Days out, environment, nature, Parenting, Uncategorized

Arne nature reserve – RSPB Wareham

Wow! This place has completely thrown me when it comes to an incredible day out in Dorset. I thought I knew all the local hot spots when it came to Dorset and the great outdoors, but I was wrong. Hidden away amongst Poole harbour and Wareham, Arne nature reserve run by the RSPB sits like an unspoilt gem on the Purbeck coast line, ready for walkers and nature lovers (or just Jo Blogs looking for a day out) to explore and marvel at its sheer beauty.

Even the drive into the reserve has you waiting in anticipation, as you head down a long road that takes you to the main car park. A parking fee of £5 is required for those staying for more then two hours (trust me you will need over two hours to see what this place has to offer!), but of course this money contributes to the conservation of this incredible place. Alternatively you can become a member and park for free!

There is an information point at the start whereby you can choose several routes of various lengths that take you around the reserve. We had our 20 month old son in a backpack, and opted for the ‘Red route’, which was described as a 1 3/4 hour walk (one of the longer routes), allowing us to see various habitats, from woodland and heathland, to coastal areas and mudflats. I highly recommend bringing a camera, as there was plenty of opportunities to take pictures.

From the start the walk allowed us to see an incredible view of Corfe Castle, and took us through woodland whereby we saw Deer casually walking through the woodland! After approx 45 minutes of walking we came to a small enclosed beach area, where we decided to have a picnic. Lizards climbed the nearby rocks and cliffs, and apparently seals can sometimes be seen here. The view towards Brownsea Island was just incredible. During our walk we passed through mudflats, and we hid in the bird hide to see some of the birds nesting amongst the reeds! My little boy loved looking out of the windows, pointing at the birds and water.

The route finished at the main car park and visitor centre. We went for a coffee in the cafe there, which again is great, especially on a nice day whereby you can sit outside and absorb the surroundings. Everything about the place was so clean and welcoming. And to complete a perfect day out, whilst getting into the car, we saw a fox, sunbathing next to the car park! See what I mean – you just don’t get that sort of thing everyday!! Hats off to the RSPB for making this reserve such a fabulous and inspiring place to visit.

 

 

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Days out, Family, london, Uncategorized

A day trip to London (with kids)

Has your child been pestering to visit London since covering ‘The Great Fire of London’ topic at school? My eight year old daughter had asked for a good year, on and off, to visit London, and finally I took it upon myself to take her there for the day.

It started badly. I had booked for us to travel by coach, and when we were ready to depart at 7.45 am, the coach door decided it didn’t want to close. An hour later (after an engineer had fixed the door) we were on our way.

The rest of the trip was truly brilliant. My daughter absolutely loved every moment. We visited the ‘Natural History Museum’, followed by the ‘Science Museum’, cherry picking the bits we wanted to see in each Museum. They are literally five minutes walk from one another, so it was easy to spend half of the day in one before heading to the other.

The dinosaur exhibit, and the Mammal display, was incredible, and I was definitely more excited then my daughter as we walked around (I couldn’t believe how big the blue whale actually was!). After coffee in the on-site café (good cappuccino’s), we headed to the ‘Science Museum’.

Any parent heading to the Science Museum with young children must take note of the fact there is a really good play area in the basement of the Museum. We didn’t find this until the end of the trip, but it was by far the best part for my eight year old daughter. They have water play and sensory toys to keep little people amused, and it was generally far more interactive then a lot of the other displays available. Although the museum was a great day out, we definitely preferred the History Museum, as it was far more interactive, and had more interesting displays, in comparison to the Science Museum. However, I would still recommend both to families looking to visit London.

After a busy day we headed back to our coach, picking up a few pasties on the way as an added bonus! Despite the fact our coach was delayed for two hours coming home, we still had big smiles on our faces when we arrived home. I loved every minute I had there with my daughter, and I will definitely return at a later date to see the parts of the museums that we missed!

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Family, Health, Parenting, Uncategorized

New to Breastfeeding?

If you are new to breastfeeding read on. I wanted to provide a few tips, having breastfed both of my children up until the age of 18 months.

