Small boys and tall trees

Small boys and tall trees


Ollie creeping

We spent today at the gorgeous Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent.  We were meeting friends form our Home Ed groups and got there early so that I had some time to do some natural history walking with the boys before they got on with the main business of charging around building dens and playing space alien invasion.


The boys were immediately captivated by the quantity and diversity of birds we saw and heard, and were especially excited to track by ear the woodpecker that was tapping its drum beat out on a hollow tree.

Further down the path they stood, eyes closed, letting the music of robins wash over them.  They made creeping up on birds to listen to them into a game, with comedy exaggerated steps along the path that wound its way through a stand of redwoods.



Toby enchanted by a redwood


As we made our way around, the boys would pull me over to read information boards and labels to them, or I would encourage them to jump down off the raised boardwalk to get up close to the shaggy bark of the redwoods.  We talked about the thick spongy bark and its role in protecting the tree from fire (a subject we came back to later as we smelled a Eucalyptus tree and discussed other adaptations to fire).  The boys spent a lot of time just holding the trees, gazing up into the canopy as the mist condensed on the leaves and dripped off, pattering softly down onto their upturned faces.

I would stop every so often and ask the boys to listen.  It was interesting that when I could hear a stream gurgling over a tiny waterfall it took a few goes for the boys to understand what they were listening to.   “What can you hear?” came back with replies of “an aeroplane”, “a road” and then their surprise when they figured it out.  It made me feel we obviously didn’t spend enough time by cheery little brooks (our local ghyll is inhabited by abandoned shopping trollies and various items of furniture, which Ollie says is sad like the river god in Spirited Away).


witch hazel

We stopped short of licking anything, but took time to use our other senses to explore the area.  I was delighted when we saw a pair of witch hazel trees in full flower and I ran over to them with the boys in tow (after extracting them from a stand of pampas grasses).  “Smell them, smell them!”.  “Oooo” said the boys “they smell delicious!”.  And they did, a remarkable sweet citrus tang, nothing like the astringent smell of the witch hazel extract we have in the medicine cupboard at home.


For kids to really take in their surroundings and be in a peaceful enough frame of mind to stop and smell and listen it is very much about picking your moments.  I gave a time frame too – we’re doing creeping, and listening, and smelling, and finding out now.  Then we’ll meet our friends and do running, and shouting, and climbing, and building.

In an unexpected turn of events we then ran into a man from the local BBC radio station and were interviewed about why we enjoyed being outside and what benefits it had, especially for the kids.  When I said I loved the quote that ‘kids can’t bounce off the walls if there are none” he went “ooo, I like that!” and pressed something on his recording device, so perhaps we made it into a news piece!  He couldn’t have picked a family more appreciative of the environment we were lucky enough to have access to that day.

NB Bedgebury is a Forestry Commission site, with good facilities including toilets, café, accessible walks around the lake, cycle trails, cycle hire, Go Ape treetop adventures and a fabulous play trail stocked at short intervals with wooden play frames.  Entrance is free if you cycle or walk in, and is £10 for a days parking (correct for Feb 2017, check details online before you travel).  If it all sounds too good to be true, we did have a “how on earth did you get dog poo on your scarf!” moment in the first play park to provide balance.


  • Plutonium Sox

    8th February 2017 at 11:26 am Reply

    Oh that’s brilliant Maz, well done for maybe making it onto the news! Love that video too, they look so calm! And the phrase, ‘We stopped short of licking anything’ is probably my favourite sentence I’ve ever read on a blog 😉

    • admin

      8th February 2017 at 8:15 pm Reply

      Not licking anything was unusual for us, with the combination of us enjoying a bit of foraging and Ollie’s compulsion to chew everything including his own clothes!

  • Sonia Cave

    13th February 2017 at 7:06 pm Reply

    That place looks fantastic. A lot to do as well. My three would love it there. #countrykidsfun

    • admin

      13th February 2017 at 8:20 pm Reply

      Thanks for commenting 🙂 We’ve been to another forestry commission site in the New Forest and that was excellent too, so I’m very impressed with the work they have done to increase accessibility and activities for families in the last 10 years or so.

  • Kids of the Wild

    13th February 2017 at 10:17 pm Reply

    I love it when the kids are present enough to use all their senses. Sounds like a great place to visit #CountryKids

    • admin

      13th February 2017 at 10:33 pm Reply

      We do have to pick our moments – they’re like a whirlwind flying around a lot of the time 🙂

  • The Princess and The Pickle

    14th February 2017 at 8:29 am Reply

    This looks like a great place to explore and there really is so much to learn from being outdoors and surrounded by nature.

    • admin

      16th February 2017 at 7:30 pm Reply

      We’re lucky to have it within driving distance 🙂

  • Fiona - Coombe Mill

    15th February 2017 at 11:22 am Reply

    The forestry commission sites are great for facilities and family fun days out. I love how you got the boys using all their senses. I think we have Hazel on the farm, it is great for weaving and making things, know I need to go and smell it too and see if it is coming into flower. I wonder if you will make it on radio too?

    Thank you for sharing a lovely woodland day on #CountryKids

    • admin

      16th February 2017 at 7:27 pm Reply

      Thank you. Witch hazel is unmistakable at this time of year if you do have it 🙂

  • Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)

    15th February 2017 at 11:49 pm Reply

    That looks like a gorgeous place to explore. Love the way you and the boys used your senses to explore too. That quote is a good one – will have to remember that! 🙂 #countrykids

    • admin

      16th February 2017 at 7:28 pm Reply

      Thank you 🙂

  • Sonia Constant

    16th February 2017 at 10:14 am Reply

    Ah looks like a lot of fun. 🙂

  • Emma Day

    16th February 2017 at 11:26 am Reply

    I love how you’ve not only taught the children to use all of their senses, but described all of those senses so well in this post too. #CountryKids

    • admin

      16th February 2017 at 7:29 pm Reply

      Thank you 🙂

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