Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.

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Birches Valley – Adventuring in the Woods

Considering that I live 10 minutes away from some beautiful forestry and countryside, it’s funny how I have only managed a handful of visits in 7 years.

Until the last 3 weeks that is – when I have taken the kids up there not once, not twice but three times.

I’m talking about a place called the Birches Valley Forestry Centre. It’s a lovely day out and there is just so much for the family to do. For a start, there is the adventure playground. Full of wooden climbing frames, saucer swings and an obstacle course, the kids can spend hours in there alone. And – this may sound a bit weird considering it’s outdoors and covered in mud, leaves and general woodsy type dirt – it’s clean. Yes, it is clean outdoors. 

I think I outdid myself with that one!

What I mean is, there is no litter. There’s no dog muck either, because dogs are not allowed in the playground. And for some reason, this is one of those places where the public actually obeys!

So we took a trip up to play in the great outdoors.

Birches Valley Adventure Playground
Birches Valley Adventure Playground


Of course, after that we had to go for a walk through the woods, which is filled with wonderful, bizarre and sometimes just plain odd statues and artwork. To name just a few, there are wooden animals, metal statues representing Mother Earth, the three bears chairs and one huge trainer.

Outside of the playground dogs are welcome. So we took the puppy with us on an adventure through Fairy Wood.

If you are quiet, and you are good, the fairies welcome you into their wood. 

After some looking about we found a fairy tree. Lots of little doors and windows open up into the tree itself, where we saw the fairies homes. There were even little washing lines hanging up, full of clothes.

Further on past the wood we saw the fairy queen’s throne and a mushroom fairy ring. Of course, my little elves had to go sit on the throne before dashing off to explore the picture maze behind it.

Peeking inside the fairy tree. Look out for the weird and wonderful artwork though.
Peeking inside the fairy tree. Look out for the weird and wonderful artwork though.

From there we went on to den building in the woods. Luckily, being slightly worn out by then, we found some nice handy big ones already made, so we all squeezed in to warm up around the fire – Granny and Bagel too.

PicMonkey Collage

Birches Valley has other things to offer too. Mr G and I went some years ago for a few hours tree climbing, swinging around amongst the branches and speeding along zip lines on the Go Ape course. We plan to go again soon.

Last week we took MM1 on her brand new birthday bike. Birches Valley has a number of difficult courses for the serious riders – we took the basic family path. MM1 did great, getting used to gears, brakes, hills and crossing streams with only a few tumbles. MM2 was serene, sitting in his chair on the back of my bike and waving happily at passers by.

In fact I think it was Mr G who had the worst time, since he was trying to stay upright whilst being pulled sideways by the puppy. Who, by the way, was ecstatic at a good run through the woods, if a little miffed at not being able to wander off willy nilly after every new smell. Beagles are not good at concentrating on one thing for long!

And every trip ends up the cafe, where they sell the most decadent creamy ice creams!

Definitely a great place for a family day out. It got us all up and moving without complaints, and as a generally indoor gadget focused family, I was pretty impressed with that!



Introducing Bagel

I have commented on a previous post that I had somehow managed to pick the stupidest puppy in the litter when I brought home our new family pet. I mentioned her in a few posts. However it occurs to me that I have not actually introduced her yet, so let me tell you something about Bagel.

Bagel the Beagle

Bagel the Beagle

Bagel is our beagle puppy. I have never had a puppy before. Mr G said that every child should grow up with a dog for a pet. He started to make vague noises about a doberman. In an attempt to head off what I could clearly see was going to be an unwise decision I decided to take the bull by the horns, grab the puppy by the collar and research the child friendly cat loving animal I wanted.

Arguably from my lack of experience it could be suggested that a time tested family favourite such as a labrador or a spaniel would have been a safe bet. But I have a small problem – I can be pretty darn stubborn when I want to be. I saw a beagle a few years ago on TV and I thought how lovely, how carefree, how cute, how beautiful they are and I decided that that was the dog for me.

How cute!

How cute!

Not that I rushed into it. I did research dog types and had a criteria to fit – small but not pointless (sorry, but a dog that needs to be carried to keep up with you- why?) and not too large that I can’t control it, good with young children, cat friendly and relatively easy to train. Preferably non-shed and definitely easy care (I have a friend who pays £60 to have her long haired walking carpet a shampoo and set every month!).

Beagles seemed to tick the boxes. I did read that they can be hard to stop running off, led as they are by their noses, but that it was possible. The same threads that expounded on their boundless energy, need for company and ability to escape any garden also lauded their brilliant family orientated nature (a pack dog by nature) and tolerance for children.

Yes, I did do some selective reading in order to ensure that my criteria co-incided with my determination to have a beagle. I took my friend to check out some puppies with me (an important point and one always worth mentioning, always take someone with experience with dogs to look at the puppies, their home and their mother to avoid disappointment and huge vet bills later.)

So what did I get . . .

Three months of chomping on everyone’s feet while she learnt how to play with people. We finally taught her bite inhibition. Except so far as my fluffy slippers are concerned. They suffer daily.

She likes to chew. Everything!

She likes to chew. Everything!

She likes to chew. Everything. She has eaten Kid 1’s brand new school shoes. My nieces shoes. Mr G’s shoes. The table. The sofa. Her brush. Most of the kids toy’s. The wood basket. My neighbour’s mobile phone. The list goes on, the cost goes up.

Except for worming pills, that is. Throw her a sausage and it disappears in one gulp. Hide a pill in it and she will carefully dissect the sausage and spit the pill at you with a grin.

I have taught her to come to her name. Well – her name and the words ‘Good Girl’. Perhaps she thinks that is her name, because when she hears that she instantly sprints over and checks my hands for treats. Except when she has caught a scent. Or found a dead rabbit in the woods. Or a good place to dig. Then she is off, deaf to all commands. Generally though we can walk through the woods with her off the lead. The pockets of all of my coats smell of sausage though.

Definitely child tolerant, my 3 year old can roll around on the floor with her and she doesn’t bite or growl (generally she looks a little worried and tries to hide behind the eldest). Once he sits still she goes straight back to sit on him. She loves to be with the family – apparently chewing a toy is no fun unless she is sitting on your lap while she does it.

Cat friendly? I chose a puppy on purpose so she would grow up with the cat. I am not sure my spoilt, beloved fourteen year old lady has enjoyed the experience but Bagel has learnt some cat manners – the hard way.

I believe we have proven that she can learn. Sit, wait, good girl, bed. These are commands she knows. However, we are having issues with ‘down’. ‘Down’ from the sofa. ‘Down’ from the table. ‘Down’ from jumping up strangers with muddy feet. Mr G says she is stupid, she just won’t learn. But they tell me dogs are like their owners, so I think she is just stubborn. And smart. ‘Down’ usually means no fun, no comfy seat, no stolen snacks. So she ignores ‘down’.


I was just getting down. Honest.

'Down'. No puppies allowed on the sofa!

‘Down’. No puppies allowed on the sofa!

She definitely listens. She just chooses to ignore, just like the kids. My friend said once ‘At least she can’t get on the work surface to get at the food, the only way up would be to jump on her cage and no dog would do that in case they hurt their feet.’ Within 5 minutes she was on that cage and cleaning out the toaster.

Oh, you didn't want me to climb up here? You should have said so.

Oh, you didn’t want me to climb up here? You should have said so.

She may be wilful, disobedient and smelly (for a dog with an enormous sense of smell she does like to roll in some disgusting messes) but she sure is cuddly, loving and fun.

She loves to roll.

She loves to roll.

Perhaps we should have another one.