Category Archives: Outdoor Activities

A walk in the woods not a day on the DS

Just outside Corby, Northants

This evening, as I was driving Boy the Elder to his Scout meeting(in a field, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere) we saw a barn owl, a muntjack, a weasel, endless rabbits and something small and very fast which flew right in front of the car.  It was wonderful, particularly the barn owl whose ghostly white wings described delicate and silent patterns in the air, like a pale and feral angel.

I was gratified to witness the excitement of the boys at seeing these creatures and pleased that, despite living in the country, wild creatures are still wonderful to them.  As a child brought up on the outskirts of London, I remember reading nature books that would cite certain insects or birds that were apparently ‘common’ throughout England.  Not in bloody Stanwell they weren’t and I remember wondering where all these creatures could be living?  Actually they were probably there for the finding, but I didn’t know where to look.

Of late, I haven’t spent enough time taking the boys on walks in the countryside. The last few years have caught up with me a bit, and on the rare occasions when I sit still I fall asleep.  They play sports at school and spend time outside, but there is no substitute for just being in the woods or the park, taking time to see the detail, making up games that involve trees, sticks and mud, listening to the trees, the birds and the tiny sounds.

Speedwell

A couple of weekends ago, I sent the two of them off into the woods and told them not to come back for at least two hours.  Their mission was to explore their surroundings, get the lie of the land, see what was beyond the Co-op and the fish and chip shop, find out where the railway line went, discover the best climbing trees and viewpoints.

They came back tired and delighted.  They had found footpaths and a tree swing, a circular walk all round the town and the track bed of an old railway line.  They were particularly pleased with a concrete lookout point on which someone had sprayed the word ‘cock’ in large red letters.  This is now known as The Cockpit and is the focal point of many games and rendezvous.

Hawthorne

Children need to connect with nature.  They need to have unstructured time in which to get bored, thus giving them the brain space to get really creative.  Separation from the natural world takes away their freedom, their peace of mind and their independence.  Some parents are terrified to let their children go to parks or open spaces unsupervised because they have become obsessed with the idea that there are perverts and kidnappers round every corner.  Those same children may not have been taught to cross the road properly and yet the fear of them being run over takes second place to the threat of paedophiles.

Children’s time has become too structured, outdoors has become a facility not a place to be enjoyed on its own merit.  Children are taught about nature in schools through eco-disaster, floods, famines, global warming and whilst these things need to be taught, I wonder if this encourages them to really connect with nature or whether it persuades them that nature is an enemy to be overcome?  How many people became passionate naturalists without actually experiencing nature at first hand?

Where have the nature tables gone, with their birds’ nests, conkers, multi-hued leaves and shells?  When do the nature walks happen when children can feel the ground beneath their feet, smell the leaf mould, discover wild flowers and learn the difference between moths and butterflies?

We don’t have to live in the middle of nowhere to find these things, any tiny wild area will have something of interest and we need to find them, enjoy them and then pass on our enjoyment.  Note the difference in someone after a day in the fresh air to a day in front of the TV or a computer screen.

Let’s reclaim our natural spaces and in return find some space for ourselves.

How deep?

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Filed under Children, Health and Fitness, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Slider

Vintage Air Shows and Festivals for this weekend and September

September  seems to be the month for Vintage festivals.  Here are a few which sound fun.

The Duxford Air Show, Cambridgeshire
3& 4th September – 8am – 6pm

The Duxford Air Show is the highlight of the Museum’s flying events each year and features both historic and contemporary aircraft, civilian and military.  At the heart of this year’s air show, and 75 years since its inaugural flight, we celebrate the sight and sound of the Spitfire, that most celebrated British single-seat fighter aircraft.

The Victory Show at Cosby, Leicestershire
3-4th  September from 9am

The two day event is held over a 60 acre site, providing historical societies & re-enactments through various forces from several era’s and theatres during the period of 1939-45. From Airmen to Infantry, the Victory Show 2011 opens a window in time to the fabulous 1940’s.

Shackerstone Festival

Shakerstone Family Festival, Leicestershire
3-4thSeptember

Battle of Britain planes, wingwalkers, aerostars, jousts and stunts, duck herding & sheep racing, dog displays, marching bands, steam trains, canal exhibitions, birds of prey, tractors, cars, steam engines, ploughing demos, craft fayre and so it goes on…

Dorset Steam Fair

The Great Dorset Steam Fair, nr Blandford Forum, Dorset
3rd & 4th  September from 8am

You can stand amazed at the variety of exhibitions and the sheer scale of the show means that there is always something new to see. The show has something for everyone, whatever your interests – collector, a steam fanatic, an exhibitor, a heavy horse fan, an avid camper, a music fan or just on holiday in the South of England.  The Great Dorset Steam Fair is a typically British event offering a unique blend of nostalgia and entertainment. Come and soak up the special festival atmosphere whether as a day visitor or taking in the full five days by camping on site. There is no other event like it anywhere in the world.

