A very Happy New Year to you!
I’m sorry for the silence over Christmas. Well, I say I’m sorry but actually I think it’s really important to take a proper break every now and then, particularly when working within the realm of the online and social media. Unlike a 9-5 it is a job, blogging, much like parenting, is a job you seldom switch off from and for this reason, it is all the more important to take a step back from it for a week or so and remember a time before life consisted of constant Twitter updates!
The Christmas period is one of my favourite times of year, not least because it also includes my birthday which this year I spent the most part of lazing in front of a roaring fire – perfect!
One of my biggest highlights this Christmas was attending a family nativity Church service at a farm! The service was held in an open barn with carols sung from our perches on hay bales instead of pews. We all got out our torches to shine on the ceiling to form the starry night which the children thought was brilliant fun. The parts of the key nativity characters were played by adults with Baby Jesus a real life bouncy baby boy who was placed unprotestingly in a very real manger bed of straw in front of a pen with some very curious cows peering over to have a look at the unusual proceedings in their barn! Unfortunately only one shepherd made it to the service…the others were busy out rounding up some real sheep from the farm that had escaped just before the service but all the children who were dressed up as extra shepherds, wise men and angels more than made up for it! Roo was enchanted, as were we and if ever there were a way to capture the Christmas story for children and bring people together it was surely this. My enduring memory will be of our little angel for the day tramping oblivious through the farmyard muck in her gleaming white costume to feed the cows some straw!
Another highlight was a great new short walk near Chew Valley Lake we discovered. Despite growing up in the Chew Valley, I had never been up to the top of Knowle Hill before though I have driven past it many times. On a crisp, sunny December day this diminutive little hillock gave surprisingly great views all across the Chew Valley including over a sparkling Chew Valley Lake. On a day when the lakeside paths were busy with lots of winter day trippers escaping from Bristol to walk off their Christmas dinners, it was nice to leave them all behind at the car park and head up for a change. A great little discovery and an easy hill for young children to tackle with some lovely options to extend on other Baby Routes walks.
Our New Year’s Day walk was a bit less exciting. Wanting something shortish since none of us were feeling that great and with the weather set against making hill-walking worthwhile, we explored locally. What I had anticipated being a pleasant rural ramble through the usual Oxfordshire countryside between two villages actually took us through some pretty run down land, with a bit of an uncomfortable feel to it – so much so that we actually cut our walk short. It was a bit disappointing but at the same time interesting to discover the hidden secrets, not all of which are gems, behind an area you think you know well. This for me is part of the fun of plotting a route on an OS map and then discovering quite how those lines, dots and colours translate to the real world around you – sort of like an adult geographic version of painting by numbers. It’s amazing how different the final picture is from that shady outline you were convinced you knew the details of. Needless to say that particular wander won’t be included on the Baby Routes walk directory although we hope to go back and explore around the lovely village that should have been our end point for some alternatives another day.
Now back in Oxfordshire it’s back to the real world, albeit with some fantastic new toys to play with! The one big perk of blogging about things you are interested in is that it seems to help provide inspiration for gift ideas for family and both Roo and I had some brilliant outdoorsy presents this year. One of my favourite new gadgets courtesy of my very generous husband is a wildlife camera so that I can keep an eye on those hedgehogs and all the other nocturnal or early visitors to our garden. It’s no great secret that I have been hugely inspired by the Wildlife Gadgetman blog over 2014 and now I can have a go at capturing some back-garden visitors on camera myself!I’m still getting the hang of it at the moment and working out where to place it for maximum spotting opportunities. So far it has captured the squirrels raiding the greenhouse (again), a rather good shot of a wood-pigeon taking off from the bird bath and plenty of a greater spotted husband nipping in and out of his natural habitat, the garden shed. I think some more repositioning might be required! With a brand new bird table, feeders and other wildlife bits to install, I’m hoping it will be a busy year for garden visitors this year!
I also received some great writing and blogging tools, including what I can only assume was a joke present – my very own selfie stick. It is possible that I have laughed at these quite a bit over the last year but actually, this bit of novelty frippery might just come in handy for all those walking trip photos and involve a lot less falling in bogs or toppling off fences whilst trying to beat the camera self-timer or for reaching that tiny bit higher for an even better panoramic shot! I’m not a convert yet but I’m reluctantly able to concede that I can see a few good uses for it!
Roo had some fabulous outdoorsy and travel related presents too, a highlight of which is her very own pair of bright red binoculars which for some reason she has coveted in that exact shade for many months now. She’s had so many thoughtful, outdoorsy gifts from Father Christmas, family and friends that I’m jotting them all down along with previous years’ hits and some other ideas I’ve come across for an outdoorsy presents for kids inspiration post – bit late for Christmas this time but may perhaps be useful for upcoming birthdays of any wild child you happen to know!
Now it’s time for a bit of a Baby Routes spring clean and some serious planning for the year ahead. We already have a Switzerland trip planned soon when Roo might just try out her first pair of skis and with Baby Beth’s first birthday in February, we will soon have another mini walker on our hands. I’m looking forward to warmer weather so we can dust our family tent off, can’t wait to get Beth out on her first bike ride, hopefully get in lots of travelling around the UK and abroad and not least of course, plenty of new family walks. Goodness knows I need it after all that Christmas indulgence!
I hope you’ve all had fantastically relaxing Christmas holidays and are geared up and ready to go in 2015. I wish you all a very Happy and outdoorsy New Year and can’t wait to hear about your own family adventures over the coming months.