A BIG Adventure

On Friday, my three year old son took on the biggest adventure of his life, his first real mountain, and wow did he rock it! Continue reading

Epiphany

Before I get down to the serious business of the day, may I take the time to wish you all a great, productive and prosperous 2016!

Some of you may have wondered what ever happened to me. ‘Haven’t seen a post in ages’ you would have thought to yourselves. As the title of this post suggests, I have had some reflective time, and have been working towards the results of that effort.

A little while ago I posted a reflection on my first anniversary as a blogger. Since then, a matrix style glitch has been rolling around in my skull. All those zeros and ones have started forming a pattern, and it’s taken a while for me to see the overall picture that has appeared before me.

During this time of reflection, I have realised the majority of my posts were leaning more towards that of tackling the issues of the day, albeit parent/child related, rather than the growing pains of parenthood, or the latest gadget, or great places to take the sprogs for a holiday.

Whether it be trying to raise money and awareness of SIDS, (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). My thoughts on secular schooling of our children, in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal in Britain’s state schools. Trying to dispel the stigma of mental health problems. The plight of bloggers in the 21st century, or talking about gender equality in the workplace.

With this realisation, and the burning need within, to help my fellow humans, and the restrictions placed upon me by virtue of my ‘parent blogger’ label, I have decided to go ‘all in,’ and put my chips on a humanist project.

Fear not comrades, I will not be gone for good. Becoming a parent, is why these feelings have grown; and why my raison d’être is to make this world a safer, happier place for our children to grow, and learn to be more caring citizens for this little blue/green speck of dust, and its inhabitants, floating in this vast ocean of space.

You can expect the odd post to wind up here. Likewise if you have pressing issues that need to be tackled, I am more than willing to extend a helping hand, and put you centre stage in my new home, which you can find at the Humanist Blogger, and if you need me to don my dad blog hat to help out just give me a shout out.

 

Before I exit, stage left, I would just like to say it has been a wonderful year, with some truly wonderful people. It has been a pleasure to meet you, and call you my friends. May I extend my hopes of joy and peace to you one and all.

Adieu,

Dawn of the Dad.

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Run Fat Boy…

So, ‘where the hell have you been?’ I hear you cry.

Well…

The pre-amble

If there’s one thing the birth of my son has made me think about, it has to be my own mortality, and the delicate nature of life for children, even in today’s first world countries. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of life in the Middle East, although I’m sure, like me, recent photos in the press have left your heart heavy, and your eyes blurry with tears.

Here I am, the wrong side of 40, (yes I know, even I wouldn’t believe it from the photos I post, but it’s true), and I have this awesome little child that relies on me for everything, and how selfish would I be if I upped and keeled over in the next couple of years?

To be fair, I’ve battered and bruised this old shell of mine over the years, and the little fella coming along, has made me think, maybe I should start to worship this crumbling temple, and rebuild it back to its former glory.

Do I go back to the gym? Nah, bored of that, staring at a TV screen watching reruns of Jeremy Kile, while I sweat my proverbial off. I know I’ll get back into trecking up mountains! Get fit, body and mind, with lots of stunning views.

  
Great idea…Problem is…can’t find any…mo-ti-va-t……ion 😔

Then I remembered that warm fuzzy feeling I felt when I raised £155 for The Lullaby Trust earlier this year, and decided there and then that I’m going to raise money for all the children across the globe, who through no fault of there own, are truly suffering, by running. 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon, full on marathon, maybe even a few ultras, one day.

  

Damn it! I’m gonna do it for the children of the world that need all the help they can get, and get fit at the same time. As a friend of mine keeps saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, so that’s what I’m doing, in my own little way.

  

The amble

Over the last seven weeks I have spent every spare moment, (and that’s not a lot,) researching, creating, tweaking and running a training regime, to get me off the couch and out on the trail towards my first goal of 5K.

It’s been a lot of hard work, but so much fun, and very rewarding. I have tons of energy and I’ve lost the best part of one and a half stone along the way, so feeling good and looking good!

Now I need the help of my fine community of readers. Yes that’s you! As I stated earlier, I am planning to start running to raise money for children’s charities. The idea is sharing out the money into three pots.

Firstly, one pot will go to a charity local to where I run in an organised event. So if I’m running in Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow, or London, the money will go to help children from that particular area.

The second pot will go to a national children’s charity, and the third to an international charity. What I need from you good people, is suggestions of which charities you would like to see me donate to, and why. Just drop a comment on this post, or via the various social media outlets, and I will choose a few.

I am also thinking of changing the national, and international charities each year, to kind of spread the money around a little; or maybe, depending upon whichever crisis is in need at the time. Your thoughts and input mean a lot to me, so please take a moment to let me know what you think.

