Month: January 2016

HIKING WITH KIDS – WILD BELFAST – CREGAGH GLEN

 

Our home is fairly close to Cregagh Glen but despite having heard many good reports about how pretty it is we had never ventured there. Following my blog post earlier this week about walking the school run whatever the weather we decided to apply that same principle of getting out whatever the weather to our weekends as well. So, by 9am this morning we were kitted out in rain coats and walking boots and on our way to explore Cregagh Glen.

I can’t believe that this place is 5 minutes from my house and I’ve never been there before! How much were missing out on! Tucked in behind the Upper Knockbreda Road in east Belfast, Cregagh Glen is a perfect place to escape the city for while and get close to nature.

There are plenty of plants and bugs to keep budding ecologists fascinated for hours – we even collected some ‘prehistoric specimens’ from the forest floor to bring home for study under the microscope (afternoon activity sorted!).

 

My oldest son loves to climb so the many fallen trees and steep slopes were perfect for him to ‘go wild’ and burn off some energy. The forest walk is on a hillside so mum and dad got a good workout into the bargain – everyone happy, and all  for free!

So, if you ever happen to be in the area I highly recommend that you come and explore the wilder side of Belfast and take a stroll in Cregagh Glen – you won’t be disappointed. There’s been a lot of rain recently so we came home filthy – covered in mud, but our cheeks rosy and our hearts happy!
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**please note: Cregagh Glen will be closed from 1 February for 7 weeks while work is carried out on walkways and bridges**

Wellies on, coats zipped up.We are walking…

IMAG1566When I began this blog almost 7 months ago I set out to share the silver lining moments from my life. I gave myself the challenge of seeking out joyful moments in the everyday, and also to recognise them when they can so easily be overlooked or taken for granted.

It has been immensely rewarding personally, and having talked to a few lovely friends who have been following my posts, it has been encouraging them also.

Since this year began, my boys and I have been endeavouring to walk to and from school as much as possible. We had got into a bit of a habit of taking the car on the school run, making up reasons like ‘we don’t have time’ or ‘it’s a miserable morning’. Pretty standard attempts at excusing our laziness!

In reality, it’s actually quicker for us to walk to school as the roads are so busy in the mornings, so the not having time argument doesn’t cut it! And, if we used the weather as an excuse for not doing things here in Northern Ireland we would never leave the house!

We agreed we would take the car on Thursdays seeing as we have 3 school bags, 3 lunchboxes, 2 cellos and 2 P.E. kits to haul with us – I did joke that I would buy a little pull along trailer to carry all the stuff they need for school but the looks of disgust told me that is not going to happen – I actually think it’s a pretty good idea.

So, anyway, I’ve just returned from a very wet walk to school. It was actually pretty dry when we left at 8.30, but it had rained through the night so there were plenty of puddles to jump over during a game of ‘Puddle Olympics’ on the way to school, but just as we said our goodbyes at the school the sky darkened and I knew I was going to get completely soaked on the way home.

I crossed my fingers, hoping no one would offer me a lift. You see, I find walking in the rain truly fun and also very relaxing. As I walked home I thought about what I need to get done today, I have an assignment deadline so I’ve organised that in my head. I am focused and ready to write. If I had been driving I wouldn’t have been able to do this. The radio would have been tuned in and I would have been tuned out, my mind elsewhere.

What is more,  I would probably still be sitting in traffic (okay, slight exaggeration, but you get my point). There were cars queued up the street and I’ve already heard of two local traffic collisions this morning which are causing heavy congestion in Belfast. Life is way too short to waste it sitting in traffic, furthermore, it makes me extremely agitated and cross, and that’s not where I want my head at!

I totally understand that often parents are dropping kids off at school then going straight to work so it makes sense to take the car if your place of work isn’t within walking distance, I need to do this some mornings too. I get that. It worries me though how many cars there are on the roads – the congestion, the pollution, the tragic number of accidents are a heavy price to pay to stay dry or to get somewhere ‘quicker’.

As I walked this morning I only saw two other people walking from the school. This actually really surprised me as there are normally a good number of people on foot or on bikes. Was it because of the rain? Are we that easily put off getting outdoors? Surely a decent rain coat and a pair of waterproof shoes can overcome that problem.

