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Moorlands Nature Reserve, YO32 2RE

We’re always on the lookout for a new nature reserve, this one, near Skelton north of York, is great for children! As well as enjoying the nature (complete with Nature Trail), there are loads of things to look at and explore.

Website: https://www.ywt.org.uk/nature-reserves/moorlands-nature-reserve

Route: A circular path leads you round the reserve, follow this trail map.

Pushchairs: The path does get narrow in places, but is fine would be fine for most pushchairs.

Facilities: None, but the nearby Haxby does.. including a Costa!

Parking: Free roadside parking

Our first visit here was on a Little Legs walk with the Baby Walking Group. Jess was immediately on side on entry, when she spotted some logs to balance on. I was more interested in some early Snowdrops blooming, gorgeous! If you visit later in Spring, this is a prime spot to enjoy bluebells.

The nature trail takes you around the reserve passing 10 posts of animals (they’re listed on the map linked above). We walked in an anti-clockwise direction, which meant that we could leave the tree house until later in the walk.

One of the first things you come to is the pond, with a platform to help you take a better look.

I wasn’t expecting the sculptures dotted about, but they were great, with a pixie tree our particular favourite.

The treehouse provided shelter for our snack, the children loved climbing the steps and peeking out the windows.

The final excitement came with the fairy circle outside the classroom. After this we “enjoyed” playing hide and seek back to the entrance.

Overall, this is a really lovely reserve, especially for small children to explore. It’s great if you live in York, but perhaps a little far from Leeds, unless you’re combining it with another trip. If you’ve got National Trust passes, you could visit the nearby Beningbrough Hall.

If your little ones need a little encouragement getting excited about being in the outdoors, you might find this blog post useful.

Shaun Glow Trail at Dalby Forest

Since my first visit to Dalby Forest about 10 years ago I’ve been absolutely enchanted. I love a good excuse for a visit, and the fact we hadn’t done the Glow Trail seemed to fit the bill!

We’d read about downloading the (free) app before we went. And obviously ignored it. And forgot there’s not really any phone signal there. So the first 20 minutes of our visit I spent in the cafe in the free WiFi waiting for it to download (it’s not massive, the connection was just slow) while Jess and hubby played in the rather impressive adventure play ground.

We also bought the activity pack for £3.50. The trail is recommended for 6-12 year olds. Jess was absolutely fine with the walking (she’s coming up 4) but didn’t get the concept of the trail as much. The activities were good, but I hate to say after standing there for 20 minutes getting the app, she was actually bettter using the paper clues in the activity pack. The app puzzles were a little beyond her…. but I think they would be good for older children (so the recommended age)! Online, I’ve seen examples of photos with Shaun which I also assume you can do on the app but we must have given up before that was possible, that or we didn’t see it (you can tell I work for a tech company, right?!?). In a nutshell, you CANNOT do the activities without buying the pack (you need the special pen) but if you have younger ones you don’t necessarily need the app too.

The walk itself takes you out the back of the visitor centre, and past the BBQ area where we stopped for a perfectly picturesque picnic by the stream. I can imagine in summer this is super busy, but we had the area to ourselves. It was a fantastic winter treat!

The trail continued uphill into some woodland. It really isn’t suitable for buggies after the first kilometre of so; it gets quite steep as you turn off the main track and is super muddy in places. It’s definitely a step up from the Zog Trail, despite it being not much further in distance.

The activities involved using a glow stick (UV torch) to identify shapes. Jess loved this, even though, as I’ve said didn’t necessarily get the whole spaceship theme.

Between the stops for clues there are also suggestions for little activities, our favourite was how many trees can you touch in 30 seconds. So obviously in the denser part of the forest we did this about five million, six thousand, three hundred times. Our favourite activity in the woods is always looking for signs of the bears, I’m dreading the day Jess gets too old for this because we love it soo much!! Every fallen tree, snapped branch, trodden leaf is a sign a bear has been through!

Back at the visitor centre we enjoyed some hot chocolates whilst Jess had her usual winter food choice of ice cream.

