Going Wild

Going wild – a 30 day journey of discovery in the Dorset countryside with mama and baby

The month of June, when summer finally arrives and the countryside is a buzz with nature and the weather entices you outside on a daily basis so what better way than to spend your days outdoors appreciating the beauty of Mother Nature and really enjoying what she has to offer. Having spotted something online about the #30dayswild campaign hosted by The wildlife trusts across the UK, I thought it would be fun to challenge myself and see what I could find and do that involved nature and being outside. It’s hard sometimes to find the motivation to get about and do things especially when you’ve just landed on planet Motherhood but I can not express how therapeutic being outside with your baby is. Not only will you feel great your little one will be encapsulated by nature and experiencing his/her new world first hand with you!

30 days sounds like a long time but it went so quickly and it was amazing some of the things we got up to. Being accountable on social media has its plus points for sure. Mainly it was a chance to really stop and look around and to really see what nature there was right outside our front door, but during the month I realised how much it did for my wellbeing and no doubt little Freddie’s too. He’s always been a lover of the outdoors right from the start when we would go walking everyday and watch the changing of seasons but now, to be able to share in the delights of his surroundings is a real joy. As he is grows, he can now notice the movement of the butterflies cruising from bud to bud and hear the bees buzzing. He loves to watch the trees move in the wind and looks up to see the clouds. I’ve found myself wanting to learn more about what we’ve seen in the hope when he is old enough to ask me “mama, what’s that?” I’ll be able to respond confidently and be able to teach him about the wildlife around us. We’ll see though….

I hope my posts on Instagram might have inspired some of you mamas out there to step outside with your seedlings and share with them the beauty that is all around us, both in cities and in the countryside. I know I’ll be taking part again even if it’s just to nourish the soul. You can find more of my wildlife posts @MrsStrongman. Children remember their experiences, we all love to make memories and so this family is staying wild!

Wood fair fun!

An enchanting country fair exposing a creative and skillful country life.

Sunday 20th May, a beautiful day to be out and about in the countryside and attending my first wood fair up at the Living Classroom where we go to Bush Babies. It was put on by the Dorset Coppice Group who are working hard to promote their love of the woodland, share their skills and passions as well as their services. The Coppice group’s aims are:

  • to promote the coppice industry and its products to the public
  •  provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and information between members
  •  form a bridge between coppice workers, landowners and other relevant agencies
  •  provide an educational resource for schools and other groups to encourage outdoor learning in The Living Classroom 

And they also provide courses throughout the year for anyone who is interested in learning a new skill, working with wood or who would like to know more about the preservation of craftsmanship.

We arrived early and wandered around the lovely stalls of handmade wooden crafts; from toadstools, bowls, walking sticks, coat hooks and even magic wands made from wood that had been constricted by wild honeysuckle. I certainly learnt a few tricks or two. There were birds of prey perched in the shade and a beautiful working horse demonstrating his use for coppicing. What a treat.



My highlight though was being front row watching a sparring competition and as a new member of the country community it felt like an initiation! I had no idea what a spar even was before I sat down. But that was all about to change ….

The thatchers taking part in the competition take 28 inch long straight hazel sticks, known as gads which have been cut from the coppice at Bonsley Wood, during the winter time when the sap is low. This allows them to be strong enough to use on the ridging (the top part of the roof to you and I). To make the spar each gad is riven in half by splitting the wood in-between any knots, split down the middle following the natural grain of the wood. They can be split multiple times (fours, sixes, eights) and usually the more times it can be split the more skilled the spar maker. The points at each end are then created using an exceptionally sharp spar hook.

They are then bundled up with a colour tie and can be sold by the thousands to working thatchers.

The thatcher uses spars by double twisting them to form a U shaped peg as Rod Miller described for me “like a hair pin with a smooth edging which will allow the water to roll of it on the roof.” They have to be skilfully twisted, not just bent in half in order to work effectively.

The competition was to see how many spars the thatchers could make in 15 minutes. It was tense. Blazing sunshine in the middle of the day was probably not the best environment for the thatchers but they stepped up to the challenge and stayed professional to the end, each perched on their stool or chair with hooks, thigh pads at the ready. Many different techniques were used to split the hazel, each competitor using their own long standing knowledge of how to work the hazel and their tools.

The winner was Rod Miller, founder of R.V Miller Ltd who very kindly shared his knowledge with me to enable me to write this post. He is Dorset thatcher and member of the National Society of Master Thatchers. His business celebrated 50 years in 2016 and it seemed to me what he doesn’t know about thatching, you don’t need to know!

It felt like such a privilege to be witnessing first-hand something I was so ignorant about. To learn from experts and locals who had travelled from all around to be apart of this local woodland fair was a joy and an absolute pleasure. It has certainly made me want to look more closely at thatched roof houses.

