#OutdoorsBeforeChores pledges update

You may remember that I said I would share a personal pledge to be more mindful and get outdoors throughout August and September, with a bit of background about why that pledge might be good for a healthy mind. Well here’s how my first fortnight has gone…

Pledge 1: I pledge to notice how being outdoors makes me feel

There’s evidence all around us that the outdoors is vital to our physical and mental wellbeing. As the founding idea behind Minds Out I chose this as my first #OutdoorsBeforeChores pledge. Here’s what I discovered:

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A stunning little ladybird found when cutting flowers for friends

Following this pledge helped me find and explore new places as well as consider my internal experience of the outdoors. A few of my favourite outdoors moments from this pledge were:

  • Wet hair in the wind – so much more refreshing than a hairdryer;
  • The smell of outside on a fresh cool morning;
  • Gardening barefoot – I’ve lost my gardening shoes, but that’s less of a problem while it’s still summer (in theory!); and
  • Cutting flowers from my garden to share with a friend (instead of buying cut flowers).

I also loved the physical aspects of getting outside – moving my body, and feeling the wind/sun/rain on my skin (all-weather August!). These experiences almost instantly translated into good feelings inside, lifting my mood if I was a bit glum or helping me to breathe deeper and feel calm when I’m anxious.

Does the outdoors affect how you feel?

Pledge 2: I pledge to bring mindfulness into my day

Mindfulness is very vogue at the moment, with lots of media mentions of it and a huge focus on how it can benefit us in every aspect of our lives. I came across it as a tool around 2 years ago during a challenging time in my life as my partner and I discovered fertility issues that lay behind our difficulty to conceive. It was a tough time for lots of reasons and I found myself constantly obsessing about this big stuff, which I had no control over. Mindfulness was a way to stay in the moment and not let my thoughts run away or completely dominate my existence. This turned out to be an important skill before, throughout, and beyond fertility treatment. I found myself turning to these techniques throughout pregnancy, during labour, and as a new parent. I truly believe that mindfulness is an essential life skill for us all, with infinite uses. But wanted to use this pledge to test out everyday mindfulness and how I might go about bringing this into my daily life. Here’s how I got on:

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It often takes a beautiful sight like this sunset sky to make me remember to take a mindful moment

I found this pledge incredibly hard to maintain. It really gave me appreciation of what a skill it is to be mindful on a daily level – rather than simply to draw on it in times of need. I found that life got in the way and I often got to the end of the day and realised I’d not ‘been mindful’ all day and that busy days had passed in a blur. I chose to take a lesson from this because a key principle of mindfulness is to be kind and non-judgemental with your mind. I decided that this pledge was a lifelong learning that I could always keep trying to master.

Do you have a mindfulness routine that helps you to be mindful every day?

Top 9(!)… parks

A good park is such a great resource to have. It’s a place you want to go when the weather is great and you’ve had time to pack a picnic and plan the outing – but also a back-up for those days when you absolutely must get out but lack the time, imagination or energy for anything more adventurous. I’m not talking about little local playparks, but those bigger parks which are worth 10-20 mins in the car and have something for everyone.

I’m sharing 2 of my favourite parks here, as well as 7 parks that you raved about in response to the first draft of this blog post. I’ll add pictures when I’ve got around to visiting these new gems. So my Top 5 has become Top 9! Feel free to add any others you think we’ve missed by commenting below – and maybe it will become a Top 10.

1. Farnham Park – Farnham, GU9 0AU

IMG_1002This beautiful green flag status park has so much to offer. If you came prepared I think you could pretty much camp out for the day and still not run out of things to do. Here are a couple of the main highlights for me:

  • Amazing play parks for all ages.
  • Perimeter path that’s brilliant for buggy walks and long (and hilly!) enough for a bit of exercise.
  • Beautiful views and loads of established trees – great for the soul.
  • Lovely cafe with very reasonably priced refreshments and yummy cakes.
  • You can nip into town for a few chores – and no expensive car parking needed for the pleasure, plus it’s a scenic route down!

Check out the website for more info.

