Tag Archives: woodland

All by myself

Last weekend, my husband suggested he take the kids for a walk in the same woods where I was heading for a run, so they could see me.


Don’t get me wrong, I adore spending time with my children. But I’ve got to be honest, I think they see quite enough of me as it is. In fact, I figured out the last time I’d had ten minutes completely to myself had been 61 hours ago.

My children are with me from the moment I wake up. The baby watches me from the comfort of her bouncy chair while I shower; the toddler ‘reads’ stories to me while I get dressed; I have constant company throughout the day as I attempt to feed, clean, entertain, cuddle, console and rescue (the baby recently got stuck under the play kitchen after one roll too many) my little people. My youngest falls asleep in my arms every evening and then, when I’m just about ready for a little space at night, she often ends up snoring beside me in bed, too (apparently, being gently lowered into a warm, cosy cot is akin to being dropped into a cold, damp cave: not pleasant).

And I’m not complaining about any of this. All I ask is that, a few times a week, I get to be alone. All. By. Myself. Just me and an empty trail to run along, with maybe the odd dog walker to nod hello to (I don’t mind seeing a dog walker during my alone time, because while they may interrupt my solitude, they are not reliant on me and are unlikely to require me to provide sustenance/sing a nursery rhyme/wipe their bum as I pass them by).


An empty trail = heaven

The need for a little ‘me’ time is just one reason why I’d like my running to remain family-free. There is also the practical aspect.

I’m just not sure how easily I’d get into my stride with a little voice shouting, “Mummy, look at me! Look at me Mummy! Look! Look Mummy!” every three seconds.

Then there’s the baby.

I’m pretty sure she chooses the most inconvenient moments to glance my way and think, “Lunch” (I recently had to whip a boob out in church while attending a christening. It’s all very subtle, but still…). So, in the middle of a run? Yes, this would be pretty inconvenient. I’m not sure if you’ve tried to get out of a Shock Absorber Run bra recently? If not, the design is a Godsend to female runners the world over, but it’s not exactly easy access when it comes to feeding a baby. (Obviously. I mean, this is not what it’s designed to do.) I swear, if Houdini had been set the task of getting out of one of these bad boys, he’d have spent so long grappling with the various clasps he’d have died suspended upside down in that tank of water.

So, with all the above taken into consideration, my inner voice screamed, ‘Nooooooo!’ at my husband’s suggestion.

But I hate hurting people’s feelings. So instead I said:

‘Great idea! Let’s go!’

I am such a tit sometimes.

Anyway, one baby, one child, one buggy, one scooter, one spare nappy, one pack of wipes, one portable potty, two changes of clothes and one pot of snacks later, off we went.

I ran on ahead, to shouts of “Mummy? Where you going Mummy? I’ll run too Mummy!” Oh bless him.

I didn’t look back.

And you know what? It was fine. I pretty much managed to complete my intended interval session before I heard shouts through the trees of, “Mummy! Where are you?” (This was inevitable. I run through a small patch of woodland that’s about a 4K loop. It’s not exactly the New Forest: they were always going to see me).

I ignored that little voice for a few minutes, although it was getting ominously louder.

And then I saw them. My little family. And rather unexpectedly, despite the fact they had muscled in on my alone time, my heart soared with joy at the sight of them. And when my little boy yelled excitedly, “Keep running Mummy!” I nearly cried. He looked so proud of me.

Unfortunately, at this particular moment, they were stood at the top of a bloody great big hill and I was at the bottom.

“Keep running Mummy!”

How do you explain to your excitable son that, actually, you’ve just finished a 6 x 5-minute tempo session, and you’re actually pretty knackered and have earned the right to stop?

Answer: you don’t.

So I kept running. I kept running back to him.

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If you go down to the woods today…

Last night, we ditched the usual bath-and-bed routine and went for an evening walk in the local woods. I was supposed to be going for a run, but, due to a rather strenuous outdoor exercise class the day before (more on that another time), I could barely move. Running was out of the question.

However, one of the reasons I’m so keen to regain a regular running routine is to set an example to my children that exercise (and the outdoors) is just a normal part of everyday life. So, what better way to demonstrate this than all head out together? We’re also taking part in The Wildlife Trusts’ #30DaysWild this month. We actually try to have some wild time every day anyway – ever since I was inspired by the rather amazing film Project Wild Thing over a year ago. OK, so sometimes this ‘wild time’ is merely a 10-minute splash in a puddle at the end of the driveway, but hey, it’s all fresh air, right?

Anyway, yesterday was the perfect opportunity for a wild adventure, so, with the baby in the sling and the toddler in the buggy, we set off.

Our little excursion wasn’t without error. We forgot to put shoes on the toddler. (We didn’t. We put them on him. He took them off. We put them back on again. He took them back off again. We gave up. We put him in the buggy. We forgot to sling the shoes in as well).

But despite that, it was pretty damn great. We strolled, explored dens, balanced along fallen trees and the toddler thought it was hilarious running around in his socks. The baby grizzled a bit and then fell asleep. We made a pact that, once a week, we’re going to do away with the usual and do something fun as a family in the evening instead – something outdoors and exciting for the little ones.


When we got home, the toddler was hyped up, excited and refused to believe us that it was, in fact, time to go to sleep (turns out there’s something to be said for routine, after all). After finally managing to tuck him into bed at 9.30pm we were all shattered. But we’re sticking to our new pact. Because all the best childhood memories are made from exploring that small patch of woodland near to the house, or riding your scooter up and down the road, or slurping icy lemonade in a pub garden as the sun sets. This is adventure for children. Not sitting indoors in front of the TV.

Now, I’m not going to lie. It’s not all woodland walks and puddle splashing and den building and flower planting for us. There is also probably far too much TV. In fact, Andy, Cat and the rest of the CBeebies presenters form an integral part of my daily childcare plan. Because if you’re outnumbered, or you’re trying to make dinner, or you even just want to sit down for two minutes in the day, I’m not sure how you do it without the company of Bing Bunny. And if I’m being completely honest, when I’m feeding the baby while simultaneously making the toddler’s tea while simultaneously trying to figure out what that congealed gloop at the bottom of the fridge is, and I hear a shout of, “Telly off now Mummy, play with me,” a little part of me dies on the inside.


So, as much as I hate to admit it, TV has its place for us. But this is why those everyday moments outside – from a quick jump in a puddle to a full day exploring at the weekends – are so crucial. It’s a balancing act. I’m working on less TV and more wild time. But it’s a work in progress.

Tall grass