Red Kites

Only 20 years ago I had to travel to Wales to see red kites.

A majestic looking bird that feeds mainly on carrion and was once common all over London, and other cities where refuse was to be found! After years of persecution they had become extinct in England.

Then in 1989 and over the next few years 90 birds were reintroduced to England from Spanish stock. The birds were released in the Chilterns, and initially placed into wooden release pens on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire border before being set free. The first successful breeding in the Chilterns took place in 1992, and since then numbers have steadily increased to approximately 400/500 breeding pairs. If you drive the M40 you will see red kites.

Other reintroduction programs continue but all are in the midlands and north of England and Scotland.

So I was thrilled to see a red kite on my way to work this morning. I live on the South coast and although we have lots of buzzards now, I’ve never seen a red kite this far south. I was so excited that I stopped the car and took some (pretty bad) photos! It was an exciting start to the morning and I shall be watching out in future and no longer assuming a large bird of prey is a buzzard, it would be lovely if red kites are breeding here in Sussex.

Find out more about the red kite at the RSPB Website

Elderflower Fields Festival - a first timer's review

So our first festival of the year this year has been and gone (and doesn't time fly when you are having fun!)

DD and I took our new tent to the Elderflower Fields Festival. We arrived on the Friday, straight after school (so about 5pm) thus missing some of the gigs and the film showing of Malificent *sad face*

But after sorting out our wristbands (delayed due to a power cut!) we set off with our stuff to pitch up. We found a spot by a pond, and like all festivals it was busy but friendly. We sorted out pitch in two trips to the car with the festival trolley (steep hills!) and by about 8pm we were all done. We were also tired out! So we ate and then dozed about, sat around and generally did nothing at all until bedtime - lazy campers! (and did I mention they have flushing toilets and FREE showers?)

On the Saturday we woke early and discovered we had no gas for the cooker! How spiffing that Elderflower Fields had realised this would happen and had arranged for the Lewes Outdoor shop to have a shop on site! Gas bought we went into the main festival area and ate some local bacon in a bap.

Wood Fired Pizza
At this point I need to say that a lot of what we did revolved around eating and lazing about - I gained 3 lbs over the weekend.

So, things we did over the Saturday and Sunday, included, walking in the woods, watching people build mud huts, eat wood fired pizza, drink alcohol, dress up, listen to The Kings Parade (excellent live band), drink Turkish delight flavour hot chocolate, eat ice cream, listen to Two Man Ting in the woods, wander the woods and look at the art, take silly photos at the photo booth tree, sleep, meet lovely friendly people and eat delicious local food at the big picnic, watch the Paddington movie (yes I cried in public at a kids film!) listen the Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer (love him, bought a cd too) and probably lots of things I have forgotten too...

So will we be going again next year? Of course we will!!

Find out more about Elderflower Fields at their website 

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
Shared as part of the country kids linky

A Day out at Plumpton College

Fairly near where  I live are several agricultural colleges. Plumpton recently had an open day and Dd and I went along to see what was on offer (and because they had food, crafts and a dog show!)

Once upon a time DD wanted to be a farmer, sadly she no longer does, but it was still a fun day out (despite the rain) and we enjoyed watching the sheep shearing and the carriage driving, as well as the birds of prey (I covet a Harris Hawk)

Heavy Horses

A youngster in training
 There were representatives from the South Downs National park too (one ranger had a particularly fine beard!)
Fake sheep

Harris hawks

Sheep Shearing

Sheep shearing
 And the terrier racing was just hilarious, mostly inexperienced dogs, some took to it straight away even nipping back to the box to be ready for the next race while some just looked confused! Brilliant to watch, enjoyable chaos.

I didn't take any pictures of the pigs though. They use rather intensive methods, farrowing crates (they looked awful) and dock the youngsters tails as they are kept indoors and so bite and fight. It was the only sad bit of the day, the pig sheds.

All in all it was a fun day, the food was great and Dd bought a new school bag. I wasn't aware that the college taught so many courses either!

Find out more about them at their website

The centipede, the fairies and the deadnettles

My walk in the bluebells woods reminded me of a story from my childhood, something my grandfather told me on our walks in the woods years ago.

Long ago when the world was far less complicated than it is today the fairies were up to mischief. The fair folk have always loved tricks and they love to cause trouble so it should come as no surprise that they took great delight in teasing the centipede.

The centipede struggled each morning to put on all of his shoes, it took him until nearly lunchtime to even be ready to go out for morning tea with his lady friend, what with sorting all the shoes and lacing them all onto his little feet. So the fairies thought it was terribly funny to hide his shoes!

They hid them at first all over his little centipede house, but later they went as far as the stream, making the poor centipede have to walk all in the damp mud in his stocking feet! They were such bad fairies, and how they giggled when they watched him from behind the bluebells.

One particular morning the centipede woke after staying up late to polish each and every shoe, he wanted to look especially smart because he planned to ask his lady love to marry him, only to find all his shoes gone! Oh those fairies, they had gone too far this time, it took him until after noon to find all the shoes and some were so muddy he had to clean them all over again.