 

2. Sandhurst Memorial Park – 30 Brittain Ct, Sandhurst GU47 9DP

IMG_1219Another green flag park, there are loads of delights that are hidden from view when you first arrive here. Beyond the lovely Pistachios in the Park Cafe and next door skate park you’ll find so many more things to explore. These are my favourite things about this park:

  • Fantastic duck-feeding and swan watching options.
  • Adventurous and imaginative play park, including zip wire, climbing blocks, and a fantastic wonky slide (you’ll just have to go to see what I mean!).
  • Shepherds Meadows Nature Reserve is adjacent and brilliant for a peaceful walk or some nature spotting.
  • Pooh sticks and paddling opportunities in the various different waterways that run through the nature reserve and park.

Here’s some more info.

 

3. Frimley Lodge – Sturt Road, Frimley Green, Mytchett, Surrey GU16 6HY

One of @atinyjourney‘s recommendations. It’s quite well known for its miniature railway and has absolutely loads of facilities, and a cafe on site. Have you been? What’s your verdict?

More info on where to find it and facilities here.

 

4. Hook Meadow Recreation Ground – Croft Lane, Crondall, Farnham, Surrey

@elloemma shared this recommendation, with the following comments: “A real gem for smaller ones is the park in Crondall. It is enclosed (helpful for runaways) but has [an] amazing range of playground equipment. Plus free parking!”

 

5. Hogmoor Inclosure (Bordon)

This is a brand new development that’s part of a regeneration project. There’s loads planned,  including cycle routes, footpaths, play areas and games areas, a skate park and allotments. @elloemma checked out the newly opened facilities and had this to say: “Blown away by the nature playground at the Hogmoor Inclosure near Borden. Brilliant place for children – particularly school aged due to the equipment… Slight issue is no toilets yet or proper car park other than on Friday and Saturday (not sure about Sundays) as it won’t be finished til Spring 2018.”

I’m not 100% certain of the best address to share, due to the car park issue above, but the nature reserve runs from Liphook Road, Whitehill, heading north to Alexandra Park, Bordon. I’ll plot the best point to aim for in terms of parking once I’ve recce’d it myself.

More info from the Ranger service who are providing 24-hour cover here.

 

6. King George V Park – Sycamore Road, Farnborough. GU14 6RQ

Thanks to Lianne, who voted for this park noting “it actually has toilet facilities and usually an ice cream van!”

More info here.

 

7. Eastrop Park – Eastrop Ln, Basingstoke RG21

Recently awarded a green flag, this park was another tip from well seasoned park finder Lianne, who loves to take her girls on the pedaloes here.

More info here.

 

8. Gostrey Meadow – Union Road, Farnham, GU9 7RT

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This park got 2 separate rave reviews. It’s in central Farnham, so you can combine a visit with anything you might want to check out in town at the same time. Bear in mind you’ll need to pay for parking nearby. We checked it out since receiving recommendations and particularly loved the giant sandpit and varied play park equipment. The river runs through the park and there are loads of beautiful weeping willows that make great picnic spots.

More info.

 

9. Aldershot Park and Play Area – Guildford Road, Aldershot, GU12 4BP

Lake, cafe, play area – there’s plenty on offer at this extensive park.

More info here.

 

Do you agree with my selections? Have you got others to add to the list, or which beat these ones for you? Add your comments below, or use my social channels to tell me what you think!

#OutdoorsBeforeChores

Is this a familiar tension in your household?

Would you like to spend more time outdoors?

Do you often get to the end of the day and realise that you’ve run yourself ragged getting through endless chores without having a peaceful moment to yourself?

If the answer’s yes to any of these questions then why not join me for some #OutdoorsBeforeChores time this summer!

Every week in August and September I’ll share a personal pledge to be more mindful and get outdoors, with a bit of background about why that pledge might be good for a healthy mind.

I’ll be totally honest about what did and didn’t work for me and will share what I learn from the experience. I’d love you to share your experiences too and let me know how you get on with carving out a slice of time for you in among your busy summer (which inevitably revolves around the big little people in your life).

