Blackgang chine is a wonderful day out for all the family

Last time we went camping was to the Isle of Wight, and while it poured with rain pretty much the whole 4 days we were there, there was one day that fun was had by all. We went to Black Gang Chine.

In case you are wondering, a Chine is a narrow gully or gorge normally with a stream that cuts through it and runs into the sea, this is particularly dramatic if the cliff face is made of clay or sand. These are common on The Island around the South East/South West coastline. Many of these Chines date back in history.

The word Chine comes from the Saxon word 'Cinan' which means a gap or yawn.The Blackgang Chine Theme Park is located near to where the chine used to be in Victorian times and before. This has been reclaimed by the sea due to devastating effects of Landslip. This area was some 300 metres further out to sea than it is today. The Blackgang Fantasy Park has long been an attraction to go and see especially with children.

I haven't been there since I was about 10 and so my memory of it was mainly lots of winding paths, plants and some large fibreglass dinosaurs, and maybe a Cowboy town? I was delighted to find that the dinosaurs have come to life (they are now animatronic and really quite excellent) and the Cowboy town still exists. There was also a roller coaster, and lots of food outlets, loads of fun games and things to do...well it's hard to put it into words, so here is a feel for our day.

danger dinosaur sign Blackgang chine

T rex Blackgang chine

warning sign Blackgang chine

smiling dinosaur Blackgang chine

warning sign Blackgang chine

spider fear Blackgang chine

cask and weevil Blackgang chine

mermaid Blackgang chine

fibreglass horse cowboy town Blackgang chine

Blackgang chine

Blackgang chine

Blackgang chine

Blackgang chine

Dodo Blackgang chine

hedge maze Blackgang chine

Blackgang chine

Blackgang chine

limpets Blackgang chine

dragon video Blackgang chine

autumn sprite Blackgang chine
It was excellent value for money and I wouldn't hesitate to go back.

Outdoor Food on Friday - snacks when you are walking

October, Halloween approaches and the gorgeous autumnal tints are brightening the woodland. It's a time to put on some warm waterproof clothes and go for a walk. I don't know about you but when I go out walking I like to take a snack or two, it seems appropriate to reward all that healthy outdoor exercise with a nibble, and in the cooler months you need something to keep you warm, all that walking and staying snug takes energy!

My favourite walking food if I'm not out all day is Kendal mint cake, the hiker's friend, it doesn't melt in hot weather, it is practically pure sugar so very good for an energy boost and the added mint makes it easier to eat than. for example, fudge, without feeling sick!

In the autumn and winter of course you can risk some chocolate as long as it's not close to you, but popped in a rucksack it will stay nice for a spot of snacking. (in bear country you may like to avoid Snickers - I've heard stories...)

If I'm out for a full day of course I like to take a proper picnic and I still find a cheese sandwich the best option, easy to make and pack, hard to destroy and coupled with a bag of crisps and a large slab of fruit cake it will keep you going all day.

sheep on welsh hills
Sheep like crisps and are not as dangerous as bears

Have you any good food tips for a walk? Have you blogged about picnic food or any good recipes that travel well, even a blog about sweets! Do link up below. And grab a badge for your blog. Thanks
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Waterproof Denim? Interactive maps?

Wrangler has teamed up with renowned, award winning explorer Alastair Humphreys  to launch the Born Ready Adventures campaign, designed to get city dwellers  out and enjoying an adventure within and around the city limits. The campaign aims to celebrate Wrangler's new performance denim collection, which features innovative insulating, water resistant and stretch resistant jeans. 

Alastair has curated interactive online maps which show adventures  within an hour of the city limits (London, Manchester and Edinburgh in the UK plus cities in Germany and Poland). Users can also upload their own adventures.  You can check the maps out here  –

The Wrangler brand launched in 1947 on a platform of innovation: to create the best-possible jeans for cowboys. Today, Wrangler continues to create the best-possible jeans, but for the needs of modern consumers. Looking good, working hard: the guiding principle in every Wrangler design is to make you feel Born ReadyTM – fully prepared for whatever life throws at you. Blending fashion and function, the collection is built on modern fits that you can live in, energised with innovative finishes. Wrangler accelerates the evolution of jeans with groundbreaking initiatives: denim that keeps the rain off or helps you feel warm in the cold.

