Thursday, 28 June 2012

Summer Days at College Lake

As the school holidays approach, I start to feel that particular fear only felt by parents who know that they have to entertain demanding children for 12 hours a day for 6 whole weeks! Maths is not my strong point but that seems like a lot of hours to fill, and surely there is only so much Rastamouse that one can take.

My biggest fear during this time is hearing them utter the sentance that strikes an icy cold fear upon my heart "mummy please can we go to soft play today...?"Now I know that soft play has its place and is worth its weight in gold on a rainy day but I really do dread it. The loud music, the hot fetid environment and the fact that invariably I end up looking after someone elses toddler, and whilst I huff and puff away trying to help little John/Jane their parents are usually sitting serenely with a nice latte and steadfastly refusing to make eye contact with me. This is not good for the soul or in fact for the bank balance!

So this summer I am determined that me and the children will get back to nature and make the most of the great outdoors.

One local nature reserve that I particularly recommend for parents is College Lake in Tring, Berkshire. This wonderful place has turned a disused chalk quarry into a nature lovers paradise with woodland walks, birdwatching, a bee museum and even a "hide" where children can sit and look out over a pond at eye level. There are plenty of facilities that make it child friendly such as baby changing and an eco cafe but best of all its FREE (although you are welcome to give a donation when you visit).

There is a sense of serenity about College Lake, it feels a million miles away from everyday life. Children are encouraged to really interact with nature here. They can enjoy spotting rare bird species soaring above the wetland marshes, running along chasing butterflies and smelling the many different wildflowers that grow in the fields and hedgerows. I love the fact that when we visit we can let the children roam freely, uninhibited by the usual shouts of parental angst as there are wide open spaces and no cars around.

They also run special days for children. In April we were lucky enough to go to a "Stick Day" run by authors Fiona Danks and Jo Scholfield. During this session children could explore the environment and discover what could be made with twigs. It really brought it home how much money we spend on toys that are basically plastic junk instead of using the treasures in our own back gardens. We made a stick hobby horse, a stick crown, nests and even a stick kite - that actually flew. It was a great day and a definite plus of running around in the fresh air is that we all seem to sleep better. This summer I think we are going to try their pond dipping workshop - who knows what we will find!

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