Rollercoaster Mum: June 2014


Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Year 2014 in Photos - Week 26

Last weekend Bigger Miss and I had a fabulous adventure at the RSPB's Big Wild Sleepout (which is what I was doing whilst a lot of you were gadding about at Britmums!) What with that and frantically trying to get windows painted whilst the scaffolding is still up, sports week at school, a glut of redcurrants and raspberries to process and the usual detritus of life not many photos have been taken so they are a bit sparse this week.
RSPB Farnham Heath
This was one taken in the morning after the Big Wild Sleepout and I love the way the sun is coming through the trees and you can see clouds of the beautiful, feathery purple grass that covered the clearings in the woods on the edge of the heath.

RSPB #BigWildSleepout Farnham Heath
This was one of my favourite photos from the RSPB Big Wild Sleepout - it isn't the best but it typifies what it was all about with the kids going off exploring in the woods.
blue flower of Love in the Mist
The curious and rather beautiful flower of Love in the Mist - some has appeared in our garden!

50m dash Sports Day
Bigger Miss doing her best in the 50m dash at Sports Day.
For some better organised people with more photos head on over to the ever wonderful The Boy and Me:
TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Silent Sunday #MySundayPhoto

feathery purple grass, Farnham Heath, RSPB Big Wild Sleepout

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A Night to Remember - the RSPB Big Wild Sleep Out

This time last week Bigger Miss and I were excitedly preparing for our RSPB Big Wild Sleep Out at Farnham Heath Nature Reserve. The Big Wild Sleepout is in it's second year and it is all about spending a night outside to raise awareness and money for nature. Last year Bigger Miss and I slept out in our garden which was great fun but this year we found out that there was a chance to do a sleepout on a nearby RSPB nature reserve which sounded like an opportunity that was too good to miss.

the Big Wild Sleep Out for the RSPB

And so it was that on a gorgeous sunny evening on the day of the Summer Solstice (and the longest day of the year) we found ourselves meeting up in a car park with about 40 other people all excited about spending a night out in the wild.

Farnham Heath Nature Reserve is in an Area of Outstanding National Beauty and is particularly renowned for the experience of listening to the 'churring' of the nightjars. It is an example of heathland restoration in progress as the RSPB have cleared the dense rows of pines that were part of an old commercial plantation to restore the valuable heathland habitat with it's purple heather, golden gorse and wildlife such as Grayling butterflies, woodlarks, nightjars and sand lizards.

#BigWildSleepout camp Farnham Heath
The campsite through the trees in the setting sun.
We were very lucky as we were being allowed to camp in a part of the reserve not normally open to the public and there was a palpable air of excitement as we stashed all the camping gear in the truck to be driven to the campsite (thank goodness we didn't have to carry it, I seemed to have packed enough for about a week, let alone one night!) Whilst our stuff was ferried to the site we had a pleasant half hours walk along the edges of the heath to the wooded camping area. 

RSPB #BigWildSleepout hammocks, Farnham Heath

I'm really not sure what I was expecting but it was safe to say that expectations were exceeded. The campsite was in a pretty clearing, surrounded by trees on the edge of the heath. Hammocks (for the brave) and some tents for the RSPB volunteers leading the camp were already set up. A camp fire was already lit, with plenty of logs around to sit on and barbecues and fire pits were readied for the cooking of sausages. Tents were pitched and beds made as quickly as possible and after a slight hitch with the barbecues everyone was soon sitting around the camp fire chatting and munching away on their sausages and picnics.  

Farnham Heath cattle
The friendly herd of cattle thought we were fascinating and by far the best thing that happened to them in days.
Unsurprisingly it was all the kids that finished first and they went off exploring, den building and wildlife hunting with one or two of the RSPB volunteers whilst the grown ups tidied up. Before we knew it it was 9.30 and Mike the warden of the reserve had gathered us for our late evening walk on to the heath to hopefully hear nightjars and see bats and maybe some other wild creatures. The children followed him like the proverbial pied piper and he soon had them hunting for tiny wild strawberries and even eating nettles. As we made our way out on to the heath, he explained how and why it was managed the way it was and we were even joined by the herd of friendly cattle (there to help control the scrub and allow the heath to regenerate.)

sunset over the heath, RSPB Big Wild Sleep Out
The sun setting over the heath.

