Tag Archives: fresh air

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

Sleeper – Part 3

Babies.  The guidelines for getting babies into good sleep habits are pretty much the same as for children and adults.  Plenty of fresh air, good routines and take away their mobile ‘phones.  Sorted.

But seriously folks babies are clever creatures and they pick up on how things are going to be run pretty quickly.  Now I am almost certainly going to get pilloried by someone at some time for my approach to babies and I must stress that these are MY opinions and ultimately you must go with your own instincts.  Midwives vary, in that some of them give you good advice and some of them feed you the party line.

The most obvious things to make babies cry are being hungry, wet, dirty or windy.   These things make me cry too.  Let’s assume that they have fed well, have a clean dry bottom and have burped like a builder on Special Brew.  Put them in the cot, wrapped appropriately, with the window open, tell them it’s sleep time and leave the room.  If they start to cry, give it a good long time before you go back, and when you do, don’t pick them up, tell them it’s sleep time, make lots of reassuring noises and leave again.  Be firm. This can be quite hard, but in the long run it pays off and they soon learn that you mean it.

If a child is constantly hungry, it may be that they’re not getting enough from you or their bottle.  Boy the Elder was a ridiculously large baby and although he fed well, he was still always hungry.  I started supplementing his feeds with thin baby rice, then pureed swede at 5 weeks and he was as happy as a sandboy.  Ask your midwife or family for advice if you’re not sure. 

Boy the Younger, on the other hand, was small, thin, yellow and had pointy ears.  He didn’t sleep, he was jaundiced, he didn’t feed properly, he didn’t stop crying.  For the first month I wished I’d never had him (and I can’t tell you how bad that feels).  And then I returned to my right mind and took him to see the cranial osteopath.  She diagnosed compression at the base of his skull and very tight membranes across the plates of his head.  It only took a few sessions before there was a massive improvement in his feeding and sleeping.

Cranial osteopathy is a wonderful thing.  During the birth process, babies are stuck upside down in a tight, nasty place for quite a long time and this can cause the plates of the skull and the vertebrae of the spine to compress and tighten.  This compression can lead to poor feeding, poor sleep habits and restlessness.  Boy the Younger had a permanent headache for three months so it was no wonder he cried all the time and was off his trough.

Boy the Elder simply couldn’t be bothered to be born and at ten days over his due date I was carted off to be induced.  After 18 hours of established labour, an emergency C.section was carried out to prevent the pair of us being carried off.  He was born with a very pointy head indeed, so he was whipped off to the osteopath within ten days.  He was the healthiest, most well behaved baby one could hope for and he was sleeping through the night at 8 weeks.  Osteopaths aren’t cheap, but my goodness it’s worth it.

If babies are restless, massage is a wonderful way, not just of relaxing them, but bonding with them as well.  There are lots of great books about baby massage and many health centres run classes.  Otherwise, a good Aromatherapist will show you how to do it.  It also improves circulation, muscle tone, digestion – it soothes the gut if they suffer from wind or colic, and helps to boost the immune system.  It can also form a mutually advantageous part of their routine if you get into the habit of doing five or ten minutes of massage after the bath and just before you put them down to sleep.  You can also add one drop of lavender essential oil to their bath which helps to promote deep sleep.

I always put my children to sleep in the pram in the garden during the day, summer and winter alike.  I remember Sister the First ringing me in November (BTE was born in September) and she remarked on how quiet it was.  I told her BTE was asleep in the garden.  “No wonder he’s quiet!” she said “he’s got hypothermia!”  Oh how we laughed.  The only time I brought them in was if it was really torrenting with rain, foggy or snowing.  The blankets were on, the hood was up, the apron was secured with the flap up and the pram was turned into the wind.  For BTE I had a normal sized pram in which he could lie flat, but for BTY we had renovated my mother’s beautiful 1950’s, coach built, Silver Cross pram which was big enough to hold small parties in.

