With places like Legolands, Disney Worlds and Zoos to entertain our children, a clump of trees on a hill can seem pretty boring. Unless we make the effort to make it interesting to get them closer to nature.
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Only recently I discovered “nature observation” thanks to other homeschoolers who also introduced me to the enlightened writings of Charlotte Mason.
Getting the children into nature observation compliments our science lessons while getting fresh air at the same time. For this outing, I challenged them to find different conifers and identify their cones and to spot differences between plants growing in the sun and shady areas to keep them looking. Leah collects leaves and flowers to dry, press and trace in her journal.
A Money Saver
There is so much they can do in nature while learning with my purse closed tightly. More pennies for Disney World Florida! This day out in nature cost me £7 in total, which was for refreshments. Compare that to a day at Legoland that cost us close to £200, that’s including two free adult entry tickets we got from cereal boxes. Not bad. So pack a picnic and get them closer to nature.
Coxwell Barn & Badbury Hill, Oxfordshire
- Entry: Free. Not manned/staffed. Take a pound for the donation box.
- Public Toilets: No
- Refreshments: Yes. Hot & cold drinks and icecreams at the mobile kiosk at Badbury Hill carpark (accepts cards)
- Pushchairs: I do not recommend it at the barn or on the walking routes, but at Badbury Hill you can use a pushchair.
- More Information: Visit The National Trust website
The UN proclaimed 21 March International Day of Forests. So, as recommended by the National Trust, we set out to explore Badbury Hill and The Great Coxwell Barn near Farringdon in Oxfordshire not more than half an hours drive from Hungerford. Armed with an activity list of 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 we plan to climb trees, build dens, play the I Spy challenge and follow walking trails.
You’ll find the I Spy challenge posters at the barn (pending availability). Take time to read about the barn in the shed area before going into the barn itself. Very interesting history around the origin and use of the barn dating from the 12th century.
Count, Breath and Carry-On
Things don’t always go according to plan with a toddler in the ranks. Kate falls asleep the minute we pull out the drive-way. I try to drive slowly so she can sleep longer and even take a little detour but Nick and Leah are super excited and bursting to get out of the car to explore.
Other Lessons of Nature
Never wake a sleeping baby. Has anyone ever told you that? Listen. It’s true. The baby is not happy and we hear it all day. She is just miserable, but I square my shoulders and decide to push on for the sake of her brother and sister who need the adventure. It means that I have to find a random tree stump to sit on and nurse every now and then and that I have to bite my tongue and count to 100 several times instead of calling it a day and packing up.
Seeing It Is Better Than Reading About It
I can picture 12th century monks building the barn and growing crops to fill it up. We go to ancient sites like the Great Coxwell barn ourselves if we can, instead of reading about it to bring history to life. What might seem like just four walls of a dark dingy outbuilding with mucky floors full of mud and bird poop to another person, to us is a place filled with meaning. It is what you make of it. If those walls could only talk!? Imagine the stories you’ll hear.
Now we know more about the interesting people who lived very different lives to ours a looooong time ago in strange and challenging times and how they built the barn. That is worth something.
Badbury Hill is covered in bluebells in spring and a perfect place for making a den. There are a bunch of awesome dens made by other explorers that Nick and Leah enjoyed playing in and upgrading. The little village near Badbury Hill and Coxwell Barn is so pretty we drove around for a while to enjoy it.
Keep Car Keys Zipped Away Safely
Despite trying to cope with a stroppy toddler while trying to make it fun for the older two, we manage to tick off the activities on our list bar a few and have a nice day out.
Except for the last half hour. The part where we get back to the car, realise I lost the car keys and retrace every step we took around Badbury Hill forest, was not so much fun. It was past four already and it was a LONG day. Praying aloud, we frantically search the forest and I envision us freezing into the night while waiting to be rescued by Brendan. It felt like hours, but Leah finds the keys under leaves by the log where I sat down to nurse Kate. It fell from my pocket!
Prayers answered, I drive home in our own car, pick up Daddy from work, feed and tuck our grumpy toddler and her big brother and sister into warm beds for the night and unwind by the fire.