Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Thrupp/Radley Lakes 2015 update, Radley, Oxfordshire

Approx time: 1 hours
Paths: cycle path/footpath
Points of interest: lake, wildlife
Amenities: none on route unless you follow my old route from Abbey Meadows
Grading: any type of pushchair
Weather: most weather except after very heavy rainfall

In 2010 we blogged about our walk to Radley Lakes from Abingdon, this was just as Earth Trust took over management of the lakes and developed it into not just a wildlife haven but also an area for people to visit.

We took a very damp and wet walk just before Easter to see how things have progressed since. A lot of work has been done over the years by the trust and also volunteers and things have changed for the better, with more planned in the future.

view across the lake
This time we parked on the edge of Abingdon Science park (Barton Lane) right beside the cycle/foot path towards the lakes. There was limited parking beside the lakes, a few verges on the road in front of the entrance so to us the science park was a better choice.

quite wide open footpaths along some of the route
There are plenty of signs to direct you around the circular route of the lake now where as before you could not get very close, just peered over a fence between trees. Until you start walking round you do not realise how large a lake it is. Quite vast in size but a real haven for wildlife. There were various tracks around the lake, mud, gravel, and a board walk. The swans came so close to us whilst we were on the bridge. There was a bird hide to sit and watch from, but it was such a murky day the ducks we could see all seemed the same.

Canada Geese
There were plenty of places where you could get close to the waters edge for pond dipping, or testing new wellington boots water tightness as Charlotte demonstrated.

perfect for pond (child) dipping!
We were surprised by how many people we met on our walk round, runners, families, walkers and bird watchers. It was lovely to see the place so busy and well used.
Sadly all my photos are pretty dreadful because of the weather and aside from some daffodils I didn't spot any other spring flowers but I'm sure with the fine weather we have just had it will be looking more colourful now.

route signs
The Friends of Radley Lakes keep a very updated website with lots of details of the site, wildlife and stunning photos. Earth Trust also have information about the walk and a downloadable map of the walk.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Keeping our heads warm with Buff Headwear

I had never heard of Buff headwear until a few years ago when my brother asked for a Buff scarf and I had to seriously question what he was on about. Few years on and I see so many people wearing them, for any outdoor people it's the headwear gear to be seen in for a good reason, you are kept warm!

It is a scarf, hat, ear warmer, pirate hat, what ever your imagination can stretch to, lovely layer of breathable, windproof, warmth.

keeping toasty warm necks in our buffs
Readitdaddy is always on the look out for a scarf that doesn't irritate his skin. The lovely people at Buff sent me some information all about the polygenine technology used in their products and said that they would send us an adult and junior merino wool buff for testing. I didn't even know they did junior ones and taking a look at their website there are even baby ones (amongst many other styles).

We loved the packaging both of our wool buffs came in, Charlotte thought this was excellent and was ultra excited by it and had it on looking something like this in seconds.

missing child alert!

A Buff is essentially a tube of 100% polyester microfibre (or in our case 100% merino wool) that can be worn in about 12 different ways (check out their youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/BUFFWEAR). After a few weeks of use we all found our most comfortable way of wearing it. Charlotte will drape hers round her neck and then when it gets really cold pull it up to cover her ears and nose with a hat over the top. It blocks out all the cold wind, you stay toasty warm and it's breathable. When she is annoyed with us she will just pull it over her head and be silly!

I hate hats but can't stand getting cold ears. I have my Buff used as an ear warmer, really cold winds on my ears and I just double the layers over my ears. Weather turns really cold, down over forehead, doubled on my ears and a bit over my head to keep the heat in.

The merino wool is ssssoooo soft. It is lovely against the skin, hand washed easily and dried really quick. It's lovely to wear, just how you want the perfect scarf to be.

a great ear warmer to keep the wind out

Readitdaddy was so jealous of our buffs I brought him a standard buff for Christmas. It does feel different to the wool, it's not as silky soft but it is up to the job of being breathable, warm and keeps the wind out. The standard Buff comes with the polygenine technology which has really helped readitdaddys skin, with no irritation. He had minor irritation from the merino wool (nothing compared to the irritation from a standard scarf though). More about the polygenene technology and the benefits are here http://www.buffwear.co.uk/faqs#question-14 and those at Buff HQ filled me in on a few more facts as well http://www.polygiene.com/faq-1.aspx#Is

this is how you keep the wind out on a cold walk

Wearing width I found mine perfect for round my head but if I wear as a high scarf it can be a little lose as I'm petite, but they do make a woman's slim fit. Charlotte's junior buff is 4-12 years (she is just 7 and also petite) and she has the same problem, but will easily grow into hers. They are so stretchy that I've put Charlotte's on and not actually realised and Phil can wear mine and I'll wear it after and its gone straight back to its usual shape.

