Wind in the Willows Trail at Hanningfield Reservoir-Days out in Essex

Wind in the Willows is a children’s classic novel about small animals who spend their summer days boating on quiet rivers, going on picnics with large hampers of food and being lost in the wild woods. It’s fun, adventurous and very British- A classic tale of river life and friendship.

The novels begin with Mole, a peace-loving little animal, who decides to leave his burrow after being bored with doing his spring cleaning. He ventures down to river bank and soon meets brave Ratty, grumpy Badger and an unruly Toad.

Children and adults love Wind in the Willows as it represents a quintessential British summer. We all want to stroll down by the river, picnic on the banks, sail down the river in a boat and set out on journeys full of fun and adventure.

At Hanningfield Reservoir you can follow in Mole’s footsteps, follow the trail and discover the characters from the Wind in the Willows.

The boys love a bit of excitement and anything that’s gets them out within nature. They love trekking through woods going on adventures.

With a map in one hand and a crayon in the other they were ready to go off and search for the wooden sculptures hidden within the woods of Hanningfield.

The maps and crayons are available at the visitors centre for £1.

As soon as we had left the car and headed on over to the visitors centre they were greeted by the beautiful wildlife garden, which is the home to Ratty’s boat and Toad’s caravan.

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Inside Toad's caravan
Inside Toad’s caravan

After a little stroll around the peaceful garden we headed on over to purchase our maps. We were given a crayon too as next to every wooden sculpture there is brass rubbing squares that you can create a rubbing from on the back of your map.

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The boys used their map reading skills to follow the trail and lead us to the fun, life-size characters that were numbered on the map. Teaching them navigation skills and direction.

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I love watching the boys working together as they are normally squabbling with each other.

They were so excited when they found the first one set within the trees. Once they found the character they could also read the description about each animal under the square that you used fort he rubbing. Not only were the children having fun but they were also learning facts about the animals as they went.

As we walked along we also made our way over to Lyster Hide, where we could look out over the reservoir and watch the birds fly over or swim on the water.

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The first on the trail was Badger

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Second was The Weasels

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Third was Mole

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Fourth was Ratty

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And last was speedy Toad

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There were also other sculptures to see that had mini beasts carved into them and picnic benches to sit down and eat your lunch at.

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The whole adventure took us just over an hour, we didn’t rush around and spent time just enjoying each others company and the woods that surrounded us.

It was a lovely day out and would definitely recommend it. Parking is free but no cycling or dogs are allowed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creating crafts from nature : Our morning at RSPB Rainham Marshes

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Outdoors, Nature and crafts. Just about sums up my family.

We love to be out and about and I’m always encouraging the boys to use their imagination more when it comes to the outdoors. My boys love science and nature. They can often be found sitting amongst the mud, dirt ground into their pores and deep into their nails, searching for signs of living creatures. In fact my middle boy, who is 8, wants to become a zoologist when he is older. He says he wants to explore the hidden depths of Earth to find new living animals.

We was recently invited along to an event that was very local to us at RSPB Rainham Marshes to meet a fellow Mum and author Hattie Garlick, for the launch of her new book Born to be Wild. Hattie Garlick is a writer and journalist.  She has written for The Times, The Guardian, The Spectator and The Huffington Post amongst others, and also writes the blog Free Our Kids where she received lots of press coverage for pledging to not spend a penny on her children for a year!  She’s a passionate modern eco-warrior.

We was promised a morning of fun and that is certainly what we got. Our day started off with a walk through the nature reserve, led by Rainham Marshes expert Louise. We was shown the ant hills, there were tons of them and what a teasel was. A tall brown, prickly plant. It was very popular with the children and they all wanted to take one home with them. Without harming the reserve, they was all given a magic wand to carry.

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As we walked over the bridge, we looked out along the water to search for voles. The boys loved being outdoors and revelled in the surroundings. My Joseph was in his element. He had taken along his nature book and was constantly looking through it to see what he could spot.

As we arrived at the hide, where we was to meet Hattie Garlick for a spot of crafts and lunch. We all gathered outside amongst the grass where the children ran around feeling the wind on their little faces and pretending to be certain animals. Mimicking their movements and noises. It was good fun. They enjoyed frolicking around on the grass.

We made our way inside for a little warm up and an introduction to Hattie and her adorable little assistant, her daughter Frida. Hattie spoke about her book and how we should allow our children to take the lead when it comes to crafting with nature. Let their imaginations run wild and see what wonderful twists and turns they take.

