Ahh Wilderness Woods in East Sussex. I breathe a little easier when we pull up in the car. Anticipating freedom to play, not needing to tell my boys to be quiet, to not yell with glee as they race through the woods - or let’s be honest, yell at me for going the wrong way. And all of that is before we even get to the glorious cafe serving the most delicious wholesome and healthy meals. If you haven’t been, you must!
We are so lucky to get to spend so much time at this little slice of heaven! Billycan Camping is a glamping site in Arundel, West Sussex, where children can run free and you can cook over open fires. Our history with this special spot goes way back, we got married there in 2013 and it actually inspired our move from London to Arundel! Now working there all these years later with my boys in tow is pretty special!
In the hottest week of the year we snuck away for a little stay, catching grasshoppers, water fights, cooking fresh lobster and sleeping under canvas.
Billycan Camping still have some availability over the summer holidays - if you decide to stay give me a shout and I’ll see you there!
Writing this in the depths of January winter, it’s tricky to think too far ahead to Spring. It seems a distant dream at the moment. We know the leaves will come back on the trees and the bluebells will sprout in the woods, but it seems so far away right now!
Having said that, we’ve had a wonderful winter so far – there’s something about the post Christmas blues that makes me even more determined to get outside. Plus, two little four-year olds wouldn’t let me have it any other way!
We started off the year with a bang – or should I say splash – as we always do. Every year, we organise a New Year’s Day dip in the sea mid-morning, supplying our friends and family who take the plunge with teas, coffees and sausage rolls. We head to West Wittering, which this year thanks to the beautiful weather was packed. There were 8 of us Arundel residents who took part aged 14 to 60 with many more coming down to cheer us on! Such a thrill jumping in the sea and dashing out again ana an amazing way to start the year - so much so that two of our party have carried it on and have done a sea dip every day since!
As you may have come to expect reading my column, we’ve been exploring the local woods quite a bit. We’ve just moved to a new house on the ‘other side of town’ and I’ve loved discovering the local woods – the ones up behind ACE that stretch up towards Tortington Lane and on to Binsted Woods. How have we never been there before! There’s a fab tyre swing in a clearing which the boys loved – and their mummy (me!) loved the many beautiful spots for family photos. Also, excitingly near us, there’s some interesting work going on at the fields near Priory Lane. Many local residents are putting their heads together with the help of the Arundel Castle Groundsman are clearing up the field and turning it into a beautiful space the community can use. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds, I will keep you updated.
Another way I avoid the January blues is to organise a family trip away – so we’ve just returned from a bit of an epic long weekend in the Scottish Highlands! Literally the other end of the country from us here in Arundel but such a breath-taking place. We were staying on the Isle of Seil on the West Coast. I certainly recommend – although perhaps fly. We drove and the 14 hour trip home in the snow with four year olds may have pushed us over the edge! (I have detailed some tips on road trips with kids if you’re keen to hear more – check out my blog)
Finally, I can’t talk about January without mentioning the other big milestone for us and many families of preschool aged kids – the primary school application deadline that loomed… we got our application in and now just have to sit tight until April to see which school the boys’ get into. No matter where we get in though, I did do a lot of research into schools in and around the area and I can say with certainty we’re incredibly lucky with the two schools we have in Arundel!
SO while we’ve had a wonderful Winter, Spring is on my mind. A time when our County comes alive with events, Spring Fairs, Mother’s Day celebrations and Easter Egg Hunts. There’s so much going on I thought I would outline the things we have pencilled in our diary to give you some inspiration.
Most locally, come April we will see Arundel Castle reopen. Which feels like it has come around very quickly this year! From the 6-7 April they celebrate with Combat At The Castle – which my boys will love. The event gives you the opportunity to see and hear how Robert de Belleme, Earl of Arundel, trained his soldiers in preparation for what was to be the first siege of the Castle in 1102. With traditional weapons and armour demonstrations plus archery competitions by the knights it’s a must see and full day out. It’s always incredibly popular too. The event is included in the standard Castle ticket price.
Staying in Arundel, the Wetlands Centre has a wealth of events on this Spring. I’m particularly excited about seeing what the Dark Skies Days event is all about. It’s being run in conjunction with the National Parks Dark Skies series – focussed on learning all about nocturnal wildlife with the centre being open late into the evening so you can see the birds going into roost. For kids like mine, who are big fans of the Gruffalo and the Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark, this is likely to be a winner and a treat to stay out a bit late. As well as watching out for owls, there’s also the opportunity to build a bat box (restricted numbers so need to book that one) and make pine cone decorations.
If birds are your kids’ thing – I recently learnt about the Chichester Cathedral Peregrines project. Unbeknownst to us, Peregrine Falcons have been living and nesting on the roof of Chichester Cathedral for years and thanks to a local couple, David and Janet Shaw, a web cam has been set up so you can watch them nest and watch their fledglings hatch. The couple will be at the Cathedral in March to tell you more about the local Peregrine Falcons. I’ll certainly be looking up to try and spot them next time we’re in Chi.
One of our favourite spots to explore come Spring is Amberley Museum which always makes a great day out. They have a special event on the 31 March for Mother’s Day called Mums Can Do which I like the sound of. If getting out and about (rather than a swanky lunch) is more your thing then this could be for you too. The weekend is set to be action packed with mums learning to drive a train, conduct the vintage buses and make some pottery. More information will be released closer to the time, but the museums events are normally best pre-booked as they are so popular.
If your children are of the age where they love some craft, I also spotted a lovely event a bit further away in Petworth. It’s being held at Petworth House and is an opportunity for children to make something for their mum and finish it off in a personalised frame – while mums can apparently relax and enjoy the beautiful house. The event costs £5 per child on Saturday 30th March from 11-3pm.
As a photographer, I always look forward to the Bluebells popping up in all our local woods. I’ve explored further afield but to be honest some of my favourite spots for Bluebells are in our local woods along Tortington Hill and towards Binsted. Much quieter and the beautiful light across the fields is magical. The bluebells can be expected as early as March depending on the weather and can last until around May.
Finally, lambing is another highlight of our Spring calendar. We always head to Gaston Farm in Slindon which will be open later this year since Easter is so late. It’s an absolute must for local kids with many of the schools planning visits there. We will be taking full advantage of having pre school aged kids and heading there on a week day to try and avoid the crowds.
I hope that gives you some Spring time inspiration and I can’t wait to report back on all the things we get up to and start thinking about Summer fun… where is the year going?!