There are hundreds of different patterns and styles you can buy a Buff in, I'm glad our decision to select one wasn't ours. Plenty of plain to unusual patterns, including football team colours, something to suit every taste. It's easier to wear than a scarf, especially for children, and folds or rolls up really small into a pocket. I don't think any of us can go back to wearing a standard scarf now, I find a Buff so much more practical and warmer. Asking at our local bike shop and a high street chain outdoor shop and they both rate them highly and say how well they sell.

I love the look of the infinity buff for more casual wear and is on my to buy list for next winter but for the summer they even do a range of UV protective items for adults and children such as bandanas, hats and insect shields. Take a look at the Buffwear website for more ideas.

These items were kindly sent to me by Buffwear in return for this review. This has not influenced by views in any way.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Mountain Warehouse keeping kids warm outside this winter

We have had some really up and down weather so far this winter. We got our winter gear and then it went mild, but thankfully by the time the temperatures fell at Christmas we were ready for them.

When we received our Mountain Warehouse catalogue I think Charlotte said want, want, want to just about everything in it. Those very kind people sent us a really fluffy arctic softshell jacket, an owl hat that has made all her friends jealous and some winter walking boots. Every item got a big thumbs up from both of us.
fully kitted out
The hat has a nice fleecy lining, the cute owl ears and long tassels that all girls want at the moment. It said one size fits all, she is 6 nearly 7 and it is very stretchy so it would go up and down of this age.

The arctic softshell jacket is so soft and fluffy inside, really seems to keep her toasty warm. It's got a really lovely print, not too much pink but still girlie enough for her. I brought a size 7-8 and fits her well and should last next winter as well. There is inside and outside pockets (extra leaf and twig storage), the zip goes up really high so not cold around the neck and has a fluffy chin guard. The fluffy layer goes behind the zip so no cold air blowing through there. Not been out in any good rain with it but the odd light shower and it was no problem. The cold winds at the weekend, she said she was plenty warm enough.
very fluffy warm coat
We have put the kids chill winter waterproof boots to the full test (except no snow test). These are more winter walking boots than snow boots I would think. They have an isotherm layer so keep your feet toasty from 7 to -5c I think it was. They are seriously grippy with some great tread on the bottom, the velcro fittings are a godsend compared to having to tie laces on her old boots and they are great at fitting to her slim ankles. They come up quite high with plenty of support.  She is a 12half fitting and went for the 13 with walking socks and plenty comfortable and warm. No complaints from her. She has covered them in mud from day one and even with her slight turned in foot walk not worn or scuffed the fabric on the outside yet.
first muddy trip out

I wouldn't say they are fully waterproof due to getting rather wet whilst unsuccessfully building stone towers on the beach to avoid the waves (in 2c temperatures). They were slightly damp at the end inside but she never noticed. I'm sure if I waterproof sprayed them they will be back to normal and they had got damp before this with no problems.
stone towers on the beach

A lot of the clothes above are now available in the Mountain Warehouse Sale if you are wanting a few warmer layers for this winter, or thinking ahead and buying for next, they get a big thumbs up from us.
Thank you

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Ardington Planets, Ardington, Wantage, Oxfordshire

This is a lovely village walk that can be made as long or as short as you like that also involves a little bit of physics fun.