“Born To Be Wild is an inspirational book packed with over 100 activites to reconnect your family to the outdoors.  User friendly, you can flick through to the relevant season and materials you find (for example sticks, stones, blossom…) and find a fun and interatctive activity to do with your children.  The ideas can be easily adapted so they are suitable for children of all ages. Beautifully illustrated with colour photos by Nancy Honey this book is sure to become a family favourite.”

The activities in the book promise to be easy on the wallet and planet and most importantly fun for all the family. Hattie believes that children have the wildest imagination and Nature allows it to become free.

Hattie invited us all outside for a spot of pond dipping to get closer to nature

After a quick introduction from Louise we was ready to give it a go.

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I was little apprehensive allowing the youngest to get so close to the water, he doesn’t see danger and was leaning right over the edge trying his best to scoop up some living things with his net. But one look at his face and I knew I had to let him try. He was loving it. IMG_20160319_122859-opt

We found lots of pond minibeasts around the reeds in the water. We got quite a water nature haul, finding a Whirligig Beetle, biting midge larva, damselfly nymph, blood worm and water mites.

After our fun outside, we made our way inside for a spot of nature crafts with Hattie. On each table was a selection of object for us to make an Easter tree with, some from the outdoors and some from the craft cupboard.

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We filled our jar with some soil that had been gathered up for us beforehand and then placed some twigs into the soil, pushing down deep for it to stay. Then all was left to do was allow the boys to use their imagination and see what they come up with. The boys enjoyed getting messy, in fact Hattie said the messier the better

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The boys used wool, paint, glitter, tissue paper, flowers and ribbon to brighten up the twig and produce an Easter tree perfect for any living room. It was bright and colourful and lots of fun.

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Hattie gave out prices to all of the children that created a nature project. Joseph was given a book about wolves. He loves to read and was over the moon with his prize.

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We had  a wonderful morning at the reserve, learning about nature and meeting Hattie Garlick. I think Hattie had made a friend for life in my boy, he adored her and now carries her book about with him.

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This short film sums up our morning with Hattie and RSPB

Read about Hattie’s book Born to Wild here The book contains easy to follow instructions for over 250 activities that requires nothing more than a small persons imagination and the outdoors. The book guides you through each season. It introduces you to the toolkit that you will need, just normal everyday household items, collect everything together and place them into a bag ready to use on your next outdoor adventure.

Born to Wild is available to buy for £16.99 here

We was invited along to the event for the purpose of this post, no payment has been received 

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Born to be Wild : Hundreds of Nature activities for families

Want to save cash, your child’s imagination and possibly even the planet?  This is the book you need.

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If you yearn to get your children off the Xbox, away from the iPad and back to nature, Born to be Wild by Hattie Garlick provides an essential guide to getting your family out of the house, immersed in the outdoors and having fun, without costing the earth.

The average British child watches over 17 hours of TV per week, a figure that has risen 12% since 2007, despite the rival attractions of the internet. Britain’s 11-15 year olds are so addicted to their electronic devices that they spend 7½ hours a day in front of a screen – an increase of 40% in a decade and around half their waking lives.  A generation ago, half of British children regularly played in wild places, now it is less than one in ten.

“This book is written by a parent… one who is neither an Earth Mama making her own yoghurt from a yurt, nor a countess with a country pile in the Cotswolds.  One who has real kids – the kind who throw tantrums and worship at the altar of the Sky box.”   Hattie Garlick

Packed with beautiful photos of real families taken by award-winning photographer Nancy Honey, the book provides hundreds of fun activities to embrace nature, from ‘Building a Butterfly Feeder’ and ‘Making a Bark Monster’, to ‘Take off your Shoes and Socks and… Stomp’.

With simple instructions for those times when your creativity needs a bit of a kickstart – whether you are looking for activities for Mini Matisses or small scientists, adventures that take ten minutes, or that absorb whole afternoons – all that’s required is a small person’s imagination and access to a little outdoor space.

Organised by season and then by material, the book lets you skip straight to Spring, then ‘Blossom’, ‘Grass’ or ‘Earth’, depending on what you and your family would like to explore. Everything you need to engage in and create hundreds of activities can be found in your kitchen cupboard.  No expensive art supplies or outward-bound kit required, merely Hattie’s suggested ‘toolkit’ listed at the front of the book, featuring everyday household items including scissors, rubber bands, glue and an empty jam jar or two.

