6th and 8th January
The plan was to have a Sunday CaveFamily walk, to head off early to somewhere in the Dublin mountains and take a little wander. But it was one of those days where getting four people washed, dressed and filled with a bit of breakfast, putting together a dinner to go in the slow cooker and managing to bring some order to the increasingly disordered and dusty cave all conspired to make us later than late. By the time we were ready for the mountains, that wintery afternoon light had set in and we knew we’d never make it in time to enjoy it before dark. After a quick consultation, during which possible reasons for our lateness were discussed in an amicable fashion by the adults of the Cave, we settled on a trip over to the wilder side of the Phoenix Park as the best option for the day. CaveBoy’s friend from next door was roped in for the adventure, clad in a spare pair of waterproof dungarees.
We headed to the carpark at Knockmaroon Gate, on the Chapelizod side of the Park. It’s a fine big carpark and you’ve only to step away and up a hill and you’re right into decent forest. There were a few trees cut down and the kids got great fun out of climbing and jumping and clambering all over them, especially as the ground at one end had dissolved into a pool of sticky muck that produced very satisfying splashes when landed in from a height.
Another family came along and there was a stand off between the small people on each side. Who owns this patch of land I say? CaveBoy took a good vantage point and eyeballed them.
We had tried to put shoes on CaveBaby before we left the house and he had stood stockstill in the middle of the floor and screamed as if his soles had been painted with a mix of acid and superglue. So we gave up on proper footwear. But did still want to let him down for a little explore so popped him down amongst the logs with two pairs of thick socks on for protection.
He LOVED being out of the sling but was extremely perplexed by this uneven surface, so far removed from laminate flooring and tiles, and he spent almost half the time hauling himself back up on a log after tripping over a bunch of leaves or a stray thorny branch. This is his perplexed not-sure-if-I’m-enjoying-this face.
We found the steps down to the pond at the back of the forest and followed the path around to a great little stream for splashing and kicking. CaveBaby was back in the sling at this stage and could only gaze longingly at the water while I explained that only CaveBabies that didn’t treat wellies like the work of the devil could paddle with the big kids. There was an easy path back to the carpark but on the urging of CaveBoy, the rest of them took a hike over the steep slope, sliding down in the mud numerous times before finally getting to the top. Sensible CaveMammy took the longer, less slidy route.
We had such a good time that we decided to come back again for our Free Range Tuesday a few days later. We had a Free Range friend along for company, the very impressive 2 year old Ella, who was chomping at the bit for her mucky adventure and was racing round with CaveBoy and CaveCousin within minutes of getting her wellies and rain gear on. We did the same circuit again so lots more fun on the logs in the forest. On the way past the pond, CaveBoy spotted a few criss-crossed logs and wanted a hand to get across them. But we didn’t count on how quicksand-like the muck around them was and there was nearly a family pile up (or at least a bruised backside for me and a mucky shock for CaveBaby on my back!). Balance, not usually my virtue, was found somewhere and with disaster averted, we hooshed the whole crowd of them on towards the stream. Little Ella, who was doing really well on little toddler legs, was sold straight away on the water and hopped in with the boys.
You can see in this photo that the stream continues right up to the road and then goes under it.
We hadn’t gone all the way on Sunday but did today and found a cool looking stone drain.
This drain was irresistible to CaveBoy. I couldn’t take my eyes off him for a second but he would have been in it. In my mind’s eye I could see the discussion with the triage nurse as I explained why I had allowed my four year old to explore a storm drain. This is not a discussion I wanted to have so a tight leash was kept. He begrudgingly played ball and he and CaveCousin went back to tramping through the water, bashing overgrown grass and relocating big rocks.
And then the cold set in and little fingers started to feel the chill and it was time to head back. CaveBoy, glutton for punishment, found another mountain to climb over while the rest of us took the easy path. Back at the car the two little men crashed and it was a race to get them stripped, dressed and into the warm car with a snack before the adventure did them in completely. Once three happy boys were strapped in the back, happily munching, it was time for CaveMammy to fling the usual huge plastic bag of mucky gear into the boot and drive us all back to Nanny Noeleen’s for treats and coffee and some home comforts. Nothing like a cold day and an icy stream to help you appreciate a warm Nanny’s.