Happy Campers

The summer holidays started in the best way for my little family and me. As you grow up and older, knowing what makes you happy is so important, as is keeping things simple and smiling as often as you can. I don’t mean the kind of smile that is meant for anyone else’s benefit. I mean the smile that grows on your face because you are smiling from within. And I don’t mean the happiness that you are told to feel, I mean the kind of happiness that comes from knowing yourself, knowing what you like and endeavouring to always have it.

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

When we bundled in to the car with our battered, outdoorsy clothes and very minimal other things for a few days away, I couldn’t wait to get on the road and make our way to our happy place. The place with the white cliffs that overlook the sea. The place where you can fall asleep around the fire, that crackles from the wood that you found for yourself. The place that when you look up into the sky in the black of night, you can actually see the stars. The stars that go on for days and mesmerise you.

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

The place that isn’t glamorous, it isn’t exotic or in any way luxurious…but it is where we fit! It is where we are happy, truly happy. It is where we are away from the strains of routine, away from the lives that we are conditioned to lead and away from all of the ‘busy’ that sometimes conceals what is most important.

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

‘Tent Life’ isn’t going to be for everyone and back in my early twenties, before I became a mother… It wouldn’t have been on my radar at all. I was busy bouncing around different countries and places during annual leave. My passport, suitcase and best clothes were my favourite things. The life I lead now, my reality… It is so different from life back then. I’m not saying that I never want to step on a plane again, I do! I want to see as much of the world as possible, I want to show it to my children. I’m just saying, I’m glad that I am someone we are a family who can find peace, excitement and joy in being outside. We can find the humour in showering under droplets of cold water, hair lathered and standing in the cold, waiting for the water to come back to our cubicle. We can feel true delight in the high pitched whistle of the kettle, once it has boiled after about twenty minutes (way longer in stronger wind)…This means it’s time for our morning brew. Up to half an hour to make and three seconds to drink so it doesn’t get cold. We can feel good about sharing our bedroom with a variety of insects, even seeing the opportunity to whip out my nephews new microscope to take a better look at the ones we didn’t recognise. We can feel right at home in our tent, we can sleep well and we always feel sad to go back home, to the ‘real life’ one.

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

I know that I’m probably not selling it to you and I’m not sure that I’m trying to if I’m honest. I’m just sharing something special, something responsible for many happy memories, many smiley faces and a freedom for my children that this scary world doesn’t always allow them.

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Camping is what it says on the tin. Especially where we go. It is basic. But… what more do you need when you are spending time, quality time with the people that you love. You are not ruled by the ticking of a clock. You are not a slave to technology. You don’t have to tell your children to ‘wait!’ because, well, for what? They have you, in the moment, in the now…They have everything that they need. Your time, fresh air, space to run and to breathe and to laugh…To hop and skip if they want.

Camping might not be for you…but believe me, your fingernails might get dirty… your mind, your soul and your spirit however, will feel nothing but clean.

Love, Ria x

Happy Campers

 

 

 

 

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London 2016

The hustle and bustle of London is less than an hour away from my sleepy home town. London is everything that Faversham isn’t.

London 2016

It is a place for the dreamers, the hopefuls and it is rife with opportunity…yet, there is a hint of failure that hangs in the air, a little desperation, a lonely sadness. Faversham is a quiet place! People don’t come here to make their dreams come true…but it isn’t lonely.

I’ve spent time in London, before I became a mama…and not the touristy kind! Not like on this day when I came with my family. I’ve been present in a few scenes and London always makes me feel the same way about it. Like it’s the best place that I have ever been to… artistic, electric, historically superior and proud. It is somewhere that leaves me in awe and makes me feel excited in the pit of my stomach. At the same time, it could feel like the worst place… where humans sleeping rough is normal, expected in shop doorways where people walk past them and don’t notice them anymore. It’s a place where everyone rushes and nobody makes eye contact on the tube. Teenagers grow up quicker and surely, true friendships must have a special back story. I admire those who fall in love here, that’s a story I would love to hear.

Regardless of these things though, I can’t help but love it, love being there, being a part of it. Even though it is somewhere that I we could never really belong.

