The delays between posts here are getting longer as the CaveFamily takes the opportunity of the first really decent summer in Ireland in years to decamp en masse to the outdoors! There’s been camping trips and days out exploring every chance we’ve got – CaveBoy is happily turning mildly feral and CaveBaby is throwing himself full throttle at his first summer as Walking Man in the Woods.
We started with a camp in a really nice site in Roundwood at the start of June. We didn’t get away camping at all last year because the weather was a bit miserable and CaveBaby was still so small. We made do with trips to CaveNanny’s mobile home in Wicklow instead but were ready to hit the camping with a bang this year. The site in Roundwood is lovely, enclosed by trees and with a small wooden playground and we were able to tell CaveBoy that the park was his oyster as long as he didn’t go out the front gate. And oyster he made of it indeed – we hardly saw him for the weekend, bar glimpses through the trees and forages back to the tent for food. CaveBaby was in his element too, wandering around in crocs or barefoot, stealing trikes and scooters whenever he could, messing around at water taps and making ecstatic headlong runs for more freedom every now and again. Toddler adjusting to 24 hour unbounded living equals exhausted CaveMammy and CaveHusband! But worth all the scurrying and chasing. We had family down for barbecue one day, went for a walk around the upper Varty reservoir the next (this link is for the lower reservoir but the upper is just the other side of the bridge), and climbed the Sugarloaf on the way home (CaveBoy delighted to summit his first mountain, CaveMammy huffing and puffing quite a bit with CaveBaby on back in sling).
By the next trip, in a gorgeous campsite near Portsalon in North Donegal , CaveBaby had adjusted to the freedom a little. The mad dashes spaced out a bit but could still come at any time when he felt the need for the thrill of the chase. Return from one dash below.
Our spot was right at the end of the field, looking over Ballymastocker Bay and we had brekkie in the sea air every morning.
The beach there is just gorgeous and when the weather started to get hotter it turned into paradise. We went up to a lookout point to take this photo and stood there incredulous, with a load of other incredulous people, all shaking our heads and saying to each other “this is Ireland, like”.
We were blessed with the most fabulous week of weather that the country’s had in years for our holliers and we had loads and loads of time outdoors while we were up there, falling into a nice rhythm of breakfast in front of the tent, washing up and packing a picnic, heading out somewhere for the day and then home for dinner, wrecked and sunburned and happy. We took CaveBoy down walking to the cliffs at Fanad Lighthouse which was just stunning in the sunshine although he did come back with welts on his wrist from CaveHusband holding on just a little too tight at the edge, don’t-be-jumping-around-for-god’s-sake-you-have-me-heart-gone. The story of the shipwreck that had happened there 200 years ago, with all souls lost bar the ship’s parrot, really took CaveBoy’s fancy and there was lots of speculation on which stand of rocks the poor men might have met their doom, along with a brief fizzle of excitement when he saw a seagull and asked breathlessly if that was the parrot. The specks in the distance in this photo are CaveBoy and CaveHusband, one hand pointing out something on the horizon, the other clutching CaveBoy’s wrist with death grip.
Another day we went to the gorgeous Glenveigh National Park and walked the legs off poor CaveBoy while CaveBaby smirked at him from the sling. We hiked in to the castle from the visitors centre in a dead heat, as shuttle buses passed us and CaveBoy wondered why we weren’t on the bus like everyone else. Because otherwise we’d miss this beautiful walk we told him, wiping sweat off our foreheads and panting. Ah but we were glad, the views along the lake were stunning and we saw lots of wild cotton and spent a while watching a dragon fly going about its business. When we got up to the castle, we borrowed bug catchers from the education centre – caught nothing but CaveBaby enjoyed the hunt
and then we went up the steep upper path to look out over the lake and castle.
So beautiful. And of course we had loads of beach time as well. The boys dug holes at the main beach near the campsite
and we found beautiful warm rockpools at Ballyhiernan Bay and pretended we were in a fancy spa.
