Posts in Spring
Spring One Pot Spaghetti with Lemon, Peas and Broad Beans
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Lottie tickles our tastebuds!

The months of March, April and May are often a funny, in-between experience. Some days are bright and kissed with a sunshine so warm, it feels as if summer has arrived, months early. Other days, however, are resolutely, almost doggedly grey and bitter with a sharp breeze, clinging onto the last throws of winter. And of course there are the days in which the weather is neither here nor there and you will choose to wear tights, or not to wear tights, and your decision will ultimately be wrong. As is the way with these undecided days.

Cooking in these months is also susceptible to this odd in-between, where pie or salad could be craved from one day to the next.  

This spaghetti is excellent at bridging the gap between winter and summer eating, boasting both fresh flavours and comforting pasta. It also does not jump the gun on what’s in season, whilst we’re all still waiting patiently for the asparagus harvest.

Frozen beans and peas are to thank for this. Because whilst we’re desperately ready for a change in season, this year’s summer produce is still growing, benefitting from the first warm days of the year just as we are, but still not ready to be picked and stirred into our suppers.

So in spring heat waves, while we still have to wait a little longer for Panzanella, laden with overripe tomatoes and British berries sweet with sunshine, we can feast on this spaghetti. It is ready to satisfy your spring supper cravings as soon as the first warm breeze rolls in and will still comfort you when that breeze inevitably and erratically turns cold once more.

 

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Spring One Pot Spaghetti with Lemon, Peas
and Broad Beans

Serves 4 generously

  • 400g spaghetti

  • 800ml vegetable stock

  • 200ml white wine (or an additional 200ml vegetable stock)

  • 50ml olive oil

  • 1 white onion, sliced thinly

  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly

  • 200g frozen peas

  • 200g frozen broad beans

  • 150g spinach

  • 1 lemon, zest and juice

  • a handful of soft herbs like mint or basil, torn.

  • 40g Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve

  • salt and pepper

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Put the spaghetti, vegetable stock, olive oil, onion, garlic and lemon zest into a large pot and put over a medium for 7 minutes, or 3 minutes less than the packet cooking time, stirring the spaghetti as it cooks.

  2. Add the beans, peas, and spinach and cook for a further three minutes until the frozen beans are cooked through and the spaghetti is cooked.

  3. Remove from the heat and stir through the soft herbs, Parmesan and lemon juice. Leave to stand for a minute or so to let the lemony sauce thicken.

  4. Serve with a little more Parmesan if you like, and additional herbs.

 

You can find Lottie on Instagram and Twitter 

SpringContributor
A Flurry of Blossom

The daffodils have wilted and the snowdrops have long gone. We've had a few days of sunshine and warm weather, so that can only mean one thing: blossom season has arrived. If you haven't already had your fill on Instagram, here's a flurry of blossom images from the lovely Annie Spratt. If you're interested in taking photographs of flowers, or anything in nature, you might find Annie's walking seasonal photography workshop at our Summer Gathering of interest - click here for more information.

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Hellebores: The Subtle Harbingers of Spring
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Spring has just made a tentative entrance, and we all breathe a sigh of relief as the temperatures gradually start to rise. The days become longer and our state of near-hibernation is thrown back like a discarded blanket. First come the snowdrops, bravely flowering despite the chill winds and hail. Then, at last, the daffodils begin to bloom. Those yellow trumpets herald the true retreat of winter. Swathes of gold along the verges; so many bright stars atop grey-green leaves and stems. They punctuate the still bare and colourless garden and join other early spring favourites - pussy willow, Ribes Sanguineum (the flowering currant) and, not long after, tulips.

I’ve always preferred native plants and flowers. Non-showy specimens which would look equally at home in a woodland or meadow as in the cottage garden. One exception would be the dahlia; there’s something irresistible about those oil pastel-bright blooms in late summer, particularly when they’re growing amongst the herbs and vegetables.

