Home schooling outings can be difficult with a large family, especially if you don't want to take a lot of children alone on buses like me due the previous nightmares of just managing a pushchair to get to the nearest town last time, let alone another 6 children as well . My husband works during the week and so the weekends are the only time we venture out of the Village and so looking for something to do outside only seemed to consist of walking to the shop, the local community centre or the park , well that was until we realised we had a beautiful little treasure right on our doorstep. Well nearly.
Wingate Nature Reserve.
The reserve is said to be a 40 minute walk from our home but of course you can double that when you've little legs and a few stops to make along the way and for us it was a little further than we would be used to going on foot especially as it was only half the distance to their school to which they used to go .
I was not sure of how easy we would be able to get there , if we would even get there at all and even when we did arrive I thought it would be a wasted journey and especially having such little ones so close to the road which was the only route available for us with a pushchair , I had to carefully research our options .
See when your mum to so many it becomes second nature to do all the necessary checks , safety , organising just to get out the door. It definitely is not just a case of putting our coats on these days and see where our legs take us , not with such small feet coming along .
We have a local shop on the way where we could stop to grab some supplies such as bottled waters and in our case a few things we needed like snacks (any other time I would have been stocked up and made a packed lunch but we were waiting on our grocery shopping to be done so I needed a stock up.
I wanted to make the day out not only fun but also educational so I made and printed some work for them such as Scavenger hunts and Discovery sheets and Nature Inspired work ideas.
I ensured we had hats, gloves,coats and rain cover (for the pushchair), suitable footwear, snacks and drinks and our file with worksheets, scissors, glues and chalks and pencils for working with and of course some first aid in case of any falls or scrapes . We took a small cardboard box and a bag to carry our finds and treasures in case the children wanted to bring anything home and took a deep breath before setting off.
As soon as the door was open it was like a release of Doves, they legged it into the fresh air and I could instantly see they were excited to go for our walk .
I had told them as much as I already knew from my research about the Reserve but to be fare I could not share much as I did not know the full extent as we had not been before so for all I knew the research could be out dated or even wrong. I held on to hope that I was right and my eyes focused on their movements.
They're all very good and well behaved , they know to be careful and stop at roads and stay away from the road edges so I'm a little calmer now they're a little bigger and understand the dangers . Luckily I had the smallest who is not so clued up in the pushchair who coincidentally fell asleep for the majority of the time out until he woke for food.
So here is how our day went-
Because the children were used to the start of the route they were happily running in the muddy puddles before descending into their unknown territory, we love a puddle , easy cleaning when we're home , just throw everything in the washer and jump in the shower and who cares how dirty we are, more fun right?
Well first of all we had to reach the outskirts of the Village so we stopped at the Entrance and took a picture , The children were telling me that their friends shadows were in this created with help from pupils at Deaf Hill Primary School to commemorate the village's mining heritage, the school the children used to attend.
We made some scavenger Hunt worksheets , the older ones had a standard look for all the things in nature to tick on the list and complete but the two smaller boys had their very own Pirate themed ones which encouraged them to look for things like a leaf to make an eye patch , a stick with two handles to use as a sword , stones for precious stones and jewels and so on , they loved it .
It was a long walk so we stopped to rest and get a drink and rest our legs. Obviously Kaiden had found the largest of swords (I mean sticks) and so we ended up leaving it before the wind wrapped it in someone elses face on our way to the reserve as it had mine quite a few times.
It was great to see them smiling and having fun .
We arrived at the Wingate Nature Reserve and found some very interesting information on our walk further into the area.
Wingates very own Nature Reserve was in fact a disused Quarry , The quarry was worked for Magnesian Limestone until the 1930s, when it closed. a Site of Special Scientific Interest,Open Access Land, and is UK Woodland Assurance Scheme certified. Habitats include grassland, woodland, wetland and scrub and it has its very own pond as well as its very own Nature Reserve.
We were greeted by the animals as soon as we walked into the area . A Llama, Quite a few lovely looking Donkey , Horse, Chicken, Billy Goats and Geese. We could not quite get through to see if there was anything else to see but they all came trotting over to the fence where the children wowed and stroked them.
We would love to have been able to feed them but without seeing anyone to speak to we thought it best not and the children fed the donkey straw knowing he was enjoying that . Maybe next tie we could take something tastier for them now we know they are there.
I was absolutely fascinated by the fact I had seen my first ever Llama but the children were adamant they loved the Donkeys more and even asked if we could take one home to which I swiftly moved them along .
We walked past the Pond which was fenced off (gladly) but we were stopped briskly by one of the children spotting something scurrying along the footpath rubble in front of us . To our astonishment, it was a lovely , cute little Newt obviously looking to find the waters edge after a stroll . We watched it find its way and from that point realized we had to watch more carefully at where we were going in case there were any more of natures wonders walking the same path.
Walking further through the reserve , we stopped to have our dinner. There were no seats, toilets or anything where it would be classed as an attraction so we sat on the gate and the children later decided to do a little cross country running up and around the hill
I was so impressed with how enthusiastic the children were , they were loving their day out and worked so hard , I made a little challenge for them and said that whoever collected the most different types of leaves and pieces of nature, who worked their hardest at their nature written work, ran the best on their cross country exercise and behaved and enjoyed their time most , I would reward them with a large chocolate bar from the shop on the way home . I decided that they had all done amazingly and not one to leave any one out they all deserved a nice bar of chocolate for their zeal efforts. Sian the second oldest especially put all her effort into the day, I was very proud , even when she twisted her ankle she still tried her best.
We were having so much fun we totally forgot about how long we had spent there but realized it was getting rather chilly and so we decided to say goodbye to the animals and headed of back home.
We still had quite a few treasures to find for our hunt and so we looked for them on the way home and by the time we got home we had some lovely looking pieces of nature in our collection.
We returned home worn out but they finished their work, completed all of their sensory worksheets and talked about what we saw, felt, smelt, tasted and heard and finished the day with a hot cup of tea before descending into the hot tub and into a clean bed.
We were so happy and lucky that our day had gone even better than we had expected, no struggles, no money spent, no one seriously injured or hurt (other than a twisted ankle) , educational yet fun and even better exhausting . I will definitely be taking them again and next time take our own picnic and food for the Donkeys.
Have you ever found a little treasure on your doorstep that you never knew about ?