic ambassadors for conservation, and many also have successful breeding programmes. We think anything that gets younger explorers interested in wildlife conservation is a good thing.
If you don’t want to go to a themed place to see wildlife, we’ve also rounded up some of the best places to see UK wildlife in their natural habitat too.