As I write, the blue sky is now breaking through the dark clouds. No doubt it will be fleeting and the rain will soon return, it is winter in Ireland after all! But how lucky we are to have seasons to enjoy. I love the warmth of the sun on my skin, but I also love the colours of Autumn, so why not the winter chills and rain? Let’s appreciate nature in all its glory and the cycle of life that it represents. Without the rain there would be no spring buds to admire.

Just think how much fitter you will feel too if you choose to walk instead of taking the car – and of the money you’ll save on fuel. It takes me 15 minutes to walk to school and another 15 back. Over the course of a week, minus Thursdays, that’s 2 hours of outdoor exercise! Plus, if I walk again in the afternoon that’s another 2 hours. I don’t need to join a gym – I just need to get off my bum, shake myself and get the right clothes on for the weather, not wait on the right weather for my clothes.

My favourite things about walking the school run are:

  1. The time I get to spend with my 3 boys. As soon as we leave the house, the morning grumpyitis vanishes and I hear all about their lives – this morning we discussed gravity, stranger danger, went over spellings and had a giggle avoiding puddles. It is precious and valuable time together. When driving I am still with them, sure, but I am concentrating on the road so I am not as engaged with them as when we are walking.
  2. Knowing my kids are healthy. Being a parent is tough, we make mistakes every day as we try our best to do what is best – I get it wrong, a lot. But I know in my heart my kids are fit and healthy and I believe this will stand by them, and hopefully putting good habits into their lives now means it will stay with them into adulthood.
  3. The walk home: 15 minutes just for me! A treat in a busy life. Time to sort my thoughts, to appreciate nature if I go through the park. To just enjoy the moment. I love it!

So if you see me and my boys walking in the rain without an umbrella don’t feel sorry for us as the rain drips off our noses – we are happy. Give us a wave, or come join us!

 

 

The Boy Who Biked The World by Alastair Humphreys

REVIEW

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The Boy Who Biked The World was recommended to my son a few months ago, so when Santa delivered a signed copy of it for Christmas he was over the moon. Of course, I had to have sneak peek myself and I am so pleased that I did.

I follow Alastair on social media and read his blog posts regularly and I am stirred and inspired both by his own way of life and by the message he shares. Alastair is an adventure, a lover of the outdoors and is forever challenging himself. His approach to living life well and to the fullest is something that resonates deeply with me so I was extremely keen to check out The Boy Who Biked The World.

It is the story of young daydreamer, Tom, whose deepest passion is to be an explorer. One day, much to the great amusement of his classmates and his teacher, he decides that he is going to cycle around world. The laughter that follows his brave claim is all the motivation he needs to go home and pack all that he needs for his solo adventure.

We travel with Tom right from his front door, facing the physical ups and downs and the emotional highs and lows of his journey, learning cool facts and munching countless banana sandwiches along the way!

Following Tom, enduring the leg-throbbing uphill slogs, savouring the nights spent under magical starry skies, kindling numerous new friendships and seeing the majesty of nature and man-made wonders is both special and inspiring.

Here is a boy, driven only his own yearning to see ALL the world, even when the going gets tough, when his body is tired, his clothes stinky and homesickness creeps up on him, he continues on, another mile, another mile and another until all those miles add up to help him achieve his goal.

Written in a fun, light-hearted fashion, this book is easy to read and Tom’s perseverance and can-do attitude caused me to think ‘I could do that’… I only hope it has the same effect on my son, his own dream is to become a palaeontologist, to travel the world looking for fossils and dinosaur DNA!

The Boy Who Biked The World is essential reading for anyone who has a dream of living BIG, for those who want to make every moment count and for ordinary people everywhere ready to dive off a precipice into the extraordinary…

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Visit Alastair’s website http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/ to find out more.

 

The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

A REVIEW

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So, last night, we decided, my 3 sons and I, to throw the television out of the window and curl up on the sofa with a book instead. We snuggled up, all 4 of us in one tiny corner of the sofa, me all wedged in with them and their delightful boy/dirty sock smells. It was fun.

I read aloud from our latest choice of ‘reading out loud together’ book The 13-Storey Treehouse, which is written by Andy Griffiths and illustrated rather cleverly by Terry Denton.