Outdoor Food on Friday - 9th October - Sloe Gin

Fabulous foraging! I love free food - who doesn't! Free food tastes better than any other kind except maybe food you grew or picked yourself. So just imagine the joy of free hand picked food!

Foraging is something that can be taken to extremes but I'm a fairly lazy forager. I'm the sort of mum that will pack some empty tupperware on an autumn walk in case we spot black berries, but I'm not usually keen enough to bring the car to a halt on an A road and climb on the car roof to pick apples growing among the trees on the verge (ok I did that once). Sloes are a very British thing to flavour gin with though and while I don't actually make my own gin (there are limits!) it is nice to have something you have (almost) made free. I buy the cheapest gin the supermarket has to offer. And then I pick my sloes.

Don't try this unless you are sure of what you are picking. A sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn, they have white flowers in the spring (spot them then and make a note where to return to!)The small tree or large bush will usually be growing in a mixed hedgerow, there are thorns on a blackthorn (the clue is in the name!) so take care. The fruits are small, about the size of a small olive, and black but with a blue 'bloom' to them which will wipe off with a damp finger. If you bite into one the flesh is greenish purple and will strip the moisture from your mouth! They are very bitter!
Take the sloes home and wash them, remove any bugs, weevils etc, find some empty glass bottles (it's tough but you may have to drink the contents to empty them) or mason style jars. I then prick over every sloe with a pin (yes really) to help the juices flow.

Half fill a bottle with sloes, cover them with sugar, fill the bottle with gin. Close the bottle and pop it into a dark cupboard. Give it a shake every week but otherwise ignore it for at least 6 months, the pips of the sloe, in common with peaches, damsons and other 'stone' fruits, contain cyanide and while I have never had an issue, even after steeping them for years, it's advisable to take them out after 6 months for this reason*.  You can add more sugar if the original sugar dissolves in the first week.

When it has achieved a dark red colour (it will, you will even see the red leaking out of the holes you made in the sloes at the start) and all the sugar is dissolved, you should carefully strain it into a glass bottle for storage and serving.

Drink responsibly! Sloe gin is great on it's own, with tonic or as a base for cocktails.

Have you been up to no good this week? Foraging, cooking or eating outside? Have a great camping recipe to share? Now's your chance! Please link up your blog post below.

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*All stoned fruit contain minute amounts of hydrogen cyanide and after lengthy submerssion in gin this cyanide begins to leach into the drink imparting the bitter almond flavour. However this generally happens only after a long period of time and the good news is that this type of cyanide is not in anyway harmful. However in an attempt to mimic these effects some people started adding almond essence to their sloe gin to copy the flavour of their friends who had left their Sloe gin under the stairs for longer than expected. ref Foxdenton Sloe Gin

Off road cycling in Wales

CTC Cymru, Open MTB, Welsh Cycling and British Cycling have applauded the Welsh Government’s proposal to adopt similar rules on access to the countryside as those enjoyed in Scotland.

Currently in Wales the Rights of Way system is based upon recorded historic use of routes instead of suitability. As a result, cyclists have rights to use just 21% of the network, with permission to ride along narrow rocky sheep tracks on steep ground but denied access to thousands of miles of public footpaths lying on metalled farm and forest roads. As a walker I can see how frustrating this is, some tracks are so wide two cars can pass each other on them! It seems rather silly to deny cyclists access.

In Scotland, following the Land Reform Act 2003, it is very different. Scotland enjoys ‘presumed access’. This means there is a presumption of “responsible access”, subject to exemptions laid out in the Outdoor Access Code (eg forestry operations). Consequently, Scottish off-road and leisure cycle tourism are booming and contribute between £236.2m and £358m a year.

Recent research indicates that outdoor activity in Wales contributes to nearly 10% of the Welsh tourist economy. The group argues that changes to countryside access within Wales could dramatically increase this figure, thereby offering more social, transport, recreational and health benefits for both residents and visitors to the country.

Tom Hutton, Snowdonia based mountain bike journalist and guide, speaking on behalf of Open MTB said:
“I don’t think we can exaggerate what an amazing opportunity for mountain biking this is. A change in access laws in Wales could potentially open 1000s of kilometres of currently out of bounds trails.
“It would put Wales back up there with Scotland as one of the best off road destinations in the world, and at the same time, would increase take up of the sport and local participation. It would also potentially pave the way for future changes in England. 