  1. I never bothered buying expensive ‘maternity’ clothes. Buying low cut dresses and shirts with buttons is a far more cost effective way of feeding your baby. As well as this it provides far more choice for your wardrobe! Otherwise you can fall into the trap of wearing clothes that just make you look like plain old ‘mum’. Avoid this – you are a yummy mummy, so dress like one!!
  2. After being pregnant, giving birth, and then nursing your baby, it can sometimes feel that your body is no longer your own, and a bit mechanical! Its hard not to look in the mirror and feel disconnected with the person staring back at you, especially if you add a few sleepless nights into the mix. Make sure you make time for yourself, and either express some milk, or make an hour or two for yourself in between feeds.I would make the mistake of not doing anything because I was worried about the need to feed! It’s important to have a bit of time for yourself if you can, even if it just allows you to walk to the shop and get some air.
  3. Invest in a scarf and/or poncho. I found these really useful when feeding out in public!
  4. Don’t feel embarrassed about nursing your baby in public, and don’t let friends or family impact on your decision to feed out in public either. You’re doing the most natural thing in the world, and during my time feeding in public, I did not once have a complaint. I think most of the population is behind those breastfeeding mum’s. And to be honest, the one’s that aren’t are the one’s with the problem!!!
  5. Instead of spending out a lot of money for hideous looking bras, I bought the wireless ones from Primark for £2.50! They were just as comfortable, and I didn’t have any issues wearing them. I still inserted breastfeeding pads inside, and can thankfully say I had no leakages! Better still they looked better then the maternity bras.
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Days out, Family, Parenting, Uncategorized, Wimborne

Dorset Top 5 Easter Holiday activities on a budget

I thought I would do a quick write up on Dorset attractions to consider for the half term. If you’re like me, it’s good to have a few ideas to call upon when at a loose end! Here are my top 5 ideas of places to go on a budget:

  1. Hengistbury Head – You can park up on one of the free roads towards Southbourne sea front and walk along the beach. This location is a great place to fly a kite or search for shells and stones on the beach. Bring a bucket and the children will be entertained for hours (you might even get to enjoy a book to yourself!). If you want to spend a bit of change, head towards the @Hungry Hiker café for an ice cream, or catch the train that takes you up to the top end of Hengistbury head spit. It’s £1.80 one way for an adult, and £0.60 for a child.More information: http://www.bournemouth.gov.uk/Parks/ThingstoDo/Hengistbury-Head-Land-Train.aspx
  2. A day out to Lymington can also be enjoyable with children, we had the pleasure of going yesterday in fact. If you park near to the Harbour you can walk to the park that sits next to the estuary. It’s great fun for those that like boats (my little lad loved it!). Bring a picnic and sit in the park, or head into the shopping area where you can buy some delicious pasties from @thepastyshop there. We end up taking a walk around the Lymington-Keyhaven nature reserve, starting at the car park next to the Mayflower Inn. In the summer you can also bring your costumes and enjoy the seawater swimming pool on the seafront. Here is a map link for those of you who haven’t been before: http://www.lymington.org/naturereserve.html.
  3. Visit Stewarts garden centre at Holt, Wimborne. They have a play park hidden away around the side of the garden centre which is lovely for younger children. They even have a few animals there such as ducks and pigs, and it’s completely free to go in. We tend to bring a picnic, or grab a light bite to eat in the café inside the garden centre.
  4. Park for free at Pottern Park on the outskirts of Verwood, and take a 25 minute walk into Moors Valley. The walk itself is beautiful, taking you past the lake and river on the way in. There are a few benches too, so occasionally we’ll have a picnic before arriving at Moors Valley. Fabulously FREE!!!
  5. So many options, and I’m starting to think I should have done a top ten list, but my final suggestion is going to be Upton House in Poole. The grounds are great to walk around here, and they have a coffee shop and toilet facilities. During the warmer months they have a splash area in the walled garden so the little ones can cool off whilst the parents can get the picnic blankets out. We tend to feed the ducks, and take a walk along the pathway on the edge of the harbour. The play area is small, but kept natural with trees to climb through etc.IMG_0449
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    The play area at Stewart’s Garden Centre – Holt
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Family, Health, Parenting, Uncategorized

