School’s justabout done. Woop.
We’re looking out for….
Berries. Find them in a hedgerow, garden, or pick-your-own near you now. Brambles aren’t ready yet, but we’re especially excited about the teeny, uber-sweet alpine strawberries, delicate raspberries and gently perfumed loganberries ripening now. Last year, the Loganberry plant we bought for £2 in a car boot sale fruited so much, it made eight jars of totally delicious jam (all of fifteen minutes to make). The satisfaction delivered an entirely disproportionate rush of domestic pride that lasted well into September.
Moths. Forget the ones that eat your clothes, currently banqueting in a jumper draw near us… There are thousands of native species and they do a great job pollinating flowers and feeding baby birds, just like their blingier daytime relatives, but without the fairytale PR. These nocturnal wonders are under-appreciated, and it’s time to redress the balance. A spot of moth-gazing is a good way to pass the time on hot nights when children wake up, grumpy and sweaty, and won’t settle. There’s a brilliant species guide at http://ukmoths.org.uk/ We like the look of the Scarlet Tiger, Yellow Shell and Purple Bar varieties, flying now, although the wet June means there are likely to be less of them about than usual. Light a candle, sit outside (ideally near a night scented plant, such as honeysuckle or jasmine, where they like to feed on the nectar) and wait…. Glass of Rosé optional.
Wild wisdom on…. Outdoor swimming
Weeds tickling your toes, the smell of fresh mud, the silvery glimmer of a fish tail. Freshwater swimming and paddling is a great (and often more accessible) alternative to a long, hot drive to an overcrowded beach. From city havens such as Hampstead Ponds in London or Salford’s Watersports centre, to deserted rural spots you can have to yourself, there are plenty of places to explore. But how can your persuade squeamish littlies not to mind the squelching underfoot and what’s the best way to ensure your freshwater adventure is a pleasure for you as well as them? We asked wild swimming guru Daniel Start, dad of Rose, 2, and author of Wild Swimming: 300 Hidden Dips in the Rivers, Lakes and Waterfalls of Britain (Wild Things Publishing, £16.99) http://www.wildswimming.co.uk/wild-swimming-new-book/ for his top tips:
‘Set clear boundaries for children and make sure any current is gentle. Even shallow sections of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet, so be especially cautious with non swimmers. Remember, the shallower or narrower the riverbed becomes, the faster the water will flow (hence the expression ‘still waters run deep.’..)’
‘Create an adventure narrative. Use the words from well-loved bedtime stories to make the sensations exciting (‘squelch squirch’). Talk about the swishy, silky weeds, and the cool, refreshing water. If they really don’t like the feel of mud underfoot, or if you are walking over slippery rocks, try some water-friendly shoes that they can wear to swim and paddle in’ (see this month’s most treasured, below, or try some rubber-soled plimsolls).
‘Avoid swimming in urban areas unless water meets the Environment Agency’s bathing water directive. Check at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk before you swim if in doubt. Waterborne diseases such as Weil’s disease (from bacteria in rats’ urine), is more likely to be found in urban water.’
‘Try some pond dipping whilst you’re by the water. Pack a few different containers (light coloured margarine tubs are great as children will be able to see what they’ve caught). Look out for ‘water scorpions’, underwater predators who hide under leaves and ambush tadpoles, and diving beetles (who dive to catch small fish, and can also fly).’
Want some ideas on where to go for your swim? Check out the Wild Swimming map at http://wildswim.com – enter your location and watch the spots nearest you pop up.
This month’s most treasured
Designed so you can wear them in the water, US brand Saltwater’s sandals are officially the comfiest summer shoes around, for grownups and children. We love the gorgeous range of colours and the fact that after three years of use, the navy ones Wild Mum has look almost new, despite forays into rockpools, muddy riverbanks and a whole lot of pavement pounding. If we didn’t already have the mini red ones for our toddler, we’d buy these, from www.jcrew.com. Find the grownup ones for £49 at http://www.toast.co.uk.