What to do on Winter Walks

3 Dec 2019 | 0 comments

As much as we love escaping the confines of the house for a brisk winter walk, it can sometimes be tricky to persuade our children to join us, to drag them away from their screens, pull on their wellies, put on a coat and breathe in some fresh air.

Here are just a few ideas for ways to encourage children outside and keep them entertained during the winter season.

1) Take a scavenger hunt

A scavenger hunt is simply a list of things to look for when you're out and about. You can make one yourself, or just search "outdoor scavenger hunt" and the image results will show plenty of options to either print or take on your phone.

We like to adapt them for the season or occasion. For example, around Halloween you can hunt for a stick like a witch's finger, or at Christmas, something the colour of a robin's red breast.

2) Collect your favourite things

A strip of coloured card with double-sided sticky tape down the middle, or even a stick and some string, can be used to collect memories of your journey.

Try collecting as many different shaped or coloured leaves as you can, or perhaps something for every colour of the rainbow.

3) Play with clay or mud

Carrying a small bag of natural clay means you always have something to model into bugs you find, make faces on trees, or use to build mini-dens with. If you don't have clay, most mud will do the trick!

4) Build a den

Dens require no pre-planning and no materials - just make one wherever and whenever you fancy. You can use logs and fallen branches leaned up against a tree, or even little twigs to make dens for fairies or bugs. If you have them with you, a rope between two trees with a blanket over the top will make an instant shelter.

The most important thing to remember is that the steps out of the front door are the hardest, and that once outside, everyone will be happier than they anticipated, even the ones previously glued to their screens.


Why We Love Outdoor Swimming

3 Dec 2019 | 0 comments

There’s nothing quite like a quick plunge into cold water to get your heart racing, your skin tingling, and a whopping great grin on your face as adrenaline and euphoria rush through you.

With the sea only a few miles away, and our own ponds here at Trill Farm, many of us are enthusiastic cold water swimmers. We often head to the sea after a hot summer day in the garden, and share an evening BBQ on the beach. Or take an extended autumn lunch break together when we know the warm days are drawing to a close.

When winter comes, the sea stays warmer than the air until into the new year, and swims on still, bright mornings, when the sun can warm your skin, are the perfect anecdote to almost any ill.

To encourage you out into the water this winter, here are a few of our insights, tips and tricks for one of our favourite pursuits:

Romy's favourite times for swims are the clear, crisp autumn mornings, when the sea holds the heat of the summer. "I can generally swim outside up to Christmas, but after that forget it!” she says.

Fiona, our herb garden co-ordinator, grew up on Guernsey where she was never more than 4km from the sea. Her tips are:

  • If you do nothing else, a jump in the sea makes it a good day
  • Wind is the enemy of a good swim; choose a day when it is still
  • Have a towel ready and near to the shoreline so you can quickly wrap up and dry off when you get out. Hoodies come into their own and are perfect to pull on over a base layer after a swim, it covers your head and the back of the neck, giving you extra seconds and valuable warmth as you sort out your bottom half. 

Thomas is possibly more hardcore than any of us, a member of the 2017 Irish Ice Swimming Team and ‘Ice mile’ member of the International Ice Swimming Association:

In between making and drinking mead I love to swim; wild swimming all year round and a little bit of competitive and endurance cold water swimming in the winter. In fact, if you win the Irish Ice Swimming Championships your prize includes a bottle of my mead.

I love the beautiful places that I find myself swimming in; floating on your back is a great way to observe a river, or a striking coastline. I love the sense of submitting yourself to nature as you sink into cold dark water and feel the force of surging waves and currents. There are few things as exhilarating as the fight to keep swimming, as the cold bites at your skin and cools your muscles. Once you have recovered from the mild-moderate hypothermia, you will be filled with elation that lasts all day.

My top tips would be to have easy to put on clothes, as your fingers might be too numb for zips and buttons. Try putting on a warm hat over your swim cap and I like to have a hot water bottle to stuff inside my clothes and hug.

Chris Holland advocates a morning swim in the Trill Farm ponds during family camps, to calm the mind and get the blood flowing before a campfire breakfast.

Mariel has seasalt running through her veins, a child of the Dorset beaches just up the coast from the farm.

The sea has been a constant throughout my life; a place for celebrations, commiserations and calming the mind. I swim all year round, on days when the sun is shining and the air is still, and have yet to find a better tonic for stress, anxiety or the grey cloud that can engulf us on the dark days of winter. I have never regretted a swim in the sea, but have often regretted not going in!

