Derbyshire · Home Education · Motherhood · Parenting · Peak District

A First Attempt at Geocaching

After having had a few quiet days enjoying the snow at home, we decided it was time to get our boots on and venture a bit further afield. The snowman is a lumpy pile of snow, a carrot lying forlornly beside it amidst a couple of grapes we’d used as eyes.

We’ve been meaning to attempt geocaching for a while now – read: years, but I’ve never actually got around to trying it. I downloaded the app a long time ago and our nearest cache is apparently 100 yards down the road. It also tells us we need tweezers to find it, so with three impatient boys, I felt we’d give that one a miss as a starting point.

So in a bid to start ticking things off my to-do list and burning off the boys’ endless reserves of energy, I decided we would head to a local park to us and give it a go.

The geocaching app was showing 5 caches on the map, despite all the descriptions saying there was a trail of 9. A few of them had people posting that the caches were missing with recent dates on, so we started with one that looked like it might be positive.

The boys followed the map on my phone until it pinged up that we were very close. It gave us a clue of ‘stumpy or not’ and so we trailed over to an enormous tree trunk.

Only to find nothing. The boys searched high and low, but we found nothing.

We moved on to the next, and the next. Two were 100% not there, and one other was telling us it was in a tree but the co-ordinates took us to a bare patch of grass so we looked in all the nearby trees, to no avail.

(We did find a lot of beautiful fungi though!)

The final one had several logs underneath it on the app saying it definitely wasn’t there, so we didn’t investigate the last one. The park trail clearly needs more maintenance.

Looping back around the park and crossing the bridge, we ended up close to the first tree stump we investigated. Thinking we’d give it one last shot, we headed over, before realising we’d missed another stump nearby.

The boys bound over and find a little plastic tub nestled in a tiny stump underneath a few branches piled on top. The contents were damp and covered with mildew, but we managed to swap a painted stone for a plastic dinosaur before signing the logbook.

Despite most of them appearing to be missing (although the app history does say they’ve been replaced numerous times, so obviously a frequent issue), the boys really enjoyed geocaching and are begging to go again on Wednesday as forest school is cancelled. We’re aiming to go somewhere a little more off the beaten track in the hope that it’s less likely people will have removed them.

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is essentially a world-wide treasure hunt, achieved by entering location co-ordinates into a GPS system. Most people will download the app onto their phone as a good starting point.

The best geocaching site to get started with is and the website allows you to register for free. You can then type in your town, city or postcode which will allow you to see the geocaches local to you.

Each cache has details written about it – some of them a little cryptic, and I find myself wishing I’d paid more attention to my mother doing cryptic crosswords when I was a little girl. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now.

Typing in our own postcode brought up several places we could easily park up and go for a wander, without having to walk miles in the freezing temperatures. A local park brought up a local trail of 9 caches, although it did warn that they were having problems with people stealing the caches. Feeling it was a good place to start and warning the boys in advance not to be too disappointed if we didn’t find anything, we donned hats and gloves, grabbed a flask of hot chocolate and set off in search of a needle in a haystack.

Types of Cache

Traditional Cache

There are different types of cache, varying in size and shape. Perhaps the best place to start is with a traditional cache, which is generally a plastic tub. The tub will generally contain a logbook and pencil, and sometimes will include swappable items and/or trackables.

Micro Cache:

A micro cache can generally be found in a camera film pot and are not big enough to hold any swappables or trackables.

Nano Cache:

A nano cache is like a nano SIM card – tiny! Many clues on these caches say, ‘make sure you bring a pair of tweezers!’

Multi Cache:

A multi cache is a trail which, once you have found the first one, will give you co-ordinates for the next one.


Swappables are generally small items that people leave in a traditional cache. More often than not they’re small trinkets to engage the children – small plastic dinosaurs, pretty shells, painted stones.

Trackables: describes trackables as ‘a trackable tag that you attach to an item. This allows you to track your item on The item becomes a hitchhiker that is carried from cache to cache (or person to person) in the real world and you can follow its progress online.’

Home Education · Motherhood · Parenting

Making Story Birds

The snow is thawing. Its still white outside, but it’s not solid ice anymore. Despite this, the boys woke and asked for a pyjama day. Being Sunday and still cold and wet, I wholeheartedly agreed. I sent one of the boys out into the garden to thieve an arm from our melting snowman and put it on the radiator to dry.

