I’ve always loved the opportunity the quiet lull between Christmas and New Year offers for reflecting on the previous year and planning our family goals for the upcoming one (and let’s face it, this year was quiet all the way through Christmas!).
I relish that feeling of starting afresh with a clean slate. And having an exciting set of new ambitions helps gives me a focus for those difficult grey months of January, February and March.
Last year for the first time, I shared and committed to our family goals on this blog (see this post). Somehow, pledging our plans in this way meant we were all much more motivated to achieve them. And rather fortuitously the goals we set aligned pretty well with the constraints of 2020.
So, although we didn’t achieve everything on our plan (we never do, and that’s totally OK), we did complete some feats to be proud of including:
- Walking/running/cycling/kayaking 732 miles each (2 miles per day) to raise money for War Child (thank you all for your kind donations – if anyone else would like to sponsor us, here’s the link)
- Finishing 52 microadventures (see this post) – this was probably our favourite challenge!
- Spending 1,000 hours outside, fully tracked by Bean11 – this one was by far and away the hardest of our goals, but we did it, recording our last 61 minutes on the 29th December!
- Completing 6 environmental or people-focused service projects, from sending care packages to the NHS to replanting sections of our garden
- A series of personal goals, such as for Bean10 making the District U11 cricket team, winning the Most Improved Player of the Year award for his club and finishing his Silver Scout Award for Cubs; for Bean11, completing one third of her novel (with detailed plans in place for the remainder) and being moved up a grade in her Modern dancing (despite many of the classes being cancelled); and for me, understanding and helping my hypermobility, through strengthening activities such as running and pilates.
And so to 2021, with all that it may bring. After much deliberation, here’s what we’re aiming to accomplish:
1. Our Biodiversity Project
Concerned about habitat and species loss, which is currently damaging our planet, and at the same time inspired by the success of rewilding projects, such as that at the Knepp Estate in Sussex, we’ve decided to embark on our own smaller-scale biodiversity project: at home, in our garden and woods (thank you Grandad for the inspiration!).
At the high level, our aims are simple: firstly, to monitor and assess what species currently reside on our land and thus how biodiverse the area is, and secondly to uplift this biodiversity by adding new microhabitats such as hedges, meadow areas or low-level vegetation in the woods.
The first step of assessing what we’ve got will see the children involved in a range of surveys looking at different taxa. Clearly, as we’re not trained botanists or entomologists, there’s no way we’ll be able to classify all the different grasses or beetles say, but our target is to successfully identify at least 100 different species.
We’ve split the site up into six different areas, with the children leading the work on two sections each – Bean10 has the stream which runs through the property and a mound which we use for dumping garden waste, whilst Bean11 has the pond area and part of the woodland. MrJ and I will take on the remaining two areas in the woods. Although a lot of planning still needs to happen, here are some activities the children will be doing (along with their friends once we’re able to meet):
- Producing detailed maps of their areas and identifying as many of the trees, flowers and grasses as possible using field guides and the Pl@ntNet app
- Pitfall traps to classify invertebrates and sweep net surveys to identify butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies
- Setting up a light trap to identify moth species and coloured pan traps to monitor hoverflies
- Hopefully working with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to survey our bee species and work out what new plant species would encourage additional bees to the area
- Pond and river dip netting to ascertain which aquatic invertebrates and vertebrates (such as newts) live there
- Searching for other amphibians, such as frogs and toads, and reptiles, such as grass snakes, slow worms or lizards
- Birdwatching and learning the bird songs for species such as Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat etc. And possibly a mist netting session to see the birds close up and handle them, if we’re able to travel up to see their Grandad in the spring
- Identifying as many mammals as possible, such as squirrel, rabbit, voles, mice and shrew (Bean10 and I have already spotted a field vole in area 1 and he was super excited to see it scuttle away into a pile of sticks he’d just created!)
- Installing a camera trap to see the badger and fox activity
The second part of the project will see us researching how best to increase the biodiversity of the area by adding new microhabitats if appropriate. This could be through planting wildflower seeds and not cutting the grass in some areas to create mini meadows; wood placement to diversify stream habitats and gravel to vary the riverbed levels; or planting a mix of shrubs to create traditional hedgerows.
It’s an exciting project from which I know we’ll all learn a great deal and it’s also something we can do within the constraints of lockdown. The Beans already have so many plans for each of their areas!
2. 52 Microadventures
Our favourite challenge from last year, the children begged for this to be on our list again for 2021.
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. Last year, we extended the definition and completed a few further afield, such as hiking a volcano to a boiling lake in Dominica. We’ll do the same this year IF we get the chance to travel, although the majority will be completed in the UK.
