New year’s resolutions?

SatelliteAs the sun shone on Sunday, a herd of runners pounded past me on the Heath.  Mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body is promoted to the top of the agenda in the new year.  If a luxury boot camp (here are Lonely planet’s top picks) is a step too far, then there are plenty of ways available to reboot and reinvigorate mind, body and soul closer to home.

Don’t fall into the trap of signing up to annual gym membership, the National Trust’s website has plenty of advice for the outdoor gym, (see picture).  There are tips to get you started, videos and a 31 day plan.  Not only is the outdoor gym free, but you’re more than likely to get a healthy glow from vitamin D,  work harder on uneven natural surfaces, and burn 20percent more calories as a result. 

blog-nettle-teaHealthy body on the outside generally follows a healthy body on the inside, so have a look at the Eden Project’s list of ‘Seven foods to help fight those January blues’.  Drink nettle tea (pictured), which is surprisingly refreshing, if slightly grassy, and eat all the colours of a rainbow.  If you need a little inspiration on how to prepare your super foods, or enliven your diet, try a raw food course at Nama Foods.  At the end of the month they are running a fermentation workshop, not beer but sparkling drinks for all the family.

Detoxing is more than a physiological process, it is also a mental one.  Detoxification is letting go of the old, and releasing what no longer serves you, whether clutter in your home or patterns of behaviour.  Clearing away the old stories to make way for the new.

What will be the your inspiration?  A new skill? All around the country the National Trust runs a wide range of courses and workshops from hedge laying and drystone walling, to photography and painting. Check the events pages at your local museum or craft centre.  In London, the Victoria and Albert Museum run a varied mix of workshops, or try Kew Gardens for a one day course to grow orchids successfully at home and bring a bit of tropical colour indoors.

Lamp_image_2_jpg_130x86_crop_q85You could refresh a room at home.  Elizabeth Cake, author of ‘Make Your Own Lampshades’, runs workshops to make lampshades (the next is with the How to Academy on 4th February). A screen print made at a workshop with the Print Club London to frame your new year’s manifesto?  Take it further and hand print your own wallpaper at the Papered Parlour later this month. Or learn about furniture restoration, reupholstery or repainting, with Goodlife Centre.  There is even an Introduction to Rag Rugs, if your toes feel a bit chilly when you hop out of bed in the morning!

Picture credits: National Trust, Eden Project, Victoria and Albert Museum website

What’s on this weekend

79%2F700%2FChristmas+decs+on+stairs+mod_thumb_460x0Victorian, Georgian, Jacobean, Tudor or present day, there are National Trust events around the country exploring Christmas through the ages. There is still time to learn how to make a wreath from locally foraged materials and foliage.  Or you could make hand sewn felt tree decorations, hunt for baubles or enjoy costumed interpreters telling stories.  All safe in the knowledge mince pies, mulled wine and Santa’s Grotto are never far away.  And probably a Christmas market too!

If your stamina for the festive season is flagging, how about trying something different this weekend.  What about a bracing nature walk to clear the head?  Or learning a countryside skill such as hedge-laying?

These are just a selection of the wide variety of events that are taking place at National Trust properties around the country in the run up to the holiday season.  A comprehensive list of events is searchable by geography on the National Trust website.

 

Be a wild thing

m-5242c3332abbaLast night I went to a screening of Project Wild Thing, a film to prod, prompt and inspire us all to get more kids playing freely outside and reconnecting with the natural world around them.  As someone who used to be Wilde by name, and often in the wild by nature, I was taken aback to reflect how little time I, and so my children, now spend in nature.

The film looked at the pressures that have lured children to swop wild time for screen time,marketing, the increasing health and safety culture of fear, and literally shrinking amounts of green space, particularly in urban environments.  David Bond, the film’s director, and self-appointed marketing director for nature, asks some big thinkers does it matter?  A UNICEF study from 2007 placed the UK at the bottom of the child well-being league table among developed countries.  More recent research by Ipsos MORI for UNICEF UK has shown that children in the UK feel trapped in a “materialistic culture”.  The children in survey reported that things important to their well-being were time and good relationships with family and friends, and a range of activities, particularly outside of the home.  The RSPB published a report last month, Connecting with Nature, that found only 21% of children are said to have achieved a level of connection to nature that is ‘realistic and achievable’ for all children.  So what can you do?

Watch the film, or at least the trailer, and ask yourself, “How is my relationship with nature?”.  You too might be prompted to join the Wild Network, the network of charities and organisations that are working to tackle some of the issues raised in the film.  You might be curious enough to take the RSPB’s Connection Measure to see how connected you are to nature.

If like me, you realise you have been neglecting the call of the wild, download the Wild Time app.  Depending on how long you have, 10 minutes to half a day, the app will give you and, or your kids, some pointers on what you can do in your window outdoors.  For a longer list, check out the National Trust’s outdoor explorer programme, “50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4”.

Give nature a new home for Christmas with a insect habitat, nest box or tree.  Check out your local garden centre, or look at the online shops of the RSPB, or Woodland Trust for some ready made homes, or advice on how you can make your garden more inviting.

national-tree-week

Climb a tree with Monkey Do or Go-Ape

Or as it is National Tree Week, (23rd November-1st December), to mark the start of the winter tree planting season, have a look at the Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives site for a tree activity pack, including a brilliant tree identification set and conkers advice!