I realise some walkers would be nervous as there are always some inconsiderate cyclists out and about, but I can't help but think they probably don't obey the rules anyway and this would enable responsible bikers much better access.

Consultaion on this has now finished, but keep up to date at  


Rain at a festival - can you be dry and trendy?

Yesterday's post about waterproof jackets made me think about festivals too. I don't know about you but I try and look a teensy bit cool and quirky (let's face it, weird!) at festivals so a proper hiking jacket while eminently practical is sort of not what I want to be wearing. But if rain strikes (as it did for the whole  of Sam Smith's set at Wilderness) you do get pretty bedraggled.

But what to do? Umbrellas are an option, golf umbrellas are a bit of a no-no though as just SO huge and unwieldy, after a few gins you could easily have someones eye out! I personally favour the option that the Queen loves, the clear dome style umbrella, good in the wind and less likely to remove someones eyeball as the ends of the spokes point down, not out. I saw someone with a gorgeous birdcage style at Wilderness and just had to own one! It's by Lulu Guiness and I adore it - there are other styles in the range too and they are just super, large, robust, beautiful and practical.
After an umbrella there is the coat option of course, DD has opted for a plastic Minnie Mouse Poncho from Primark and I do rather like the look of the totally clear plastic coats available on ebay, with little ears on the hood! A poncho is always a good standby though as it will slip over the most outlandish festival wear (or onesie) and still do the job!

I toyed with inventing an umbrella / shower curtain combo, only to find it had already been invented!

What do you wear to stay dry at festivals? Or do you just revel in the muddiness of it all?

Raining and staying dry

Good day tent and festival lovers! Today's appalling weather (raining here in the UK as I type) has reminded me of the horror of our Isle of Wight camping trip this year and the discovery that my (very old) waterproof jacket no longer was, waterproof that is!

Looking around the outdoor type shops in the town I was stunned at the prices, I'm sure that there is lots to said for a £300 water proof jacket but realistically I can't afford that sort of money, and with a Welsh holiday looming for the whole family later this year, and DD needing a new coat too things needed thinking about.

Wales is green and beautiful and it's also very moist. I have holidayed there for many years and love walks along river banks, canals, and mountainsides, but the common factor to most of my holidays is rain.

I wanted a very simple thing, a waterproof coat, with taped seems if possible, and a hood. I did not expect that to cost more that a 2 man tent.

After several days of shop visits I was almost set to give up and just convert a bin bag when I realised I had failed to look online! A quick search revealed that not only do many shops list sale items online that are not in the stores, but there are whole discount online suppliers!

SO I am now the proud owner of a water proof jacket, as is DD. I bought mine from a retail seller on ebay and found another excellent discount retailer at the Regatta Outlet Store. So if you are hunting for a waterproof coat - and have a tight budget, that's today's top tip!

Regatta outlet store webpage

I shall report back after the holiday but DD has already tested hers in a storm and declared it extremely snuggly and dry.

Outdoor food on Friday - October 2nd - foraging

Autumn is upon us! It’s October and I have fallen behind with my blog posts due to slacking but also time, I seem to be always on the go! Grabbing 5 minutes to tweet is not so hard, but finding a chunk of time, an hour or so to blog seems almost impossible.

The long lazy days of summer festivals seems far away. But I’ve seen a few blogs in the last few weeks where people have been cooking and eating not only food cooked outside but food they have been picking and gathering with their own fair (or muddy) hands.

Earlier in September I picked both apples and pears from the trees in our garden and made some crumble and also some apple pancakes, both delicious. Does hand picked food really taste better or do we imagine that?

I haven’t made sloe gin for several years but that’s another fine foraging food idea (gin is a food right?). I haven’t even managed to pick any blackberries this year, always good to give an apple pie some extra colour and also great in cakes. We have a gooseberry bush in the garden so we had gooseberries though.

Have you been foraging? Have you eaten anything that you picked yourself this autumn? I draw the line at fungi as I don’t know enough about them to be 100% sure – but berries I’m quite clued up on. And for those less adventurous there are always ‘pick your own’ style farms and orchards.

Do link up your blog posts of recipes, outdoor eating and food foraging. I’d love to see what you’ve been up to. Grab the badge code too!

(Next week – slow gin recipe and the perils of making your own booze)
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Night night, sleep tight - Camping sleep mats review

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