Tag Archives: family adventure

Canoeing and Wild Camping

To celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary this year Rob and I left the kids with the grandparents and embarked on a canoe expedition course to learn the necessary skills to head off on our own adventures. In that week we fell in love with canoeing and on our return invested in two canoes and the various paraphernalia required such as life jackets, dry bags and so on. The kids have been desperate to get out on the water with us but I’m in the final stages of dissertation writing for my MSc and with weather and tide considerations a couple of weeks passed before we had a chance. That chance came last weekend and we went for it, full bore!

We could have fit way more stuff but this is all we needed for the five of us overnight

We could have fit way more stuff but this is all we needed for the five of us overnight

We set off just before high tide going up stream with the flow which made for easy initial paddling. Although as we rounded a corner the wind caught us and with only my 8 year old in the front of mine we were much lighter than I had anticipated and we kept getting turned. Even with the camping kit there wasn’t a lot of weight in the canoe and it was very much in the middle (kit) and back (me)… first lesson learned in terms of kit positioning.

drifting paddling

Eventually after spinning in the water for a while and even walking along a stretch of shore until we were past the bend in the river that was catching the wind, we were back on route and arrived at our camping spot.

tide going out drying sicks high tide

Traffic on the river was busy around high tide and we didn’t want to draw too much attention so we didn’t set up the tarp until much later but we set about collecting and processing firewood. We lit the fire with a flint and steel using tinder we found around us and the kids played in the water before the tide went too far out. Rob strung them up a simple rope swing which proved fun for hours (and also caused irritating “my turn” arguments!!)

processing wood

Boys processing wood for a fire

rope swing water fun summer fun whittling

Dinner was a basic chicken curry and here I learned another lesson… when taking curry powder in a pot seal the pot in bag or decent container… the curry powder spilt in one of the dry sacks and covered EVERYTHING! I salvaged enough for dinner and sucked up the lesson. We had taken about 10 litres of water with us but actually on such a hot day and with cooking dinner and washing up this was only just enough. On our course we had learned about finding water on an expedition, filtering and sterilising but the river we were on is largely salt water so that wasn’t an option. There was a stream feeding into the river nearby that we could have got water from had we been desperate and next time we’ll take a suitable filtration system in case we need it.

cooking dinner

Cooking dinner on the fire


Curry with a view

After dinner and some bird watching we set up the tarp and as the sun set we got the kids to bed and us shortly after… we had to be up at 5am to catch the outgoing tide back home or we would be stranded until mid-afternoon!

bird watching setting up tarp camp sleepign babies

The early start was brilliant, we had the camp packed down and ready to set off in half an hour and we made sure that we left no trace that we had been there… an important principle we are pressing hard on the children!

early morning

Up and ready to set off at 5.30am

The trip back was effortless on a mirror still river drifting with the tide. Of course at 5.30am we were the only human life on the river but it was teeming with bird life and the beauty of a canoe is that you can silently drift along without disturbing them.

morning shot misty morning one of me still waters

We were back at the car by 7am and heading home for a big old breakfast and a nap.

heading home for breakfast

heading home for some breakfast

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day!


Since our amazing trip to America I’ve had very little time for more adventure and travel. Instead I published two books, expanded the Charity I run including opening an office on our farm and taking on a full time employee and I’ve embarked on an MSc in Clinical Research at Plymouth University… So I’ve been a bit too busy to blog!

But this year, to stretch myself further I’m going to try to get back into it. We’ve got loads of adventures planned and booked, from staying in a shepherds hut on Bodmin Moor this spring to a Safari in South Africa in October!

I’m also hoping to get my camera back out as it’s not had a lot of use since our big trip and I miss it! I didn’t actually decide this until after this weekend though so this post is rather lacking decent pictures, sorry.

Bushcraft is a major passion of mine and this year has various bushcraft adventures in store including attending the Bushcraft Show in May and a week-long canoeing and bushcraft course in July for Rob and My 10 year wedding anniversary.

We kicked off our bushcraft fun this weekend with an Encounter Cornwall Kayak trip from Golant to Lerryn where we scouted out some ideal spots for a bit of wild camping later in the year. The kids loved it and Alfie and Patrick are both pretty good with a paddle. It was pretty cold so Orla was wrapped up in a blanket.

When we got home we cooked a rabbit stew on a fire that Alfie and I lit with a flint and steel. I’ll post the recipe soon. We slept out under a tarp in the garden that night and although it was cold it was also good fun. We have a tree that seems to be a key spot for owls to declare their territory and I was woken up about 6 times alternately by barn owls and tawny owls declaring their presence a matter of feet from our camp.


Alf and I sleeping under a tarp in January

The next day we had a go at making a little stove from an aluminium drinks can which we had seen on a friends blog, Chasing Wilderness. It worked brilliantly and Alfie is planning to make a little video for his own blog on how to make one yourself. Check his blog out at www.bushcraftalfie.co.uk


A little stove made from a drinks can… Alfie is going to blog about how we made this

Once we’d tried it we headed out into some local woods to cook lunch. If I’m honest it’s more suited to cooking for 1-2 people rather than a family of five but we managed it and cooked pasta in the woods while the boys whittled. Then we had a little fire to warm water for tea as the mini stove wasn’t likely to cope with another 5 cup brew. Alfie is intending to blog about all sorts of bushcraft stuff like how to clear up a fire to leave no trace, so I’ll leave that for him to cover.

Finally we spent the evening on Sunday watching Survival Lilly videos on You Tube and planning were we could build our own “bug out camp”.

