Every time we come back from The Netherlands we say we’ll cycle more. This time we seem to be doing reasonably well at it. Yesterday I had a glorious cycle to Newport to buy some new crochet hooks. On the way there I heard a saxophonist playing in the woods which was an unexpected pleasure.

I’m glad we live at the Cowes end though as I get all the annoying obstacles out of the way early ( the hilly bit with no right of way and no visibilty at Medina Vally Centre, the stupidly close poles on the bridge that we definitely wouldn’t have managed to fit our kiddy trailer through, and the kicked out junction with no right of way at Stage Lane) and can just enjoy the rest of the ride home, the angle of the views are slightly better on the way back to cowes too!

Cycling home I realised that being on my bike on a car-free path – particularly in my favourite gear ratio (2:6 if you are interested) – makes me feel almost as contented as swimming does. If we had Dutch style infrastructure and attitudes to cyclists I would feel happy very often ūüôā

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parked_carsMaking good provision to allow people to walk, cycle and use public transport is a sensible thing to do even if you don’t give a stuff about the negative environmental or social consequences of driving a car and want to drive everywhere. Forget the green stuff*, simple old fashioned self interest shows it makes sense.

I’ll use the Isle of Wight as an example. We have a limited road network, little chance of major expansions to it and a population which mostly lives in small towns and large villages. For a rural area we have fairly low car ownership, and a higher than typical number of car-free households.

If our car ownership was more typical for our population density we would expect to see an extra 6,000 cars on the road (and this number could be much higher). Let‚Äôs ignore the impact that would have on congestion and demand for workplace parking and look at one single issue ‚Äď overnight parking. A large number of these ‚Äúnew‚ÄĚ cars would be owned by currently car-free households, some would be second/third etc. cars within a household. Given the makeup of Isle of Wight housing I think it is fair to say the majority of these cars would be parked on-road overnight. Conservatively let‚Äôs say 65%. Allowing 5.3 metres of space for parking (and people are going to have to get better at it if that‚Äôs all we use…) that‚Äôs 20.7km of extra on-road parking that needs to be found. I don‚Äôt know about you, but I struggle to see where we will find the space to put those extra cars

So, if we want to avoid this, doesn’t it make sense to ensure people have some good quality alternative options, so they don’t have to buy a car (or a second car, or a third car)? Wouldn’t it be better to invest in cycleways, making junctions safer for pedestrians, reducing traffic on side roads and improving public transport infrastructure and service provision than building 20km of new roads just to park our cars on?

(* Actually I’d rather you didn’t, but if you must…)

Jonathan and I had a fabulous time at the Fort Victoria Foray yesterday.

We were there right from the start so had time to have a go at everything we wanted to do. Jonathan was probably at the older end of the age that these type of events are organised for and said there wasn’t too much that he wanted to do that he hadn’t done before – however we love Fort Victoria so it wasn’t hard to fill the day.

After a quick story about how the sea became salty with Sue Bailey Story Teller we headed off on a tree ID walk – it was a bit early so we were the only people on it which was great as we got lots of personal attention and we definitely picked up a few tips.

Next we had a quick wander down to the beach where we tried rock pooling without rock pools with Gift To Nature – it involved looking under loads of seaweed to find various creatures: fish, crabs, anemones etc. We only managed the anemones but others found more. As we were hungry we decided to find a quiet spot for some lunch and ended up perched behind the Aquarium. Then we popped in to have a look round – we love the aquarium and on this occasion saw the infamous weaver fish and a large cuttlefish.

 Had another look around all the stalls and Jonathan made a badge with the Wildlife Trust to add to his collection. Next off to the woods to have a look at the Forrest School area and make a clay face on a tree.

 

We started watching the Lifeboat displays but then went off to look at the new woodland trail.

We were not quite the only ones on the walk this time but very nearly. It was good to have a look at the new paths and also to see some of the work done by Ruth and Rebekah with the rangers and The Learning Zone a few years ago. We also got to see some of the musical items in the wood and learn how to tell the age of an oak tree without cutting it down (rule of thumb is measure 1m up and then measure around the trunk in centimeters – halve that number and you have a ball park age – the one we measured was about 100 years old).