I think the walk’s just the right length for younger children.. the return to the centre is downhill which makes it easier for them! There should still be plenty of time to do another walk or maybe some bike riding afterwards. Make sure you do leave time for the play area, and a little play in the stream at the back.

If you wish to do another guided trail, I think you could mostly do the Zog trail without buying another pack, as the activities are written on the clues. There’s also a beginners bike trail from the visitor centre. Or you could just go and explore the beautiful woodland on one of the many walking trails. I cannot wait for the children to get older so that we can go on longer walks. There are also explorer packs that you can rent for £3; little backpacks with all the tools you need to explore the streams or woodland.

If you do make it out there let me know how you get on!

Details:

Finding Boggarts at Longshaw (NT)

Another weekend, another National Trust Trail!!

Longshaw, in the Peaks is an absolutely fantastic place to head to for gorgeous walking trails and outdoor adventures for children.

The Boggarts trail is based on one of the main walking routes that can be seen on the property map. Whilst the main path itself is suitable for robust pushchairs (some parts can get muddy), be warned the activities and exploring areas are largely set off the path.

The trail starts at the main car park, where you can pick up a trail guide for just a pound from the welcome building. Alternatively, you can follow the orange marked walking route and look out for Boggart signs!

One of the first discoveries is the little Boggart hamlet of Boggart Rise! All the little dwellings have doors that you can open and try to catch sight of one!

Other favourite activities were balancing at Boggart View and exploring Boggart Burrow.

There’s also a great viewpoint over the valley (although its largely obscured by our selfie)!

The Boggart trail’s final activity is found just off the orange route, on the path leading towards Padley Gorge, with more little magic dwellings.

If you’ve got a buggy, you’ll need to return to the orange route, it’s 1.7 miles in total. If you take a picnic it’s great for little ones!

However, if you’re buggy free you have the luxury of heading down to picnic or snack at the truly beautiful Padley Gorge. On warm sunny days you’ll find loads of families enjoying this wonderful spot, and there’s often an ice cream van parked on the road that you cross.

Without a buggy, you have another option to return to the car park. You can extend your walk by picking up the pink route, this brings the total length of the walk to 4.5km.

The pink route follows the stream, and whilst there’s no Boggarts to find there’s lots of fun to be had throwing in sticks and grass playing Pooh sticks! This path can get extremely muddy here, you have been warned!!

After crossing a footbridge the path leads up through woodland back to the car park. If you have older children there are some good boulders to climb on the way back.

It’s a lovely family walk, but if you fancy something a little more challenging then you might enjoy the fantastic 3 mile circular route of Mam Tor!

Mam Tor Circular Walk

If you’re looking for a challenge that young children will find manageable, climbing Mam Tor (the Shivering Mountain) from a car park only 50m from the summit could be the ideal choice!

Distance: 3 miles

Accessibility: The Walk starts with lots of steps… some muddy slopes can make for tricky walking in wet weather.

Route: The National have provided this route guide; https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinder-edale-and-the-dark-peak/trails/mam-tor-circular-walk

Parking: National Trust Mam Nick Car Park

The walk is easy to follow and the steepest climb starts from the car park, so it is over nice and early on!

The initial climb is on stone steps (can your little ones count how many?). There is a trig point at the top of Mam Tor, so it’s great for photos, with a beautiful 360 degree view. If you do this walk in finer weather you’ll likely see the masses of hand gliders taking flight from the top.

From here it’s a straight walk along the ridge to Hollins Cross, a cross roads in the dip of the ridge, and another great spot for 360 views. Be warned, it can get pretty windy along the ridge so if you’re walking in winter make sure you’ve got lots of layers! I think being so accessible there were many families who had come unprepared; it might be a family walk, but it is still a peak at over 500m so don’t get caught out!