Farnham Heath nature reserve
My pictures don't do justice to what was a very special walk where we heard and saw nightjars, owls and bats and even glowworms.
It wasn't long before, with our ears cupped, and tuned in we heard the call or churr of the nightjars. I had never heard one before and my best description is that it was a bit like a very loud cicada or cricket or maybe even a bit like and electric drill! They are extraordinary and rather rare summer visitors with great huge mouths and silent flight. They are nocturnal and they used to be called 'goatsuckers' as people believed they stole milk from goats at night! We also heard and spotted owls, bats (with the aid of a bat detector) and even glow worms. 

Male nightjar in display flight
Nightjar - photo courtesy of the RSPB. Although we did see them as well as hear them, my camera isn't that good! 
toasting marshmallows, RSPB #BigWildSleepout

By the time we returned to camp it was dark, the fire was roaring and there was a welcome hot chocolate to go with the obligatory marshmallows over the fire. The kids also tried making 'smores' - melted marshmallows between two chocolate digestive biscuits - bit too sweet for me though! Eventually little heads started to nod and it was time to turn in - well it was after 11pm and Bigger Miss for one was waaay past her bedtime! We snuggled into our sleeping bags and fell asleep to the call of a Tawny Owl and the distant revelry of a village do (well it was Surrey after all!)

Farnham Heath RSPB Big Wild Sleepout

exploring, RSPB BIg Wild Sleep Out Farnham Heath
Off for a walk - the next morning after checking the moth trap we were allowed to do as we pleased and much exploring was done by both adults and children and it was easy to find a spot to be alone if you wished.

RSPB Farnham nature reserve, Festoon Moth
The rare Festoon moth (top left) that was caught in the moth trap laid last night and some of my other wildlife spots on my little photo wander in the morning including the web of a nursery web spider.
The next morning dawned another beautiful sunny day and the camp gradually uncurled, stretched and woke, everyone keen to make the most of our wild sleepout, Bigger Miss and I surfaced at about 6.30am reasonably refreshed and I was glad of the cup of coffee waiting for me. It wasn't long before there was bacon and eggs sizzling on the camp cooker and everyone was enjoying breakfast around the camp fire. After breakfast there was some time for some more exploring, I wandered off to take some photos whilst the kids ran around in the woods, exploring and making games. But all too soon it was time to pack away the tents, tidy up, tear the kids away and slowly wander back to the car park. 

RSPB BIg Wild Sleep Out Farnham Heath
One of the lovely things about the whole experience was that the children could just run off exploring and den building by themsleves.
It really was a magical night to remember and even though it was only for one night both Bigger Miss and I felt very odd driving back through a town on the way home. We felt like we had been in a wonderful, peaceful, nature driven bubble and the town really jarred our little bubble. By 11am we were back home with Little Miss and Rollercoaster Dad and it was back to real life with a bump. 

sunset from camp, RSPB #BigWildSleepout
I leave you with a picture of the setting sun, taken on a magical summer solstice - what a perfect way to spend the longest day of the year.
We will definitely be trying to do it again next year and I want to thank all the RSPB people who helped make it a truly special night. If you get the chance to do something like this it really is worth it and if you can't make it to one of the special events why not camp out in your back garden - you don't even need a tent - some people slept in summerhouses, on porches, even on trampolines. It is all about experiencing nature and raising some money to help it. Take it from me - I don't even like camping usually! 

Linking up with the lovely Coombe Mill for Country Kids (you could definitely camp there I'm sure!) 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Circus of Thieves and the Raffle of Doom - a children's book review and Giveaway

Some weeks ago we were sent 'Circus of Thieves and the Raffle of Doom' for Bigger Miss to review but I have to admit to snaffling it and reading it first and it is a brilliant read. It is the first kids novel from author William Sutcliffe who is best known for the novel 'Are You Experienced' and is aimed at the 8+ age group but I think I enjoyed it just as much as Bigger Miss.