 

Halloween’s Golden Fever

pumkin

A little note on pumpkins from the experts at Kew Gardens, ‘Golden Fever’ variety makes an excellent lantern.  And a reminder to hang on to the seeds when you carve the pumpkin.  Roast the seeds with a sprinkle of sugar for a tasty treat for the trick-or-treaters.  Trick or treating is apparently a tradition that originated in Europe in the Middle Ages when people sang songs and begged for a ‘soul cake’.  Each cake represented a soul being freed from purgatory.  By extrapolation, does that mean that heaven is a chocolate bar of your choice?

If you need some pumpkin carving tips, Tony Finch, master vegetable grower, is showing off his traditional pumpkin carving skills at Kew Gardens all week.   There are also Halloween-themed activities taking place at National Trust properties around the country this week, from make your own bat kite or owl mask, to spooky woodland trails or ghastly, ghostly stories.  For information on these and other family-focused events taking place over half-term near you check out the Events page on the National Trust website.

Papier-mâché prototype 1

pm1

Paper mache or papier-mâchéis a real rainy day, get your hands dirty activity, and an extremely satisfying recycle of the weekend papers.  This bowl was my first attempt following a set of instructions I found on the web.  After tearing the paper into even strips, I mix up the adhesive in a large bowl.  The adhesive I used was 1 part flour to 1 part water and it was quite gloopy (not a technical term!), so I will try a different mix next time.  I greased the bowl I was using as a mould with some sunflower oil so the paper mache was less likely to stick to the bowl.  Then dip a strip in to the adhesive mix (flour and water), as you take it out gently run it between your thumb and forefinger to remove any excess before laying it over the mould.  Work your way around the mould, alternating vertical and horizontal layers.  This prototype used three or four layers, and took a couple of days to completely dry out, before it was ready for painting.  It needs a few more layers to be more rigid, but you live and learn!  Watch this space for the next one.

Five of the best winter warmers for Wool Week

Here are five of the best DSC8077winter warmers for Wool Week.

1. A bang on trend chevron throw from Tori Murphy (£250).  The throw is 100% Merino lambswool woven in Lancashire, washed in the Yorkshire Dales and made in Nottingham. The throw is deliciously soft, with a reversible design and hand finished with a traditional blanket stitch.

2. An organic duvet from Devon Duvets.  A duvet made from platinum grade British Wool that has not been bleached or chemically treated and 100% cotton and is handcrafted in Devon (from £130).   The untreated wool fibres work help to repel and wick away moisture encouraging evaporation, leaving an environment that is not moist enough for dust mites or bacteria to easily survive.  Regular airing helps the wool fibres maintain their capabilities.  You could even add a folding pillow, whose smart design enables you to air the pillow.

P9225262WEB-460x350

3. A blanket from Welsh mill Melin Tregwynt, in the heart of Pembrokeshire and owned by the same family since 1912, the products fuse traditional Welsh designs with innovative colour.  For a more midcentury zing of colour look at Seven Gauges studio , whose lambswool products are designed and machine knitted in England.

4. A hot water bottle.  Handmade in Lampeter from sections of vintage Welsh blankets that have otherwise been damaged.  They are available in standard size (£30), and mini hand warmer size. (£19.99). from Jane Beck Welsh Blankets.  As the name would suggest the company has a wide range of Welsh blankets new and vintage, as well as other woollen accessories.

5. A desinature-shop-honey-green-450x352felt lampshade made of 100% wool felt dyed with environmentally friendly inks from Desinature (£28).

And if you fancy having a go, the Handweavers Studio runs an extensive workshop programme and regular weaving classes.

 

Knit Nation

wg

A kick start to Wool Week, with a free knitting class from Wool and the Gang in the John Lewis store in central London as part of Knit Nation.  I hadn’t picked up a set of knitting needles for twenty years, not since I had knit-perled along side my grandma.  However, Alexandra from WATG was undaunted by my absolute beginner status.   I was swiftly given an enormous set of wooden knitting needles and chosen a peppermint green ball of chunky wool.  Slip knot in place, cast on came out of the recesses of my mind, knit I could remember, and purl I was gently reminded of, and before I knew it I had my first row of ribbed stitches under my belt.  The giant needles gave me a sense of being Lilliputian, as did the sense of wonder at the evident skill on the sofas around me.  It was beyond my skill level to talk and knit simultaneously, but there were other novices to join me in my meditative state, and the industry was infectious, creating an immediate sense of community.

With the chunky wool and giant needles progress was rapid, and

knafter only an hour the hat was already starting to materialise.  Others in the groups attend or run regular knitting groups, and it is easy to see how quickly you can get to a level where you could maintain a good chat and knit in the company of friends.  It might be a while before I have knitted a pouf or cushion but I’m on my way.

The UK Handknitting Association has all sorts of information from free patterns to tips on learning to knit or knitting groups in your area.

102 Things to do in Autumn

97819086993741-194x300If you are looking for a little inspiration for the weekend, you need look no further than Alex Quick’s book, ” 102 Thing To Do In Autumn”, R.R.P. £8.99.  The book is great source of ideas on how to enjoy the best of this season of misty mornings and harvest plenty.  Some of the ideas include, making rosehip syrup, making an apple doll, or take part in an alien moth survey of the invasive species of  moth are blighting horse-chestnut (conker) trees.

The leaf-mining moth’s caterpillars eat the leaves from the inside causing the leaves to turn white, and then brown.  Infected trees are weakened, and produce smaller conkers.

So some suggestions are merely joyful, others have other virtues!