You can find out more by searching #OutdoorsBeforeChores or by following any of my pages:

  • Facebook @MindsOutFleet
  • Instagram @minds_out
  • Twitter @minds_out

Together we can break our chores habits and get a daily dose of mindful time spent outdoors.

Butterfly and buzzard spotting at Selborne Common

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I moved to leafy Hampshire a year and a half ago. I’ve been a full time mum for most of that time, and meeting new mum friends has worked wonders on my local knowledge of outings and adventure spots. But I’ve only recently begun to explore East Hampshire. Selborne Village, near Alton, is a brilliant place to start as it’s under 30 minutes’ drive from Fleet, along the A31, and has loads of lovely places to explore in and around it – Jane Austen’s House, Gilbert White’s House, and the Lavender Fields to name a few.

Today we headed to the grazing common at Selborne, which is cared for by the National Trust. It’s a special place, with a rich history, and it makes for a great spot for family adventures.

There are no National Trust facilities there but – for those of you who aren’t members – this means it’s free to the public (with the option to donate to the maintenance cause of this beautiful area). You can park (again, free) behind the Selborne Arms pub, which is a good lunch spot depending on the time of your visit. If you fancy a whole day out then this car park is also shared by the Gilbert Whites estate (that’s a whole other future blog post there, as there’s so much to discover!).

Follow the clearly marked footpath, which starts next to the public toilets, through a shady glen until you reach a National Trust sign. From here the path climbs in a steep-ish zig zag up a high bank called “Selborne Hanger” (see below for my comments on age appropriacy). There are some stunning view/rest(!) points along the way, with benches that look out onto Selborne Village and its South Downs National Park and farmland surrounds.

After the climb the common opens out into pretty flat woodlands with some open grassland too. You can hear, smell and see that this is a spot for wildlife – no wonder the National Trust highlight the walking trail for good nature spotting.

Dressed in my Birkenstocks with a young one strapped to my back I wasn’t ready for a long walk, so we just pottered about admiring the butterflies and listening to some exciting-sounding bird calls. We caught a glimpse of a bird of prey flying right above our heads with something in its beak and later on we saw an enormous bird dive down to the road, which was almost certainly a buzzard. The calls seem to match and so this is how we came to see a buzzard on our butterfly spotting adventure (we *think*, with the help of my mum’s expertise)!

On the drive home we passed the beautiful lavender fields at Hartley Park Farm. If it wasn’t nearly lunchtime we would have popped in – the purple haze was very tempting! I bet it smells incredible this time of the year. It’s an interesting drive for driver and passengers alike – 1 buzzard diving, 1 tractor were our highlights – because of the beautiful countryside and easy roads (A31 and the windy country roads around Dora’s Green Road).

This whole area has so much to explore. I can’t wait to come back with friends and family for a more thorough exploration.

How to’s:

  • Because of the steep climb to get to the common this isn’t accessible for buggies. I’d recommend it for parents with babies as long as you have a carry sling. For toddlers it’s great adventuring territory for any age once they have the stamina for a long-ish walk (3 or 4+).
  • There is a cafe and pub by the car park, and public toilets (baby changing and potty available), so there are plenty of facilities on hand. There’s a children’s play area in the pub beer garden too.
  • If you bring your own picnic take a rucksack as you have to walk for a good 20 minutes from the car until you reach flatter spots.
  • There are cattle grazing on the land so if you’re not a fan of cows then best avoided!
  • Dogs are welcome as long as they are well behaved and kept under control at all times, due to the rich wildlife that lives on the common.

Where to’s:

  • Map to GU34 3JR and you’ll get to the centre of the village. The car park is behind the Selborne Arms pub.

Beach adventures at Frensham Great Pond

With the weather hotting up again it seems like a good time for me to share my experiences of our closest “beach” with you. Frensham Great Pond isn’t on the coast at all – as you can probably tell from its name.

But it’s an easy drive away and there is a sandy beach, yummy ice cream, and swimming or paddling to be enjoyed (when conditions permit). So if you grab an umbrella / uv tent, blanket, and pack a picnic you can comfortably set up for the day here. A friend and I went with our 1-year-olds, who had so much fun playing in the sand in a shady spot under a tree that we didn’t even get round to the paddling part. We’ll just have to go back!