The stumble toward a conclusion

I know some of you lovely people are runners yourself, and as I am just starting out, I would like some feedback on how well I’m doing. My 5k PB is currently 28:24. Is this anywhere near an average time? I only ask as I’ve never ran before, EVER! I think it’s damn good, as seven weeks ago it was 40 mins.

Also, I have played about with a couple of running apps, and am interested in which ones you use/prefer.

  
On the start of my last 5k. To the top of the mountain and back!

If you plan on running a local 5, or 10k come the new year, for your favourite local children’s charity and you’d like me to come along, or if you have any ideas that you think could help, give me a shout, I’m keen to get as much money raised as possible. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about the training programme, then let me know. If it’s a resounding thumbs up, I’m happy to create a post all about it.

Time for a week off to let my body relax, and start building a 5 week, 10k programme. Current time to improve upon, 56:53.

Well, take care droogs, chat soon.
Dawn of the Dad.

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King of the Wild Things: Dean Heritage Centre

I remember as a young boy, when the Dean Heritage Centre opened. We took a school visit, to discover the rich history of our locale. The blink of an eye, and thirty years have passed us by. This time instead of being a small boy, exploring our rich heritage, I am now guiding my own son down memory lane.

The wonderful museum, with around 20,000 pieces on show, is the main attraction here. JB showed a little interest in a few of them, but as a two year old I didn’t expect much. 

However, dotted around there are little workstations, furnished with crayons, pencils, and pictures ready to colour. A wonderful touch, designed to give older children, and us parents, a chance to discover the cornucopia of history the Forest of Dean has to offer, while the little ones doodle.

From Iron Age, through Roman and Saxon times; the industrial revolution, two world wars, and a gallery dedicated to the life and works of our local playwright, Dennis Potter.

  

Now I’ve wet your appetite, lets move on the the meat and potatoes of why we were here in the first place.

The Dean Heritage Centre have a Hungry Caterpillar trail, running until next Easter, winding through the woods, finishing at an adventure playground.

All the stops along the way feature a large wooden caterpillar and the fruit that has been eaten. They are marvelous creations from the on-site chainsaw carver, Clayton Ryder.

  

The playground is exactly as I remember it, although smaller for some reason, but the look on my sons face, put me in mind of how I felt, playing there, all those years ago.

Can you find all of the sugary treats that gave the hungry caterpillar tummy ache? 

 I know if I’d eaten a cake this big, I would be suffering for a week! They are hidden in and around the playground, and my little cherub was so excited when he found them.

Along with the Hungry Caterpillar, you will find, a coal mine, traditional charcoal burning, (the last weekend of August), and lots of other wood carvings. You will find pieces from previous trails such as The Gruffalo, and Room on the Broom. 

  

  

There is also a bug trail, and if you don’t like our eight legged friends, then I suggest you turn away now.
  

Did I mention the great archives library they have on site? Surely I mentioned the ferret walks, and the Pigs?

There is literally loads to see and do here, they have an art gallery where they showcase great local artists, and many other attractions on certain dates. Check out the Dean Heritage Centre website for further information.

All in all, a great escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life, whether that’s into the magical past for you, or the wonderful world of books for your kids.

King of the Wild Things is a series of posts about the wonderful places your children would love to visit in the Forest of Dean. Check out other posts in the series by clicking the following links.

Perrygrove Railway

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The Pembrokeshire Coast

Last week we took a well earned break, and introduced the little boy to a traditional British beach holiday.

This year, as last, we visited the Pembrokeshire coast, staying at the excellent White Gate Caravan Park. This five star rated park is set in the quiet, and aptly named Pleasant Valley, and is mere minutes away from the coast and sandcastle heaven.

Our hosts, John, Charlotte, and their lovely little boy made us feel welcome from the get go, and were more than happy to help us achieve the perfect holiday experience, letting us know what is going on in the area. They definitely deserve the five stars they have been rated.

A visit to Pembrokeshire would be incomplete without a visit to at least one of the fifteen castles in the area. Last year we visited Manorbier, a sort of a trip down memory lane from my boyhood. This year we visited the daddy of them all Pembroke Castle.

  

You can imagine the excitement for a little boy, running around this massive castle, exploring all the little nooks and crannies. There is also lots to entertain older children, and adults alike, as the castle comes to life to explain its rich history.

The British weather being what it is, you can always expect a drop or three of rain, even in June, and this week was no exception. Luckily for us it was only the first couple of mornings, so it didn’t dampen our spirits.

  

With the rain freshly cleared up, off we trotted to Anna Ryder Richardson’s Manor House Wildlife Park, to visit the rhinos, and tigers. Unfortunately, the Sumatran cats aren’t yet at the park, but there are still plenty of other animals, to keep the little ones entertained, including lots of lovely meerkats trying to sell insurance to the visitors.