“Hattie Garlick has the wonderful knack of engaging whole families in nature, in ways that are exciting, easy to do, and require little more than a child’s boundless imagination”

RSPB

The book is available to buy here for £16.99

This is a press release. Blog post coming soon with more detail about our day with Hattie Garlick

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A nice find on a miserable day!

Today hasn’t been a very good day, we spent all morning out in the wet miserable weather all because I fear getting into a car and driving us all a few miles down the road!

Jak had a football tournament to attend and we had to be there for 10:40 so we set off at 9:30 which should have been plenty of enough time to get to our destination but as we got to the train station (we was going 3 stops) I noticed that the station was closed for works so I decided that we would have to catch a bus half way and walk the other half, there was a light rain but it wasn’t too bad. As we got off of the bus I noticed a pathway heading off into a park in the direction that we was going, I looked on my maps app on the phone and it looked like the address we was going to was at the other end of the park.

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So me thinking I was being clever told the boys “look boys! A cut through!” So off we went!

20130316-211941.jpgI had never been into this park before as it the otherside of town to where we live but the path looked long so I was sure it was going to take us either directly to the football fields or pretty much near by to it, Oh How I was wrong! So wrong!

We was walking along side a lake but as it was raining and it seemed to getting heavier there was another lake being formed on the fields beside us and then the path came to an end! There was no way we was going to get over the marshy land to where we wanted to get to, We was being teased by my bad mistake, we could hear children shouting and playing and we could see the main road but with a buggy and a 5 year old in tow it was going to be impossible to get over to them.

It was now 10:45 so I gave up in trying to get there, defeated and soaking wet we decided to turn back and head back home, on our way back through the park we saw what looked like an air raid shelter, it was pretty in a mysterious type of way but such a shame that it was full up with empty lager cans and rubbish! There was an hexagon shaped concrete slab ontop of the ground which was raised up and at the side was a stone stairway going down to doorway which had a steel bar door, the door was open and it looked like it went off into a room of some sort. It may well be a pillbox but im not sure!

20130316-211951.jpgI really wanted to have a bit of explore but we was all so cold and wet and to be honest I was a bit scared as to what I might have found down there! Knowing my area it could have been anything!

I have decided to take the boys back in better weather as the park was an ideal place to go for a lovely bike ride with a perfect wide flat path so hopefully I will get to explore it then    🙂

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The Lorax Like & Plant with Woodland Trust

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All kids like to get muddy for a good cause, and this National Tree Week they have an even better reason! As The Lorax is released on 3D Blu-rayTM, DVD and Digital Download, Universal Pictures (UK) has teamed up with The Woodland Trust to create the first ever Facebook ‘Like and Plant’ app and have committed to plant a tree for every ten likes that The Lorax Facebook page receives during 12th and 25th November.

Dr Seuss’ The Lorax tells the story of the grumpy yet charming creature, The Lorax, and warns against mindless progress and the danger that it poses to the earth’s natural beauty.

In partnership with The Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives Club, kids can sign up and join in the fun. To track the number of trees planted, and see if the target is reached, watch the tree counter app on The Lorax Facebook page. The Woodlands Trust is the UK’s leading charity championing native woods and trees. It has 300,000 members and supporters, it aims to protect native woods, trees and wildlife for the future and to inspire everyone young and old to enjoy and value woods and trees.

In addition to the Facebook page, people can get involved in person by planting their own tree at Woodland Trust’s events around the country, or attending other National Tree Week events. You can also register your own tree-planting event with the Tree Council, so you can get all your family and friends involved! Penny Pulfreyat the Woodland Trust said “We are delighted to be a part of this imaginative partnership between The Woodland Trust and The Lorax, and can’t wait to see how many trees are planted as part of the scheme. The Lorax is a film that highlights issues that The Woodland Trust is passionate about, so everyone should get involved, like and share the page and help protect our environment.”

Don’t miss the must-see kids film of the year The Lorax, available to buy on 3D Blu-rayTM, DVD and Digital Download on 19th November. Dr seuss’ the Lorax is an adaption of dr.seuss’ classic tale of a forest creature who shares the enduring power of hope. A Boy goes on a journey to search for the one thing that will enable him to win the heart of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the grumpy yet charming Lorax.

For more information or to view the ‘Like and Plant’ Facebook app please visit www.facebook.com/theloraxuk and for more information about the Woodland Trust, please visitwww.woodlandtrust.org.uk

This is a sponsored post

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