Seven Sisters Country Park, near Seaford, East Sussex

Whilst visiting friends on the south coast we made a quick trip to the Seven Sisters Country Park, near Seaford.

The park is easily accessible from the A259 and offers walking trails, canoeing on the Cuckmere River and a valley floor cycle route. Most visitors come here to see the Seven Sisters, the name given to the chalk cliffs.  If you’re hoping to photograph the classic postcard view of these, ensure you take the footpath to Seaford Head on the opposite side of the Cuckmere River.

As it was a sweltering hot day we decided to walk the 2 km easy access path down to the shingle beach at Cuckmere Haven.  This appears to be the most popular option, as there were many other families and groups of language students walking the same route.

Walking in the Seven Sisters Country Park, near Seaford
Walking in the Seven Sisters Country Park, near Seaford

After reaching the beach, the lure of walking to the top of the first cliff was too great to ignore.  The kids had no intention of walking any further on such a hot day, and stayed on the beach (with a responsible adult of course).

Seven Sisters
Seven Sisters

The path up was straightforward, although rather steep in places. We took a short break half way up, supposedly to admire the view but really it was just a convenient excuse for a breather.  Looking back down we could see the artificially straightened River Cuckmere and the salt lagoon just north of the beach.

View back down over the beach
View back down over the beach

The view from the top of the cliff is one of the best in southern England. At this point I was very glad not to have bought youngest son up with me as the cliff edges are completely open and accessible to all. Visitors are, quite rightly, left to judge the safety themselves rather than be faced with fences or keep out signs.

From the top of the Seven Sisters
From the top of the Seven Sisters

We sat on top for a while, reluctant to leave such a magnificent view. Eventually the prospect of a cold drink at the cafe appealed and we headed back  towards the park entrance.  Despite it being late afternoon a bus deposited another large group of visitors just as we were leaving – I hope they enjoyed their visit as much as I did.

More info:

  • There is a seasonal visitor centre and cafe next to the car park.  You can pick up leaflets with walk routes and a map from the car park and bus stop.
  • The bus stop is opposite the visitor centre, with frequent buses from Brighton, Seaford and Eastbourne.
  • The trail to the beach is designated as easy access, and is suitable for wheelchairs and buggies.   Once you reach the beach you’ll have to contend with shingle.

Costs:

  • The park is free to enter, although you’ll need to pay to park your car. It costs £2.50 for up to 2 hours, £3.50 for more than 2 hours.

Further info: http://www.sevensisters.org.uk

Share this:

High wire adventures at TreeRunners, Andover

I was browsing Trip Advisor for something to do at the weekend and came across TreeRunners, which offers courses similar to Go Ape. I was pleased to find they were suitable for 6+ years (subject to a height restriction), and as they’re based in Andover, Hampshire only an hours drive from home.

Ten minutes later and I’d booked us onto the TreeRunners Junior Adventure for the following day. This course is aimed at the under 10’s, although older children and adults are welcome as well.

Next morning found us driving along a dusty farm track which eventually took us into Harewood Forest. It’s certainly not a place you’d just stumble upon. We parked and then went through the registration process, signing away all liability. It also involved confirming that our children weren’t pregnant!

The session started with a short safety briefing and then we were shown how to put on our harnesses. TreeRunners use a special clip on system so once you’re clipped in at the start you don’t need to keep re-attaching yourself as you do at Go Ape.  I was rather glad of this as it meant I didn’t need to keep checking the kids were safely secured.

Clipped on and ready to go
Clipped on and ready to go

We started with the white course, which is the easiest one, at around 3 metres off the ground. Youngest son has always been pretty fearless so I was rather surprised when he decided he couldn’t do the first obstacle. Older sister had whizzed across the balancing logs without a thought but it took a lot of encouragement to get my son over.

Eyeing up the next obstacle
Eyeing up the next obstacle

Once past the balancing logs he picked up confidence and the next couple of obstacles were very straightforward.  We reached the first zip wire and again there were a few wobbles about launching from the safety of the platform (ah, OK that was just me).  After you jump though you realise that you just have to trust your harness and go for it!