Printing out a bird template, the boys stuck them onto card, cut them out and then decorated them with feathers, stickers, tissue paper and glitter. Leaving them to dry we made maps telling the story of the nesting birds and writing silly stories about the birds we had made.

They drew a plan of an imaginary garden and all the things they would like to add to the garden for the birds.

Once our maps and stories were finished, we concertinaed them up and pushed them through a small slit we had made in the body of the bird. We fashioned them into makeshift wings and then added a string to tie them onto the stick.

Retrieving the snowman’s arm from the radiator, now nicely warm and dry, we wrapped it in wool before hanging our story birds from the ‘branches’.  We slip it into a vase that’s filled with teasels, feathers and dried cones from a monkey puzzle tree – various things the boys have collected and couldn’t be parted with.

We’re dipping back into our nature curriculum from Raising Little Shoots this week, and the first topic of March is focused on nesting birds – hence the story birds. We also thought it would follow on nicely from National Nest Box Week, which saw the boys make a bird box at forest school.

(Photo Credit:

In our book, ‘101 Ways to Save the Earth’, by David Bellamy, it suggests saving a fruit net (the type that citrus fruits come in) and filling it with scraps of wool, string, hair from your hairbrush, etc. We thought this would be a great activity to incorporate into our nesting birds study. However, we came across a post on Facebook advising us not to do this as there have been numerous reports of birds ending up in sanctuaries needing to be cut free from unnatural materials.

The post came at the right time, so instead we’re going to find moss, lichen and small twigs to use instead.

(Photo Credit: Facebook – Wildlife Rescue Nests)


Beginnings. Middles. Ends.

I don’t know what to write. It’s not often the words don’t flow and I feel like a teenager, stilted and awkward in front of the class, stumbling over my words.

It’s Spring.

Snowdrops and crocuses are nestled around tree trunks and in discarded corners of children’s play areas. The daffodils are peeking up, a hint of yellow still tightly closed in its nub, but teasing with its vividness; stark against a bleak, icy morning.

The days are noticeably longer now. I put dinner on the table and it’s still bright out. As I clear the plates, still the day rages on and the boys head out to the garden after dinner. If there was a glimmer of hope that they wouldn’t need a bath before dinner, it fades fast. They pile mud into plastic tipper trucks, splashing through filthy puddles. I sigh inwardly, knowing that their boots will be lined up along the radiator come bedtime, drying out after their 100th trip through the washing machine.

I briefly consider leaving a glowing review on Amazon for their boots, instead mentally adding it to the to-do list (also known as: things I’ll never get around to).

I spent the morning chopping vegetables – peppers, courgettes, aubergines, sweet potatoes, carrots and tomatoes – and I work through two different pans of Chilli, ready for the freezer. My kitchen is littered with dusty jars of herbs and spices, discarded tins and used knives. There’s delicate splashes of passata along the tiles and cooker. Aubergine skin lays on the floor where I missed the bin completely. I shoo the children into the garden so I can clear up in peace. I like these mornings: the slow, methodical plodding of feeling at home in your kitchen and the knowledge that the freezer is being filled with healthy food to feed hungry children. The smell of paprika and balsamic vinegar entwine and leave me sated. Some days I like to cook. Later the same day, the boys and I make chocolate cake, stuffed with butter icing. As the day comes to a close, I cut myself a slice, thick and crumbling, to enjoy with a cup of the sweetest tea.

We’ve been away from home, unsettled and teary. It’s good to be back, surrounded by the warmth of family culture. I missed these streets I drive on a daily basis, and the people I think of as home. I’ve missed having phone signal.

We celebrate Shrove Tuesday a week late due to the boys being poorly. The table is covered in sticky globs of syrup, the boys dipping their elbows into them. More laundry, as ever.

I don’t want to slip into the habit of running through our week. Wednesday brings….followed by cold Thursdays and then on Friday. The words won’t come loose-limbed and weightless, they are rigid and frozen. Dull.

Yet Saturday, after meeting friends at Shipley Park, we head home. The morning, though icy, has blossomed into a beautiful day. We throw open the patio doors and we sweep, we tidy, we clean, we prune, we paint…..we slough off winter with a fury. And my God, does it feel good.

The sun on our faces and the cold nipping our fingertips- there’s no finer feeling. Calling time on another day, I run the bath for the boys, absentmindedly sluicing the water to create mountains of bubbles for them. I love winter, but today was the first day I anticipated barefoot afternoons on the grass, a BBQ, hanging laundry on the line. Days where a hot bath are so far away and instead, cool showers take precedence.