If you really don’t feel safe putting your baby outside, then put the cot near the window and leave the window wide open to allow the fresh air in.  If it gets chilly, pop a hat on them and an extra blanket.  They don’t die of cold when you walk them to the shops so they won’t die of cold in their bedroom.

If you can manage to establish routines early on, it is easier to continue these when they start crawling and toddling.  I am not a morning person and if I’m woken very early I’m a very bad person indeed.  When BTE started escaping from his cot, we put a stairgate over his bedroom door and left a few toys and books where he could get them.  He soon realised that I would come and get him, but that no amount of yelling would get me there any earlier.  It was rather nice to pad down to his room and see him sitting looking at his books or playing with his toys. 

BTY was not so compliant, as he is a morning person (and still bounces about at a revoltingly early hour).  I used to leave a drink of water and a piece of bread and butter under his cot and this would keep him quiet until I got up; earlier than I would have liked, but still civilized by most people’s standards.

And one more thing.  Don’t put babies in front of the television.  Don’t laugh, I know lots of people who have.  When I was teaching baby massage classes, I had a mother come to me because her 3 month old baby would not sleep at all during the day.  It turned out that she was lying him on a rug in the lounge with the television on all day to keep him amused.  We had a conversation, she switched the telly off, put him to sleep outside and bingo.  Slept like a …. baby.

  • Make sure your baby has fresh air every day
  • Try to establish a routine as soon as you can and stick to it
  • Have soft lighting in the bedroom
  • Have some cuddly  ‘wind down’ before going up to bed
  • Keep the bedroom cool
  • Read even tiny babies a story, tuck them up, then leave the room
  • If they won’t stop crying  and you’ve eliminated possible health problems , consider massage and/or cranial osteopathy
  • Trust your instincts and if you’re not sure, ask someone.

That’s enough about kipping now.

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Filed under Children, Family and Friends, Health and Fitness, Life in general, Medical, Natural Home Medicines

Inclined to take the air : The Foxton Locks Inclined Plane

This afternoon, the boys and I went for our first After School Walk of the year.  I always feel that after a day of sitting in classrooms or scrubbing houses, we all need a breath of fresh air before embarking on the end of the day chores such as tidying bedrooms, doing homework, cooking dinner and writing scintillating blogs.  One of our favourite local beauty spots is Foxton Locks (in Leicestershire for my overseas readers).

The lock system on this part of the Grand Union Canal is a wonder of engineering. I get rather excited about engineering I’m afraid; show me a Cornish beam engine and I’ll be entertained for ages as long as it involves a cup of tea and a slice of jam sponge at some point in the proceedings, but I digress.  In many cities and towns, the canals are often dirty, neglected and silted up, but in the 18th and 19th centuries, the canals provided two thousand miles of ‘motorways’ that allowed the transport of goods which kept the shops, industries and economy going.

Most canals were cut before mechanical tools were invented and thousands of navvies (from the word ‘navigation’) created the waterways using shovels, picks, barrows and horses.  Early canals followed the contours of the landscape, but as more and more goods were transported this way, it became necessary to construct flights of locks, aqueducts and tunnels to speed things up.

In 1810, an engineer called Benjamin Bevin designed a staircase of two sets of five locks which take boats up and down the 75 feet between the top and bottom of the steep hill at Foxton.  A trip through these ten locks takes about 45 minutes, but if there are lots of other boats queuing up it can take half a day.  This is the largest flight of locks on the English canal system and is a marvellous sight.

However, by the end of the 19th century, the canal was in poor condition and, coupled with the coming of the railways, competition for methods of transport was stiff.  Steam tugs had arrived and companies needed wider barges to carry coal from the north to the London factories.

The decision was taken to build an inclined plane.  This was a counter balanced lift with two huge tanks, each of which could carry two narrow boats or one wide barge, weighing 230 tons, up a 1:4 gradient.  Once the boats were inside the giant metal tanks (or caissons), the guillotine gates closed keeping the water inside the tanks.  A huge winding drum at the top of the slope reeled in the thick steel cable attached to the upward moving tank, whilst at the same time letting out the cable attached to the descending tank.  The whole wondrous thing was powered by a 25 horsepower steam engine and took just 12 minutes.  The rails upon which the tanks moved were taken from Brunel’s defunct broad gauge railway.