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But another personal favourite is the hellebore. A member of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family, it’s a herbaceous perennial which originated in parts of Europe and Asia. It’s fully hardy and easy to grow providing you have an area of rich, well-drained soil and dappled shade. Some hellebores are perfectly happy in containers so most gardens, big or small, should be able to accommodate a plant or two.

Hellebores can easily be overlooked when it comes to late winter and early spring flowers. They’re far more subtle, less attention-seeking than the fizzing sulphurs of daffodils, aconites and Forsythia. Some of the blooms are so dark you might not even spot them at first glance. The flower heads, in most cases, face downwards so you’ll need to lift them gently to take a closer look. But once you do, you’ll be smitten.

There’s quite the array of varieties: single or double-flowered, simple flower forms or deeply frilled. The pure white of the Helleborus niger (or ‘Lenten Rose’, as it’s often known) through pistachio and dusty pink to rich yellowy-creams, claret, deep damson and almost-black of H. hybridus x Harvington Black. There’s even an incredible deep blue-black with an iridescent sheen, H. Blue Metallic Lady.

If rich, moody colour is your thing then hellebores will work for you. But the paler types have beautiful markings: speckles, veining and deeply-tinted edges. The blooms can be displayed by floating the heads in water (their drooping nature means that stems in a vase won’t show the flowers to their best advantage).

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If you enjoy exploring gardens - National Trust properties, stately homes or well-maintained parks - you’re likely to find hellebores at this time of year. Head for shady spots and look out for the clumps of glossy leaves and sturdy-looking flowers, almost like wax specimens which have been fashioned for botanical study. There’s something almost Victorian about them, particularly the gothic darker varieties. Once you’ve seen hellebores you’ll want to grow some of your own, either pale and pretty or deep and dusky.

Note: hellebores can be poisonous if eaten, and can irritate the skin so take care when handling them and ensure children and pets don’t ingest them.

SpringSarah Hardman
A Buzz In The Borders
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It has been a long wait this year, but at last, I’ve heard the sound that for me marks the beginning of spring: that unmistakable buzz of a large, fuzzy bumblebee.

I don’t need to see her. From the sound alone I can tell she’s a queen buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). And then I spot her. She buzzes and bumbles over the lawn in a low, zig-zagging flight. The search for a nesting place has begun.

Bumblebee queens emerge from hibernation in the spring, hungry, and in desperate need of pollen and nectar to replenish their dwindling energy reserves. My first sighting is no exception. She leaves her zig-zagging and makes a bee-line to the patch of hellebores at the back of the garden. Soon she has disappeared into one of the wide speckled blooms.

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Over the coming weeks she will spend her time re-fuel and investigate potential places to build her nest, burrowing into old mouse holes, or the compost heap; crawling under the shed and into piles of leaves. It’s certainly no coincidence that last year a buff-tailed bumblebee colony was established close to the hellebore patch: bumblebee queens often to choose to nest where there is a plentiful source of food nearby to help produce their first batch of eggs.

Elsewhere in the garden, spring bulbs and blossom, lungwort, fritillaries, and primroses all offer early garden forage for bumbles while cheering up the beds and borders through these earliest months of the year. We leave clusters of violets and celandines that have seeded themselves around the garden from the woods beyond, and plant our own choices in clumps and drifts. Planting in this way provides plenty of forage in each place, helping the bees to conserve their energy by reducing the need to fly too far between plants.

Soon other kinds of bumblebee will begin to emerge, and we will welcome the first solitary bees too. The gentle Andrena carantonica that appear each year in the upstairs bedrooms; tawny mining bees (Andrena fulva) who make volcano-shaped nest entrances in the borders; ashy mining bees (Andrena cineraria) with their characteristic grey moustaches; the red mason bees (Osmia bicornis) that like to sun themselves on the south and west facing walls of the house; and the hairy-footed flower bees (Anthophora plumipes) that zip at speed from flower to flower among the comfrey plants.

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But for now, I am content to listen out for that deep buzz of the big bumblebee queens, hoping to spot more before they enter the confinement of their nests for the rest of the year.