Maybe with the last few days of winter folding themselves neatly away, like ironed handkerchiefs tucked into drawers or embroidered tablecloths stacked in the cupboard, the looser days of spring can weave through us and remind us that no matter how hard the winter, the warmth never ceases to return. The snowdrops, always the first delicate sign that the hard frosts are saying their final goodbyes. With the daffodils comes the sun, slung low in the sky, treating us to mere glimpses of what it never fails to deliver.

It doesn’t matter that I’m struggling to write. It doesn’t matter that everyone is tired of winter. It doesn’t matter how heavy your heart is. Spring will come again.


By the Sea

It’s been a beautiful week. We stayed at Centreparcs in Elveden which was some much needed peace and respite. We visited the beach and I watch for hours in the January frost as the boys run out with the tide and then turn screaming as the water chases them back. They bring me sticks, gnarled and twisted from being tossed relentlessly in the water. From one soft split in the wood we see that something has laid its eggs and we throw it back into the water.

Although Centreparcs is known for its wildlife, I wasn’t prepared to have breakfast with the squirrels and Muntjac deer on the patio. We look up deer on sketchy wi-fi and learn the difference between the markings on the males and females.

The boys name the squirrels: Walnut, Hazlenut, Peanut and Brazil. They watch for hours.

A Jay sits watching us, beady eyes focused on three excited boys.

It snows this week. Not heavily, nor enough to settle for long, but the boys head out with no coats on to break the ice on the pond and feel snowflakes on their faces. I watch from a draughty window, feeling a long way from home.

It’s been a week of peace, of big decisions and heartache. But it’s also been positive, knowing that I do have the strength and support to do this.

The sea helps, and I find myself wondering once again how I ended up living as far away from the ocean as it’s possible to get in this country.

We return home, begrudgingly, and slip back into reading and maths as if we’ve never been away. The wind blows ferociously outside, the rain scattered and patchy in the gale. I sit on the sofa watching the day dawn as I contemplate making a picnic for forest school this morning.

Things are changing. Great, momentous, life-altering things. And it’s ok. We can weather this storm. There’s peace flooding through me. I watch these boys of mine play together and I know it’ll all come right in the end.


A Week in the Life: Home Ed.

We visited family in Suffolk this week and stayed the night in a caravan in Norfolk, just in time for Storm Eleanor. A storm is pretty magical at any time but a storm in a caravan 500 metres from the ocean is even better.

We woke repeatedly throughout the night with the ferocity of the rain and wind, but morning brought the most beautiful sunrise. My eldest boy snuggles up in his sleeping bag, ignoring the TV and watching the day break. There’s no better cure for a sleepless night than a sky tearing open over the water.

The boys spent time with their cousins, lost in their imaginations and it was lovely to watch.

Back home we spend a day clearing the house, sloughing off the holiday period and catching up on housework. I step over the boys taking apart Lego to rebuild on the floor. I hear them negotiating swaps with military precision, right down to Lego handcuffs and walkie-talkies. The terms are water-tight and as I step over them once more I remind them that swaps are permanent and they need to fully consider the impact of Lego swapping before sealing the deal. For a change, it ends peacefully. For today, at any rate.

Our plans the next day are cancelled so we use the opportunity to get back to our English and Maths which took a backseat over most of December. We finally pick up some Cat in the Hat learner books a friend bought for us at a car-boot sale, and I wonder why we’ve not used them before. The two older boys read them almost fluently, only tripping up over the Cat in the Hat’s made-up words.

We spend a lot of time working through the science kits the boys received for Christmas. Our RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch pack arrives on the same day as our free binoculars from the National Trust. They now have a pair each and I marvel at how life works in my favour sometimes.

The weekend brings a visit to Clumber Park in Nottingham.

It’s been a quiet week filled with family, long car journeys and rainy days. That said, it’s been a welcome start back into home education after the festivities. I’m looking forward to next week and getting back to some semblance of a routine, and hopefully, the beginning of our home-ed climbing sessions, too.

Oh, and alien dissection.


Map reading, bed building, looking at geothermal scientists, reading up on penguins, beautifully clumsy and stilted reading of joke books, how steam engines work, making water filters, learning about stalagmites/stalactites, hydraulic systems, writing thank-you letters, swimming with friends, growing crystals, reading old Enid Blyton books I remember from my own childhood.


Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire

We wake to rain, the sky leaden. Packing sandwiches and bananas into my bag as the boys pull on their base layers, the rain continues. Throwing on my rain jacket, I nip to feed the hens and they dance at the gate, soggy and bedraggled. The rain keeps on.