The return walk passes under the Mam Tor peak, where the lovely views over Castletown continue. If it’s a colder day, you may prefer to choose this path for a picnic/ snack stop as it tends to be a little more sheltered than the ridge. Until you meet the road, and the path from the caverns back to the car park can get pretty muddy and slippy, so make sure you have appropriate footwear, especially in wetter weather. Whilst there is some uphill it’s not as steep as the start, and being on the way back to the start helps spur on reluctant walkers! If you need some ideas on how to encourage little ones to walk read this blog.

Back at the car park there’s often a catering van offering hot drinks, or you can drive down to Castleton with its excellent variety of pubs and cafes! We also like the Cheshire Cheese Inn in Hope, which does great food.

For future walks, or if you’re after a more challenging walk, the 61/2 mile circular from Castleton is a great one, taking in much more of the ridge and the glorious views!!

Five Reasons that I love Cragside (National Trust)

Or reasons to make a visit to Cragside in 2020 a priority.

Cragside is, in my humble opinion, the greatest National Trust property in the country. And I’ve been to loads of them. Let me explain why.

1. The Family Friendly Walking Trails

Our favourite family walk here is Nelly’s Moss Lakes Walk, which is just 1.5 miles long. It’s flat and is just perfect for picnics, with loads of benches on the way round! It’s a circular walk that starts at the playground, so a great bribe for little ones. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk, red squirrels can be found in this area. If you need to take a buggy or chair, there’s an accessible version of the route.

The 2 mile Armstrong Trail is another family friendly route, which takes in the main sights of this side of the estate and is a good choice if you don’t want to do the drive (even though you should, you definitely should).Other walks at Cragside can be found here.

2. Driving your car is amazing

Yep, you read that right! Who knew I’d be encouraging you to drive!! The 6 mile drive around the estate starts by going through the impressive arches of the house, and then shows you the best that Cragside has to offer. If you park at the Crozier car park to try the playground, you’ll end up doing this route on the one way drive.

3. Family fun a-plenty!

As well as a good sized play area, there are a number of fun activities under the 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4. My favourite activity is the barefoot trail (again, up by the playground), definitely fun for the whole family!

If you’re a fan of mazes, Cragside has one with a difference; Labyrinth is a network of paths and tunnels in a rhododendron forest!

4. The House and Gardens are spectacular

National Trust homes tend to be rather beautiful… but this is really something else. It’s position on a crag makes the house look breathtaking, and inside each room is a pleasure to see.

The gardens, that in many places we pass over in favour of parkland or the wider estate, are a true highlight here. The stream that runs from Tumbleton Lake through the gardens provide’s interest from the Achimedes Screw and Pump House (Cragside was the first home in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity), a picturesque setting for the Iron Bridge, and a pretty accompaniment to a walk through woodland in the garden. Absolutely gorgeous.

5. Enjoy the views from outside the tea rooms

Obviously, even if you take a picnic you’ll want to need to stop for a piece of cake. There’s not many tea rooms that will have better outdoor seating, either in the courtyard with the crags towering above,or take out your treats to the picnic benches overlooking the lake.

And there’s so much more!

This lists my favourite things… but there’s tons more to do, you really can spend hours here exploring. If it’s your first visit you might want to start at the visitor centre to help you plan.Our most common itinerary is to start at the Crozier carpark for the play ground and walk around the Lakes, before driving the rest of the estate drive back to the main carpark to explore the house and gardens.I really, really hope you get a chance to visit here because it’s just awesome!!!

**Other NT properties that we enjoy in the North East are;

Great walks for Christmas with a country pub!

Amidst all the craziness of shopping, nativities, wrapping and parties it’s easy to lose sight of what we should be treasuring over Christmas; families! What better way to enjoy time with families than with a festive walk… finishing with a mulled wine at a country pub.

We love a good Christmas Day walk, it’s a great way to spend time after breakfast and presents… and helps you build up an appetite for Christmas Dinner!! And if you want to avoid the chaos of Boxing Day shopping, take the opportunity to get out and into the fresh air- and walk off all the stodge!

Here’s some suggestions of good walks around Leeds with a pub (although mulled wine is not guaranteed 🤣)! Most pubs are open Boxing Day, Christmas Day hours are given below.