 

SpringHelen Duncan
A Slow Start to Spring
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At times it seemed as though spring would never arrive. There have been false starts aplenty, with snow-covered daffodils a frequent sight, but now - finally - it feels as though there's been a shift. 

Snowdrops have given up the fight and have dropped for the last time. Crocuses are starting to be brave. Even the morning chorus is crescendoing. And there's something in the air, or something lacking, more to the point; even in the winds, the sharpness of winter has faded. 

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I've been squirrelled away indoors finishing issue three of the magazine, and the two mornings a week I dedicate to Creative Countryside have been spent editing articles, finalising layouts, and proof-reading. It's always an incredibly busy time, but I love the process of compiling the work of so many talented writers, photographers and illustrators.

These images were taken when I visited Bryn Eglur (@thewelshhouse) back in February, just before the snow arrived. The days were sunlit, and the daffodils were just emerging, and I had a quiet few hours to myself to write, plan and think. It's not often these opportunities arise, so I made the most of every minute. Reading in the bath. Watching the sun set over the fields. Listening for the owl.

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My husband, Dan, took these photos on his analogue camera, also relishing the chance to take some time for himself and a creative pursuit. I love the way he's captured the low light pouring through the window panes. I think it's the light that I'll remember most about visiting the cottage.

If you'd like to see more, Bryn Eglur is also featured in issue 3 of the magazine, available to order here


Collaboration Note:  Thank you to Dorian at The Welsh House for inviting us to stay.  All words, thoughts and images are my own. 

SpringEleanor Cheetham
Beautiful Bluebells

Common name(s): bluebell; English bluebell; British bluebell; granfer griggles; cra'tae

Scientific name: Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Wild flowers are nature’s way of encouraging us to get outside and explore. One renowned sight of Spring, is the blankets of purple bluebells which sweep across UK woodlands, revealing an impressive sight and smell!

Bluebells are a great value to our wildlife and many species of insect feed on the sweetly-scented drooping flower for nectar. According to folklore, legend says that floors of bluebells are complexly entwined with fairy enchantments and it’s their magical appearance that has often been illustrated in books and films. Unsurprisingly, numerous British surveys have reported that the bluebell is one of the nation's best-loved flowers and it's now, in May, that they are in full bloom.

Many choose to visit bluebell spots across the country including The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, where these photographs were taken. Other locations to discover are Arlington in Sussex, Skomer in Wales, Hole Park Gardens in Kent, Hackfall Wood in Yorkshire and Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey, to name a few. To check out more beautiful bluebell walks visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/bluebell-woods-near-you

SpringHollie Crawshaw
Springtime Foraging in the Woods

We’re very lucky in these parts as there’s access to plenty of beautiful woodland and open moorland. That means that as well as the ubiquitous blackberries, we can go picking whinberries (wild bilberries) on the hills in late summer – always something to look forward to and well worth the painstaking job of plucking the tiny, blue-black fruits once you’ve collected enough for a pie or crumble.

But right now it’s the perfect time to go looking for another seasonal favourite: spring greens, in the form of wild garlic and nettle tops.

I live near a town called Ramsbottom. It’s named after the ramson, or wild garlic, which grows prolifically in the area and Ramsbottom translates as ‘Valley of Wild Garlic’ (incidentally, it’s also becoming known as a bit of a foodie destination but that’s another story).

We go picking wild garlic every spring. Last year I made a batch of wild garlic butter, delicious despite its rather unconventional colour. The taste of ramsons is much milder than the usual bulbs we cook with, and it lends itself well to soups, fish and chicken dishes. You can serve it as you would spinach, simply wilted down, or mix the chopped fresh leaves with mayonnaise or soft cheese.

You’ll often smell the plant it before you see it - lush emerald green leaves giving off that distinctively pungent scent. Wild garlic grows in the woods in large clumps, and as the season progresses it produces starry white flowers. These are also edible, but once the flowers are plentiful the leaves will be getting past their best so it’s always wisest to pick early. Here in the North, that’s usually from around early April onwards.