When we could, we avoided the tube and opted to walk, it was a nice enough day and the children wanted to see as much as possible. We allowed the buildings to tower over us. Allowed ourselves to feel small, a little insignificant for a while. We enjoyed the buskers, the different smells and the unfamiliar roar of collective sound.

London 2016

London 2016

We genuinely enjoyed the experience of The Natural History Museum. In Faversham, we have The Fleur De Lis which homes a penny farthing from back in the day (and some other local history)…nothing of this magnitude. It  was so interactive for the children and they have been talking about the history of dinosaurs ever since. It made a lasting impression and we will definitely go back.

London 2016

London 2016

We couldn’t visit London without showing Noah and Ellenah Buckingham Palace and the grounds surrounding it. It astounded them, the whole day did really. The idea that London is home to many other people threw them because it is worlds different to where we are from. They didn’t falter though, not once! Children are so resilient, more flexible and open to change, aren’t they? By the end of the day, they understood the tube, the pace and because they Noah asks a lot of questions (about the queen, brexit and what he has learned about at school) and I answer most of them… They understood how London nurtures creativity and diversity, does it unapologetically but can’t quite bring itself to welcome everyone with open arms. So forward in so many wonderful ways, so backward traditional in others.

London 2016

London 2016

London 2016

Our visit to Leicester Square was my favourite part, it always is. On this day, there was a jump rope team doing a few routines and getting the growing crowd pumped.  Further along were some Bollywood dancers filming a scene and on from there, past the little fountains, were a dance group who spun on there heads, flipped around and made fun of us all. Noah and Ellenah loved these guys. And as we started to walk to catch the tube ahead of our journey back home, there was a young girl with her piano, singing Alicia Keys songs…she was really talented. There is a togetherness about Leicester Square, a happiness…good vibes. It was the perfect place to end our family day out in London.

And, as much as we were happy to return home, to our country bumpkin lives, where we are surrounded by countryside, charity shops and childhood memories… We look forward to going back to ‘The Big Smoke’ soon. For more exploring, to have our eyes opened a little more and to make more wonderful memories, as a family.

With Love, Ria x

p.s. Do you have any recommendations on places we should visit next time. Maybe the calmer side of London? Something we are missing out on?

 

 

 

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My family and I must be mad. We must be! There is absolutely no other explanation for us all bundling into our cars, packed with sleeping bags, thermals and the warmest of winter woolies… to go glamping… at the end of November. We could have been warm. We could have been dry. Our hair could have been clean for goodness sakes. Instead, we dragged ourselves in to our cars to drive in to the middle of nowhere, to ‘live’ for a couple of days. We didn’t have any form of technology or any fancy appliances. Instead we had fresh air, long walks, basic cooking and swampy grounds around a campfire that was under siege from heavy rain. We were under siege from rain and wind…constantly! The strange thing is, I say we dragged ourselves in to our cars…we didn’t! We jumped in gladly, practically shouting ‘wahoooooo’ as we set off. If it were at all practical we would have thrown glitter and confetti around and called this shin-dig a party. We enjoy this madness, it’s our thing, what we do best. The time of the year and the weather forecast is kind of irrelevant really.. we’re used to it being a bit shit… we’re hardened campers at this point

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

My little bunch and I pulled up to Blackberry Woods first and parked our cars in complete darkness. I’m not going to lie, considering we set off last… the whole scene felt a little bit too much like ‘Wrong Turn’ and I was wondering where my siblings and the rest of my family were. I tried to call… my signal was out! We waited in silence… I locked all of the doors! And finally we saw car lights and the rest of us filtered in… I breathed again. Yes, this camper is shit scared of everything, ha!

We made our way through some very muddy woodland lanes to find our glamping field. And when we layed eyes on it… we laughed. This was no ordinary glamping trip… One of my sisters and her family were staying in a bus, the other bunch in a helicopter and my niece and her boyfriend in an old gypsy wagon (which was just the cutest). Me and mine, we had a very old dutch caravan which was pretty cute and very warm! We got ourselves checked in and that was it, we grabbed some wheelbarrows to start hauling our belongings in to our little homes for the weekend. The kids were weaving between lodgings and we were getting settled in.