Finally, Tamsin swims whenever she visits the farm, but lives in London so gets her cold water fix at the outdoor lido instead.

As the nerves build on the way to the pool I wonder why I do this every week. I tell myself I’ll be disappointed if I turn back. I let every reason to go home wash over me in the knowledge that I won’t die and I won’t regret it. As I start to get changed I feel the cold radiating off the swimmers who are done. The waves of doubt build. The body and mind are not united in this moment.

Poolside, I see friendly faces. This is it. I go in - fast is the only way for me, no diving, just one, two, three, in. It is 7.5 degrees this week and I feel every bit of it. I submerge my body, my breath gets faster, my body reacting to the cold. The first 50 meters are the worst as the blood abandons my fingers and toes. As my face enters the water, my body takes a breath automatically. I focus my mind, regulate my breathing. My body is numbing, my skin feels electric.

As I swim, I focus on the sky. There is no bad weather to swim in a lido. Feeling the weather on my skin, no matter how cold, windy or wet feels good, connecting me to the elements. I chat with fellow swimmers, bonded by the extremity of our choices.

The last length is slow as I start to feel the cold to my core, there is less strength in my muscles and I know it’s time to get out. With skin tingling and fingers and toes numb, there is pain. Back in the changing room it’s busy, belongings everywhere, there is chatting and watching out for one another. We have a shared secret. It’s a clumsy, numb-fingered race to get showered and put on as many layers as I can. I take a flask of tea to sip as I get changed. Warming up from the inside is needed. As I push through the turnstile I’m starting to feel my toes again. I feel clearer, stronger and completely alive. 

For me cold water swimming is about filtering out the noise, keeping the mind quiet, choosing to be brave, letting the pain go, and as a result feeling stronger, feeling calmer, unbeatable.

There are plenty of tips for getting into outdoor swimming on the excellent Outdoor Swimming Society’s website here. Good luck, and let us know how you get on!


Top Tips for Lighting a Fire

2 Nov 2019 | 0 comments

Fires are one of our favourite things about winter. Whether it's to warm up against inside after a blustery walk, or to gather around outside in the dark evenings, with a glass of mulled wine and a hot pot of stew. The flickering flames are meditative, and it truly heats your bones.

We have wood burners in the guest house, in the Old Dairy Kitchen and in our course workshops on the farm to keep us all warm. Maybe you have fires at home and are already fire lighting wizards, but it is a skill that many of us have lost, so here are a few tips to help you on your way.

1) Find a safe space for your fire.

This is simple if it's inside: in a fire place or a wood burner. But having fires outside can be riskier. Make sure you have the land owner's permission before lighting a fire. Find an open, flat area, where your fire is unlikely to spread to nearby bushes or trees. Clear the ground of leaf litter, or even better, use a fire bowl so that you don't leave any scorch marks on the ground.

2) Collect your materials.

Wherever you are lighting a fire, you will need three types of fuel: tinder (no, not the app, the very first thing you light, for example newspaper or cotton wool), kindling (small, dry sticks) and small or split logs. You will also need something to provide the initial spark; you could use matches, a lighter, or a fire steel (we particularly like these ones by the Friendly Swede). It's a good idea to have a pair of thick gloves available, for adding more fuel when the fire gets going.

3) Prepare your fire.

There are many ways to lay a fire. We like to use a 'waffle lay'. This means laying three bits of kindling out parallel to each other, then another three on top perpendicular, as if you are going to play a big game of noughts and crosses. You can then put your tinder (in this case, scrunched up balls of newspaper) on top of the waffle, and build a pyramid up around it. The waffle helps the air to flow in under the fire and allow it to breathe while it gets established.

4) Light your tinder.

Light the newspaper or other tinder, and carefully add more kindling onto the flames, taking care not to smother them.

5) Add larger fuel as the fire grows.

As the flames grow bigger and hotter, then can consume larger fuel. If you have a wood burner, make sure you close the door. It can seem counter-intuitive, seeming like your cutting off the air supply and locking the heat away, but the open vents actually draw the air in at the bottom where it is most needed, and the doors will radiate the heat out in to the room.

6) Stay safe, and enjoy!

Shut the vents down once the fire has got going, and especially if you are leaving the room. If you have a fire outside, have a bucket of water nearby, ready to extinguish the fire with if needed, or to provide cool water for accidental burns. If you have a fire outside, try to leave no trace. Make sure your fire is fully out and well dowsed with water. If you lit a fire on the ground, re-cover the area with leaf litter.