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Helen & Ian
About Me & Mine
Hi! Helen and Ian here. We’ve recently moved to Wiltshire and are busy exploring our new area. We’ve got some great helpers: we have two boys who like everything in the Great Outdoors (especially sticks), and a border collie called Arrow who also likes everything in the Great Outdoors (especially tennis balls).
Favourite place in the world:
A difficult one... There are so many wonderful places to choose from... But it has to be Sandwood Bay in the far north-west of Scotland which can only be reached by a 4-mile walk. Last time we went it was a full-on winter mountaineering experience (with ice axe and crampons!) just to get there. Wild and windswept, it's totally unspoilt.
Favourite things to do outdoors:
Enjoy beaches, woods, and coastal paths; go sea kayaking when Granny and Granddad are available to take the boys on an alternative adventure; collect sticks, conkers, and acorns; investigate puddles and rockpools; fly a kite against a clear blue sky.
One place we simply had to visit on our latest trip to Scilly was the Abbey Gardens at Tresco, an extensive sub-tropical garden set among the ruins of a Benedictine Priory. Despite the rather chilly winds this Easter, the gardens were very sheltered and on a south-facing slope, which made them something of a sun trap.
At this time of year, I always lament the diminishing daylight. I have to tell myself that it’s only a month or two until the winter solstice when the days start getting longer again. Small boys, of course, don’t care about the amount of daylight. They are excited at this time of year, because of the amount of sticky, gooey mud.
At this time of year, we are usually firmly focused on collecting conkers. Sadly, in this part of the country at least, conkers are a bit thin on the ground this year. James’s enthusiasm is touching: he refuses to give up. In truth, this is because he just doesn’t get the idea that if there are no capsules there will never be any conkers!
Two weeks ago, we helped the National Trust to re-chalk the Uffington White Horse. No chalk figure – especially one which is 3000 years old – survives by accident and in times gone by, villagers would have scoured and re-chalked the nearby chalk figures as part of their village fetes. Nowadays, it’s usually done by volunteers.
I used to love going crabbing when I was a girl, and remember many long, happy days spent with bucket and line. Actually, it would be fair to say that I never stopped loving crabbing but when you're grown-up you need an excuse to go and I've been waiting eagerly for James to be old enough to provide me with one.
I’m sure pretty much everyone has heard of Stonehenge. But how many of you have heard of Avebury? I hadn’t until we came to live in Wiltshire last year. We stumbled across it by accident: driving back late one night from a trip to the coast, we suddenly found ourselves on a country road with huge shapes looming surreally at us through the darkness. They turned out to be huge stones.
Badbury Hill has become a bit of a favourite with us since we discovered it in the autumn. James has been refining his den-building skills over the past few visits. We’ve moved on from stick-gathering and stick-balancing, and now his favourite activity seems to be to find the biggest possible stick that he can and to prove how strong he is by relocating it so he can add it to a den.
Like many small children, James is fascinated by dinosaurs. Although he can trot out the line that “the dinosaurs died a long time ago and their closest living relatives are the birds”, he’s rather disappointed by this and doesn’t really believe it. So, he was really excited when we discovered a ‘lost world' at The Lost Gardens of Heligan.
on Monday, 14 May 2012. Posted in Yorkshire
One of James’s favourite trees is at Thorp Perrow Arboretum in Bedale. It’s a huge oak, planted to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935, with a bench encircling its trunk, and is a favourite place to sit for a “picnic”. I am in awe of big trees and this one is particularly impressive as well as being 77 years old.
Every small boy knows that winter isn’t winter without snow. And so James was really excited when, last week, we woke to find that the world had turned white during the night. He was so excited that he took some convincing that it really would be best to get dressed and have breakfast before we went outside.
Now it’s December it’s often decidedly chilly, and James is learning that he has to dress according to the weather before we’ll let him out to play. He finds this a bit of a pain, and normally rolls his eyes and sighs – where does he get that from? – but eventually he will give in and reluctantly put on his coat, trousers, jumper and even gloves.
Ruins don’t get much more spectacular than Corfe Castle. Built a thousand years ago, the Castle was reduced to ruins during the English Civil War. Set on a hill high above the beautiful Dorset countryside, it’s an imposing sight. James had admired it as we’d driven past it on our way to the beach at Studland and was thrilled at the idea of a visit.
We have just got back from a brilliant half-term holiday in Purbeck. After six weeks of school, James was ready for a break and, as ever, top of his list was a trip to the beach. Our first day was spent around Studland Bay, a beautiful, curving bay of soft sand with stunning views out to the Isle of Wight and Old Harry Rocks.
As soon as we’d moved to Wiltshire - and I mean as soon as the removal lorry had driven off down the road leaving us with a house full of boxes - we went to Stonehenge. I hadn’t told James where we were going, but the visit got off to a good start: as we drove the last mile and the stones came into sight, he shouted excitedly: “Mummy! Look at those stones! Wowwww!"