A walk around a park The superb Roundhay Park has surfaced paths (perfect for pushchairs), two lakes, play grounds and woodland! For a quieter stroll, head up the Secret Gorge for a picturesque path along a stream. Finish for a drink at the atmospheric Roundhay Fox, open on Christmas Day 11.30am- 6pm.

Along a canal The beautiful canal stretch between Woodlesford and Methley has a path both sides for a circular walk. There are no stiles, but it can be really muddy on the stretch between Lemonroyd Marina and Methley, so make sure if you take a buggy it’s suitable for off-road paths! The Boundary House in Methley is just a little walk off the canal, and is one of my favourite pubs, open for drinks 12-7pm on Christmas Day.

Around a lake Newmillerdam Country Park is absolutely beautiful anytime of year, but in winter if you’re lucky the frosty views are spectacular! The paths through the woodland and around the lake are mostly buggy friendly, and the cosy Fox & Hounds is a great way to warm up after (open 11am-2/2.30pm on Christmas Day).

Exploring woodland Hackfall Woods in Nidderdale are a great place to explore with little ones, be careful if it’s icy because paths are narrow and could be slippy! Warm up with a drink at the nearby Crown Inn at Grewelthorpe- there’s a path next to the pub that leads straight to the pub.

Away from it all One of Yorkshire’s favourite walks has got to be the Burnsall to Grassington route, about 3.5 miles each way. Maybe a little far for little legs, but it could be a good choice if you’re lucky enough to have a baby in a carrier! The Red Lion at Burnsall is famous for its warm welcome, great food and good atmosphere.

Something longer For a full day walk, there is a great moor from Ilkley across Ilkley Moor and over to Addingham. You can take the return leg along the River Wharfe, it’s about 11km in total so not a one for little walkers! We did this a few years ago on New Years Day- the perfect way to walk of those festive drinks and a great way to start the New Year! The Fleece in Addingham has just been given a new lease of life, and perfect for a mid-way lunch!

This year we’re spending Christmas up in Newcastle, and are planning to head to the truly fabulous Cragside for our Boxing Day outing! What are your plans? Do you have a favourite walk at Christmas time?

My Breastfeeding journey

This is a bit of a personal post for me… and I’m actually still a little emotional about it all. But a few days before James celebrated his six month birthday, our breastfeeding journey came to an end. Let me share my story…

Firstly some context. My daughter (who will soon be four) was super relaxed with any type of feeding; we did mixed feeding for about five months. To be honest I can’t remember the exact dates because it was so much of a non-issue! Breast/ bottle/ formula… she took anything, anytime. I chose when to stop when I returned to work, I know many people successfully breastfeeding after going back to work but that wasn’t for me.

James could not have been more different. He absolutely refused to take a bottle for the first couple of months. I know I could have tried harder, but it was so disheartening to spend time expressing (especially as it took me time away from properly playing with my daughter), only for us to have to pour it away when he refused to take it.

But breastfeeding isn’t easy, right? Apart from the tiredness of always being ‘on duty’, I had so much pain that I had never experienced with a Jess. It seemed to come and go in phases, but aaagggghhhh when it was bad, those first few sucks after latching on were soooo painful! And every so often when I looked down and saw blood on his mouth- it was actually pretty traumatic!!!

There were positives though, I think I was much more relaxed breastfeeding in public with James (and was really proud when someone gave me a ‘Yes Mumma’ card- if you haven’t heard of them go look it up). Maybe because I had already got the knack of being discreet with baby one I was much more confident!

Eventually, with the appeal of a break getting bigger and bigger we persevered with formula. Every night for about two weeks we tried, and eventually he started taking the bottle, woooohoooooo! I headed straight to bed for an actual nap and left my husband to it!!

After that we started giving him a bottle or two of formula every day. Those of you who followed me on social media when a James was first born may remember his screaming. Constant screaming. Well, once he started taking bottles he calmed right down! He actually seemed satisfied! It was like having a different baby.