I can’t promise that I’m going to be great at keeping this blog up to date in any regular kind of way… I’m mid-way through my MSc and am as busy as ever but I really enjoy blogging about our adventures and it’s a great way of storing memories for the kids so I’ll do my best, feel free to follow and I expect that will inspire me to provide more!

Happy Tuesday folks!


Canyon Country Photos

Monument Valley

Here are  the photos from the last week travelling through Arizona and Utah’s canyon country and the Navajo Nation.

For accompanying story behind the pictures see my last post Deserts deserts everywhere.

The start of the week was in Flagstaff where we visited the Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory

The home of the telescope that discovered Pluto and the site where dark matter was first stumbled upon by accident!

And got to witness with expert commentary the rising of Earth’s shadow in the East as the sun set in the West.

waiting for earth's shadow

waiting for the shadow to reach the horizon. You see how there is a point in the middle where the trees have no shadows… that’s directly opposite the sun setting behind us.

Earth's Shadow

Earth’s shadow nearly full before dispersing into the dark night sky.

We moved onto the Grand Canyon, one of the seven wonders of the world.

Grand Canyon

There was a slight hazy in the air thanks to pollution from the west coast cities but it was an impressive sight none the less.

Muma Dean and team at Grand Canyon

Us all at the Grand Canyon

Elk at Grand Canyon

We spotted a cow elk while there, just chilling in the shade

Patrick Dean mooning at grand canyon

And strangers enjoyed Patrick’s very own Grand Canyon

We moved on through the desert and driving late we got to enjoy some spectacular sunsets over the next few nights

desert sunset

Desert Sunset over a vast landscape

The drive to Monument Valley was fantastic… just as imagined from films (picture at top) and we passed various interesting points

Mexican Hat Rock in Navajo Nation

Mexican Hat rock in the Navajo Nation country


Delicate desert flowers in this harsh habitat

Monument Valley

Team Dean at Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Wild country at Monument Valley. A 4×4 is required for the 17 mile track.

We moved onto Bryce Canyon on Thursday. Now this may be a little controversial but I, personally, think that Bryce Canyon is a little bit more spectacular and special than the Grand Canyon. Yes, the Grand Canyon is vast on an almost unimaginable scale even when stood there looking at it but Bryce… well Bryce is eye poppingly, brain frazzlingly, skin tinglingly beautiful. It’s colours are more vibrant and it’s geology more unique and interesting… Well I think anyway. On top of there there is more wildlife easy to spot with fewer people and the subsequent need for less car parking and so on and due to the extreme conditions at Bryce the plants have adapted in fascinating and incredible ways. We spotted prairie dogs and chipmunks as well as various birds and interesting flora.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

The day was perfect for viewing the Canyon and there weren’t many people around

Bryce Canyon

The boys looking over the edge at Bryce Canyon. There is a fair element of stress visiting canyons with such little children… we had Orla on a lead but the boys were hard to control at times!

tree at Bryce Canyon

Check out the roots on this tree. It’s incredible how they can adapt to thrive in these challenging positions

twisted tree at Bryce Canyon

A tree which has grown twisted on the edge of the Canyon

Grottos at Bryce Canyon

Grottos are an interesting feature of the canyon edges

road to bryce canyon

Even the road to Bryce Canyon, through mountains and little villages, offers impressive views and magical landscapes

Life in the Airstream

We’ve had lots of requests for pictures of life in the Airstream… keen as ever to oblige my loyal readers here are some pictures of our days at Swinging Bridge Farm.


Breakfast time, having put our bed away


The view the other way


A jigsaw before bed


Bed time for the children


Our bed involves putting the table away and stretching out the sofa


Painting on a rainy day


Alfie milking Meadow the Jersey cow


A cup of tea on the campfire, with our Lazy Pond mugs and milk fresh from Meadow

Simple living

I’ve taken to hand washing our clothes. Our host is more than happy for us to use their super giant washing machine but with the lovely weather we’ve been having and the washing line Alfie made for me in the tree outside the Airsteam I’ve been enjoying doing this basic yet essential task without modern conveniences.

It also sets a good example for the boys, letting them see that there are other ways of doing things… Alternatives which can actually be enjoyable.

A friend of mine once commented that she couldn’t understand why we would want to try using flint tools when we have modern steel knives and so on. Whereas I couldn’t understand her inability to understand… It’s what bushcraft is all about, being able to live, in relative comfort with just the natural resources we have around us.

And the boys have certainly been embracing the natural resources around us to get stuck into some bushcraft. We built a den, we dragged fallen trees from the woods for the fire, we collected kindling and tinder and all the while I heard “Ray Mears would like this den, Ray Mears would think this was a well prepared fire, Ray Mears uses his saw like this, doesn’t he mum!”


The boys collecting firewood and kindling from the woods behind the Airstream


Alfie constructing his shelter.


Not exactly rain proof but a good wind break!


A well prepared fire with tinder, kindling, larger sticks and the logs just out of view… not sure what the shovel was for or the sunglasses and wellies?


Sawing safely

Now I’m not sure we are quite at the “Den suitable for sleeping in” stage with this but for two boys aged 6 and 3, yes, Ray Mears probably would like this den. And preparing a fire properly was a key goal for Alfie who is prone to rushing to the lighting stage so he’s doing really well making sure he has it all ready first now. It’s hard for Alfie to use his saw with his left arm crossed over because his arms are still kind of short but he’s certainly practising and keen to learn the proper, safe techniques for these skills. We’ve started Patrick on “carving” sticks with a vegetable peeler which is safer for his stage and a great tip for parents wanting to get their kids into safe knife use, helping them gain control of tools and learn safety techniques like “elbows on knees”.

So our days have been full of fun, tracking deer through the forest, cooking on the campfire and spotting bald eagles… It’s amazing!