This was so much fun, I picked the boys up from nursery and we went for a walk in the Hundred Acres Wood. There was a parking spot along Worth Way so we walked from there, probably about half a mile then set out our picnic rug, made a fire and cooked sausages (warmed them really, I’d cooked them in the oven first) followed by marshmallows. Then we cooked some hot chocolate in the jetboil, made a den from sticks and walked back to the car.
It’s the sort of thing which sounds like a good idea but the reality is damp and awkward, the fire doesn’t light, the boys aren’t interested or are too interested in the fire and burn themselves, no-one has the patience to actually cook the sausages, etc. None of that happend though, it all went perfectly.
Making the fire was much easier than I thought, I had a bag of cotton wool balls smeared with vaseline and it went up first time with one ball. This was a very easy fire to light, because everything was bone dry. You can see all those leaves and a load of kindling within arm’s reach. I was more concerned about accidentally causing a bigger fire than I was about keeping ours going. You can see I’ve cleared an area of bare earth and it’s a tiny fire but they were so dry that it really wouldn’t have taken much. Once the fire had gone out, I hung around building a den, partly to check that the embers were completely cold before we left.
Finding somewhere to light it was really difficult. If you look at an aerial view of this area, you see a lot of green but it’s actually an extremely crowded part of the country. I run around this area a bit and everywhere I go, I see “Private, keep out” signs on the woodland. This was the most remote area I could find but at no point were we more than a couple of hundred meters from a building, nor more than 50 from a pheasant feeder. We passed this friendly sign, which I ignored.
Southwater country park is a free council owned park around a lake. In the sunshine it’s a great day out, with a little beach, a new dinosaur themed play area, a cafe and a watersports centre. We sampled all of that except the watersports.
A strange thing happened at the beach. I had taken the boys’ trousers off so that they could have a paddle. It was warm and they ended up sitting in the water and getting the rest of their clothes wet. Miles was playing with a girl of his age who was running around naked. Then he decided to take his wet tshirt and pants off. More to join in than because they were uncomfortable I think. A minute later the girl’s mum was putting some knickers on her (under protest). I’m not quite sure why but it seemed very odd.
The dinosaur play area was aimed at slightly older children than Miles and much older than Rufus. They love that and will happily climb on ridiculously age inappropriate equipment. After being coached up once, Miles climbed that face of the volcano without help which is pretty amazing but looking after two children on big play equipment solo does become slightly nervewracking even for me.
For Father’s day Miles and I took to the trees at a Go Ape in Tilgate Park. Great fun, he was the youngest there by some margin (the height limit is 1m which he is just over) but he was the bravest, walking across quite a few of the sections without holding my hand. The most amazing bit to me was the zipwire. The instructor said step off the platform so he stepped off, quite a few adults were at least having a bit of hesitation. £18 each so we won’t be doing it all the time but as a one off for a little monkey it was fantastic.
Finished off by a nice lunch at the Smith and Western restaurant. It was the sort of place where the waiter, dressed in the obvious theme, sits down at the table with you and says “right guys, what are we having?” as if he’s a hooters waitress. That can grate horribly coming from an English waiter but ours pulled it off tolerably. Plus they gave me a miniature JD for being a dad.
But wait! Not finished because there is a wildlife park in Tilgate Park too so we went to look at some pigs (also meerkats).
As an extra special fathers’ day treat, Miles fell asleep at about 1630 on the way home and stayed asleep. Hardly surprising after all that adrenaline.
This is a beautiful little walk. Just over a mile from the National Trust car park down to the stony cove at Heddon mouth then the same back on the other side of the stream.
We followed that exertion with lunch at the Hunters Inn which has an absurdly nice garden including peacocks. They did advertise a casserole with a piece of puff pastry on top as a pie so not strictly a perfect day but pretty damn close.
Another bucolic trip from Wild Swimming. I hadn’t read his instructions properly so went downstream from the parking spot rather than upstream. As you can see we had a paddling opportunity anyway and most excitingly we found some sheep’s wool stuck to a barbed wire fence during our little walk. Rufus was obviously slightly overwhelmed by it all because he sat still for what the timestamps on my photos tell me was at least 3 minutes 9 seconds. That may be the longest he has gone without moving since learning to walk.
We bought some lunch from the little shop in Sheepwash, this seemed to surprise the shopkeeper who was quite apologetic that they weren’t really set up for that sort of thing. She was very happy to have the boys wandering around the shop because she obviously didn’t get much custom and the boys are the same age as her grandchildren. So I bought their entire supply of pastries (two), crisps, ham and cheese. We made do without bread. I tried to buy a pack of grapes too but she warned me that they were very expensive so we broke it open and she sold me about a third of it. An odd way to run a shop but a lovely lady and so nice to see a west country shop that is aimed squarely at the locals not the tourists.