Book review of Circus of Thieves and the Raffle of Doom by William Sutcliffe

The book recreates that excitement of the circus with a fabulous cast of characters. There are touches of David Walliams and Roald Dahl but the style is essentially unique with big doses of humour and wackiness. Although initially Bigger Miss thought the book looked a little boyish, with the main character being a girl, Hannah, she was soon converted. Hannah is gutsy, bright and slightly tomboyish and is very bored (with pretty much everything) until she meets Billy Shank and his camel, Narcissus from the evil Armitage Shanks' Circus where all is definitely not as at seems. The circus is full of brilliant characters like Irrrrrrrena the Russian assistant to Maurice (pronounced Murrggghhhheeece) the French trapeze artist, the ever bickering clown twins Hank and Frank and Jesse the Human Cannonball, who is definitely a bit of a Jesse! In town, Hannah is accompanied by Fizzer the dog and her Granny who we are pretty sure there is more to than meets the eye.

The story is all about what happens when the circus comes to town and Billy reveals Armitage Shanks' evil plans to Hannah. Hannah is determined to stop him but will she be successful? The story follows these two along with a camel, a dog and a cat and the madcap cast of characters. It is a funny and gripping 'rip-roaring' adventure - all helped along by the addition of amusing footnotes which really do add to the book and some great illustrations by David Tazzyman. I would imagine that confident readers from the age of about 7 would enjoy it, although the younger kids may not quite get all the references and jokes and it is definitely one of those that bridges the gap between boys and girls fiction - appealing to both. There are still questions left at the end of the book and it seems there is to be another book - certainly Bigger Miss and I both hope there is! I am not going to delve deeper into the story as that might just give the game away - however there is a spoiler alert in Bigger Miss's book review below so if you don't want to know what happens don't read her review just yet... (all you need to know is she gave it 10/10 - pretty high praise from a 9 year old!)

Book review of Circus of Thieves and the Raffle of Doom by William Sutcliffe
Bigger Miss's review

You want to read it now don't you? Well I just happen to have two copies from the lovely people at Simon and Schuster, to give away to a couple of you lucky people so if you think you or yours (it's a good book for adults too) would like to get your sticky mitts on a copy then all you have to do is complete the rafflecopter below. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book for an honest review and I am not being paid to host this competition.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Year 2014 in Photos - Week 25

I have taken a fair few photos this week and I had every intention of catching up on the blogging front but with that strange yellow thing in the sky it's just too nice  - so blogging can go hang - maybe next week?!

So to the photo's:

Butser Hill picnic, kite flying
Father's Day was a bit chillier than predicted as was our picnic. We still had fun though - Little Miss was in awe of her giant chocolate lolly, we saw moths and orchids, flew a kite (although it was very windy) and pretended to be sherpas!
Swallow on 'phone wire
Not the best pic but I had been trying to capture the Swallows that I see on the school run for a while now. 
first prize, school sculpture
Bigger Miss's class had an exhibition of their work that they had done as a result of their school trip to Portsmouth and I rather liked her boat sculpture. They were also showing their pop up books they had made and she was chuffed to bits to win first prize as voted by the nursery school kids and teachers that they had been reading to last half term.
juicy ripe raspberry
Our fruit harvest from our small soft fruit patch is in full swing with raspberries and strawberries all ripening at once - will be jam making soon! I loved the light on this raspberry.
hot air balloon landing
As the week went on the weather got better and better and one fine, sunny morning we woke to find a hot air balloon softly sinking through the trees behind the house.
the Hampshire Hangars
On one of my days off I was loving the view from and the sun on the scaffolding around our house - the view is way better than from inside and it made a perfect sundeck! 

after school summer picnic
On Friday Bigger Miss was off on a playdate so Little Miss and I went for a picnic and a bit of an explore after school. We found a perfect spot by a babbling stream which just had to be paddled in (it was icy cold though) and I read a chapter of Winnie the Pooh to her before we made our way home. 

For lots more summer fun photos head on over to The Boy and Me:

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Silent Sunday #MySundayPhoto

after school picnic, #picnicweek

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Alphabet Photography Project - F is for ...

