To ‘the Point’

“Where are we going Mummy?”  piped up C from the back seat of the car.

“On an adventure, is that Ok?”I ask.

“Yes, that is Ok” she said, nodding

JoJo giggled in agreement.

It is 6pm and far too warm to contemplate starting the bedtime routine. Instead we can fit in one quick outing before the sun sets. Down along the country lanes we go, passing the imposing gateway to Picton Castle, after which the road narrows considerably to almost become a single track lane. The trees arch overhead, forming a canopy of green as we reach our final destination.

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Picton Point is the where the eastern and western Cleddau (pronounced cleth-aye) rivers meet. These rivers are quite special, and stretches of both have been afforded SSI status.  Apparently they are one of the best rivers in the UK for Otters. They also provide sanctuary for various species of Lamprey,  as well as the European Bullhead. Along the length of these two water courses, some 74km in total, exist several Special areas of conservation, with habitat for Marsh Fritillaries and Southern Damselflies.

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We started our exploration from under the boughs of an ancient sessile oak, stooped so low the bottom branch has been propped up.

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There is a waymarked walk along the banks of the Cleddau , left heads back inland , but C chooses to turn right along the path to the rope swing.DSC_0332 (Medium)

 

The tide was out. On the water, two kayakers quietly paddle along the estuary. Other than that our only company is wild.  I can here an oystercatcher in the distance, and jackdaws overhead. Seaweed crackles and pops underfoot as we make our way along the shore.

Gnarly tree roots protrude from the bank and dangle above us, reminding me of when Frodo hides from the Ring Wraiths.

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We trip trap over the boardwalk, a deep muddy tributary to the estuary beneath our feet. On all sides reeds rustle, and dragonflies flutter past their wings whirring mechanically. I think I saw a red darter, I can’t be sure as the light was dim and my camera too slow.

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Finally we reach the swing. I settle JoJo on the floor, where she amuses herself  with the shale. The rope dangles from the branches of an oak, thick and strong.C wanted a go, but at the same time was just a little bit afraid. She soon conquered her fear, she may be small but she is fierce!

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I stood and admired the view, out across the millpond calm water to Landshipping. Boats clinked, bobbing on the incoming tide. A small black bird, probably a Shag, flew low and straight over  the water.

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A gaggle of Canada geese flew past in V formation, honking loudly as they go.

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By now the light was beginning to fade so we retraced our steps, stopping to marvel at the piece of seahorse shaped deadwood.

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Picton point is a real hidden gem in Pembrokeshire’s crown of natural beauty. I find it is somewhere to go when the world becomes a little too fast. Here you can metaphorically press the pause for just an hour or so, and watch the comings and goings of riparian life.

 

 

 

Review: Kozi Kidz waterproofs

At the farm upon the hill we lead a very outdoor lifestyle. Come rain, sun, snow, whatever the weather C and JoJo usually go outside to play at least once a day. They behave better when they’ve had the chance to run,jump and scramble about in the fresh air. Living in Pembrokeshire also means we aren’t too far from the beach, and when the back garden gets a bit boring we can head off to one of our favourite sandy spots.

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The seeeeeeaaa!

 

This week we had an impromptu visit to Newgale.

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Newgale on a nice day!

 

The girls were super excited, but when we pulled into the car park my heart sank. The waves were massive and the wind was driving sea spray right up the beach. Not much fun when the girls were dressed for sunny, warm weather. Then I realised that the bag of new Wet Wednesday waterproof gear I’d bought at the Pembrokeshire show was still in the car.

JoJo had a berry coloured Kozi Kidz Nalle Softpile Fleece All in One. C had a new striped Kozi Kidz Koster Unlined Rain Jacket . I was thrilled to also receive a pair of Kozi Kidz Dungarees from the Wet Wednesdays to team with the new jacket I’d bought C .

I really love the clothing stocked by Wet Wednesdays. The Scandinavian designs are bright, fun and highly practical. They really do let kids enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather has to offer.As a farm vet, lover of nature and mum of one puddle jumper and one mud seeking baby I know the importance of good quality waterproofs. I also know how awkward they can be to get on a baby or toddler. This really isn’t the case with the Kozi Kidz range .

JoJo’s all in one had built in hand and feet covers so no fighting to get it on. It also means avoiding the need for gloves in cold weather, and  hands can come out to get stuck into play when necessary!