I was telling one of my friends how much James loves a visit to Brimham Rocks. “Is it a theme park?” she asked. “Oh no,” I said, “it’s much better than that!” It’s more like a natural rock playground: hundreds of gritstone tors carved by wind and weather into weird and wonderful shapes, set on a moorland plateau with fantastic views over the surrounding countryside.
James went to school for the first time today, accompanied by his trusty Spotty Otter. Mummy and Daddy were rather emotional but James was simply excited! He trotted off obediently when the whistle blew and emerged six hours later to show off his sticker collection. Remarkably, one of the stickers was “for being good” and another one was “for being REALLY good”.
After a ‘hard day’s work’ at the seaside (carrying sand up and down the beach, stacking stones, and dodging waves) there’s nothing to beat fish and chips. And if you’re after fish and chips on the North Yorkshire coast, then Whitby is a great place to get them. We normally eat ours overlooking the harbour or on the pier so we can watch the boats coming and going.
Centred on the picturesque village of Pateley Bridge, the Nidderdale Way is a 53-mile circular route almost entirely within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A quick glance at the map showed that it winds along river banks, through rolling fields and across open moorland, visiting numerous small villages (hopefully with pubs or tearooms!) and might, I reasoned, be neatly divided into fairly short walks achievable with a young baby in a pram and an intrepid 4-year-old.
I’m sure most parents would agree that small children can be very contrary. One day back in April, James and I were on our way to visit Rievaulx Abbey for the first time ever. Our conversation went like this:
“Where are we going, Mummy?”
“Rievaulx Abbey, James.”
“No, I don’t want to go there. I don’t like it.”
“Mummy, let’s go somewhere we haven’t been before,” said James. This was handy, as I had been thinking the same thing, and high on my list of ‘Must See Places’ was the Bridestones in Dalby Forest near Pickering. A series of gritstone tors strewn around the watershed of a valley, you may well have seen pictures of them, particularly the Pepper Pot, a huge, iconic, mushroom-shaped rock.
North Yorkshire has an almost dizzying array of ruined castles and abbeys, and they are great places to visit when you have a small boy with lots of energy and a vivid imagination. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore; space to run around; drawbridges to stomp across; and, often, banks to roll down.
If you’re looking for something a little bit different in North Yorkshire, then how about a visit to a miniature Stonehenge? Unlikely as it may sound, that’s exactly what you’ll find at Druid’s Temple at Ilton. It’s an incredible collection of standing stones, archways and towers, which the landowner had built in the 1820s to keep the local population busy. James loves it because of all the opportunities for hiding and imaginative play.
I think one of the best sights in the Great British Outdoors is a wood with a carpet of native bluebells. We decided to go and see some this weekend. If you’re out and about on the northern fringes of the North York Moors National Park, you can’t fail to spot Roseberry Topping. At ‘only’ 320 metres, it’s fairly small as hills go, but its distinctive, half-conical shape makes it an iconic landmark.
April and May are wonderful months to be outdoors: the trees and hedgerows are simply spectacular. Right now, Thorp Perrow is in full bloom and well worth a visit. Last week, on one of our trips there, we admired the daffodils and the cherry blossom and checked on the progress of the horse chestnut trees.
There’s a field near us that’s full of dandelions, and James has been eagerly awaiting that magical moment when they turn to clocks. We went out on Friday and found that the yellow flowers had vanished overnight and there were suddenly dandelion clocks as far as the eye could see. There was also one very happy little boy.
As most parents will know, if you want to keep something secret, it’s best not to tell young children. The day before Mothers’ Day, James went out with Daddy, and when they came back, he told me proudly, “We got you some very nice chocolate, but you can’t have it till tomorrow.” Daddy looked sheepish. James added quickly and seriously, “But you need to be quiet about it ‘cause it’s a prize [surprise].”
Whenever you ask James where he’d like to go, you can be fairly sure that he’ll give one of three answers: Thorp Perrow, Hackfall, or the beach. Hackfall is a Woodland Trust wood near Masham, and we love it for lots of reasons. Whatever the season, it’s truly beautiful, whether it’s the trees themselves, the bluebells, the wild garlic, or just the tranquillity: quite often, you can walk all round this magnificent 120-acre wood without seeing anyone else.
“Mummy,” said James, “I’ve been good today so please can we go to Thorp Perrow?” James is always thrilled by a trip to Thorp Perrow Arboretum. He was especially delighted today, because the stream (where he likes to play pooh-sticks) was flowing properly again, and because we were given some bread by the nice lady in the tearoom so that we could feed the ducks.
January 2011: A beautiful, clear, but very cold day. Went for a walk round the Ribblehead Viaduct. James was more taken by the huge frozen puddles with thick crusts of ice, rather than the soaring splendour of the 24-arch viaduct, until we stood underneath it and he could hear how every sound was magnified.