I print off the walk we intend to do, and still the rain comes down. I throw the rainsuits and coats in the boot of the car. We strap ourselves into our seats and put the postcode in the sat nav – and still the rain comes down.

Clumber Park is about an hour from us, mostly on the M1 heading North, which I can categorically state is my least favourite stretch of motorway. I can’t even explain why, just that I find it bleak and uninspiring and until you pass Doncaster, I just don’t like it.

Today though, after hitting the motorway, the rain finally decides enough is enough and the dark, violent rain clouds begin to break. The last remnants of the rising sun peek through and the sky turns from darkness to a patchwork of colour, the wiper-blades on the car slowing until finally stopping altogether.

Arriving at Clumber Park, we park up in a very tight car park. I’m grateful for arriving early as by the time we left there were cars wedged all over the place, littering verges and blocking gates.

The boys head straight for the woodland play area, the way they always do.

From there we set off on our walk, which we downloaded here. Two miles of pure, solitary bliss and the sun shining on the lake.

Returning from our walk we head to the Discovery Centre. The boys were in Heaven. So beautifully decorated, with a reading corner and nooks designated to puzzles and colouring sheets, the boys immerse themselves. There’s microscopes, a huge tank full of pond life to identify, spider webs, bats and birds woven into trees and plants scattered around the room.

The lady running the centre asked the boys if they’d like to do the Clumber Quest, an Alice in Wonderland themed treasure trail, which they loved.

(Photo Credit: The National Trust)

Returning to the starting point to claim their prize, we head into the second-hand book shop for hot chocolates to warm us up as we browse the books.

My middle boy chooses Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, which reminds me of how my sister used to love this book and how we’d sit on her bed hearing our mother read it over and over.

We spend time in the bird hide, which was a hive of activity. We ticked off another few birds in our RSPB book and watched as the birds danced and frolicked in front of us.

The robins, so dainty and friendly-looking are clearly the boss around here and the boys enjoy watching them dominate the hide.

We skip the walled kitchen gardens today, saving them instead for a day not threatened by cold, sharp showers. The boys spend the journey home planning the summer days they want to spend here, earmarking the benches overlooking the lake where they want to picnic.

For a change, I take too few photos and I mentally chastise myself. In hindsight, it was actually nice to spend a day with the children and not be trying to capture the perfect image.

Sitting around the dinner table in the evening, I look at the boys. They’re rosy cheeked and blushed, their hair tousled from their hats. Outside, darkness has fallen and the rain returns. They chat amongst themselves, processing their day from a child’s perspective. It’s nice to kick back and listen.

I kiss the boys goodnight and I pour a glass of red, sinking onto my bed to start reading one of my new books. It’s been a day well spent, and the rain keeps falling.


A Natural Sense of Wonder

It’s 5.30 a.m. and two out of three boys are awake and full of life. They go from 0-60 in a split second and it takes me a while to catch up.

I sit on the sofa, a cup of tea clasped in one hand and my book in the other. Yet I cannot read. Before I have finished a sentence I am interrupted. Over and over by these beautiful little voices. My eldest sits at the computer desk with all his pens lined up and a brand new notebook and he says to me, ‘I’m a secret writer. That’s how I’m going to earn money when I’m bigger.’

My youngest lets me absorb half a paragraph before presenting me with a reindeer colouring sheet. ‘For you, Mum!’ he says with a proud smile. Before I’ve even drawn half a breath to say thank you, he’s moved on to mock-threatening me with a pair of handcuffs and simultaneously asking if we can go and buy some Lego today with their Christmas money.

Another sentence and he’s waving his pyjama top in wide circles pretending to be a cowboy. The dog pads into the living room with a piece of pilfered cardboard from the recycling bin. I retrieve it from him, and my half-naked cowboy rushes over to arrest the errant Rottweiler.

My middle boy makes an appearance as I turn to the final page of the chapter and incites a game of tug o’war with the arrested dog.

I sigh deeply, more for my own sanity than a need for air, and I close my book in defeat.

But if anyone is interested, this is what I’m reading. And I think it’s good, but I’m not entirely sure due to my fragmented reading style.

If you do want a good book – I’ve been reading this in the bath and it’s amazing. I wasn’t overly impressed when I was presented with it on my birthday, but it is poetical, passionate and comedic and I’ve since forgiven the gift-giver. It’s beautiful.