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C’s jacket suits her personality perfectly! She loved putting her hood up, and doing up the poppers.The dungarees are also excellent. They slipped on easily over C’s clothes, with plenty of room for extra layers if needed. They are fully adjustable, with extremely easy to use braces and side poppers ensuring a perfect fit. C was wearing size 3-4, with plenty of room to grow into them. I can see them lasting long enough for JoJo to use them too!

Once the girls were bundled up we headed down to the beach.JoJo began practising her crawling as soon as I put her down. The suit worked perfectly, no material trailing behind her, an issue we often have with onesies.

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C had a great time, building castles and collecting shells. No worrying about sitting in the sand, the Dunga’s kept her nice and clean!

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Next up- wave jumping!

2016_08_17_10.23.09__1471635989_30809__1471635989_12967.jpgThe waterproof’s did their job amazingly, and they didn’t restrict C’s movement at all. I later found out that this is probably due to their design – they have ‘4 way stretch’ and were originally made for forest schools in Scandinavia. Lets face it,what the Scandi’s don’t know about outdoor living isn’t worth knowing! These are definitely an essential item for my fierce little adventurers. I will be buying more!

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JoJo was nice and snug up on my back in her wrap. I wish I’d bought a Kozi Kidz All-in-one sooner, as they are ideal for Baby wearing. WetWednesday also stock leg warmers and all in one waterproofs which will work well for Baby wearers.

After about an hour we said goodbye to the beach and headed home. Just in time for the girls to help fetch the cows in for milking. C was very pleased, she loves helping her Dad on the farm. Once the cows were all in, C performed one final test on her outfit. The all important ‘jumping-in-muddy-puddles’ test. The results are in – Kozi Kidz jackets and dungarees are fully muddy puddle proof!

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All in all the new gear receives a big thumbs up from us.

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If you’re looking for some new waterproof attire for your little puddle jumper, mini adventurer, rock-pooler, mud kitchen cook, miniature farmer or beach baby then why not check out the Wet Wednesdays outdoor clothing range.

Here’s a quick summary of the essential points;

C wears Kozi Kidz mix and match waterproof dungarees (dark lilac) and Koster rain jacket (striped)

JoJo wears Kozi Kidz All in one snuggle fleece (berry)

Child Friendly features:

  • 100% waterproof
  • Comfy
  • Reflective stripes/spots to increase child visibility.

Mum Friendly features:

  • Affordable
  • Scandi design – cute but highly practical!
  • Machine washable (already been through our machine once, looking great still!)
  • Generous sizing
  • Integral name label.
  • Toddler and Baby proof

A Swallow’s Tale

The Swallows arrived here late this year, the first one being spotted at the end of May. They came in dribs and drabs, until the air around the farmyard was filled with their noisy chatter. 

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 Every barn has at least two mud and moss cups glued to the beams, perennial nests that lie empty all winter, waiting to be repaired and filled with chicks. There is even a nest directly above the desk in the farm office, and inevitably any papers left underneath soon end up splattered with droppings.

rsz_swallowOn sunny days the birds fly high, swooping and soaring with their distinctive forked tails backlit by the sun. Some alight on the weather vane, keeping lookout and alerting the others to the presence of the farm cat with a loud, indignant ‘Sifflit, Sifflit’ call.

DSC_0102__2___1471592634_36483When it is overcast they skim low over the fields and garden, long streamer tail feathers trailing as they snatch insects on the wing. As dusk draws in they perch along the telephone wires, excitedly twittering and whirring away. They are an everyday presence, as common to us as blue tits and sparrows, their song part of the soundtrack of my summer. It is easy to forget just how amazing they are.

This morning  I headed into one of the barns, in search of tools for a gardening job. A blur of feathers shot out of the door over my head. Startled by my unexpected arrival, the adult swallows had escaped buttwo juveniles were left flitting and fluttering around the barn. I stepped back from the doorway, leaving plenty of space for them to exit but they settled back up on a beam and looked down at me. They won’t be here for much longer, I thought. Soon it will be time for them to leave, and to start their long migration to the Sub Saharan wintering grounds.

DSC_0028__1471592387_25638The adults usually begin the southward journey in mid August, travelling in short bursts towards their destination. Some juveniles may have already set out on their very first trip. Before them lie many obstacles. First they must make it to the south coast of England, before heading across the channel and into France. Then they cross the Pyrenees and enter Spain. Heading ever southward, they cross the straight of Gibraltar and begin their venture over the vast continent of Africa. Most will skirt along the west coast, across the western edge of the Sahara and eventually arrive in South Africa.  Some may head east and travel down the nile. Others may brave the broad expanse of the Sahara itself. Starvation, exhaustion and storms will take their toll. Those who leave late may end up overwintering in Italy, southern France, Spain or North Africa.