Capel Manor Classic & Vintage vehicles

Capel Manor Gardens, Enfield, Middlesex 
4th  September 10-5pm

Motor along to the Classic and Vintage Vehicle Show with cars from as far back as the 1920s, the Annual Rally of the North London and Middlesex Morris Minors Association, auto jumble, the Enfield Brass Band and crafts in the Manor House with Fig Fairs

Maldon & District Vintage Working Day at  Southminster and

Ploughing Past and Present Country Show at Pebmarsh:
East Anglia

4th September

Goodwood Revival

The Goodwood Revival

16th – 18th September from 0730-1900hrs

In the summer of 2010, a brand new concept in British festivals was launched at Goodwood to huge critical acclaim.  Known as ‘Vintage at Goodwood,’ this award-winning new event enabled fans of British Cool and Popular Culture to fully indulge their love and passion for the golden era of British style and influence.  

Vintage at Goodwood brought together a unique blend of 1940s, 50s and 60s fashion, music, film, art, dance and design in a fun, authentic and imaginative way. Similarly, the annual Goodwood Revival, the world’s biggest historic motor racing event, has been successfully doing this for over a decade, with the added excitement of thrilling wheel to wheel motor racing as a unique and extraordinary backdrop to an utterly British experience. The Goodwood Revival brings together the most glamorous and exotic cars, and their star drivers all racing on the original classic race track, it is the only major sporting event to be completely staged in an authentic period setting, creating a truly magical step back in time.


The Foxton Locks Festival

17th & 18th September 10am-5pm

Foxton Locks Festival is Leicestershire’s Premier Day Out with something for all the family.

Come and browse the craft stalls and grab yourself a bargain, watch the interactive Viking re-enactments taking place during the day and grab a bite to eat and drink at our Food Village and Real Ale Bar.

Take time out to visit the Locks and see the brightly coloured boats negotiate their way up the staircase locks, pop into the museum and learn about the history of the canals and don’t forget a visit to the remains of the Inclined Plane Boat Lift.


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Filed under Family and Friends, History, Leisure, Outdoor Activities

Wills’ Cigarette Cards No 8: Cycle Brackets

Now I know there are a few of you out there who would find much use for a sturdy pair of brackets like these for your velocipedes, to say nothing of frollicking with a bracing strut …

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Filed under Household Hints, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Wills Cigarette Cards

A day out at Canons Ashby and a Wartime Housewife Quiz

Canons AshbyToday, and on a whim as we have spent too much of the summer holiday relocating, we fired up the Escort and visited the National Trust property of Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire.

Canons Ashby was owned by the Dryden family for four centuries from the late 1500s; bookish, conservative, modest people who respected the buildings enough to re-model and extend but never to completely sweep away the past.  The house itself is rather more than a manor house but not quite a grand mansion and much of its beauty lies in its homeliness and attention to the decorative.

Sir John Dryden (1631-1700), the very first Poet Laureate, is a member of this family and was appointed by Charles II in 1668.  He was the best poet, dramatist, translator and critic of the age and his translation of Virgil is one of the great masterpieces of translation in English.

The house is full of interesting and beautiful things, including some fascinating items which I have never seen before or didn’t know about.  Let’s see if you can identify them.  There will be a modest prize for the person(s) who can identify all five correctly.  If you click on the pictures, you will get a larger and more detailed image.  Good luck!

This competition closes on Friday 2nd September 2011 and the winners will be announced on Saturday.
The Wartime Housewife’s decision is final.

1.  WHAT IS THIS AND WHAT WAS IT USED FOR?

2.  WHAT IS THIS?

3. WHAT IS THIS AND WHAT WAS IT USED FOR?

NB: This soldier is 5 feet high

4. WHAT IS THIS?

5. WHAT IS THIS DECORATIVE CEILING MADE FROM?

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Filed under History, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle … rack

A splendid summer evening

Yesterday evening the boys went to Pitsford with the Scouts for the annual 7-mile cycle round the reservoir followed by a barbecue.  Until recently, the boys’ bikes have been small enough to get both of them into the boot of the car, but they will persist in getting taller, and Boy the Elder’s bike is now bigger than mine.  I was forced to buy a bike rack.

A couple of months ago I bought a large tent in the sales and a bike rack, with the intention of attempting a brief camping trip with our bicycles in the summer holidays.  I hate camping with a passion I find hard to express, but I figured that if I had a tent I could actually stand up in and a covered area for cooking if it rained, it would be marginally more tolerable.

Naturally, there is always a part of me which is utterly convinced that our holiday will be like a Famous Five novel, pedalling gaily down country lanes, picnicking on sardines, heaps of tomatoes and ginger beer.  We will then retire, tired but happy, to our tents pausing only to climb into crisp winceyette pyjamas before sleeping the sleep of the innocent.  Will it bollocks.  But I digress…

I had forgotten about the bike ride and, just as it started to rain, I realised that I needed to assemble the damned bike rack.  I opened the box and pulled out a large piece of metal and a couple of bags of straps and metal bits, which I laid out neatly on the grass by the car.