Let me just say, this is THE perfect book to read out loud. It is fast-paced and witty, we were all hooked from the first page and despite it being a children’s novel-sized book, it can easily be devoured in one sitting – I mean read in one go, don’t go pulling an Incredible Book Eating Boy stunt, that would just be daft, and we all know what happened to him…

Anyhow…The 13-Storey Treehouse is tree-mendous (?!) fun. The chapter about the  sea monkeys was particularly interesting because my middle son got bought some for Christmas, so he went to bed fearing nightmares about being tickled by monster mermaid tentacles. Although, I do have to admit, I heartily believe it was my impersonation skills that made that chapter really jump off the page. Apparently my impression of Mermaidia sounded remarkably similar to Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter when she went off on one with her crystal ball! I clearly missed my calling in life…

Back to the book… so, if you fancy a good ‘ol roll on the floor laugh,  like literally, not like ‘rofl’, where there’s no actual rolling involved, then this is the book for you. Get wedged in somewhere cosy (suggestions include a beanbag, a hammock, a bed, a trampoline and a treehouse but you can decide) with your little people, just ensure there’s space for rib-rattling  laughter and flailing arms and ENJOY! If at first they think they’d rather go play Lego, just start reading, and watch as the words lassoo them round the neck and reign them in.

I asked my boys, aged 5, 7 and 10 for some words to describe the book. Here’s  what they came up with: frantic, buzzy, loud, weird, cool, shiny, mental, funny and exciting…

I have a  sneaking suspicion that tonight we are going to be climbing up into The 26-Storey Treehouse  for the next instalment of Andy and Terry’s series…my ribs are ready and my impersonation skills are being fine-tuned, bring it on!

You can find out more about Andy Griffiths at http://www.andygriffiths.com.au or like me, follow him on Twitter at @AndyGbooks

 

 

 

The Last Wild by Piers Torday

A REVIEW

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The Last Wild by Piers Torday

 

The first words I spoke to my 3 sons this morning went like this: ‘I finished the last wild last night. You neeeeeeeeeed to read it!’

The Last Wild is the debut novel of author, Piers Today, and was a gift to one of my boys at Christmas. Having read the blurb during the holidays and thinking it sounded interesting, I picked it up again the other day and it became my first read of 2016. And what a book to kick-start a new year with… it is fantastic, funny, smart and exciting… all the positive words!

The Last Wild tells the story of 12 – just about to be 13 year old, Kester Jaynes, and follows him on a pacey adventure from being a nobody to being a true victorious hero. We find out in the early pages of the novel that Kester has a remarkable gift (sorry, no spoilers… you will just have to read it for yourself to find out what it is) and it is this special ability that sends him off on a journey filled with trials which he has to overcome if he is to save the last wild.

Piers does a wonderful, magical job of setting his scene. The way he writes makes it so easy to imagine the places that Kester travels through and to immerse oneself right in the story alongside Kester and his growing group of supporters. As he travels, more are added to his number, giving a lonely boy a family and a reason to keep on pursuing his goal of finding a cure for the disease that has killed nearly all of the animals on the planet – he is their only hope!

I can only assume this book was written for children, but it is far from being simplistic and it never talks down. The language is poetic and crisp all at once, there is a real purity in Kester’s voice and in his focus on his mission – starkly contrasted by the world he finds himself living in. Many issues are also dealt with a along the way – loss and grief, self belief, looking after our environment, friendship, trust and perseverance to name just a few. This is a book that takes you on a wild adventure of highs and lows and you may have to wipe away a few tears along the way, but even after the last word is read, it stays with you, like its essence has been absorbed by your soul, continuing to make you think.

In a world full of gadgets and technology, The Last Wild, takes you back to nature and asks ‘what is the world going to look like in the future if man keeps on polluting and destroying it?’ …. ‘will there be any animals left?’ …it challenges and it provokes, and yet is never preachy, and to my mind that can only be a good thing. I am so excited for my children to read this wonderful book and I am off out to purchase the sequel The Dark Wild!

 

If you want to know more about the author you can visit his website at http://www.pierstorday.co.uk or find him on Twitter at @PiersTorday

 

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A great year of reading ahead…