So I was quite happy mixed feeding, and had thought that like my daughter I would be able to continue this until I decided to finish it. But James had different ideas. Whilst he was quite happy breastfeeding through the night and in the mornings, he would cry and arch his back through the day time. So we settled into a sort of routine… and I was pretty happy breastfeeding at night, it was so much easier at 2am when you get up without having to make up a bottle!

But he started refusing breastfeeding more and more. In November, we went on holiday. On the plane, I had planned on breastfeeding him during take off. He refused, and that pretty much set the tone for the holiday. I think he was going through a growth spurt or something because every night he was waking up every hour and screaming, but would not take anything other than formula. And so that was that. I returned from holiday having not breastfed for a week, and had completely dried up. Just like that my breastfeeding journey was over.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Yes, once he started taking bottles it probably would have been a good time to try expressing again. Yes, I could have tried breastfeeding again once we returned back from holiday, and probably still could. But to be honest it’s quite upsetting seeing your baby screaming when you try to feed him and I don’t really want to have to see it again!

I think my friend unwittingly hit the nail on the head when trying to think why I was so upset about it all; I hadn’t realised that the last time I fed him would be my last time. With Jess I made the decision myself, I was able to enjoy those last cuddles and treasure them. James took that away from me, and I can’t remember the last time. I don’t remember the last post-feed cuddles, the sleepy milk-drunk yawn and snuggle. My last feed was probably a 3am grump, where I was willing him to hurry up so I could get back to sleep. I probably didn’t take the runtime to enjoy it.

I really didn’t think I’d be emotional about finishing. To be honest I thought I was ready, and the upset was really unexpected!

So we got to nearly 6 months. Cut shorter than I wanted, but longer than Jess so I should be happy. Let me finish by saying, breastfeeding was my choice. It’s not for everyone and not possible for everyone. So let’s make sure any comments on this, as well as discussions about feeding in general are positive. After all, FED IS BEST.

Rachel x

Calverley/ Apperley Bridge Circular (4.5 miles)

A great walk which follows the easy canal path and back in the other direction along the river Aire. With decent pubs at Apperley Bridge and Calverley you have a choice of places to enjoy your well deserved drink or meal!

Parking: Roadside parking is available at Calverly Bridge, but be aware it can get busy and some spaces are for residents only.

Route: Starting at the Railway pub, walk along the canal to Apperley Bridge. Climb the short flight of stairs onto the main road, navigating through the grounds of Woodhouse Grove to pick up the river path (more on this to follow).

Access: Whilst the canal path is suitable for pushchairs the river path is not, being extremely muddy and you’d need to carry the chair up the stairs or continue further along the canal to come off. The walk to Apperley Bridge and back could be a nice option, particularly if you have lunch at one of the lovely pubs there. If you have an off road buggy you could potentially try the route if it is dry in summer.

Facilities: There are good pubs at both the start and mid-way points. At Calverly there is also a picnic area.

Vlog on walk: (be prepared for my ramblings) https://youtu.be/DXvBU_ae-rM

If like me, you’re doing this walk in winter, be prepared to get muddy! I’m not great at walking over a couple of miles in wellies (my calf muscles suffer), so I tend to stick to walking boots and avoid the mud where I can!

The two halves of the walk are nice and different. The first half is straight up to the canal, the path is surfaced and so easy walking and easy navigation. A train line accompanies you on the walk, so you are frequently greeted with the passing of trains. There are some beautifully picturesque parts that make you eager for more!

On arrival in Apperley Bridge you pass under a bridge, continue for another 100 yards and you’ll come to another bridge. To your right, take the stairs up to the main road.

Turn right and walk along the road until you reach the entrance of Woodhouse Grove School. It isn’t immediately clear how to get onto the river as the route has recently changed, but some friendly groundsmen gave me directions. On entry to the grounds head on the right hand road towards the pavillion. Just after this you’ll see a small path straight ahead that follows the other road. When you reach the wall turn right and head towards the 5 bar gate that takes you onto the riverside path.

The path takes you along the side of the River Aire and is a really lovely stretch.