End of the zip wire
End of the zip wire

There is another zip wire at the end of the white course, and by the time we reached this we jumped off without hesitation. I think the smiling face in the photo says it all!

The start of the yellow course at TreeRunners
The start of the yellow course at TreeRunners

We moved on to the yellow course, which is higher and a little harder.  It starts with a climb up a rope tube and moves onto a rather tricky zigzag plank walk.   I could feel my legs trembling on this one, so was glad to get to the other side.  It was much harder than the photo below suggests!

Zigzags at TreeRunners, harder than they look!
Zigzags at TreeRunners, harder than they look!

The zigzags were followed by a  rope net and balancing wire obstacles.

Rope net at TreeRunners
Rope net at TreeRunners

The kids both enjoyed the rope swing, where you have to sit on the rope and swing over to the wooden platform opposite.  We did somehow manage to get a bit caught up in the ropes and wires though, which took a little sorting out.

We managed to go round the courses a couple more times before our time was up. Due to safety restrictions, we did find there were a few bottlenecks whilst we waited for those in front to complete obstacles but nothing too major.

The courses for 10+ looked exciting with levels ranging from green, red and blue to the extreme black. These were much higher, and with some rather unique obstacles, including a bicycle and a snowboard. I’d loved to have gone on the zip wires, but I think I’d have been pretty scared on the black run.

So, what’s my verdict?  The kids had a great time and after a few initial nerves found that they could step out into the unknown and survive! The white and yellow courses are very much designed for children, and as an adult I found the supporting wires were at the wrong height which meant I had to rearrange myself on some of the platforms.  Whilst TreeRunners state that adults don’t need to go on with the children, I do think the younger ones need a parent on hand to help the first time if necessary.

Kids view:

It was brilliant, I recommend it to everyone.  The zip wire was best because it was fast.

More info:

  • The toilet facilities are very basic, in part of an old paintball course. Whilst the rest of the site has had a lot of money spent on it can I just say that leaking toilets and slugs on toilet seats do not create a good impression!
  • The kiosk sells drinks and some snacks. You can also bring your own picnic.
  • Further details at www.treerunners.com

Costs:

  •  The Junior Adventure costs £15 for 1.5 hours.  Older children (10+) pay £20 and adults £25 for the harder courses, although this is for 2.5 hours.
Share this:

Uptonogood 2013

For our review of the 2014 event read here. Otherwise read on to find out what we thought of the 2013 one.

I’m not a fan of heavy rain. After running Reading Half Marathon in atrocious conditions earlier this year I’m firmly of the opinion that my enjoyment of outdoor activities is weather dependent.

When the other half decided to enter a local mountain biking event, Uptonogood, I held off making a decision until the day beforehand so I could check the weather forecast first. Despite very windy conditions there was no rain predicted so I signed up too.

The event was family friendly, with 5 and 12 mile off-road rides alongside 25 and 45 mile routes for adults.  Eldest daughter and other half entered the 12 mile ride with a mid-morning start time. My son had other activities early on so we opted for the 5 mile ride starting at 1.30pm

Fast forward to the morning of the event and the Met Office had sneakily updated their forecast to one showing an 80% chance of heavy rain, hail and thunder at 1pm. Aargh!

On the way to Uptonogood
On the way to Uptonogood

My son and I left at noon to cycle to Upton, where the event was being held. Despite setting off in sunshine there were some ominous clouds in the direction we were heading, and I was glad we’d brought waterproofs.  We arrived in time for a BBQ lunch and homemade cakes, and met up with the other half of the family who’d just finished the 12 miler.

Burger before the start
BBQ lunch

The rain started a few minutes before we set off. It was pretty light to begin with, but soon progressed to a torrential downpour.