It’s become a yearly tradition to take my little one out foraging over the Easter holidays. We always take a pair of rubber gloves so that in addition to the garlic, we can pick nettle tops. I make sure we take them from above ‘dog level’ for obvious reasons, so fortunately there’s a patch of nettles growing along the top of a dry stone wall where we can pick to our heart’s content.

I’m a great advocate of herbalism and natural remedies. If you read up on the health-giving properties of the stinging nettle, you’ll be very impressed. It’s high in iron, B complex vitamins as well as vitamins C, A, and D, and contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and beta-carotene. It’s also known as a diuretic, contains anti-histamine and has many astringent and anti-inflammatory uses. 

Again, it’s a good idea to collect nettles early in the growing season. It isn’t generally recommended to pick and use them once they’re at the flowering stage (and not to take them as a supplement during the early stages of pregnancy, or if you have low blood pressure or low blood sugar).

The leaves can be made into a tea either by steeping them in hot water (try with a little lemon and honey if the flavour’s not to your taste) or by drying the nettles and saving them in an airtight jar for future use.

Of course, you could be more adventurous and use them as an ingredient (always cook them first!) Nettle soup is a pretty well-known option, but as with wild garlic leaves they’re similar to spinach so can be added to risotto or even used as a pizza topping.

Once we’ve gathered our greens we always head home and make a huge pan of soup with chicken stock, the (well-washed) nettles and garlic, lots of chopped vegetables and plenty of seasoning. My little boy gets incredibly excited about the whole process and I’m always amazed when, despite his severe dislike of all things salad, he’ll happily wolf down a bowl of cooked leaves just picked from the woods.

Naturally, it’s all about his involvement in the process: carrying the basket, spotting the plants, scrambling up the banks to gather them. That’s the whole point of foraging. Although much-derided as a middle-class fad, it actually brings you closer to nature and seasonality. Searching for food, finding it, making use of what’s growing. Zero food miles or packaging, pesticides or cost. It’s what’s been done for generations. And if it encourages a four-year-old to eat his greens… well, I’m happy with that.

SpringSarah Hardman
Snow White Petals

Reliably unpredictable was the forecast as the freezing winter turned into a decorative pattern of humble flowers and vast green expanses, eventually blanketed by an unexpected five inches of snow, delivered fashionably late - well past the middle of April.

The transformation of the landscape was gradual, from the ochre, sepia and russet hues to that of a verdant green which magically appeared overnight.

As spring slowly, but surely, takes the main stage, dandelions now cover random fields with a carpet of blazing yellow, while the lungwort and stinging nettles sit in the shade of fruit trees along boundary lines and fences. These unpresuming plants are waiting for the bees, and the humans respectively, to appreciate their pollen and essential minerals.

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In village tradition, the gardens are being ploughed and turned with the use of horse power or tractor. The potatoes are slumbering in neat rows, waiting patiently for soil temperatures to rise; lettuce is planted closer to home, the peas and spinach too. Yet when we look beyond the conventional vegetable fare, we realize that extensive foraging is viable here in Romania. Beyond picking basketfuls of mushrooms and learning to recognize plants that are new to us, harvesting from the wild is also a wonderful way to interact with the land and the multitude of native plants it has to offer.

Already, we are adding alfalfa to salads, drinking hearty broths of raspberry stem tea (the leaves are just beginning to emerge) and dandelion leaves can be harvested by the bushelful – if only people knew what they were missing!

A warmer and sunnier spell in March saw us hiking halfway up to the crest to tap a stand of birch trees for water, apă de mesteacăn, which allowed us to taste for the first time the cleansing earthiness and energy of trees.

Red squirrels, still in their winter black fur, can be seen cracking the random walnut in the lower branches of fir trees, while the cuckoo calls from the depths of the woodlands where the sheep and shepherds roam. The hoopoe, Upupa epops, can be heard where the orchards sprawl to the west as they proclaim ownership to their territory.