I had many ideas for F and yet no definite ideas so it's taken me this long to decide. Was it to be our Fish (can be tricky to photograph in a tank), maybe some of our Fruit harvest, one of the girls being Friends or Feathers from the chickens but anyone who has read my blog a couple of times probably knows that F has to be for...

(although I have a little surprise at the end!)

#alphabetphoto, F is for Flower, Rhododendron flower

#alphabetphoto, F is for Flower, Rose bud

#alphabetphoto, F is for Flower

#alphabetphoto, F is for Flower, Geranium flower

and - Frog ...

#alphabetphoto, F is for Frog, froglet

OK I couldn't resist a sneaky F for Frog at the end as I spotted this little one on the school run this week.

Linking up with the ever so talented Charly from PODcast and her Alphabet Photography Project.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

What To Do If You Find a Bat

This is not a joke people I am really going to tell you what to do if you find an injured or seemingly lost, bat. For the second time recently I am revisiting one of the first few posts that I wrote - in this case when we found a bat in our bedroom.

Pipistrelle bat , baby
The baby Pipistrelle Bat that we found in our bedroom.

That was back in 2011 but about two weeks ago I was walking up the back lane near our house and spotted what I initially thought was a dead mouse on the ground but then I realised it was a bat and it was still alive. Now, having had a bit of experience in these things the first thing I did was to go and get a pair of gardening gloves before picking it up. Bats can bite (although most won't) and really you should not handle a bat unless you have to, as you are supposed to have a special license to handle them but needs must in some cases.There is also a very small risk of a rabies like virus if they do bite you, so do find those gloves. Initially I put it on a low wall as it looked pretty ill and I didn't think it would move much but I didn't want it to get run over by a car. 

The next, and most important thing to do is to call the Bat Helpline - 0845 1300 228. This is run by the Bat Conservation Trust and during the summer they also operate evenings and weekends. The helpline is run by volunteers though so please be patient with them. I duly rang the helpline which was answered by a very helpful lady who advised me what to do next. It was early evening on a Saturday so she was a volunteer and there was only so much they could do at that point. I had to find a shoe box, an old tea towel and a plastic milk bottle top. After making some holes in the top of the shoe box with a pencil I went out to get the bat only to find it had disappeared! Initially I thought a cat might have got it but after a bit of searching I found it on the ground a few feet away. It was obviously not as poorly as I had originally thought and had jumped off the wall. There was definitely something wrong though as it was unable to fly. It wasn't that keen on getting caught this time and hissed and squeaked at me but I managed to get it in the shoe box with a tea towel and a milk bottle top with some water in. 

The lady on the Bat Helpline had given me some numbers of local bat carers to call so once the bat was secure in his shoe box and put in the summer house I called a couple of them. One gentleman was the same man who had come out last time (from now on known as Batman!) and although they couldn't come out that evening he remembered where we were and said he would come to collect the bat the next day. This was further complicated in that we were off to Chessington the next day but we left the bat in the summer house in the garden so that Batman could get him. 

rescued, male Whiskered Bat
Our rescued male Whiskered Bat
Two days later when we returned from Chessington the bat had been collected and Batman had left a bat leaflet for us. That evening he called us to let us know that our bat was a Whiskered Bat and therefore a rarer find than our last bat which had been a Pipistrelle. He said he was doing well and had no obvious injuries and was eating and drinking but that these bats could be tricky to look after. If the bat did survive then he would let us know and would come back to release it one evening. I told the girls he was doing OK but didn't want to get their hopes up. 

About ten days later, having pretty much given up hope, Batman called and said that Batty was fine, had been flying in his spare room(!) and was ready to be released. The date was set for Friday night so that the girls could stay up and watch and at about 9.30pm Batman duly arrived with Batty in a special little box. We had to wait for a little bit for it to get nearly dark and Batman explained that this was the first time he had successfully nursed a Whiskered Bat back to health so we were really lucky. He had been 4g when he had collected him and had now gone up to a whole 5g - a healthy weight for a bat - with the help of lots of mealworms. By about 9.45 is was dark enough and we all crossed the road to the edge of the woods, the girls in their PJ's. Batty was retrieved from the box and we had a chance to see his little face before Batman opened his hand and within seconds off he flew. After a couple of turns around our heads he was off into the woods and our good deed had been done. Batman had brought his bat detector (echo locator) so we could hear the calls and within minutes he had disappeared out of range - off hunting for insects we hope. 