Ready for the start
Start of the 5 mile family ride at Uptonogood

The first part of the ride took us out of the village towards the Ridgeway.  After a short road stretch, we soon headed upwards onto the Downs.  I know the area well, and it’s a lovely cycle ride, but the downpour did spoil things a little!  We tried hiding under trees for a few minutes, in the hope that it would pass over, but we’d have been waiting quite a while.

The route was well signposted, and on good tracks.  A short section through a field was incredibly slippy, resulting in a few of the kids parting from their bicycles.  The rain was unrelenting, and all of the riders were soaked through with mud streaks up our backs; we looked like proper mountain bikers!

Still smiling, despite the rain
Still smiling, despite the rain

The last part of the ride was on tarmac, albeit most of this had disappeared under streams.  We cycled through deep puddles as we were already so wet it didn’t seem like it would make a difference.

As we rode down the track back into Upton the rain started to ease and by the time we finished blue sky and sun had reappeared. Still, getting off our bikes was a very uncomfortable experience as we were soaked to the skin and had squelchy shoes. Despite the weather, we had a fun time.  I’d certainly enter again, hopefully on a longer dry ride next year!

More info: http://www.uptonogood.org.uk

Share this:

Down and up the Caen Hill Locks, Wiltshire.

Caen Hill Locks
Caen Hill Locks

I was disheartened recently when I mentioned to my youngest how lovely the weather was going to be at the weekend, and he replied “Oh no, that means we’ll have to go for a walk!”

It was a true assumption though as we like to get out into the countryside as much as possible. I just hope the kids grow to love the outdoors as much as we do.

On a recent sunny weekend we decided to visit the Caen Hill locks on the Kennet and Avon canal. The set of locks are an incredible feat of engineering. First opened in 1810 they were built to carry the canal 237 feet up Caen Hill. There are 29 locks in total, over 2 miles, although the picture you see most often is of the 16 locks stretching up the hill.  The canal became derelict after the Second World War but was restored and officially reopened in 1990. Many of the locks are dedicated to those who helped with the restoration.

We parked at the wharf in Devizes and followed the signs to the locks along the towpath.  The first half mile or so is through parts of the town but it soon heads into open countryside. The canal was pretty quiet with just a few owners out spring cleaning their boats.

locks1

The Caen Hill cafe marks the top of the hill and is a perfectly located refreshment stop. The cafe is in the old lock keepers cottage, and the tables in the front garden have views down the canal. We enjoyed a cup of coffee, whilst the kids took advantage of the sunny weather and chose ice creams. Suitably refreshed we continued downhill.  Whilst the cafe had been busy, the canal itself was rather lacking in boats.  Boats can take up to 6 hours to travel through the set of locks, but it was slightly disappointing to only spot one boat negotiating them during our visit.

I live in hope that my children are now of the right age that I don’t have to worry about them falling off the edge of the canal into the lock. Whilst my daughter has inherited my sensible gene, my son is of a much more random nature – act first, think later (maybe). So it’s a little hard to relax when he’s running and messing around by the edge off the canal. Suffice to say it was just me being paranoid and the walk passed without incident.

locks3
View back up Caen Hill locks

Shortly after reaching the bottom of the hill we crossed over one of the locks and headed back up the hill which runs alongside (but away from the locks). This takes you closer to the large pools which provide the water to operate the locks.  These were home to a variety of ducks, and some nesting swans which signs warn against getting too close to.

It was at this point that we realised our mistake of stopping at the cafe on the way down rather than up. The ice cream incentive  to finish a walk doesn’t work this way round! Fortunately the hill isn’t really that big or long and we were soon back on the flat and heading into Devizes.

Kids view:

The walk wasn’t very exciting, but the ice cream was really yummy!

General info:

  • The towpath is accessible, although pushing a wheelchair or buggy back up the hill might take some effort!
  • There’s another car park at the Caen Hill cafe if you don’t want to walk from the centre of Devizes.

Costs:

The car parking charges were reasonable.  We extended our stay with a wander around Devizes, the parking cost for our visit was around £4.

Share this: