Climb Inside Your Favourite Story Book

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Did you have a favourite story book character when you were small? I loved Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil in Ballet Shoes and would happily have been any of the three sisters, despite never having any desire to learn ballet as a child! They seemed so brave and talented, and the fact that they had been adopted by an explorer just completely captivated a seven year old me! I remember also desparately wanting to go to boarding school, preferably in a castle, which in a pre-Harry Potter era, was entirely down to Darrell in Malory Towers and the Chalet School girls. I suspect this was mainly due to midnight feasts, which appealed massively then, and still do really!


We are lucky enough to live nearby a wonderful annual book event that celebrates favourite story book characters and makes them come to life. Milton Manor, near Abingdon is a beautiful old estate, tucked down a country lane, and only open for a few days each year. It is the perfect home for the yearly Readathon, with it’s forest area, small boating lake and gorgeous old stables. A wonderful team of volunteers host the event, and manage to make it completely magical. It really is like stepping inside all of your favourite childhood books for a day, perfect escapism, and so much fun for the little ones!

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Of course we took the oppurtunity to dress up, Mia as Pippi Longstocking and Joe as the Gruffalo. With only a couple of hours notice (last minute change of plan!) we managed to pull together some fairly decent costumes. Pippi suited Mia perfectly; I can understand so well, why she is one of her favourite characters, as wild and free as possible!



There were so many activities to explore, a Gruffalo trail through the woods, an adventure playground and wooden fort in the forest, author readings and illustrator demos and a book swap tent! We spent hours running around the estate collecting stamps from book characters, a sort of treasure hunt, including Winnie the Witch, Postman Pat, and Gangsta Granny.

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There was tea and cake too, all homemade and with the tea served with old mismatched tea pots and cups… all pleasingly very Alice in Wonderland. Goodness knows how we would have got through some many of the activities without a litte bit of sugar!


It really was a magical day, and a wonderful event to take part in. This was the first time we had been to the Readathon, and I cannot believe we have been missing this whilst it is so close to home. There have already been discussions about what to dress up as next year, but I’m focusing on getting through Halloween and the party season first of all!





Starting The New School Year With BEAR


As summer seems to have changed so suddenly into Autumn, I have started to think about spending more time exploring the woods again with my little ones. Whilst warm sunny weather means trips to the beach and the river as often as we can, the rest of the year is woods time! They love nothing more than to pull on their welly boots and head off to nearby woodland to run about for a couple of hours. Now that they are both back at school and pre-school, I find that they really need time at weekends to unwind and release some energy outdoors. The woods is ultimate freedom to them, no boundaries or rules, or having to try and keep their clothes clean. Mud is alright in my opinion!


For days spent outdoors and for the school lunchboxes, I am always looking for snacks that are a good combination of truly healthy and nutritious, but also simple and easy to pack into bags for the day. BEAR make snacks that fit perfectly with this; healthy fruity Yoyos without any additives and nasties, that are just 100% pure fruit. The best thing is that Mia and Joe think that BEAR Yoyos are completely delicious! I have to admit that I occasionally include one in my own work lunchbox as a healthy treat! I can see why they love them, and we all agree that the mango flavour is best of all, but you won’t find anyone saying no to a raspberry or strawberry Yoyo!


This weekend we took a trip to one of our favourite conservation areas to visit Neptune Woods, which was planted only ten years ago, by hundreds of volunteers, local school children and community groups. It’s a really peaceful place, with so much wildlife and plenty of scenic spots to stop for a little rest. It’s the perfect place to relax and lovely for a quiet wander and picnic. Every good woodland explorer needs a backpack and the kind people at BEAR recently sent Joe a lovely Skiphop lunchbox to help with his back to school, and start of pre-school journey. And of course, somewhere to store important supplies of Yoyos to keep him going! Even intrepid explorers need to eat their 5 a day!


As you can see he is delighted with his super cool monkey lunchbox and has suddenly become a lot more interested in packing his bag for pre-school!


I would love to do a ‘what’s in my bag’ style post with Joe and his pre-school lunchbox, it would be so funny! A healthy mixture of tasty snacks and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, with a few things (usually stationery items) stolen from Mia’s bedroom!


Joe desparately wants to go to school like his big sister and asks at least once a week if he can join the foundation stage class at Mia’s school. We walk past their classroom to collect Mia from her ‘grown up’ juniors class every day, and he can see the lovely craft activities, pet guinea pigs and waterproofs all set out for forest school sessions. I can see why he’s keen to join in, even though he has only just turned 3! It’s great that he is keen though, I’m just hoping it lasts until next summer, when he really does start school!

For now though, he is very happy at his pre-school nursery, which also includes some forest school time each week, and this is something he thrives on. Time spent outdoors, learning from nature has always been something I have encouraged with both of them, and it’s great that this is increasingly being included as a regular part of the week at many nurseries and schools.


Whilst walking through the woods, I encourage Mia and Joe to look around and see if we can name all of the different trees, to identify flowers or pick blackberries, or a really good stick for crafting with. Sometimes we just try to be quiet so that we can listen to the birds and grasshoppers, and occasionally if we are lucky, we hear or see deer.


An important fruity pit-stop snack for a little bit of natural pure fruit energy.

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How cheeky do they look here?! Goodness knows what the woodland wildlife makes of them! I expect the birds and deer are probably quite glad of some peace and quiet once Mia and Joe go home at the end of the day.


A trail of things left behind by my children…a BEAR card for their collection and a pretty flower that Mia had found on the walk. Both perfect for keeping as a record of their weekend exploring.

For more back to school adventures with BEAR take a look at their Twitter feed @follow_the_bear

This is a collaborative post with BEAR. All words and opinions given are entirely my own.