I hope you've all had a great weekend. Ours was very chilled, we are enjoying the last weekend before the Little People go back to school. On Saturday it felt like summer was still in full swing, I had about 6 loads of washing fluttering in the heat and gentle breeze, whereas yesterday was a much cooler affair, with not a small amount of rain, it feels like autumn has arrived. I did actually contemplate putting the heating on.
Anyway, back to my post. There are some woods near us called The Coombes, only 10 minutes drive away, but we'd never been. Not because we didn't want to, but because we weren't exactly sure where they were. I realise this seems faintly ridiculous. They seemed to be a kind of well-kept secret, which of course makes them all the more enticing. I'd asked friends before how to get there and the reply was always "oh its really easy, just go along this road a bit and they are there on the right". Still I could never find them. The other appealing thing about them is there is sometimes a secret cafe there too. I really wanted to be part of this secret gang who had been to the secret cafe, so I asked another friend for Really Detailed Instructions, and hurrah, she came good.
So yesterday morning I announced to my very grumpy family that we were going to find the woods, and go for a walk. Little Tomboy was grumpy because she was stuck on the xbox game she was playing. Little Miss was sulking because it was the morning and she is nearly a teenager, and those two things don't mix. Mr 14 was asking his usual autistic-person-detailed-questions - what will it be like ? how long does it take to get there ? how long will we be there ? what is there to do ? what will WE actually do ? will it be busy ? And Mr EC said flatly he wouldn't go. Undeterred I told them all that they were coming, like it or not. And then it started to rain.
Anyway, after several arguments about raincoats, ipads and headphones, we finally got everyone ready to go, and loaded up the car. Off we drove, following my friend's directions. We found "the little track", but "the field on the left", where we were meant to park, was locked, and there were no "teacups hanging from the trees". We did see another car, and another family next to the car so we went and asked them if we were in the right place. We were ! We had found the secret woods. Hurray! But the secret cafe was closed. Booooo.
But we were there now, and the dog was at fever pitch by this point, so we decided to stay and go for a walk anyway, despite the now quite persistent rain.
Things started off quite grim, Mr EC was quite grumpy because the secret cafe was closed. I think he'd been secretly looking forward to a cream tea. Little Miss complained Very Loudly about getting wet. Apparently this was my fault: even though I had suggested wearing a raincoat might be a good idea, she had refused to wear one. It was extremely muddy, her nice new trainers were in danger of not looking quite so new. Again my fault even though I had suggested she might like to wear her old ones. I will admit that at this point I was thinking that this waslk was a really bad idea, and I was losing the will to live, but then we noticed a massive area of blackberries.
I LOVE picking blackberries so all the grumpiness of the others fell on deaf ears as I pounced on the blackberry bushes. I fished a dog waste bag out of my pocket, and Mr EC said to me "eurgh are you really going to use a poo bag to collect them ?". I pointed out that it was currently empty so technically at this point it was just a "bag" and yes, I really was going to use it. Well that was it. They all joined in and the grumpiness totally vanished. Suddenly everyone was in full swing, enjoying themselves, chatting and laughing, and helping each other to reach the high ones. (Everyone knows they are the best ones.)
Amazing how such a simple activity can transform everyone's moods! We picked blackberries for ages, Little Miss and I saving ours for later, the others eating as they went along. The patch of brambles stretched a really long way so we got loads. I could have spent all day right there, in the rain, but the others started to get twitchy so we finally gave up and carried along on our walk.
My friend had also told me to look out for "blue arrows painted on logs" but it wasn't clear what they were directing us to - the secret cafe, a hidden carpark ? pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ? We never did find out as we only ever saw one anyway.
It was a gorgeous walk. As it was in the woods this meant there were no sweeping vistas or amazing views but there was still plenty to catch one's eye.
The horses had obviously been through recently ....
And indeed we happened upon some deserted little stables in the midst of everything ....
Everywhere we looked there were signs of autumn's arrival: the leaves turning and falling, berries appearing, nuts and seeds littering the floor.
I love being out with my family like this, just the five of us - six if you include the dog - no technology, just fresh air and nature in all its glory. These times feel so precious, I know the days where we will all go out really are numbered as my older two increasingly spend more time with their friends, so whether it's bucketing or boiling its just lovely to be out together, chatting, pointing things out, laughing, running with the dog. It feels so wholesome and right somehow, just us versus the world.
Despite the rain the walking was so enjoyable. There were mossy banks to scampered over ....
Hidden pathways to explore ....
Little ponds waiting to be discovered ....
And wood piles to clamber over ....
Very excitingly in this pile of rocks we found a painted stone ....
In our area over the summer there has been "a thing" where you paint a little rock and hide it. You also look for other rocks and keep them when you find them. There is a facebook group where you can leave messages saying what you've found, or, what you've hidden, and roughly where. Sort of a swap-cum-treasure-hunt-cum-geocache. I'd been meaning to find some stones to paint but had never got around to it, so we hadn't really looked for any either. MrEC and Little Miss spotted this one, nestling amongst the logs! Super exciting! I really couldn't believe it! It seems amazing that we could find such a little stone in such a big area! We decided to keep it, that is the point, its not stealing, don't worry. So we now have a nice little souvenir of our walk. And we did gather a whole load more to paint and hide some time.
At this point we realised we had come full circle back to the car. This was by design, Mr EC has a built in human compass that I simply don't have, I hadn't really noticed that he was leading us in a big circle. Left to my own devices I'd be hopelessly lost.
When we got home we were all starving, so I got lunch underway. As we had so many blackberries, out cam the ingredients for a crumble ...
Its a really, really simple recipe:
Put 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 100g flour in a bowl and rub in 50g butter (which has been cut up into small pieces) until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons porridge oats (optional).
Wash blackberries, and chop up 3 apples, mix into a casserole dish with a small drizzle of lemon juice, and a large spoonful of sugar. Cover with the crumble topping.
Bake at 200 degC until top is crunchy and middle is cooked.
While the crumble was cooking we had a really simple lunch of carrot soup - not homemade - and crusty bread - also not homemade.
And for pudding we had the crumble ....
(I forgot to take a photo before we all dived in lol)
... and every last bit was eaten. the word "divine" was used. Praise indeed!
I'm so happy we found the woods, and next time we hope to find the secret cafe and then we will really be part of the secret club :)
Til next time,