With the sun now out, complete with hat, (hip hip hooray,) we got to hit the beaches! Starting from left to right, along our little bit of coastline, we have Tenby, Saundersfoot, Wiseman’s Bridge, (our closest to White Gate,) Amroth, Marros, and Pendine. They are all beautiful beaches, and depending on which you chose, you can have all the hustle and bustle of Tenby, or you can have the beach to yourself at Marros.

As with all beach holidays it’s not just the bucket and spade that’s compulsory!

  

As you can imagine a week of sun sea and sand, meant that we HAVE to eat ice cream, CONSTANTLY! It’s the law, don’t you know.

No matter how much fun you can have at the seaside, (and we had lots!) it still wasn’t the crowning jewel of our holiday, oh no, that prize goes to Folly Farm.

  

When it comes to farm parks, I’ve seen more than my fair share over the last two years, but all pale in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, in the eyes of a two year old they are all wonderful places where bunnies can be petted, and soft play areas are as big as football pitches, (in their eyes), but Folly Farm goes that one step farther and appeals to the child buried deep within the hearts of us parents. 

I know for a fact that most dads would jump on this little digger in the sand pit, alongside their toddler and dig holes. Across the other side of the path at Folly Farm is dad heaven.
 

Once little Harry has learned how to milk a goat, why not show him how this little family feed.

   

And if your family tire of watching the zebra and giraffe graze, or the penguins swimming around under water, then I guess you could take in the adventure playground that IS the size of a football pitch.

  

If you manage to do all that, and still have energy/time left in the day, then the indoor fairground is worth a visit. Some of Britain’s oldest steam powered carousels, waltzers, and ghost trains, are not only on display, but you can ride them to your hearts content.

   

     

Dotted around this large fairground, you can find a hall of mirrors, hook the duck, rifle ranges, and all the old stall games your grandparents would remember playing in their youth.

All in all, I’d say that in our busy week in Pembrokeshire, we only covered about a third of all the activities available.

Bare in mind that most things are off the agenda with a toddler, due to age, or height restrictions, and you can start to imagine what fun can truly be achieved with the likes of roller coasters and lazer quests or paintball.

I think there will be many more visits to this area over the next 20 years, and we will never tire of it!

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King of the Wild Things: Perrygrove Railway

Perrygrove, as JB will attest to, is a wonderful place. After two hours of riding the trains, running around the woods and the play areas, I had to drag him, kicking and screaming back to the car.*

The main attraction is the 15″ gauge railway, and the trains that run every weekend, and every day during the school holidays. The journey snakes around ancient woodlands, and lasts about 20 minutes. It is a great way to introduce your young children to the beauty of trains, as I found out the hard way. Fear not, you can ride the train as many times as you like between 10:30 and 17:00.

  
This year they have introduced an extra day to the weekly calendar, with “Toddler Tuesday’s”+ which runs up until the end of October. Here your toddlers can enjoy the day at their own pace, without the hustle and bustle of lots of older children, while they are at school.

The 3/4 mile track runs through four stations, that all lead to lovely woodland walks, the bluebells dappled in sunlight, gave me a great sense of adventure and escapism. I can only wonder at how amazing this must be for JB.

  

Taking the train all the way to the final station, ‘Foxy Hollow’, you will find a wonderful picnic area, and an under cover play area complete with rope bridges, and climbing frames.

  

It took me a while to get the wee fella, to leave all this fun behind, but with the promise of something even better he reluctantly followed, and boy, he was not disappointed!

Here at Perrygrove they have a treetop village, and it is nothing shy of amazing for the little ones. Complete with rope bridge and slide, it’s even accessible for prams and wheelchairs.

  

  
It’s a bit of a tight squeeze in places, for adults running around after their toddlers, trying to take photos, but luckily I’m a little shorter than your average bear. Luckily my feet can just reach the floor!

  
After an exhausting hour of running around, we headed to the café, where JB played with the Big Jig trains, and I traded my train ticket for a brew.

Other great little ways to entertain the young uns, incude the ‘treasure hunt’. Follow the clues to find the treasure boxes, dotted around the stations and woodlands. Or maybe they’d like to try there hand at building a den in the woods. Or run around the indoor village and explore the secret passages.

  
 
 

One word of warning if you plan on coming here to Perrygrove, have a hearty breakfast! Trust me, you’ll need it!

Fancy a birthday party for your cherub, and all their friends? Or maybe you’d like to get married on the train? Perrygrove will go out of their way to accommodate you, just click the link and get in touch. They will be happy to help.

King of the Wild Things is a series of posts about the wonderful places your children would love to visit in the Forest of Dean. Check out other posts in the series by clicking the following links.

Dean Heritage Centre

* Please be aware, I am actually using artistic licence here. There was no dragging, kicking, or screaming involved, just a little whining that we had to go home for dinner.

+ Please note, “Toddler Tuesday’s” run a diesel engine, not a steamy. But if you’re here come the weekend, or during the holidays, and you keep your ticket, you will get 10% off your entry, and enjoy a day on the steam engines.

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