Unfortunately, the Foxton Inclined Plane had been built on the understanding that the canals at both Watford Gap and Foxton would be widened in order to cope with the increased traffic, but the widening never happened and the lift became uneconomic (plus ca change) and it was decommissioned in 1911.  It was maintained for a few years but in 1928 the machinery was sold for scrap.

What is left now is a grassy slope with trenches in which The Boys and I play World War I.  This usually consists of them hiding in the trenches while I pretend to be a Sopwith Camel shooting them down like dogs.  This game goes on for hours.  Hours I tell you, but at least there is the promise of a cup of tea and cake or ice cream at the end of it.

The Foxton Inclined Plane Trust is currently fundraising like billy-o to get the Inclined Plane restored as a tourist attraction and educational facility.  For more information click on the link.  Better still, pay it a visit.  There’s a café halfway down, a great spit and sawdust pub that sells good beer called Bridge 61 at the bottom, where they sometimes have live folk music, The Foxton Locks Inn which is more family orientated and the new Boathouse restaurant.  There is also a museum and shop and fantastic views over the Leicestershire countryside.  And did I mention tea and cake?  Oh and bring your own bi-plane.

Shooting them down like dogs

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Filed under History, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Transport

A Cheap Day Out on a Rainy Day

Hurricane Jigsaw 27.07.09The school holidays are always a challenge when you have lively children, and although the older ones should be able to entertain themselves at least some of the time, we all need a bit of fresh air to run off energy and clear our heads.

Today the weather was very changeable but, as rain is not actually dangerous, we donned our wellies and macs and set off for Borough Hill, an  Iron Age hill fort run by Leicester County Council and, importantly, free.  There is nothing there but stunning views, cows and sheep and plenty of trees to climb, and we spent a glorious hour running around, getting stuck in rabbit holes and throwing dried sheep poo at each other (although perhaps I should draw a discreet veil over that.  Do make sure to wash your hands after throwing sheep poo…).

However, huge black clouds soon rolled in and we pulled up our hoods and ran back to the car.  It was now lunchtime and the boys needed feeding.  Eating out can often be more expensive than the trip itself and I would normally take a modest picnic on a walk – nothing exotic, sandwiches, crisps or raisins, fruit, a home made flapkack or a Penguin and fruit juice decanted into re-used soft drink bottles are perfectly adequate and healthy.  But today was clearly not an al fresco opportunity.   Everyone must explore their own environment to find  good cheap places to eat, but as a starting point, I would recommend investigating your local garden centres.  Many of them have excellent, cheap snacks and often children’s lunch boxes for as little as £2 which nearly always have a little puzzle book or game.  Although we all know of certain fast food chains that offer similar value, one should always support local business first, or our towns and villages will wither away.  We found a delightful garden centre on our way home which not only offered delicious food but also had gift shops, clothing, books and a play area.  I enjoyed oohing and aahing over plants for my impending garden and they had a super time in the play area.

It was now absolutely torrenting with rain so we agreed that we would go home and do something together.  Like most of you, I have an extremely busy life and, sadly, have little opportunity to spend as much time as I would like with my children. It was therefore  a real pleasure for us all to sit down with a jigsaw puzzle, intermittently arguing about who’d lost the pieces, enduring The Cat tormenting us by relentlessly sitting in the middle of the half finished puzzle and finally relinquishing the last piece to my elder son who could then claim that he’d done the lot.

I live in a country village, but I have lived in the city and I know that amenities vary greatly.   Most areas have parks or somewhere to walk and you’d be amazed at where you can get to on a bus.  Council or Tourist Information offices have great information about days out and how to get there, so make the most of them.

Would you like to try my recipe for the stickiest flapjacks in existence?  Then you must keep visiting The Wartime Housewife dear Bloggers, who knows what you might find!

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Filed under Children, Outdoor Activities