At the time of writing this post the pond’s water quality is affected by blue green algae, so swimming isn’t possible. This can be a problem in certain conditions so go prepared for the possibility of sun and sand without the “sea” element. There is clear signage when the water tests show swimming may not be safe, so look out for that. But even without the water there is plenty to enjoy and you can be certain of some good, safe, run-around-and-chuck-a-ball options for little ones of toddling age and above (dogs aren’t allowed on the beach itself).

So what else is on offer here? There’s a private sailing club further around the pond so it can be a great boat watching spot. And the surrounding common has 8 miles of bridleways and 7 miles of footpaths, with lots of exciting nature and biodiversity to explore. The paths aren’t all suited to buggies so adventures on foot (or with a carrier if you have tiny ones), or bike, are best.

If you enjoy your nature spotting there are some unusual creatures here to look out for, like the rare sand lizards, Dartford warblers, nightjars, and, apparently, a carnivorous plant called the sundew!

Sound good? Here’s some practical stuff to help you plan your outing:

How to’s:

  • Arrive early for easy access to shady parking and the best spots on the beach. There are a few areas of trees that offer shade, which is really worth it on a hot day.
  • Parking is free throughout the week? And £4 at weekends (unless you’re a National Trust member, and then it’s free as long as you display your sticker).
  • There is a kiosk selling food and drink but it’s limited to chips, hot and cold drinks, and scooped ice creams.
  • You might want to avoid bringing your buggy onto the beach. As you probably know, sand is a bit of a nightmare for buggy wheels, and this man-made beach has a deep layer of sand. Lightweight pushchairs might be a little more manageable if you need to bring a “nap-mobile”.
  • It’s a great mid-week day out but becomes much busier at weekends in good weather, so if you want to dodge the crowds go during the week or head there early.

Where to’s:

  • The website has some useful info and an interesting leaflet with some details of the history and a map of the site.
  • GU10 2QB is the closest postcode but bear in mind that it won’t take to you exactly the right place for parking. Once you turn into Bacon Lane look out for a driveway (on your left, if you’re coming from Fleet and Farnham), which has Frensham Common signposted. This comes before the Google map pin so it can be a bit confusing.

Do you think you’ll add it to your outings list?

What is Minds out all about?

tricycle-691587_1920_blogIn my first year-and-a-bit of mumhood I have found the outdoors an extremely necessary part of my daily routine, physically and mentally. I’ve noticed how important this is for fellow mums too. So this is my mission to focus on getting outdoors and using mindfulness to appreciate nature. I hope I can provide ideas and inspiration for you too.

When days seem to either drag or become a busy monotony of tasks that I have to complete in order to get the washing done / feed the baby / make the dinner / do the life admin / a mix of all of the above, I find that making time to step outside – even if only for a 10-minute walk to the post box – always feels good.

Scientifically and spiritually, getting outdoors benefits mind, body and soul. And if it feels good for us mums then we can safely assume that it feels good for the small people in our lives. If these ideas interest you then I hope you will find my blog useful. Here are some things I plan to cover:

  • “Top 5’s” and ideas for getting out and about in the area – I’ll do the legwork so that you busy mums can have outdoors adventures and excursions with minimal faff.
  • Ideas for nature games and projects – I’ll test a bunch of nature-based activities and share them with you so that you can easily recreate them in your home and garden.
  • Inspiration for mindfulness and self-care, for parents and children – I’m choosing to make mindfulness a focus in my life because I believe it is a really valuable tool for now and the future, for myself, for me as a mum, and for my child.
  • Mental wellbeing research and initiatives – I’ll digest and share the ones that make for a good read with you, in case you would like to learn more about developments in this important area.

If you would like to join me in “getting outdoors to explore nature mindfully” so that we can enjoy some daily calm in our busy routines then I would love to hear your thoughts. So please drop me a line on one of my social pages or comment on the blog post; or use the contact form on this site.

Let’s take this outside!
*NB – I live in Fleet, Hampshire, and the outings that I share will all be within a short drive from here.