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Migration of the Swallow – Map shows ringed bird recoveries (credit http://www.bto.org)

So the swallows that nest here on this little farm in South Wales may travel more than 8,000 miles, all the way to the Cape of Good Hope. A journey which, Google maps reliably informs me, will take 190 hours if I travelled by car. I imagine it would probably take a bit longer, taking into account border checks, passport control, ‘rest stops’ and breakdowns.

 Not only do these remarkable birds do it once, they will make that self same journey in reverse come Spring. This time it may take as little as 5 weeks to return, coming back to the same nest in the same barn that they used last year. It is hard to comprehend that something so small can travel such a long way, safely, under its own steam.

 

 

 

Silence in the garden-Where are all the birds?

 

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Today I am up early and start the day with a prowl around my garden patch. There is a definite chill to the early morning air, and I tug the sleeves of my fleece down to cover my hands. It feels as if Autumn is already on the breeze, shaking off the scent of summer in a flurry of fallen blossom. Now the scorching days of June seem like a very distant memory.

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It isn’t just the temperature that has changed. Through June and July the early morning air was alive with bird song. Now the garden is strangely silent. The swallows are still barrel rolling overhead, clicking and chattering as they go, but other bird life is missing. No chaffinches trilling in the Hawthorn hedge.

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No shy woodpecker clinging to the peanut feeder stealing an early breakfast before the humans appear. No Wrens belting out their unmistakeable song from the farmhouse roof. And most noticeable of all, no cheeky chirpy sparrows. A fortnight ago every barn roof overlooking the farmyard had a family of House Sparrows squabbling on the slates. The ivy covering the gable end of the old bull stall would move as if it were alive, as twenty or so little brown birds hopped about under the cover of the leaves. I had watched as Sparrows evicted a House martins couple from their nest, and duly set about making it their own. Each morning the male of this pair would sit on the gutter above the bird feeder, patiently watching my every move as I replenished the seeds. He didn’t make an appearance this morning .I spotted a single male perched on the corrugated roof of the wood shed, where a fortnight ago there had been 5 or 6 greedy little birds posturing and posing over the plates of sunflower hearts.

Where have they all gone? Probably not very far at all. And the silence in the garden isn’t a bad thing either. In fact, it is just as nature intended it.

August sees the end of the breeding season for many garden bird species. Now bird song is no longer ‘needed’ to attract a mate or hold onto a territory,  the pleasant chirping and warbling I have become accustomed to will inevitably cease.

This month also sees adult birds beginning their moult. Gradually, over the next few weeks, feathers will be shed and replaced. As the feathers drop out the birds become more vulnerable, and choose to hide themselves away until their downy covering grows anew.

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Late Summer also means the crops and wild fruits begin to ripen around the farm. Natures larder is full to bursting, with a  veritable cornucopia of seeds and berries tempting the birds out  from the garden into the fields, away from the ‘boring’ offerings of the bird table.

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Once the harvest is over, and the cool of Autumn truly settles over the farm I suspect my feathered friends will be back. It won’t be long either until the farm’s migrant visitors come to join them. The Starling flocks will arrive in their thousands, covering the  Autumnal skeletons of the bare trees with their glossy little bodies, and a new soundtrack, one of mechanical whirs and clicks will echo around the farm yard, from sun-up till sunset when they will leave, as one, to roost.

 

 

 

 

Under 5’s at the National Museum of Cardiff

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If you happen to find yourself in Wales this summer and are looking for something toddler (and adult friendly) to do on a drizzly grey day, I can highly recommend a trip to the National Museum Cardiff. We went last month, just before the Schools broke up for Summer. It is a bit of a trek from the Farm, and I was slightly apprehensive at the thought of a 2 hour road trip with C and JoJo screaming in unison. Fortunately it turned out to be a super straight route and, despite gatecrashing some Graduation photos on the steps of the Museum (!) , we had a fantastic time.

Here are my top 5 reasons to visit:

1.Hands on exhibits

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I have been to a fair share of stuffy museums and exhibits , with and without small children in tow. I remember getting ‘politely’ asked to leave the Tate as a child when my brother accidentally waved his arm too close to a priceless painting. I hate it when I can feel the guards eyes boring a hole in my back if I lean in towards a cabinet, bearing a ‘Do not touch’ sign .