 

 Time for an ice cream and while Jonathan was scoffing it I was watching the beautiful bees and butterflies on the buddleia behind the cafe

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A bit of assisting with some kite flying, as well as a couple of HE conversations and a chat about Jonathan’s interest in animation, and it was time to pack up and head on home.

A few years ago Ruth and Rebekah spent lots of wet wintry Tuesday afternoons working with rangers and other Learning Zone families on the island learning and putting into practice skills such as coppicing and hedge laying as well as using some scary looking tools. This walk took us back to have a look at the clearing that they had done at Mill Copse.

  

  

Inspired by some of the crafts I’ve been busy pinning to my autumn pinterest board we made plaster of Paris leaves today.

First squidge some creamy plaster of Paris onto a leaf:

Then wait 20 mins and peal off the leaf – not as easy as it looks and the newspaper stuck – next time will use grease proof paper like the instructions said.

Then painting:

  

I like the end result and think with practice they could get even better.

Moving on from our week at Helford Passage we were going to Port Isaac via the Eden Project. After much research we decided that paying for a prebooked gift aided ticket for the grown ups and Blue Peter Cards for the kids was the way to go.

We packed up at the cottage early and got on our way on what must have been the hottest day of the year. We arrived and discovered that Jonathan had not taken any notice of the hot weather and was in tracksuit and long sleeved top Рso we needed to unpack half the car to find some shorts and a T-shirt!

Walking to the domes:

  

  

I was very impressed with these tea poems and plan to have a go at writing my own – click on the photos to see them larger.

 

We didn’t spend long outside as it was sweltering and I don’t do well in the heat. So we entered the domes. As we went into the tropical biome I really wished we had taken the girls here at the start of their environmental management course as they could have¬†experienced¬†some of the conditions they had learned about.

The Tropical Dome:

  

  

It was so hot and humid in the dome – over 40 degrees and hight humidity – so we couldn’t go on the viewing platform.

We came out into the relative cool of the cafe and bought a very expensive very sharp lemonade and a very good value very delicious pastry and salad.

  

Slightly cooled down we headed to the Mediterranean biome.

I had printed off a worksheet that I gave Jonathan the option of doing – it was not a¬†successful¬†venture as we couldn’t find half the stuff and everyone was a bit grumpy due to the heat by then!

  

  

 Then it was back into the outdoor heat:

  

  

We managed to find some more indoor activities and get out of the sun for a bit.

  

¬†We were too hot to hang about in the grounds and went out vis the shop – we resisted the urge to buy many herbs and notebooks but succumbed to a necklace and some lovely looking bread. Then we headed out to Port Isaac and another lovely week in Cornwall. If I didn’t live in the Isle of Wight I really think that Cornwall would be the place I’d love to live.

  

We had a grotto last year at Fort Victoria and it was such good fun we did it again.

The woodland skills people helped with the grotto and cosy fire area, as did a few other volunteers.

  

There were¬†decorations¬†to make and lanterns to hang – once I’d set fire to my hair lighting some of them!!!

 

The grotto was ready – Rebekah was taking photos and Jonathan was being attacked by little girls – people listened to Sue Bailey tell stories and sang songs round the camp fire.

  

 

Our HE group was lucky enough to be invited to be guinea pigs for a new Estuary Explorers project. We were hoping to go along and learn all sorts of things about estuary birds and their habitats through activities and games.

Jonathan and I were both feeling pretty yucky but decided we would go anyway. Ric (formally Ric the Ranger) was taking the session and as the girls had previously done woodland skills with him we were hopeful that it was going to be a good session.

Jonathan had a good time at the start and was distracted from his yuckiness by some table based activities. He was pleased to be able to identify a marsh harrier but we were all somewhat bemused by the moor-hen which featured an interesting interpretation of its colouring.

He also enjoyed designing his own bird with its own adaptations.

I liked Ruth’s table’s attempt at this with the welly boots!

The games involved things like wearing beaks and collecting worms as well as getting into smaller and smaller areas of salt marsh. Jonathan had really had enough by now and came and sat with me instead for most of it.

Overall Jonathan had as good a time as he was up to, Ruth didn’t really have any content that was appropriate for her but enjoyed playing with the little ones and I enjoyed seeing some of my friends who I haven’t seen for a while. We’d definitely do more things with Estuary Explorers.