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

We were too late for firewood that night so we ate dinner and all gathered in the bus for some camping chit chat and talks of life while hatching a mini plan to live at Blackberry Woods forever. It had been a long day and I had a poorly girl so it wasn’t a late night. We hit the hay at a reasonable o’clock, all feeling eager to see what everything looked like in daylight… and we weren’t disappointed.

Maria Noell

The next morning was cold. Really cold. So we got dressed pretty sharpish and once again gathered in to the bus (the only place where we could cook inside) and did the cooked breakfast thing with a strong brew, fresh from the teapot. Perfect! The children played together and practically flung themselves around the bus (there was a little soft play area upstairs). In all honesty, by the end of the trip they were absolutely filthy and rather ferrel but that was okay by me. They weren’t stuck to a computer screen or constantly asking to play games on my phone so I was pretty happy.

Word reached us of a Christmas Fair at a community centre, in a village not too far away. So we embrace the camping clobber, I threw on a backpack and we set off. The walk was long but we walked slow. Breathing and being in the day. It was nice. Good for us… and the kids were troopers. This was after we explored the rest of the glamping/ camping area of course, which was so lovely. They had used their resources to make seesaws and swings which was a nice touch too. As was the little play area which the children loved. I was most excited to see the treehouses that they are building though, which they are hoping to have ready by next summer. The Christmas Fair was busy and we happily ate some homemade cakes over tea’s and coffee’s before we headed back to build a fire and get cooking.

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

Maria Noell

Matt and I prepared some pasta in our little cooking area, you really can’t beat cooking outside and (again) we regrouped at the bus to eat, which was where the hustle, bustle and the fire was… and the mince pies and marshmallows which we dipped in to the flame from the fire. My evening ended early because of the poorly little one , we went back to hang out in the warmth of the caravan where we had cuddles in abundance and she made a picture of her time at glamping which was cute. Noah and Matt followed soon after because the rain became quite bad so we enjoyed the time in our little bubble, laughing and talking. We went to sleep early because we were so comfortable and cozy. Saying that, I was the last to doze off and before I did, I shifted back the curtains to watch the fire across the field, burning brightly and holding its own against the rain and like the night before, I looked up to look over the stars. This evening didn’t have as much clarity as the night before but it was still peaceful staring up in to the night sky, so vast and beautiful. So simple. Something that you overlook in your normal lives, something that you probably don’t even think of…but you should!

We ended the trip the next morning, smothered in mud and grime but with happy, fresh faces. And after taking some photographs and wheelbarrowing our belongings back to the car… we looked back over the field at another batch of happy memories made. Our children happy and grateful of the freedom to roam and explore. Us, happy to see the children so content away from the world being built up around us, away from the bad news that we are exposed to everyday and the dependancy on technology which is born in them today. It was nice to see how other people live and how maybe, just maybe they are on to something…

Maria Noell

Maria NoellBig Love & A Glamping Win

Ria

xoxo

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Faversham Hop Festival is so special to me. I have grown up with it. It is a strong link to my childhood and many happy memories. Some of my earliest memories actually. I have a photograph of a young, blonde girl standing in the crowds of people singing, morris dancers jigging, stalls of wonder and joy. The girl was nervous to the core because she was holding a baby owl… that girl was me! I remember feeling so worried at the time, that it might not like me… it may fly away…scratch me even! I felt unnerved about many things back then- weary, unsure…shy! Thankfully the owl didn’t do any of those things, it was actually lovely. I remember treasuring that photograph for such a long time after that day, like it was a huge achievement, a reminder that I could be brave… And honestly, I have loved woodland creatures ever since.

A Little Ria (Aged 6)

Hops

Over the years, Faversham Hop Festival changed for me. It changed from a family day out where I could spend my pocket money, choose friendship bracelets and beads from the hippie stalls and somewhere that I would search out old, musty, second-hand books that I would escape in. A place that I would awkwardly bop along to the bands and tunes that would cascade over my oldie-worldie home town… somewhere that I would hold baby owls!