All the while chickens are clucking and laying their daily farm fresh eggs, scythes are being honed, wooden rakes are carried on hardened shoulders and the work that stops only on Sundays and holidays, goes on at a steady pace, for there are always animals to feed, equipment to be repaired and seeds to be planted.

Nature is displaying her beguiling abundance with infinite blossoms as the bees and various flying insects do their best to keep up with the wind, the cold, the heat and the constantly changing weather. They must adapt, and so shall we, for although this spring is short and sweet, summer will be quickly upon us. One can already sense it by the amount of tourists coming to visit and fall in love with this quaint and delightful village of Breb.

As we experience one revitalizing season, then another, we know that patience for summer will reward us with fruits from the land and experiences to last a lifetime.

SpringCheryl Magyar
Microadventures: Where the Sea Resides….

As I’m on a quest to Walk 1000 miles this year, I seem to be manifesting some fantastic microadventures to make my quest even more interesting.  I found myself recently heading to the North Wales coastline (one of my favourite coastlines),  to glamp by the sea. Did you know there’s around 250 miles of North Wales coastline?

A trip to the coast is a delight for all of your senses. Take a deep breath in and then release slowly.  Taste the salty air, and let your taste buds imagine what treats are to come.  Stand near to crashing waves and let your skin feel the refreshing spray. Curl bare toes in the sound, letting the grains of rocks and minerals which make up the sand, caress and exfoliate.  Block out any negative thoughts with the sound of the sea lapping lazily on the seashore or the swirl of the waves as they build up, find momentum and then violently spill out all over the rocks and cliffs. Cast your gaze to the gulls drifting idly out to sea or to the boats bobbing to the motion of the ocean.

When I was young, the seaside played a big part in my life. Since my Nan’s ultimate dream was to move to North Wales by the sea, our holidays were always heavily beach related in North Wales.  Buckets and spades, frilly hats, jelly shoes and sun block were on the ‘to pack’ list whilst burying cousins in the sand, over eating ice cream, shell collecting and my Nans’s favourite ‘paddling’ was on the ‘to-do’ list.  As I reached the age of 10 or 11, school friends would holiday in the south of France,  Spain and even more exotic places. They’d ask me why I never went on holiday?  I can remember my favourite teacher stepping in and explaining to them that you didn’t need to go on a plane to go on holiday.

Going to the seaside is a typically British thing to do isn’t it?  The seaside holiday was at its peak in the 1950s and early 1960s.  Families flocked to the coastline to stay in guest houses, B&Bs and campsites,  a stone’s throw from the promise of a splashing good time and a distraction of the previous decade.  I think seaside holidays are coming back in fashion - I don’t think they ever really went out….

The health benefits of spending more time around water and in particular by the sea are of increasing interest to science.   There are many reports of people ‘feeling calmer’ by the sea, perhaps some clue in that is our body is made up of mostly water.  Still, I’m not one for needing hard facts and evidence to convince me that exposure to the sea is good for my wellbeing. I’ve seen it first hand time after time!

Now an adult, I’m extremely fortunate to live so near to the North Wales coastline. These days, beach time is a little different compared to the microadventures I shared with my Nan, but I love her for sharing and passing on her adoration for the seaside.  I lust beaches which offer coastal walks (Aberystwy to Clarach Bay is a lovely coastal walk) so I’ve to trade the jelly sandals in for more sturdy hiking boots.  I prefer to stay in quaint, quirky and more natural accommodation like the Wig-Wam I recently stayed at, which was adorable, rather than jam-packed caravan sites (sorry Nan).   I love to visit beaches out of season when they’re less crowded and dog friendly (Porthor - Whistling Sands being one of my favourites). Although, some things don’t change….  Bel seems to insist on digging herself or me in the sand, and I still over-eat on ice cream!

The UK is made up of such small islands that you’re never that far away from the coast or a beach.  It’s a perfect place for a microadventure combined with a spot of camping or glamping. I’ve not yet satisfied my salty appetite (I never will) so next month, I’m travelling to South West Wales to enjoy the Pembrokeshire award winning coast whilst at The Big Retreat Wales.