‘So what’s your job?’ – The question full time mothers dread

 

Recently I was at the checkout in my local supermarket with my eighteen month old son, when the women behind the counter asked whether it was my ‘day off’. Writing this now I think to myself ‘bloody cheek!’, but at the time I admit to replying with a ‘yes’?!! To question whether she thought spending the day with my eighteen month old (baby as far as I’m concerned) was deemed as unacceptable, or not ‘work’ enough didn’t feel comfortable at the time. Instead I actually felt wrong for saying that I was a full time Mum.

It happens frequently. When speaking to people I don’t know, friends of friends for example, the question ‘What do you do for a living?‘ is soon asked. To reply ‘I’m a Mum’ always seems to be a conversation killer (unless on meeting another Mum, in which case your on safe grounds!).

I realise that some of the feeling comes from myself. Its true that I still feel the urge to achieve some form of career, and feel that my degree and Masters in Psychology has currently amounted to absolutely nothing (except enjoyable memories of learning for fun… and proving to myself that I have a brain cell or two). But I know having spoken to others that many are in the same boat, feeling that being a full time mum isn’t deemed as enough.

As my eight year old daughter would say ‘But why?’. Why do people deem motherhood (or fatherhood) as a day off? Some I can understand are naive to what being a parent involves – but some parents seem to frown upon it too.

Now I don’t have the answers (clearly) as to why people deem full time parenthood as an unworthy ‘job’ title, but I would like to take the opportunity to say that being a full time parent is OK. In fact its more then OK. Its the most acceptable, natural, instinctive ‘job’ that one can have. It’s also hard work, and not a ‘day off ‘by any means. We can go for hours without adult conversation, have to remain patient at all times (even when you really do feel like you’re about to blow), can’t go to the toilet without being watched, have to somehow manage to tidy up and do other boring chores at the same time, and are probably doing most of this having had not much sleep, or having been up since 5.30 am at best.

For those of you who wonder why we don’t just do what we can to avoid this, I would like to also point out that it really is the most rewarding job anyone will ever do. Bit cliché I know – but it’s also a very fortunate position to be in, to be able to mould your little person into what they become, to watch them change each day and learn something new, to share your time with someone who absolutely cherishes your company, and to know that the energy you put in now will take that little person through their childhood, and make them into a big person that hopefully (if all has gone well) flourishes, and reaches their own dreams and aspirations because of what you put in from day one.

Basically – full time Mum’s be proud, don’t do what I did and be made to feel that being a mum isn’t worthy of being classed as a job, hold your head high knowing that you have one of the most challenging and important jobs in the world.

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Family, Health, Relationships

From Venus and Mars to Ying and Yang?

Now this isn’t entirely meant to be used as a way to vent my relationship frustrations, but if it comes across that way please bare with me!

At the start of my relationship with my partner, it was obvious we were very different, but I liked to think of it as opposites attract, or as some would say, Ying and Yang. Overall I feel like this is probably still the case, but its taken a lot of fall outs and make up ‘discussions’ to try and figure out a way around our differences. For anyone in the same situation (basically for any women feeling stuck on Venus, and for any man feeling stuck on Mars) read on.

My partner is a very black and white logical individual, and I am what I would describe as colourful! I like talking, he does not. I like Art, he likes computer programming. I like to keep the house tidy, he doesn’t see the mess even if its causing him to jump over items in order to get to the kitchen! Trivial I know, but these little things add up. The main issues however are the differences we have towards work and family life, and putting effort into one another. I like to cuddle up together in an evening and spend quality time together as a family at the weekend. My partner on the other hand is not one for affection, deems the word ‘love’ as fluffy and unnecessary to say aloud, and would prefer spending most of the weekend ‘getting his Geek on’ (if he could get away with it!). Neither way is wrong of course, but the two opinions literally spell disaster!