 

Cider Stall

Chutneys + Honey

It became one of the main social events of my year as I grew in to early adulthood. It was there that I bumped in to old friends who I hadn’t seen for ages, fell in love, danced with abandon, laughed until I couldn’t breathe, fell in love…again, discovered vodka, lemonade and lime (my tipple of choice to this day), wore flowers and hops in my hair, stumbled upon ‘Hop Fest After Hours’ when the crowds dispersed… Lock-ins were a must, flame and chain throwers hustled the stragglers gathered in the market place and conversations in to the night were had up on my old school bridge with someone special.

I’m sure grateful for that time, space and freedom to grow and learn. It has mattered somewhat, to the person who I have grown up to be.

And…

Now it has changed again.

Maria Noell

This year, I was a mama in the midst of ‘The Hop Festival’ chaos. I went VERY easy on ‘The Tipple’, appreciated the stalls once again, spent time with friends and people I truly love… I bopped along to the bands and sang along a bit, wore hops in my hair and smiled…much!

Great Friends

Katie + Me

I felt balanced out. Like I was reliving a bit of every phase of growing up, with it ending up exactly as things should be.

Noey Bon Boey

I witnessed the festival secure a firm spot in the children’s hearts and memory banks, as they played hook the duck, adventured in the fun house and ate ice-creams. All while they listened to the tunes and bands cascade over their oldie worldie home town.

They will look back on photographs of themselves and these days…much like I do the one of me and my baby owl. Their faces so innocent, fresh and excited. Their big eyes taking in everything around them and living life without a care in the world in the world.

Els Bels

They may not remember how their soft, little hands clutched mine as we weaved through the crowds or how I smiled at them for smiling at life around them…or how I stroked Ellenah’s bright, blonde hair gently off of her face so that it wouldn’t end up in her ice-cream…or how the sun beamed over Noah’s smile as he flew into the air on the bungee trampoline… But I will! They are my memories, for my memory bank…and more that I will never forget.

Els & Daddy

Springy Noah

I cherish these memories. I flourished in these times of The Hop Festival and I enjoyed them fully for every reason they should be… for that reason, I would never trade in my here and now to do it all over again.

Back then it was exactly as it should be and it was preparing me for this version of my life. And, I wouldn’t change a single thing!

xoxo

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Originally Written On 08/10/2015

And… We survived another night… our final night to be exact!

And when we opened our eyes that morning, it was really sunny… frustratingly so! But, a lot can be said for some sunshine on such little time.

I woke up first and again looked upon my sleeping cherubs. They are so peaceful when they’re sleeping and so very beautiful…well, always really!

Not long after we woke up, all kinds of chaos was going on. With an exit time of 10am (otherwise known as ‘Early O’Clock’), we got ourselves ready and started throwing things in to the back of the car. Once again the beast was rammed of way too many things, although I have to say…not everything made it back home. R.I.P to our gazebo and tents. As much as they homed us in the storms and did an okay job (not the gazebo, that was totally rubbish)…they were incredibly battered by the end of it and honestly, they were NEVER going to see another camping trip again.

With 10am fast approaching, my sister checked our booking sheet to find that we were in fact running two hours early and didn’t really need to leave until 12pm… Nice One! Thankfully looks can’t kill and laughter fixes most things. On the bright side, we were ready, up and early to spend some more quality time with the family before we embarked on our looooong drive home.

So we said our ‘Be Back Soon’s’ to Longthorns Farm, the horse who eats elbows, the alpacas and the honesty shop… and made our way to my sisters lovely, big house again for yet more brews and to start…or attempt to start our goodbyes.

That didn’t last long until we thought ‘Sod it!’ and we made our way to Lulworth Cove instead, with my Nephew, Zack in tow.

It didn’t feel right to give kisses goodbye just yet. Our camping trip was drawing to an end too soon and a void was growing in the pit of my stomach. I’m lucky to live in the same town as the majority of my family and for that reason, it will never feel okay that some are missing and I can’t pop to their house to borrow a DVD, raid the biggest sisters wardrobe, tell her happy news to her face and let her supply me with wine, hugs and advice when I feel lost. I know that I miss something that I have never had. But, I miss it all the same… and I didn’t want to leave her there and drive away.

Anyway… Lulworth Cove!

Looking a little dishevelled but feeling zen

Lulworth Cove was kind of magnificent.

