The time in between Christmas Day and New Year, in the lull before we’re back up to the normal pace of our lives, is one of my favourite times of the year. The excitement (and let’s face it, pressure for any parent during this time) of Christmas is over, we’ve had a wonderful time catching up with our extended families, and now it’s time to come back together as our family of four – to play together or individually focus on our own needs. For me, it’s a time to reflect on what worked well for us as a family and what we’ve achieved in the year (and as 2019 started with a three-month trip around the world, it was certainly a special one for us). Secondly, I’m always very excited at the prospect of planning our family goals for the upcoming year – a fresh start, a clean slate to focus on new opportunities. On the basis that we’re much more likely to commit to them if they’re written down (although realistically they won’t all happen and that’s OK), here’s what we’re planning for 2020:
1. The 732 Mile Challenge!
We are all super excited about this one! The plan is for us all to either walk, bike or kayak/canoe 732 miles in a year, so on average 2 miles per day, as 2020 is a leap year. These miles will be additional to our normal daily activity, so wandering around the shops wouldn’t count, nor would their weekly sports classes. It’s a realistic and achievable target which I suspect we’ll all enjoy trying to beat! We’re completing this challenge to raise money for War Child (protecting and supporting children in conflict, something they should never have to experience, to give them a safe and happier future), and would be delighted if anyone would be kind enough to sponsor our efforts – here is our Just Giving page.
The aim is to encourage us to spend more time in the beautiful natural world that surrounds us, even on days when we don’t really feel like it or the weather is less than appealing! Aside from the physical health benefits we’ll get from the exercise and being in nature, which has proven to improve memory, fight depression and lower blood pressure amongst many other advantages, it’ll also give us more time to just to be together and to talk, side by side. As a team, we can spot the changes in the seasons, can start to notice the tiny details around us or just chat about the day’s happenings or really any other random topic if you’re Bean9!
Days 1 & 2
We kicked off this challenge with a stunning walk with friends on New Year’s Day across the White Cliffs of Dover (one of the best walks in Kent). The wind was non-existent so we knew it would be an ideal day to tackle it, and with their gorgeous little dog Lola trotting alongside us, we hiked from St. Margaret’s Bay, past the South Foreland Lighthouse, across the tops of the cliffs to Dover and back again. Even on a fairly grey day, the views were impressive, the sea a surprising turquoise colour set against the chalk white of the cliffs. It’s not a walk for the faint hearted as there’s nothing to prevent you going over the edge (I was keen to keep the Beans very close by me), but it was fascinating to see the layers of sediments built up over thousands of years or how huge sections have pulled away from the edge and at some point will fall away into the swirling waves below. On the return leg, we took a few fun diversions down some frighteningly steep sections to have a gander at the Fan Bay sound mirrors, a forerunner of radar, constructed between 1917 and the 1930s to provide early warning of enemy aircraft. By the time we reached the end of the walk, huge swathes of mist swirled in from the sea closing off our view and making us grateful we’d set out earlier in the day. At the end of our 5.5-mile walk, we reached the car feeling refreshed and ready for a nice warming cup of tea – our challenge had begun!
The next day, Bean10 spent the early morning with MrJ designing a tracking spreadsheet for the challenge and associated graphs in Excel, something that she loved doing! With the prospect of adding more data to her spreadsheet and despite the miserable weather, she encouraged us all to get out for another short walk the next day with my mum and her dog, Tess, to the top of the hill near her house with some more stunning views across the valleys.
Day three involved a bike ride with a difference, which I’ll talk about later in the post.
Along with individual hikes in our local area, we have plans to tackle some longer walks (although no definite commitments as that feels too stressful!), such as the Elham Valley Way (23 miles) with our local home ed group, the Royal Military Canal Path (28 miles) or the Saxon Shore Way (160 miles) in smaller sections or large sections on a multi-day hike (which would be a first for us). We’ve also booked summer trips to the Lake District and Dorset with another one planned for Devon later in the year, with the intention of exploring these beautiful regions by foot, bike or kayak. Having climbed Snowdon last June, we’d like to summit Scafell Pike this year along with another few peaks in the area, like Helvellyn or The Old Man of Coniston.
In terms of cycling, there are various local cycle routes to undertake such as the Viking Coastal Trail (27 miles around Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate) and the Crab & Winkle Way (7 miles from Canterbury to Whitstable), along with locations offering a multitude of cycle tracks such as Bedgebury, Betteshangar and Bewl Water. Our plan is to try a selection.
For Christmas, they were lucky enough to receive an inflatable single kayak each from their grandparents. Along with the double I got for my birthday last year, we’ll use these to explore the local waterways – I have my eye on the Medway Canoe Trail, which at 18 miles we could investigate over a few days in quite an adventure – and other waterways on our various trips across the UK.
