August 2012

We kept ourselves pretty busy over the school summer holidays. Two camping trips, family visitors over the middle weekend and lots of exciting day trips.
The first camping trip was a full week away with our friends Linda and Richard and their dog Jazz at a site just outside Blandford Forum in Dorset. It was bounded on all sides by woodland and farmland which meant the kids had freedom to explore like never before.
There were several waymarked cycle paths...

... and lots of opportunities to build elaborate shelters and dens within the woods - which they did both on their own and with new friends.

Some of the cycle paths were especially good for mountain biking and Matthew and Cassandra both built up their confidence for speed as the week went on. This bowl at the end of one of the loops was a particular favourite...

Cycling in Blandford

Not to be outdone, Richard and Jazz attempted a similar jump without the bike...
Richards running jump

We were really lucky with the weather. After a couple of rainy nights, we had pretty much uninterrupted sun for the rest of the week which meant for some lovely sunsets ...

and the opportunity to get a little fire going and sit out until late. You really can't beat collecting wood and then sitting around a camp-fire, or in our case a camp-barbecue.

We alternated between days spent relaxing at the camp site and day trips out. Our first was to the south coast beach at Durdle Door, named after the hole in the rock that dominates the beach. Everyone had a paddle but only Chris and Cassandra were brave (or foolish) enough to go for a swim. The water may have looked inviting but it was bitterly cold after a month of rain and without wet-suits it quickly went from invigorating to unpleasant.

However, there were plenty of other things to keep us occupied at the beach apart from swimming. We watched a group of brave souls climbing the rocks and jumping in - tomb-stoning they call it, after the high likelihood of death ... though these guys were only jumping from around 6-10 metres up which probably wasn't too risky.

The coastline is great for exploring with many remote and isolated sections ...

... and caves within the cliff faces to investigate.
Here's Matthew with Richard up near one of the smaller caves...

... and then sitting just outside one of the larger ones.

All in all, a great day out - although it did take Cassandra the best part of an hour to properly warm up after her swim.

Another day trip took us down to Weymouth. The Olympics were still in full swing and whilst we didn't make any effort to see any of the actual sailing races, we did enjoy soaking up the atmosphere and playing 'spot the games-maker' (the army of volunteers in their delightful pink and purple tracksuits).
Cassandra and Matthew even got a chance to play at being Wenlock, or is it Mandeville?

Whilst in Weymouth we also went to the Sea Life Centre... had a round of mini-golf...

... and visited the extraordinary Sand World sculpture park, where huge creations standing around 5m tall had been constructed entirely out of beach sand.
This is without a doubt, the most elaborate sand castle any of us had ever seen...

Other exhibits, which were supposed to be around a Greek or Olympic theme, included fabulous battle scene, each exquisitely detailed yet huge in scale - some as much as 10m wide.

What impressed the children the most though was the massive sand pit complete with kit for building your very own mega sandcastles. The trick was to ensure that the sand was suitably wet all the way through - hoses were provided so that you could give the sand a good soaking whilst in the moulds. After one false start, Matthew and Chris quickly knocked up this 2 foot tall gatehouse whilst Cassandra opted for a more unusual 'dripped' castle created with very wet sand.

It kept them all busy for ages and when it was time to go, both were invited to knock them over to make space for the next visitors. Matthew didn't want to but Cassandra was more than happy - though she clearly forgot how tough moulded sand can be and almost broke her foot...

Cassandra Destroys her Castle

Back at the camp-site and we were joined one afternoon by our old friend Keith. Borrowing Megan's bike, we dragged Keith round the cycle tracks...

... and showed him all our hard work with the den building.

This last one was probably our best effort of the week - very neatly constructed and looking a lot like Eeyore's House from the Winnie the Pooh stories.

The following weekend, Chris's sister and family came to visit and we had such a fantastic time in the beautiful sunshine that we forgot to take any photos. The kids played in the paddling pool and water slide for almost two whole days and the grown-ups got to sit outside until gone 11 o'clock each evening - helped by another make-shift camp-fire in the form of a disused washing machine drum. A perfect deck-sized brazier.
Somehow, the only photo that was taken over the weekend was of Matthew and his cousin Nicholas dressing up in Cassandra's leotards. Don't ask why - we didn't.

Back to camping now - and time for some proper fire making. This was the 2012 Family Camp for the 2nd Aldershot scout group, held at a site a few miles south east of Guildford.
It was an activity filled weekend, with pedal karts, swimming ...

... archery and air rifle shooting...

...proper climbing walls and ropework for climbing trees.

There was even a demonstration on fire-making and survival from an ex-army type - though Chris didn't need any fire-starting lessons and was presented with the official 'pokie stick' at home time for his efforts in keeping the camp-fire burning throughout the weekend.

Here's Cassandra having a go at fire-starting the SAS-way with the back of a very sharp knife against a magnesium flint...

Cassandra fire starter

We arrived home to discover a new visitor. A hedgehog had found its way down onto the patio and, we think, had been unable to get back up the steps into the garden. Megan took the opportunity to get a few photos and then we leant some planks up the steps to see if our guest would find its way back up into the garden. The next morning it was gone - but we're pretty sure its still around so we'll leave the make-shift ramp in place for a little while longer.