You, me and the sea - won’t you microadventure with me?

Embracing the Elements

We’re currently at the time of year when the weather throws almost everything it has at us, often in the space of a single day. It’s not unknown in these parts to have sudden snows followed by fast thaws in April (last year’s alarmingly submerged garden being a case in point). Days can start off bright and sunny, if stingingly cold, only to turn dark and stormy a few hours later. Suddenly, as the rain hammers against the windows, that planned afternoon walk doesn’t seem like such a good idea after all.

And yet… There are times and places when the bluster is to be embraced. I looked up the meaning of ‘Elements’online and the definition(s) were very interesting. These, in particular:

‘…strong winds, heavy rain, or other kinds of bad weather’

and

‘…a person's or animal's natural or preferred environment’.

The two can go together.

There’s something incredibly life-affirming about walking up on the moors on a dark, gusty day. Perhaps it’s those Bronte novel evocations: hurrying across the spongy moss and springy heather whilst rooks circle above and gnarled, stooped old hawthorns are bent further sideways by the wind. Or simply the wild, rugged landscape providing the perfect foil for leaden skies and howling gales.

An empty beach on a stormy afternoon can be a wonderful place. The waves crashing and the smell of ozone, the blackness of wet rock and the sheer desertedness can, in an odd way, be balm for the soul. Just as with homeopathy and its basic philosophy of curing like with like, time spent outdoors embracing the elements can actually help still a turbulent mind. You become aware of your place in the universe; you gain perspective and step out of any troubling thoughts. As the wind stings your face and your eyes water, as the whistling and crashing replaces any internal chatter, you become more aware of what’s surrounding you rather than what’s going on within.

Yes, a beach is beautiful on a still summer’s day. So is a meadow, or a clearing under the trees. If I get time alone during the temperate months I sometimes escape to a little secret spot of mine, high on some banking above the woods and river. I lie back in the long grass and listen to the hum of the insects. I feel the warmth from the sun and the ground beneath me, and watch the white clouds above.

But if we only went outdoor adventuring in ‘good’ weather – well, we’d spend an awful lot of our time indoors. Particularly in Britain.

So, what to do during those long weeks where all it seems to do is rain? Some of us may subscribe to the Scandinavian notion that ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’. We might pull on the waterproofs and wellies and get out there anyway. Others may just decide that we’d rather stay home and dry. What then?

Rather a long time ago, I wrote a blog post titled ‘Proximity’. It was all about my dreams of a veranda where I could sit on rainy or snowy days and observe the weather and the garden, perhaps from under a blanket. I’d still be dry and warm but I’d be able to breathe in the damp earth smell, listen to the birds, hear the rain falling on the roof above me. We can still protect ourselves from the elements without being sealed behind double glazing, cocooned by central heating, separated from the outdoors. Veranda or not – taking shelter in a greenhouse or a garden shed brings us that bit closer to nature.

When we first moved to this house (around 18 months ago) I hated our bedroom. The ceiling is vaulted to show off the heavy oak beams. The sound of passing tractors and quarry trucks seemed super-amplified without any attic space above us and I tried to convince my other half to put in a false ceiling, insulated to muffle any unwelcome sounds. I didn’t get my way and, admittedly, I’m glad. There’s nothing more comforting on a night when the rain’s coming down in stair rods than lying in bed with a book and listening to it hitting the slates.

As a child, I’d stand with my brother, the front door wide open, watching thunderstorms. The thrill of seeing the road transform into a river, the lightening crackling across the sky whilst we were safe, even if just inches away from it, was something not to be missed. It was on just the right side of daring. Not for me, hiding under the bed! It was doing something a little bit dangerous but without any real danger there, the meteorological equivalent of putting just the one toe onto the ice before jumping back again.