Approx time: 1 hour
Paths: grass, mud and open roads
Points of interest: planets, standing stones, stream, pond, sundial
Amenities: off road parking in the village and local pub and tea rooms
Grading: all terrain or pushchair on a dry summer day as one slope
Weather: all seasons

route map (please click for larger image)
We last did this walk on a wet spring day as part of arts week, we have now gone back on a cold wet winter day and enjoyed it just as much.
We often park across the road from the Loyd Lindsay rooms. From here we walk a bit further along High Street and turn left at the war memorial and seat.
memorial seat
Carry along Well Street with the church on your left hand site. This is a lovely village church where we have stopped and looked at some of the very unusual graves. At the last house on your right there is a field with a footpath running through. Take this route (There is a sign saying that the field will be closed on the 25 December) across the field and see if you can find some ducks to feed at the pond on the way. We only managed to feed some very well fed fish instead!

well fed fish pond
 As the field ends and joins another there is a turn to your right crossing a stream (it was shallow enough to paddle with our wellies on) which leads to a row of old barns and if you look into one of them an old mill wheel.

mill and stream
 Pass through the row of houses and at school road turn left, cross over and a but further up is Ardington Woods.
Just so we don't forget where we are
There is a circular walk around the woods, starting from the stone in the middle of the row of trees.

description of the millennium sundial and planetary model
 This stone will explain the standing stones (a sun dial) and also the solar system that you will find as you head up the hill.
sundial stone
 Children will love running from planet to planet and hiding behind the stones. Each plant has its name and also size along with a few other details. Behind one of the sundial stone's is also a chart to help you tell the time.
the sun with planets around
 Carry on to your right again another clearing the woods, carry on through, another right and right again and you will soon be back were the woods started.

sun setting over the Chilton's
 Take a left onto School Road and you will soon be back at the car. We often head beyond the car to the play park as an end of walk treat. There is a village shop and tea room along the way if you go during the week or on a Saturday.
 I would love to know the history of why this position was chosen for a sun dial and solar system, I am guessing its because of the local science parks but can not find any details.

Little Pluto

I'm joining in with Country Kids

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 21 November 2014

Perfect hot chocolate thanks to Mountain Warehouse

The new Mountain Warehouse Autumn/Winter 2014 catalogue landed on my doorstep along with a surprise present of a thermos flask. Readitdaddy straight away had visions of using it for coffee but a little voice beat him to that with "oh I can use that for my hot chocolate". We often finish a walk with a piece of cake and hot chocolate to warm up.

Charlotte fell in love with trying out the very cool looking open closed click. Press the middle for open and the outer rig for closed. All very simple and even possible with gloves on, the lid serves as a little cup.
the click open and close system (© Mountain Warehouse)
I did a leak test at home before use over the sink. Didn't leak at all but one little trick. After pouring your drink, click close and then pour again and a drop more comes out.
a perfect hot chocolate
In use, we filled the flask at 10am for our walk, with milky hot chocolate. Not boiling but drinkable. Charlotte and I had a cup full each at 1pm and was perfect for me and a little warm for her so in 3 hours no temperature change. The flask was still half full. We had another cup each at 4pm and it was a pefect temperature for both of us. This flask will easily keep your drink hot for 6+ hours and we got 4 cup fulls of drink out (very small cups, more 2 standard cups in total). The double wall worked as you would expect as the outside was not hot.
This will be saving us quite a bit of money and our waistline as we won't be tempted by those cakes when we go to buy a hot chocolate!

There is a wide selection of children's clothing in the catalogue, anyone tempted by skiing this season there are children's clothing packages. Lots of snow boots too. Charlotte loved the look of their hats

Owl hat (© Mountain Warehouse)
 I know she is really envious of our adult softshell jackets and wants her own. We brought cheap adult ones not realising how much we would use it and now she wants one. I'm seriously envious of how fluffy this one looks. We are finding our soft shell jackets excellent as they have so many uses keep out wind and waterproof enough for showers. We also use ours as an extra layer under a really good rain coat.

Arctic printed kid softshell jacket (© Mountain Warehouse)
I know Charlotte likes that Mountain Warehouse isn't all pink for girls, she still loves to wear her purple summer shore trousers, no arguments when I ask her to pop them on with a pair of thermal leggings now its winter. They now have a lined pair for winter or you could opt for some waterproof trousers. They also have some great looking fleeces... to stop me rattling on go have a look yourself

The thermos flask was kindly sent to me by Mountain Warehouse. This has not influenced my views in any way.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Wolvercote Lakes, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Wolvercote Lakes is a very small but beautiful area in a village on the edge of North Oxford a place to to sit and relax and to also explore wildlife. Pond dipping, bugs, birds and ducks.