I have never owned a bike rack, and because I haven’t needed one, I haven’t paid the slightest attention to the assemblage of such items on the cars of others.  I instructed the boys to go far away from me, with the gravest of threats should they utter a single sound, and set to work.

I always read instruction booklets and never fail to be amazed at how easy it is to do things when you already know how to bloody do them!  I dutifully followed the booklet, step by step, strap by strap, ratchet by ratchet.  Then I undid all the straps and re-assembled them in the correct wotsanames.  I turned grippy things with one hand whilst trying to balance an unwieldy array of metal tubing exactly two inches above my bumper, whilst avoiding another metal tube which hovered exactly one inch in front of my right eye..

Having finally got the rack in the right position with all the metal sticking out at the correct angles, I crawled under the car in search of a hole in which to hook the bottom straps.  I drive a 12-year old, hag-ridden Ford Escort which I have decorated to look a bit like a Spitfire – the underside is not a pretty sight, particularly on a muddy, stony track, just as it has started to rain.

In all honesty,  neither was I a pretty sight by this time; dirty from the proximity to my car, sweaty with exertion, my long skirt tucked into my knickers, my wet hair plastered to my head and now covered in mud and gravel from crawling under a pseudo-Spitfire.  But England wasn’t built on glamour and competence! No sir!

After an hour of swearing, cursing and ratcheting, the thing was done, the bikes were strapped on and we were going to be 20 minutes late.  I had no time to change my clothes and we headed for Pitsford.  As the rain became increasingly torrential, badgers and rabbits started appearing in the hedgerows in pairs, holding paws and looking expectantly at the rising puddles.

I parked the car and the boys set off at top speed to catch up with the others.  I squelched across the car park in strappy sandals, my rain sodden skirt clinging to my legs in the fashion of an unpleasantly mis-shapen mermaid.

‘At least there’ll be hot dogs’ I thought, but the barbecue was wet and the Scout Leader was manfully erecting a tent in a desperate attempt to bring the spitting, smoking pile of charcoal under canvass.  I stood sullenly with damp, corned-beef arms wrapped around my dripping torso in a futile attempt to fend off certain consumption and probable mildew of the extremeties.

Eventually, thanks to the good spirits and efforts of other people, the barbecue was lit and the heavenly scent of sausages and burgers wafted through the air, just as my boys hove into view.  Boy the Younger claimed to have had a heart attack half way round and Boy the Elder had torn his trousers.  Despite my misery, I was terribly proud of Boy the Younger who has never cycled 7 miles in one go before, and I patted his soggy head and wiped the rain from his little pale cheeks as he munched on his hotdog.

‘Enough of this,’ I said ‘I’m going home, and if you want hot cocoa you had better come at once.’  They jumped into the car whilst I wrestled the bikes back onto the rack.  We drove home with all haste, wipers struggling to hold back the rain and narrowly avoiding a large wooden boat parked at the side of the A508, small animals gratefully ascending the gang plank…

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Filed under Children, General DIY, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Wildlife

More evidence that the world has gone mad

Boy the Elder came home from school today with the following information. There are nine hundred children at his school between the age of 11 and 14 and they have a large playing field with lovely country views … which they have not been allowed to use for recreation at lunch or break time.

They have now been told that they may use the field in groups of no more than twenty two children at a time and, if they do manage to get a go, they have to wear hi visibility tabards.

I have nothing more to say on the matter, mainly because I can’t speak properly with my fist in my mouth.

Boy the Elder has only three more weeks left, until  in September, he starts at a school where getting dirty, climbing trees and roaming the grounds is positively encouraged.  And hurrah to that.

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Sunday Poem 88

I’m so sorry that the Sunday Poem is so very late today.  I was up at 5am helping Irish Alice cook breakfasts at her excellent new café at her fishing lakes at Yoke Hill Farm Fishery in Upper Benefield, Northamptonshire.

Boy the Younger and I got back home about 3pm in time for a short kip  before taking him to a roller skating party at 5pm.  I’m posting this poem and then I shall hit the sack myself.  Oh hang on, I’ve just remembered; I have an ice cold bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge and I intend to take the unusual step of having a glass of wine on my own.  I really must drink more….

Leader of Men – by Norman MacCaig – (1910-1996)

When he addressed ten thousand
Faces worked by automation
He was filled, exalted, afflated
With love and ambition for
His fellowcountrymen – in so far,
Of course,
As they were not incompatible
With the love and ambition he felt
For himself.  No sacrifice
Would be too great.  No
Holocaust.  No bloodbath.  He
Was affected by the nobility
Of his vision, his eyes were,
Naturally, blurred.

How was he to know
The mindless face of the crowd
Broke up, when he finished, into
Ten thousand pieces – except that,
When he went home,
He found the tea cold, his wife
Plain, his dogs smelly?

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Filed under Outdoor Activities, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art