As we drove along the country roads, I was expecting a pretty, little bay where we could collect seashells (which we would later paint and put in mason jars!). As we came to the end of the windy country lanes and the road opened up to our destination… my jaw dropped and I felt a little in awe of this place. Actually, I felt just ‘little’ really! We parked our cars in a field that was overlooked by cliff tops and when I say it was breathtaking… I feel upset with myself that I can’t find a better word. The people walking to the top were tiny like ants and they followed each other in perfect formation. They were so high up, it was like looking at another world.

Lulworth Cove is incredibly quaint and pretty. There were lots of places to buy ice-creams and buckets and spades. There were idyllic little gardens along the way, lots of foliage and plenty of cute little windmills that caught my eye as well as the breeze.

I felt like I should be walking around barefoot, playing the banjo and singing songs to the passers by. I have always wished that I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair. Maybe I belong there?!

As we all walked the paths together and the sunshine hit our faces, the salty sea air washed over us and we knew that we were close to something special. We could hear the water hit the shore. There was a calmness in the air and I suddenly realised that nobody was saying a single word to each other. I couldn’t remember the last time I heard ‘Voice’. I think we were all enjoying the peace…the silence… this new place that had welcomed us with open arms.

The word ‘beach’ doesn’t fit the rugged shores of Lulworth Cove. It felt like the immense, white hills and cliffs with their blankets of green, were protecting a precious secret. I don’t want to describe it as the same paradise as you probably would the picturesque beaches of The Caribbean. It would be an unnecessary comparison. It is up on a pedestal for every reason that The Caribbean isn’t. It is jagged and rough, untouched and un maintained but completely beautiful all the same and truly unique.

We walked along, looking for a place to stop and breathe. We practically climbed over the edges of rock and pebbles…and the wind blew us. we dispersed from each other. Some of us sat, closed our eyes and allowed the world to carry on elsewhere…without us for a while.

My Beautiful Free-Spirited Big Sister

The men amongst us threw stones… obviously! They had a pretty smashing time too.

The Fellow

My Gorgeous Nephew

I shimmied around, taking photographs of some of my nearest and dearest in such a stunning setting…making sure to document our beautiful memories.

My Beautiful Son

And every now and again, I would make sure that I was in some of them, ensuring that I too would be a part of this day.

My Boy & Me

IMG_2651

Sisters

It’s a rarity to get a photograph of this young man with a smile on his face. Okay, so we may have had to tickle one out of him but it’s so nice to see anyway. And that is what Auntie’s are for, right? Even though we are all looking a little dishevelled…this perfectly imperfect picture is going in a frame. I adore it.

Perfectly Imperfect

The children explored and did what little children do best…got extremely muddy and soggy. They wore smiles on their faces and danced with freedom. They don’t need much, children. Other than your time and love… pop them on a beach to roam and exercise their imaginations and they still wouldn’t want to leave at the end of the day.

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This just felt like such a happy day and one I think that we will all remember for a long, long time.

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Alas, our time in lovely Dorset had come to an end. We took a slow walk back to the car, making sure we absorbed everything that we could from this trip. I know that I stole a few glances at my Nephew, hoping to myself that he wouldn’t grow anymore and feeling proud of the person that he has become. Cheering him on in his life decisions and feeling excited for all of the adventures ahead of him. Knowing that it will be hard to leave because I will always wish that I didn’t have to. My little (actually not so little anymore) Zacky… I hope over the next bunch of years, we get to have more days like that one.

We drove Zack home to do the goodbye thing. The egg in my throat. The tears hiding behind my eyes. The hard bit. I bloody hate goodbyes.

When we got there, I sat on the front lawn with my niece, discussing her plans. I watched her talk about her dreams and I watched her smile and I saw the girl under the fabulous, crazy hair and bold lipstick. That girls doesn’t know how beautiful she is. She will. And when she does… she may even conquer the world. I’m excited to see her dreams unfold.

I suggested that maybe we shove the biggest sister in the boot of the car and take her back home… I was only half joking!

A point came I think, that it was now or never so we did the hugging thing and the goodbye kisses and it was hard and it hurt a bit.

And…then we hit the road.

And somewhere between Dorset and home, I realised… we didn’t collect a single shell (that we would later paint and put in mason jars!)

xoxo

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