He was hot and bothered when he finally met his love. Luckily she was a very sweet natured centipede herself, and she accepted his proposal to be married, (even though in his haste he had put at least two shoes on the wrong feet). She also told him how to stop the fairies’ tricks.

“Hide your shoes yourself!” she told him, “pop a pair or two of your shoes under each dead nettle flower, the dead nettles look like stinging nettles but they don’t sting! The fairies are so silly they won’t know that, and they will be far to afraid of being stung to look for your shoes there!”

white deadnettle
White Deadnettle
And so that is what he did, and do you know it worked! The centipedes went on to have many children and grandchildren and they told them all their secret.

Story of why there are shoes in the white deadnettle flowers
White Deadnettle...with shoes!
If you don’t believe me you have only to peep inside the White Deadnettle flowers to see, there will be the centipede’s best shoes, hidden away from those bad fairies.

A walk in the English countryside

I don't know where you live, but here Monday started with gorgeous weather. As it is spring and I live relatively close to woodland, my husband and I decided to talk a walk in the woods to look at the bluebells. We were not disappointed. It was a perfect morning, lovely lighting through dappled trees, bird song, and spring flowers.

We saw so many flowers that I have made a list to give you an idea of what you look for if you go out in the next few weeks. If you have children (and maybe even if you don't) an I-Spy or other spotter book can make a walk fun, definitely grab yourself some sort of identification book, you can borrow them free from libraries as well as buying them. Or take a picture of each flower you see (I took quite a few) and use the internet to identify them when you get home. There is charming folklore about many English plants (more of that in later posts)

So here is my walk in pictures...

And we saw a huge long list of flowers too, many of which I photographed. Including:
Stitchwort, primroses, bluebells, white deadnettle, crosswort, bugle, cuckoo pint, herb robert, red campion, dog violets, anemone, wood sorrel, dandelions, daisies, yellow archangel, lady's smock, wood spurge, gorse, forget me nots, and yellow pimpernel.

white deadnettle
White deadnettle

wild forget me nots
wild forget me nots

bugle wild flower
Herb Robert
Herb Robert

cuckoo pint
Cuckoo pint

lady's smock wild flower
Lady's smock


fern frond
Fern Frond

english woodland bluebells

gorse flowers

crosswort yellow flower

yellow pimpernel
Yellow pimpernel

stitchwort flowers

Five Reason to Go to the Elderflowerfields Festival

I don't mind telling you that I am all ready for the first festival of my festival year. For a change I have a new one to experience, and it's fairly local to me - so good new, I won't be arriving knackered after a long drive. Fingers crossed for no traffic jams. So apart from meeting me, what would you expect at Elderflowerfields, well according to my spies you can expect a lot of fun! And lovely scenery, and the top 5 things are:-


The So Sussex Sunday picnic has become something of our trademark and is one of the highlights of the weekend. It's the perfect way to spend an afternoon with friends and family (or even strangers), and it's all included in your ticket. We are pretty sure Elderflower Fields is the only festival in the world to supply every guest with a free shared picnic filled with delicious tasters of local produce. And then there's the legendary chocolate cake...

Elderflower Fields has more free activities on offer per child that any other festivawe know. All run by a dedicated team of professional organisations providing kids with the opportunity to discover new skills and have fun. Rafting, mud hut building, music masterclasses, parkour, science, disc golf, night walks, slacklining, bush craft skills, art workshops, sports camp, kayaking, orienteering, pond dipping, drama workshops, climbing wall and more.

The Green People Woodland Spa is now taking bookings for luxurious festival pampering. You can also prebook supervised sports or arts camp session via our website so that the kids are taken care of while you relax. And of course, the Double Decker Hot Tub Bus is back too!

Gypsy, folk, blues, rock, cajun, swing, dance and classical. We're super excited about the line up this year and think we have something for everyone. We also welcome a unique performance being curated on site by East Sussex Music Service as part of the BBC Ten Pieces, as well as the winners of our Youth Musician Competition.

We have some of the finest local food providers at Elderflower Fields this year. Some regular favourites and a few new surprises to enjoy. All supplying affordable high quality meals. We've worked hard with suppliers to ensure all diets are catered for - especially the kids.
The cocktail bar will be back with a new stage and late music for the night owls and two further bars will be serving up craft beers, local ales, ciders and more...

Elderflower Fields will take place from Friday 22nd to Monday 25th May (which is a bank holiday and the start of summer half term for most schools).

It is going to be held in Pippingford Park, in the heart of the Ashdown Forest. Pippingford is big, beautiful and wild! It’s got loads of space to run around in and stunning views across rugged heathland and ancient woods. Is also really easy to get to from both Brighton and London...

And if all that appeals you can save  £10 off the ticket price with this link and with this code : ao24sm

Night night, sleep tight - Camping sleep mats review

For a long time I have searched for the perfect comfy night's sleep when camping. As I'm in my 50s the simple thin foam mat favo...