Approx time: 30mins
Paths:  grass and mud
Points of interest: wildlife, lakes, trains
Amenities: on road parking opposite, buses from Oxford, 2 pubs close by
Grading: any buggy but the drop by the gate is tricky
Weather: all seasons (but liable to flood)

map of Wolvercote Lakes location (click for larger map)
We decided to walk the oxford canal starting in Jericho and ending in Wolvercote, a village to the north of Oxford. While in Wolvercote we fancied a nice restful sit down at the lakes before our return journey (the distance doesn't seem so long when you are driving into Oxford City center).

Map and history of the Wolvercote Lakes
 The lake area was smaller than we expected but quite lovely. There were a number of  new notice boards (the site had only opened a few months before this review), one with a map and history of the site, and others on the animals that live in the area. It is right beside Oxford railway line so it's not a circular walk.

Great Western Railway Boundary marker
The site was owned by the Kirk family and was at one time home to a number of traction engines. There was once a house on stilts on site which when the area flooded could only by accessed by punt. But sadly all this has now gone but what has been passed onto the Oxford Preservation Trust to manage is to be cherished.

Commemorative seat to the Viv Kirk
There is a bird hide which is well used with those noting their sightings on the board. There are a few platforms to stand on against the waters edge.

bird hide
It's is a great family walk for 5mins fresh air or 30mins if you are allowed to sit and watch the heron, birds, ducks and I bet some great bugs to find. The gate in isn't the easiest to manage with quite a drop down but most of the site is buggy friendly aside from the odd footpath.

platforms over the lake
It looks like the volunteers who work on this site really must love and care for it and the villagers too, as we saw quite a number having a late afternoon stroll.

What will you spot?
There is on street parking right opposite, another car park beyond 2 pubs also (there is also The Trout PH not far along the road (across a narrow bridge) which often appears in Inspector Morse and many guidebooks as it nestles beside the Thames. The opposite side of the road to the lake is port meadow. Originally a Bronze Age burial ground but now a haven for wildlife and ponies graze all year round. You can explore the common, the Thames to the west side or burgess field to the east. You could make a circular walk of it as we did from Jericho or the city center where the canal starts and return via the Thames or port meadow, our route was about 4 miles long starting at Walton Street in Jericho.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Finding our Bumble - Bee Conservation

At school Charlotte had to do a bee study this summer as part of "The Big Bumblebee Discovery" and came home with a booklet she had to complete.
We had to carry out a few studies in different locations noting the weather, temperature and which bees we found. We had a picture guide of bees and they were quite specific over which bees they wanted us to study. The names of which I have sadly forgotten.

We get a few bees in our backgarden so went to check out which plants they visited and which bees we get. They love our lavender, sweet pea and chive flowers. We spent quite a bit of time watching them move from one flower to another and seeing how they move. Though we spotted about 6 bees in our 10 minutes only 1 of these was on our study sheet. Obviously we needed a better garden.

That weekend we visited Waddesdon Manor, and wondering through the rose garden spotted hundreds of bees on the lavender. We had forgotten our bee booklet but armed with cameras took as many pictures of bees as we could, this wasn't easy as bees are very camera shy. At home we then worked out which bees we saw and how many of each.

Charlotte was very pleased with her study, watching different bees, how they move about the garden and what their favorite plants were in the garden. The booklet was returned to school and in return she came home with a pencil and sticker for completing in the national study.

After reading "The boy who lost his bumble" and thinking back to our bee study we wondered how we could help bees in our garden. In the spring we will look round our local garden centre for bee friendly plants, most garden centres now mark up the best bee friendly plants.

Bee Hotel
 Whilst walking round our local garden centre at the weekend we spotted a small bee hotel or we could make one ourselves as I found on the Natural History Museum website.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust also have some kids pages with a simple guide on spotting different types of bumble bees and some simple plants to plant in the garden.

Also make sure you visit ReadItDaddy to find out how great a book "The Boy Who Lost His Bumble" by Trudi Esberger (Child's Play) is and how it's inspired us to look at what plants we can add to our garden next spring.