It gets worse when there are toddler shaped tornados following me. It is seriously no fun for anyone to spend the whole visit listening to me bark orders ‘Don’t touch that! ‘Don’t lick the cabinet!’ ‘Don’t climb on the Reliant Robin (yes, it did happen.)’ No. I am avoiding any museum or gallery that is not interactive, engaging and entrancing until my little ones are safely through the toddler years.

Fortunately the National Museum is very hands on and accepts sticky toddlers. We skipped the  floor which houses the art exhibitions .C was in ‘Whirling Dervish’mode , and when we got out of the lift on the top floor she made a bee line for a bronze statue, arms outstretched in preparation to climb. I managed to spin her back round into the lift, and we went to look at ‘Wriggle: the wonderful world of worms’ exhibit. DSC_1115__1470740494_22576

The centre piece of this amazing family friendly exhibit is the Wrigloo, which is essentially a giant wormery. It offers visitors a chance to experience a worms-eye-view on life, complete with predators watching your every move . JoJo and C thought it was great!

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C enjoyed dressing up as a caterpillar, but wasn’t keen on trying the ‘Scientist’ costume on!

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I managed to do some learning and exploring of my own whilst the girls checked out the worm related book corner.

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My favourite discovery was that the late Lemmy from Motorhead had a ‘late’ worm (a fossil) named after him.How very rock and roll. I have somehow managed to cut the model out of the photo (well done me), so I’ll leave it as a surprise for you to find out what Kalloprion Kilmisteri looks like!

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This exhibition runs until September 2016, so still plenty of time to check it out.

The Clore Discovery Centre, located on the ground floor to the left of the main entrance, is another wonderful family friendly area. I couldn’t get over the fact that we were free to explore the items on display here.

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Skulls, arrowheads, fossils, preserved insects ;things that are normally encased in glass, behind barriers or locked in storage vaults.

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It was really enlightening to be able to  handle them and even use a microscope to get a closer look.

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2.Toddler time

We discovered that this is on (during Term Time) completely by fluke. On every floor, tucked into a quiet corner were little ‘treasure chests’ stuffed full of toys, instruments and books.

Each box was themed to the relevant section of the museum. They seemed really popular, so much so that we had to circle the dinosaur section twice before we could get to the box!

The marine box had a fantastic selection of toys and books which occupied the girls for quite a while.

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We also had fun taking part in the play activities in the Clore Discovery Centre.There were lots of different musical instruments for the kids to try, with some supervision from staff members. C also got to make a jingley jangley set of bells. She chose to put a single bell on. One. Measly. Bell. It was still a lot of fun.

3.Its Free!

Need I say more? Not much in life is free any more, certainly not when it comes to amusing children. I advise using the car park at the rear of the museum.(Currently priced at  £6 for a days parking). There is a direct path round to the entrance and tickets for the carpark are bought in the museum gift shop, so no faffing for change! We got there at 10.30 and left at 4, so that makes it a pound an hour for entertainment!

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Winning at ‘rewilding’- just beside the car park.

There are touring exhibits, which require tickets to be purchased.’Treasures:Adventures in Archaelogy’ is currently based at the museum, but as this is on until the end of October 2016 we opted to save it for another day.

4.Child friendly feasting

The café downstairs has a great set up for the under fives.The food looked and smelled delicious, but being the skin flint I am we had our own packed lunch. I did stretch to a caffeine hit and a piece of cake, mainly so the girls could take advantage of the games and books stationed around the restaurant.Our seating area was right next to a trolley full of things to keep little hands occupied. I think JoJo’s favourite bit in the whole day was playing with an activity cube, the very same make and model as the one we have at home. The museum is also Breastfeeding friendly, with a designated room should you wish to use it.

5. Something for everyone

There is an awful lot packed into this museum. The ‘Evolution of Wales’ gallery was so good, we went round twice. In fact, C watched the audiovisual about our galaxy three times. I think she’d still be there now if she’d taken enough food in with her.

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The natural history galleries are also jam packed with interesting finds. I dare you to stand under the Basking shark and not be amazed at the sheer size of a creature that feeds only on Zooplankton. Mind blowing stuff!

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If nothing else in this blog takes your fancy, go and visit Kevin the crab. For a hermit crab, he’s pretty friendly!

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For more information and an up to date list of ‘what’s on’ take a look at the Museums website. If you do visit, let me know what your favourite bit was and why!