For lent we gave up eating meat – well sort of. I just decided I wouldn’t use meat at home – if people wanted to eat meat when they were out that was fine and we did eat meat when we went on holiday for a few days . We also decided that we would still eat meat on a Sunday but that we would buy the best meat we could. We bought lovely Aberdeen Angus beef from Mottistone Manor farm shop and some organic free range chicken (from Lidl, which was less than ideal, as we didn’t make it to the right shop that week).

After the experiment we thought about what we would like to carry one with. We all thought mostly veggie meals were fine -even the fusspots like macaroni cheese, quiches and pizza. I wanted to eat a little bit more meat than once a week but a couple of times a week generally seemed fine to me. I also wanted to plan things a bit better as I didn’t want to be traipsing off to Mottistone or the farmers market¬†continuously. I was also hoping that by planning I might be able to save time and energy by doubling things up and planning for leftovers etc. For example if I have made extra bolognese¬†sauce one week and frozen it and extra cheese sauce another week I could then, on another occasion, put these togther easily and quickly for a tasty¬†lasagne.

So I set about planning – got people to tell me which meals they¬†really¬†want and which they thought they’d only like once every so often etc. I got a plan that worked and promptly lost it. Honestly even when I try and be really organised I don’t manage it. So I started again and this time put it on the computer. I decided this time to follow a pattern so we have:

Sunday – nice meaty meal (stew, roast, lasagne etc)

Monday – Jacket potaotes

Tuesday – leftovers from Sunday or pizza type meal

Wednesday – egg based meal probably also involving left over potatoes from monday.

Thursday – pasta meal

Friday – fish meal

Saturday – wild card

From this I put¬†together¬†a general plan that covers two months of¬†summer¬†time eating – we are three weeks into it and have diverted on a number of occasions but overall it is providing a good starting point of ideas for what to eat and knowing what food we need in. My idea is that this is a tool to help us rather than a rigid set of rules. To misquote the bible – the meal plan was made for the Gibsons not the Gibsons for the mealplan! I have already found a few places I need to change things – for example we have fish and chips on one Friday followed by Cajun chicken on the Sunday which we would also have with chips – that’s too many chips too close¬†together¬†so¬†I’ll¬†do some swapping about next time. I hope when I make bolognese I’ll make enough for the lasagne and the chilli and the pancakes – I also plan to make cheese sauce from the macaroni cheese night to do cauliflower cheese and the lasagne and maybe even some filling for a potato skin or two.

So here (hopefully if I can paste a table into the blog) is our summer menu plan:

Week 1 Week5
Sunday Roast Chicken Sunday Beef pie
Monday Jacket pots Monday Jacket pots
Tuesday Stir-fry (rice) Tuesday chilli
Wednesday egg Wednesday egg
Thursday pasta Thursday Pasta(mac cheese)
Friday Fish pie Friday Fish curry
Saturday Pizza Saturday pizza
Week 2 Week 6
Sunday Stew Sunday lasagne
Monday Jacket pots Monday Jacket pots (cauliflower cheese)
Tuesday Veg Chilli Tuesday pasta
Wednesday egg Wednesday Cauli cheese pies
Thursday pasta Thursday eggs
Friday Fish and chips Friday Fish pie
Saturday Potato bake Saturday Bol pancakes
Week 3 Week 7
Sunday Cajun Chicken Sunday Wraps BBQ etc
Monday Jackets pots Monday Jacket pots
Tuesday Calzone (ham) Tuesday pasta
Wednesday Egg ham and chips Wednesday Potato bake
Thursday Pasta spag bol Thursday eggs
Friday Fish cakes Friday Fish fingers
Saturday curry Saturday Schnitzel
Week 4 Week 8
Sunday Roast Chicken Sunday Schnitzel leftovers
Monday Jacket pots Monday Jacket pots
Tuesday Stir fry – noodles Tuesday Veg curry
Wednesday egg Wednesday eggs
Thursday pasta Thursday pasta
Friday Fish puffs Friday Fish and chips
Saturday Bol pancakes Saturday Freezer food leftovers