At the far end of Ballymastocker Bay we chased tiny hermit crabs fighting for sea snail shells and then scaled the rocks, with CaveBoy simply beaming at his accomplishment. And some days, for a treat, we went to the fancy beach at Portsalon itself, where you could buy icecreams and plastic things for the sea and eat fish and chips and jump off the pier. It was just blissful. CaveBoy arrived home tanned and blonder than ever, coated in a thin sheen of salt and sand and not quite knowing where his shoes were. Such should be the life of a child.
And so started the summer. There’s a great group of people from the Free Range Kids in Dublin group interested in going a bit off-road over the summer so we’ve been packing the CaveCousins into the car with us and meeting up with them for day trips at all different locations near Dublin. At Castletown House near Celbridge, the kids were very impressed by the beautiful big house and then spent hours pottering at a small stream and tunnel, picking up sticks, mixing mud and running around and around the trees and ridges beside it.
Afterwards, six pairs of feet were wiped with the one small facecloth, a record. The grounds at Castletown are great for exploring and there are lots of little pathways through the trees and bushes and one particularly good climbing tree that they all made their way up one by one with triumphant grins.
In Ward River Valley Park in Swords we were spared the promised rain and the kids got to play in the shallow water while the adults sprawled around on the river bank.
CaveBaby was not impressed with the icy water and retreated to the grass to eat custard creams. After that patch of river had been satisfactorily explored, we moved over to a stand of trees across the grass and the older kids found some lovely winding paths through the trees (having been shooed past the remnants of campfire and drinking session at one spot!). CaveCousin wasn’t too sure of the forest so stayed with me and CaveBaby to play on a bouncy tree branch which he said was just like a video game, a true compliment. And at Newbridge House Demesne, they clambered over one huge fallen tree and later found another that was perfect for climbing with loads of foliage to take away the fear factor. We could hear them from inside setting up some kind of game with the tree as the house, and also heard a very funny exchange between one Free Range Girl and CaveBoy, in which she told him that they were going to watch TV together on this particular branch and he said well, I’m going downstairs to watch the football. You hear it all from behind a screen of leaves.
We had the regular Free Range Kids trips up to the Phoenix Park too, still blessed (mostly) with beautiful sunshine. CaveBaby particularly likes that spot for building up the store of mud under his toe nails that never quite seems to come fully out in the bath.
And just to prove that we hadn’t been magically transported to some wonderland of sunshine and warm breezes, we were treated once or twice to some downpours in the same place.
Rain gear on and we’re ready! The kids barely noticed the rain and CaveBaby was just happy to see more mud.
And of course there was more camping: in Roundwood for another cousin’s birthday, complete with honorary birthday egg and spoon and sack races for the occasion
and then again, through the beauty of the Free Range Kids group, we got to go camping with some other families for another weekend and swap survivalist and backwoods camping tips over a cup of tea from the Kelly Kettle, the most amazing lo-tech item EVER. The scout book was thumbed through and there was talk of building a backwoods fridge from a piece of muslin and a billy can of saltwater but fun and sloth got in the way. Next time, next time. We did however introduce CaveBaby to the beautiful Powerscourt waterfall while CaveBoy jumped around the rocks like a mountain goat
and managed a visit to the shores of Lough Dan and a quick sneak onto the play equipment that the scouts have set up there for their campers.
And it’s not over yet! One more last camping hurrah planned for this month, one more Free Range Kids summer outing to go and then we say hello to September and CaveBoy starting school and all the changes that will bring *sad face*. It’s a fabulous school where he’ll get the chance to be part of an Irish language community but, having learned so much about home education and unschooling over the last year, we would have loved to have maybe given him a few years of that before formal schooling, if the situation had been different. But never mind – I’ve been furiously reading Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School and am looking forward to making school just one part of his life and education. And I’ve plans to see if there’s interest among any parents in some afterschool free range activities, where we can mix language and muck in equal quantities. So it’s bye bye to the wild summer but onwards to the new – it’ll be fun!
See you in September!
Lots of love xx CaveMammy