To be apart of something where skilled craftsmen are demonstrating and sharing their love for their livelihoods with the local people is fantastic. We need these trades to preserve our history so the more we know, the more we can hope to understand and try to make a difference. Weirdly, a part of me wants to make my own spar and I have kept one that Rod twisted for me as a momento! I’ve been inspired!


wood fair 2018



Kindness is Key


Today was International Womens’ Day and I started thinking about what it means to be a mother to a boy growing up in our changing world. How do we raise our boy to be kind, appreciative, understanding, loving and respectful towards women? But then it dawned on me, shouldn’t we be teaching him to apply these qualities to everyone, regardless of their gender? And, shouldn’t all parents be teaching their children these qualities?

kindness bubble

If he was older I’d like to tell him that the world is full of variety and difference; Some people may believe in certain views that won’t match our own but this is OK, that’s humanity. We are all individual BUT it is how we react to our feelings and instincts that matter. We must learn how to speak kindly, even if you don’t agree with them, and remain respectful despite having an opposed view. These are essential life skills needed for adulthood baby. Everyone is on their own journey and you need to know that people are forever changing, growing and learning from experiences in life. It’s an adventure, one that should be handled with care and understanding regardless of who you are. You just have to be kind.

It was perfect timing then when one of my best friends sent me a link today about raising kind children. As a teacher, and now a parent, it resonated with me. According to the article, it seems more parents are more focused on their child’s achievements and their own child’s happiness at school rather than how they behave towards and care for others. I thought back to past parent meetings and I remembered hearing comments such as:

“Can they count to 100 yet?”

“What’s their handwriting like?”

“Do they know all their times tables?”

“Do they listen?”

“Will they pass the Eleven Plus?”

“Are they top of the class?”

But no parent has ever asked me…

“Is my child kind?”

“Can they work well in a group, team or in pairs?”

“How do they speak to their friends?”

Yes, of course, we want our children to do well at school but maybe we could teach our children kindness too.  Like most things, children are not born knowing, we have to teach them.


My 3 Kindness Kickers

Be a mentor, teacher, role model – tell your children that being kind is more important. Show them,by addressing others respectfully, even when you are feeling tired or distracted.

Talk about acts of kindness  – If you see something on TV, in a magazine or witness something out and about, share it with your little one and discuss it. What did they think? How could they do something similar?

Help your child manage their negative feelings – we all feel anger, shame, sadness and other negative thoughts/feelings. Children are not born knowing how to deal with these emotions. Why not use mindfulness and breathing techniques to help calm your child and then when they are more relaxed, talk through how they were feeling and why. Over time your child should begin to take these steps on their own.

Kindness is the fuel of the future so let’s hope our little ones head there with their bags full of it!


Dippy the Dinosaur

dippy 1

Yesterday Freddie and I went see Dippy the Diplodcus. I still can’t quite believe that probably the most famous dinosaur in the UK and star attraction at The Natural History Museum is here in my new home town of Blandford!

The Natural History Museum’s famous Diplodocus skeleton cast, known as Dippy is on tour and  a 3D printed replica of Dippy’s skull is currently residing in Blandford’s library. so Freddie and I stopped by yesterday to take a look…

We followed the dinosaur footprints on the floor of the library which led to a battered suitcase on top of a table where a 3D printed replica of Dippy’s skull. It was amazing to imagine the size of these incredible creatures that once roamed the earth and for such artifacts to be accessible and not just behind glass. As we already know, the Jurassic Coast is one the UK’s best sites for understanding the world at the time of the dinosaurs and  so what better opportunity to introduce the subject of Paleontology to the young minds of Dorset. Obviously Freddie was a bit young at only 6 months old but as a teacher I know that many of the children I have taught would LOVE to know more about the dinosaurs and to have something they can see with their own eyes is cementing their knowledge and understanding like no book can.

Here are some cool facts you can share with your little adventurers:


Species Name: Diplodocus carnegii
Meaning: Double-beamed lizard
Diet: Plants
Length: 21.3m (They are thought to be the longest known dinosaur)
Width: 4.3m
Height: 4.25m

Number of bones: 292

  • Dippy was first unveiled at London’s Natural History Museum in 1905
  • Diplodocus lived for 70-80 years much like today’s modern elephant
  • They are a sauropods and here on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site in Dorset you can find footprints made by other sauropds, like Dippy, near Worth Matravers in Purbeck.

So if you are looking for a little something to do this week then why not pop to Blandford and meet Dippy! Or venture to Dorchester and see the whole skeleton cast! Dippy will be on display at the Dorset County Museum until May 2018 and they are even opening up the museum at night to see him lit up in the Victorian Hall. Book your tickets early to avoid disappointment! For more info visit jurrassiccoast.org/dippy