Finding 52 new microadventures is going to be a challenge, but here are some ideas we’ve had (see this post for our first 52):
- Float down a river
- Go sea fishing and cook what you catch for tea
- Complete a mud obstacle course race (such as this Nuclear Races one)
- Spend a day without electricity
- Make a rope swing over a river
- Circumnavigate a lake
- Complete a foraging course
- Explore all the main streets of our local town by scooter
- Roast sweet chestnuts over the fire
- Jump on a train with bikes and cycle home
- Race in a triathlon
- Build a raft and float it on a lake
- Climb a hill at night and warm up hot chocolate at the top
- Have a completely child-led adventure
- Go on a random walk and flip a coin at each junction to decide which way to go!
- Try geocaching
- Hike to the top of all the local hills above a certain height
- Sleep on a beach
- Kayak safari along the coast
- Build a bridge over a stream
- Camp on an island
- Follow a river from its source to its mouth
- Ride a horse on a beach (this has been on my bucket list for ever!)
- Multi-day hike carrying all your equipment
- Volunteer at a wildlife rescue centre
- Zip lining
- Run a trail route
Can’t wait to get started with these adventures!
3. Four Endurance/Skill Challenges
To up the level of difficulty for my growing children, we’re also committing to four bigger adventures this year. Here’s what we’ve selected (although completing them will depend on the Covid situation):
A. Complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge
The Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge takes on the peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, with a total of 1585m (5200ft) of ascent and 24 miles (38.6km) of hiking in under 12 hours. I’m super excited about this one, but a little concerned about the training as Kent is not renowned for its hills!
B. Cycle a long-distance cycle route
This will either be the much more challenging Sea to Sea Cycle Route, travelling 137 miles from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, from Cumbria to Tyneside, which would see us passing through the northern Lake District before climbing the Pennines and down into County Durham.
Or, if this is not feasible, we’ll cycle the perimeter of the Isle of Wight, a distance of 68 miles (109km).
Either option will certainly be a big test of our perseverance skills.
C. Kayak the Royal Military Canal
The Royal Military Canal stretches for 28 miles from Hythe, Kent to Cliff End in East Sussex. We will attempt to kayak along its length over two days, camping overnight. 14 miles a day doesn’t sound like a long distance, but in kayaks with a 10- and 11-year-old, it’s a tough ask. The longest we’ve ever kayaked together before is five miles and that felt hard, so this is going to require wills of iron!
D. Complete their PADI Open Water SCUBA diving qualification
This is a qualification they’ve been wanting to do since completing their PADI Bubblemaker course back in 2019 and exploring the coral reefs of South East Sulawesi, Indonesia. Now they’re both over 10, they’re officially allowed to take on the Open Water qualification.
To do the full course, they need to do four open water dives, which although possible in the UK, would be a lot less cold if we were to go abroad somewhere, so this challenge in particular is dependent on the travel situation in 2021. But either way, the knowledge development aspect can be done online, and the confined water dives could be completed in a swimming pool in the UK.
Hopefully we’ll manage the whole qualification, but if not, they’ll have at least completed part of it ready for the fun open water dives whenever travel reopens.
4. Personal Challenges
Aside from the family challenges, we each have our own individual goals. This year, Bean10 would like to take 20 wickets and score 100 runs across all his cricket games; learn five guitar solos; and be able to solve the Rubik’s cube in under two minutes! Bean11 would like to do a LAMDA acting exam; get up to 100 bird species on her eBird list; and complete the first draft of her novel. Now she has detailed plans for the remaining two thirds of the book, I think this is a more realistic target than it was last year.
MrJ and I also have some shared goals. We both intend to run 1,500 miles (2,414km) across the year (about 29miles per week) which is like running from London to Gibraltar… We’re also planning to run our first marathon (the Brighton marathon) and ultra-marathon race. The ultra-marathon will be run from our house in June, along with some local running friends, and will involve completing a 4km loop every hour for 25 hours straight, so 100km (or 62.5 miles) in total! Slightly bonkers but lots of fun, as long as I can stay awake for that long! If you’re local and fancy joining us, please contact me.
On top of this, I’m committing to spending at least 2 hours per week with each child supporting their passions, be this standing in front of a set of wickets and attempting to hit the ball as Bean10 bowls it towards me at speed (I’ve already accepted I’m going to continue to be very bruised!) or recording more self-tape auditions for Bean11. Whatever it is they need.
So, as usual with us, there’s lots to do, but it’s all very exciting. I asked the kids what they wanted 2021 to feel like and they came up with: togetherness, adventure, curiosity and learning, joy, and God’s light. Hopefully these goals will help 2021 feel just like that 😊
What are your goals for the year? I’d love for you to share them with us in the comments, be they big or small.