Eventually the path leads away from the river, along the side of a field to join a little lane.. be aware this part can get really muddy!

If like me, you have an older map you may find yourself having to use your phone to navigate the streets of a new housing estate back to the start point. Essentially the easiest way on leaving the lane is to go straight ahead until you reach Calverly Lane. Turn right to take you to the bridge that takes you to your starting point.

The best end to the walk is to enjoy a home cooked meal at the Railway pub! It’s a really lovely route with plenty to see on your way round. Enjoy!!

The Muddy Boots 2020 Family Challenge

As the time to make some New Year resolutions nears, let me introduce you to a family challenge that gets you out walking at least once a month… as well as showing you some of the best family walks Yorkshire has to offer.

The concept is simple. 12 of my favourite Yorkshire family walks to complete in 12 months. I’ll be suggesting the months to do each walk on my social media, but feel free to mix them up if needed! Whilst some of these routes are buggy friendly, encourage your little ones to walk as much of the routes as possible (read this blog post for help).

You might be able to identify some of the walks from the pictures… but if not here we go!!

The Gnome Roam at Newmillerdam. At just under two miles with loads of activities on the route, this is a great starting walk to get little ones enthused about getting out and about. A pub at the end can get you warmed up from the cold.

Nature Trail at Oakwell Hall. This two mile route has two loops, so half way round you can stop off at the cafe to refuel… and the pull of the play area gets your little ones to restart!

Golden Acre and Paul’s Pond is 5.5km… and is suitable for buggies that don’t mind mud! Refuel and warm join the scrummy cafe.

Ilkley and Middleton woods is best done April/May to see the glorious bluebells. With views over Ilkley and a walk along the river, this has a little bit of everything…

Up in Nidderdale lies the fantastic Hackfall woods. You might catch the bluebells here in May, but if not take a picnic and allow yourself to explore this gorgeous woodland.

Aaaahhh Heath. A summer visit means picnics on Heath common or drinks in the lovely King’s Arms beer garden. So summer is the perfect time to try this short circular walk.

One of Wakefield’s most popular family walks is the Room on the Broom Trail at Angler’s Country Park. Pack a picnic and some bird seed and enjoy following the trail round the lake.

Bolton Abbey is just picture perfect all year round. But on a sunny day you can enjoy a leisurely picnic as well as the views!

May Beck and Falling Foss. Walk away those September blues with a trip to the coast. Combine a visit to Whitby with this amazing and magical walk. Waterfalls, woodland and probably the best tea garden on the planet.

Damflask Reservoir is a great circular route with a great cafe stop on the way round!

Stanley Ferry and Southern Washlands Nature Reserve combines a canal walk with woodland.The Stanley Ferry Pub is well placed for a family friendly meal afterwards, so you might want to keep this as a winter walk.

The National Trust always does Christmas well, so why not leave a walk in the beautiful Nostell parkland until then, before enjoying the Christmas spirit at the house and gardens.

So there you go! At the start of each month I’ll be sharing a bit more about these walks for you. Make sure to share any walks with #muddybootsfamilychallenge. Good luck!

Rothwell Country Park

I’ve driven passed signs for this place LOADS of times but have never tried to explore! It backs onto the canal where we do our beloved Woodlesford walk so if you wanted you could join the two of them up!

Website: https://www.ywt.org.uk/nature-reserves/rothwell-country-park

Parking: Free roadside parking on Bullough Lane

Pushchairs: There are some accessible paths, we took our pushchair on the pond trail with no difficulty, although it was pretty muddy in places!

Route: We followed the signed pond trail, but the park isn’t huge so I think you could just explore the paths as you want!

Facilities: None…other than a few benches dotted around the park.

This lovely park has some great views over the canal and across to Leeds City Centre.

The paths are easy to follow and it was incredibly peaceful… I think we only passed one person the whole way round!

If you’re looking for a new place to explore you could certainly spend a few hours here, particularly if you mooched down to the canal to look at Fishpond Lock. To keep Jess entertained we did some leaf art… for more ideas on things to keep little ones engaged have a look at this blog post.