Have you experienced the outdoor places you love, the special ones, where you’re in your ‘element’, in all weathers? (Perhaps not the woods on a windy day, from a purely common sense point of view). I don’t know why, but some of mine always draw me there on wilder days. Just like some of them are, to me, very autumnal or wintry places, these spots call out to me when the weather turns.

Of course, as well as blowing away the cobwebs, there’s something rewarding about coming home again with red cheeks and smarting ears and tangled hair. You appreciate those home comforts all the more. Perhaps it’s all about contrasts, extremes even. You have to experience one in order to fully appreciate the other.

Microadventures: Where The Trees Grow…

Today is the first post from our new Adventure Editor, Chelsea. If you haven't seen our introduction to the new editors yet, head over here to find out more.

When I imagine adventurous escapades, I think of climbing up intimidating rock faces, trekking across uncertain terrain and paddling downstream as though your life depended on it.  However, as I embark deeper onto my Walk 1000 2017 challenge, I’m finding that everyday is an adventure, it just depends on your perspective. Last month, I walked through forests and woodlands and not only did I meet a few interesting souls along the way, it brought back much loved childhood memories. I’ve come to the conclusion that woodlands and forests certainly match the definition of a microadventure:

“Outdoor adventure that is small and achievable for normal people with real lives.” Alastair Humphreys

The woodland next door to my Nan’s house was a playground for me whilst growing up. Winter saw us re-purposing bin bags as sledges and whooshing down the banks, dodging the trees.  Autumn saw us enjoying the crunchy leaves.  Spring saw us picking bluebells and daffodils. Summer saw us playing hide and seek, hoping we wouldn't be found, yet our laughter echoed for all to hear.

We eventually moved near to a valley. Mum and I along with our two cats in the summer would go deep into the valley equipped with a packed lunch and an art set. We’d attempt to paint the scenery as Merlin and Misty played in the grass, trying to catch the gentle and unsuspecting field mice.  I was too young to perhaps appreciate how valuable this part of my childhood was.  Although I do remember cloud watching and marvelling at the idea that this paradise belonged to me.  There were many happy memories in that valley including learning to ride my first bike which resulted in a very nasty nettle rash!

Then I grew up - teenage years hit and I preferred to hang out with the local crowd; my priorities changed, unfortunately. Fast forward a decade and I met my partner who grew up in his Grandad’s forest, we moved to tree-infested Wales and just like that, my love for being surrounded by life’s giants has come back again.

"As a child I used to play in the woods with my best friend, we had a tree we called the Diamond Tree as we used to polish stones and hide them in a little nook at the bottom.”  Caroline Devonport

As I said in the beginning, Alistair’s definition of a microadventure matches perfectly with the woodland and forestry terrain since they’re accessible and mostly free to everyone in the UK.  For those of us who can’t take off for X amount of time because of commitments and such things, we do have our forests and woodlands to take time out in. I think they’re a perfect environment for young minds just starting out and equally for grown ups who want to reconnect with nature.  There are so many benefits associated with wooded areas including creativity, increased immunity and better cognitive development.  Personally I think that makes perfect sense considering trees give us oxygen and that’s the ‘stuff’ us humans need to function on!

Now I get to create more memories on a daily basis without having to trek across the world (although I’d love to see the Californian Redwood in home territory). It’s a pleasure watching my pup’s eyes almost pop out of her head at the sight of a selection of perfectly chewable sticks.  She face-dives into muddy bogs and bounces on the springy, moss-covered floor.  I enjoy late night walks among the woods with my partner, letting go of the day’s events and breathing in the clean oxygen the trees willingly give us.  I enjoy watching the fog creep around the tree barks and I bask in the morning sunrise which paints the woodland scenery in a shimmering gold.

10 Tree Inspired Adventures

  • Climb a tree
  • Play hide and seek
  • Collect different types of leaves / conkers
  • Identify the different trees there are
  • Wild camp
  • Build a shelter
  • Find a comfortable spot to sit and read
  • Forage
  • Take pictures
  • Paint a picture of a tree or of a woodland scene

Psst! In the summer you can find me walking and biking among Coed Y Brenin forest.