It’s World Environment Day today, and the focus is on how to beat plastic pollution. Plastic is around us everywhere in our daily lives as consumers – plastic drinks bottles, plastic bags, food containers, cling film, coffee cups. And as parents we probably come across it even more than the average individual. Think of the extra food we need to buy, baby wipes, nappies, straws for drinks, balloons, party bags, plastic toys, cartons of milk. When we go travelling or exploring, the logistics of getting out there as a family often outshadow the need to cut back on plastic. We go for speed and ease over sustainability. In this post, we look at easy ways to beat plastic pollution and adventure responsibly.
Pen y Fan is Wales’ second largest mountain and the highest mountain in southern Britain, standing at 886m above sea level. It’s a popular National Trust location, with over 250,000 people tramping up to the peak each year. At the top you are rewarded with dramatic steep slopes and valley scenery and with the right conditions, you can see right across the four counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan and Somerset. We chose to climb Pen y Fan with our toddler and preschooler as part of our four-month challenge. Here’s how we go on.
The art of adventuring successfully with children old and young is being able to balance what you want to get out of the trip with what is going to satisfy the younger members of the party. These worldwide hiking routes manage to do that. Outstanding views, some challenging sections, and a little off the beaten track for the adults, but safe, well-marked trails that can be tackled in small sections, with features that kids will appreciate too like huge trees, ancient volcanoes and warm hostel stays.
What a weekend. I feel like I’ve just come back from a week abroad. We took a spontaneous trip over to the Isle of Wight on Bank Holiday Saturday as the weather was so perfect. We found the perfect Isle of Wight campsite, went orienteering (aka ‘mountain climbing’ according to my son), splashed at the beach, ate ice cream, and went for a bike ride in the New Forest on the way home. I am now completely in love with the Isle of Wight. Why haven’t I been before?
Part of why I set up The Smaller Explorer was to connect with like-minded families. There’s nothing like chatting with others who have managed to do something amazing after having children. It’s so inspiring, and also gives me loads of ideas of what I could do in the future too, and how to do it.
This series hopes to inspire other families who want to get back out there after parenthood, but don’t quite know where to start, or if it’s possible. There was only one lady I could start with – Catherine Edsell. Catherine is an adventurer, expedition leader, PADI divemaster, Reef Check trainer, yoga teacher, FRGS, TED talker, podcaster and mother of two daughters. Phew.
Finding UK adventures and having a go at different challenges when you have young children is not just achievable, it’s great fun and a good bonding experience too.
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.
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.
Poor, old February. Often thought of as the month of despair. However, there are a surprising number of treats to look out for and enjoy even in these dark, dreary days of winter. Scratch beneath the surface and there is life everywhere. Days are lengthening and there is a smell of spring and new beginnings in the air, so dig out the wellies and thermals and go on a new walk. Find a cracking pub at the end. Happy days.
Our round up of all the things to do on a rainy day for children. We’ve focused on West Kent and East Surrey, but the ideas can be applied to wherever you live in the world.