Recently our differences landed us in relationship counselling, and I have to admit even this did not seem to allow us to find a solution! So what did we decide to do? Well, on the verge of breakup we came up with a plan to accommodate our differences. We both love one another, and we have a child together, so making our relationship work is important to both of us. When things are going well between us we have such a laugh together and enjoy one another’s company – so why on earth would we not be able to overcome our differences?!

On a Saturday afternoon we made a plan. It was structured and simple, outlining who would take responsibility for the childcare on certain days, and when we would fit family time as well as ‘me time’ in. At first I was unsure, but a week or so in I can see it definitely has its benefits. Between us we get to take it in turns to lay in, have time to ourselves (yes, I actually get to go for a run now, come home, and then have a bath!!), and have time together. The time together is less often, but of better quality. Due to my partner stating that he did not appreciate the dinners I made for him, or the laundry I washed for him, we also decided that I would no longer do this. Those that are on childcare duty must also leave the house in the same condition as they found it. And when on our own time we can choose to spend that time however we like for as long as we like (as long as it is within your dedicated time slot for ‘me time’).

It sounds simple doesn’t it, and it is, but I can assure you this has so far worked better then anything we have learnt in counselling. I feel that because it allows both of us to have breathing space, it means that we don’t feel suffocated by one another or family commitments. The children seem to prefer it too, as quite often they get more one to one time with either parent. So if you are feeling strained by your relationship and family commitments, give this idea a go. Sit down together and mutually agree a weekly rota that allows both of you to have time to yourself.

 

 

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Days out, Family, Parenting

Fun-mum on a Budget

IMG_0364Recently I was on the verge of becoming a single parent (again), and I started to tighten the belt pretty rapidly. Whilst in my relationship the worries of money was never too apparent, not that I had much to spend, but I could at least indulge in a Costa Coffee once or twice a week without the price playing on my mind afterwards. Hell, I would even throw in the occasional cake just to go all out!

As soon as I started to contemplate ending life with my partner, I started to adjust my spending habits and look out for good deals and inexpensive ways to entertain myself and the children (especially during half term). Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much adjustment to get the same outcome, and even though me and my partner are still hanging on in there together, I have continued with being a bit more money aware. I actually get quite a kick out of spending less for more!!

Moors valley is a great place to go when the weather is nice, but the parking is ridiculously expensive if you are watching your spending. Instead I would park at Pottern Park on the outskirts of Verwood and walk in. The walk itself is beautiful and full of wildlife, taking you past the lakes and golf course on the way through. The route is footpath and buggy/bike friendly for those with pushchairs and young children. It takes about 25 minutes to walk in, but once we arrive we tend to pitch up at the play area, have a picnic, and then walk back. Not bad for a free day out!

Now I know most families are aware of Tesco clubcard points and how these can be transferred into days out, but I want to give it a mention for those that may not maximise what’s on offer. Basically you can exchange every £2.50 in vouchers for £10 worth of day out vouchers (I think this is the general rule, although places like Longleat are slightly different). My favourite one to do most half terms and school holidays is Adventure Wonderland, as both my eight year old and eighteen month old enjoy themselves here. Again bring a picnic (and a flask of tea/coffee), and it makes for a free day out.

For those of you with children aged 6 plus, I strolled across a gem of an offer last summer, and I have just heard it’ll be happening again this year. ‘Life’s an Adventure’ is a water-sports course offered through Dorset Council aimed at getting families to try different water-sports over a 5 week course (every Saturday or Sunday afternoon for 5 weeks). We had a great time trying out paddle boarding, Sailing, raft building, and other such things. Before each session began we would take a walk on Chesil beach and stop for lunch, before getting our wetsuits on and hitting the harbour for fun and games with other families. And get this – £10 each for the whole course! Bargain!

This blog could go on, I haven’t even gone into the traditional forest, beach and parks on offer, or the low cost toddler groups and entertainment events that arise over the year. So if you’re in a similar situation to where I found myself, just bear in mind the alternative low cost methods of entertainment out there, and enjoy spending time as a family without blowing a fortune.

 

 

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