Whiskered Bat, about to be released
Batty the Whiskered Bat about to be released back into the wild.

So in summary this is what you should do if you find a bat on the ground or in an exposed area during the day:
  1. Call the Bat Helpline - 0845 130 228
  2. Find a shoebox or similar and make holes in the lid with a pencil (no bigger or the bat may escape)
  3. Find an old teatowel or bit of cloth, a clean plastic milk bottle lid and a pair of gloves
  4. Contain the bat in the shoebox (first put on the gloves) and then try to get the bat in the shoebox by either lifting it with the teatowel carefully or putting the box over it and sliding a piece of card underneath. 
  5. Put the teatowel in the box to give the bat somewhere to hide and put a little water in the milk bottle lid for it to drink. Shut the lid firmly. We had to put masking tape round the edge as it wasn't a very tight fit and the bat escaped once! 
  6. Put the bat somewhere safe, dark and quiet if possible, and not too cold. We used the summerhouse as it wasn't cold and the bat was then safe from kids and cats! 
  7. Make sure you have called that Bat Helpline and they should get a local bat carer to contact you and hopefully like our brilliant Batman they will come to collect your bat and nurse them back to health. You should never release the bat yourself as they need to be checked over by a proper Bat Carer to make sure they are healthy. 
The Bat Conservation Trust do a brilliant job and if you do find one of these amazing little creatures please contact them, or if you fancy volunteering, donating or helping give them a call. They can also be found on facebook and twitter

Linking with Country Kids to help raise awareness for our little batty friends:

Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

PS - I have not been compensated in any way for this post I just want to help the bats! 

Silent Sunday #MySundayPhoto

Granny's Bonnet flower, Aquilegia

The Year 2014 in Photos - Weeks 23 and 24

I have no valid excuses for missing last week - we haven't been on holiday, we haven't been ill, we haven't even been busier than usual. I have simply lost the motivation to either blog or even take photos for a while. My trusty camera which mostly comes everywhere with me has been mostly left at home. I think I was just tired and photoed out after half term and it is harder to sit at a laptop when the sun is shining. My mojo is gradually coming back and my poor neglected blog will get some love again. In the meantime this is a bit of what we've been up to since I last posted: (not the best photos as some were taken on my 'phone and have been Instagramed!)

view from the Big Wheel, Chessington World of Adventures
On the last Sunday of half term we headed off to Chessington for two days - we had a fab time but not many opportunities to take photos on those big rides! 
fluffy baby Blackbird
We spotted a baby Blackbird ( I think) outside on the patio one morning.

We were very excited to receive a YUU bag to review - we haven't posted yet but the girls love it! 

Plant Sale at the Village Hall
A bored Little Miss captured by an equally bored Bigger Miss at our Plant Sale last weekend. Despite heavy thunderstorms and a bad turnout we did manage to raise some money for our propose allotments. We all enjoyed the BBQ social that followed though and lets just say Sunday was a fairly lazy day! 
Gardening for the summer, hanging baskets and containers
With the flurry of plants and planting at the weekend I thought I really should (belatedly) get some bedding plants and plant up at least a couple of hanging baskets and containers and these were the results.

We welcome Baby Oleg #ComparetheMeerkat
The girls were ridiculously over excited to get a baby Oleg meerkat (courtesy of my boss) - I have even had to make him a blanket!! 
Grow Your Own, raspberries and strawberries
The first harvest of our own strawberries and raspberries this year - yum! 
Whiskered Bat about to be released
Just before we went to Chessington we rescued a bat and it has been nursed back to health by a Bat Carer who brought it back to release it on Friday night. It is a Whiskered Bat and the girls were very excited to be allowed to stay up late to see the release. You can read all about it here.

#WorldGinDay, G&T
And yesterday was #WorldGinDay - hurrah an excuse for a G & T! 

For all those far more conscientious bloggers head on over to The Boy and Me:

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky
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