2. The 1,000 Hours Outside Challenge
The brainchild of Ginny Yurich and her husband Jason (with the blog 1000hoursoutside.com), they set themselves a challenge of spending 1,000 hours outside in a year and have never looked back. They’re encouraging other families to join them with their challenge for 2020 and we for one are committed! I think this one may be more difficult than the first challenge, given the weather in the UK. I know we won’t achieve the average of 2 ¾ hours outside every day through the winter even despite our commitment to the 732 miles, but hopefully this will be offset by the longer summer days offering more opportunity for outdoor exploration. And it may well force me to finally get on top of my garden!
Bean10 is responsible for tracking the hours on her spreadsheet and as she pointed out this morning, even though we haven’t hit the 2 ¾ average for the first three days, it has encouraged us to be outside more than we normally would have during this period, given the greyness of the days.
3. Complete 52 Microadventures
According to Alistair Humphreys (the author of Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes), “A microadventure is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.” It’s about trying something new, different or challenging in your local area, but always outdoors, which ties in nicely with our 1000 hours challenge. Most of our microadventures will be in the UK, but we’re going to extend the definition and complete a few further afield, such as a hiking to a boiling lake in Dominica or snorkelling its Champagne Reef, where you swim through bubbles from the volcano underneath the sea.
Here are some examples of microadventures we’re planning on tackling:
- Wild river swimming – I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never done this in the UK, so I’m going to challenge myself this year!
- Sleeping on a beach
- Night hiking
- Kayaking through a lock (Bean10’s request)!
- A multi-day hike, camping in between
- A multi-day canoe expedition
- Fishing in the sea for our lunch
- Canal boating
- Park running
- Gorge walking
- Travelling underground to a slate mine
- Camping overnight on an island
- Coasteering – defined by Wikipedia as “a physical activity that encompasses movement along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming, without the aid of boats, surf boards or other craft.” There are some great courses available in Devon.
- Breakfasting in a wood
- Orienteering – we’ve done this before, but we can just up the challenge level.
- Paddleboarding in the sea
- Making our own raft and trying it out on a river
- Building a treehouse
- Growing our own food
- Sleeping under the stars in a bivvy bag or hammock
- Cooking our food over a campfire on the beach
- Foraging for our dinner
- Standing behind a waterfall
- Wild camping
We had our first microadventure this morning. Bean10 was very keen for us all to go for a bike ride so she could update the spreadsheet! So, we decided to attempt cycling a section of what we call the free zoo walk, skirting the perimeter of a safari park. This did however involve a long downhill section of an extremely steep hill on what looked more like a mud ski slope than anything else! So, we’ll term our first microadventure: mud bike skiing!! We all fell off – me the most by far, were covered head to toe in mud by the end, but we had so much fun as we slipped and slid down the slope using our feet as brakes, as the zebras, giraffes and wildebeest looked on at us in mild confusion! I can honestly say we’d never have attempted such a feat this morning had we not previously set our family goals for the year. Seeing opportunities as adventures puts a new and more positive light on things. In this example, it allowed me to laugh and enjoy the moment, rather than focusing on the pile of washing that would inevitably face me at the end!
4. Complete 10 or More Environmental or People-Focused Service Projects
Aside from raising money for War Child, I’d like us all to get involved with nine additional service projects, from beach cleans, to collecting and recycling plastic bottles, to supporting the Philippines school project our church is involved with, to charity walks or bike rides. They could be as simple as our intention to plant out a fairly large part of our garden with fruit trees, carefully selecting important species for the local ecosystem. And these can all count as microadventures too!
5. Explore the UK More
Travel is extremely important to our family so we’ll still be going on adventures overseas, but we would all like to spend more time closer to home this year exploring this beautiful island of ours. We’ve trips planned to the Lake District, Dorset, Devon, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Gloucestershire this year, along with touring our home county of Kent and all that the wonderful nearby city of London has to offer. We’ll be getting the children involved in the planning process for these trips, so they can learn how to budget, sift through large amounts of information, prioritise and plan, as well as gain a better feel for the locational geography of our country.
6. Personal Challenges
Aside from the family challenges, we each have our own individual targets. Bean10 for example would like to finish the first draft of her novel and pass her modern and ballet exams. Bean9 would like to make it into the first U11 cricket team for his club, get an award at the end of season awards night and achieve his Silver Scout Award with Cubs. I’d like to work out how to edit the many hours of film I have from our adventures into vlogs, along with researching more about my current hypermobility diagnosis and its implications.
So, there’s lots to do but it feels really exciting and, given how much so many of them overlap, manageable too. But it’ll certainly stretch us in a healthy way and provide a positive focus for the year. We’ll be sharing some of our adventures on the blog, which will hopefully keep us all on track!
What are your goals for this year? I’d love for you to share them with us in the comments.