By Monday morning we were really starting to get into the groove of our Wild Living experience and were looking forward to spending the morning with eco-therapist Beth Collier. Under normal circumstances Beth uses the outdoors as her therapy room, specialising in helping people to build and develop relationships in nature. I had chatted to Beth a bit before our trip so that she had an idea of what we were like as a family and how used to being outdoors we already were.
We started our session with Beth by setting up a “holiday camp” – moving away from our base to another area of woodland to mark the experience out as being a bit different. This meant that different rules or expectations could be set if necessary as everything would be new again.
Beth encouraged the kids to take ownership of their holiday camp, to decide how it should be set up, what we needed to do to make it comfortable and so forth. Whilst Dave and I held back, she gently coaxed them to listen to each other’s ideas. I found this fascinating. Watching the dynamic between Ben and Chloe in particular as Ben attempted to plough ahead with his own ideas whilst not necessarily taking on board Chloe’s opinions. I noticed that Chloe was telling Ben what she wanted to do but not being able to explain her reasons, just that she wanted it to be that way which of course left him unconvinced that her ideas were any better than his own!
After some healthy debate we managed to organise our new holiday camp with logs for seating and then set about lighting the obligatory campfire. Ben and Chloe had used a flint & steel tool at camp the night before and Ben had mastered it fairly quickly so was able to light his cotton wool without too much difficulty. Chloe however found it really difficult to raise a spark from her flint & steel and was really frustrated. Under normal circumstances Chloe has a tendency to give up quite quickly if she can’t do something straight away. But she stuck at her flint & steel, she tried so hard. She managed to get it to spark but just couldn’t get the cotton wool to light and you could really see the frustration. In the end, with a bit of help from Beth, Chloe managed to lit the fire but she’d already got quite cross with herself to it took her a little while to come round again!
With a healthy campfire on the go, we sat and whittled sticks whilst chatting about mine and Dave’s experiences of being outdoors as children. I talked about how Aunty Nic and I used to play on this massive broken tree branch in a field behind the house and pretend it was a dinosaur, or how we would make dens in a hollow tree or paddle in the beck. I could totally see how sitting around a campfire with the distraction of a little whittling would allow for some great conversation to develop and allow people to open up.
Having warmed up with an entirely necessary hot chocolate, we set off to explore our surroundings. We found a little stream with tadpoles in and learned to identify some different plants and trees before collecting some leaves for an art activity.
Beth showed the children how to create some natural art by placing leaves between folds of fabric and then bashing them with a stone to release the juices. Chloe in particular really enjoyed this activity, Ben lacked patience which I can’t say surprised me.
We returned to base camp with hungry tummies and full of stories for Boss Ben about what we’d been up to while we’d been away. We cooked pizza on the campfire (who knew?) before making the most of the calm day to have a little trip out on the tarn in a canoe! I may have struggled to get out again . . . I can’t deny being glad that Dave wasn’t filming that!
We spent the afternoon at Boss Ben’s favourite climbing tree where I came to the conclusion that Boss Ben is actually part mountain goat! Watching him walking along branches and jumping between them was an impressive sight and Ben was in awe. Much like his Daddy, Ben has been a keen tree climber for quite some time now so was in his element being allowed to clamber around the old oak tree. Boss Ben taught him how to move between two branches and the safest way to jump off.
The following morning was super cold and meant none of us were feeling particularly motivated, we had a fairly lazy morning at camp making the most delicious pizza breads served with super crispy bacon for breakfast which warmed our tummies nicely.
Ben, still buzzing from his tree climbing expedition the day before, set himself the challenge of travelling to the midway point along a rope which was holding up the tarp over the kitchen. I loved watching him develop his skills to a point where he could get up onto the rope and pull himself along at a reasonable pace – he was so determined to succeed and just kept going back to it until he got it right. The sense of achievement the first time he reached the middle of the rope was huge! (And the bruise he got on his thigh from falling off was pretty impressive too!)
After breakfast Boss Ben put up a special tree tent to entertain the kids – it is essentially a three person hammock but what a den it makes when you’re little! They were so happy to play about in their tent whilst we sat round the campfire chatting and keeping warm!
After lunch Boss Ben dropped us off at our hotel in Grange over Sands where we were going to be staying for a bit of a comfort break – to allow everyone to get properly clean and warm, to use an actual toilet, access the WiFi and to be able to charge up my cameras and battery packs etc. The following day was to be a “day off” before we met up with Boss Ben again on Thursday morning.
*This post forms part of a paid collaboration with Piri Allergy*