Out + About, Seasonal

Wildfire: The Best (and Rainiest) Firework Display North of the River!

November 19, 2014

Photography credit: Paulina Sobczak

There’s something about the British “stiff upper lip” that always makes me smile.

I’m not the kind of person who barks about “making Britain great again” or marches along the high street with banners and flags, but there are times when I have to look fondly at the way we do things in this country and feel, well, sort of proud really.


The last time I had this feeling was two weekends ago, whilst standing in a wet carpark in North London, watching a firework display and holding an umbrella over my head as the rain poured down. And the best thing about this stalwart display of “Britishness”? I wasn’t alone. I was in a crowd of a hundred or so others.

Because a little bit of rain isn’t a problem for us Brits. Umbrellas, wellies and waterproofs at the ready and we’re prepared for anything. Including wringing out our soggy pulled pork sandwiches and Norwegian waffles. But more on those in a minute.


“Being prepared” is a good lead-in to the reason why I was watching fireworks in the rain at all, actually. Many of you will remember Annie from my Girls With Altitude post back in July. With her lovely wild curly hair and enviable map-reading skills she succeeded in not getting the five of us completely lost in the Welsh hills during a weekend of adventures in the Elan Valley.


In her spare time, Annie also volunteers a huge amount of time to the Scouting Association, and along with master of ceremonies Marlon, a whole host of other volunteer leaders and of course, the explorer scouts themselves, they plan an annual fundraising celebration that easily rivals anything else in the nearby area.

Named Wildfire, Wild Wolf Explorer Scout Unit’s Bonfire Night took place at Scout Park this year, just a hop, skip and a jump from Bounds Green station on the Piccadilly line.

The rain was coming down with little or no let-up when I arrived, and despite my outdoorsy tendencies, I really hadn’t dressed for the occasion either. As I trudged my way towards the park with water sloshing around in my boots, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be the only one mad enough to brave this gloomy November weather.


I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Even though I’d arrived early, the car park was already buzzing with activity. I could see an information tent complete with DJ equipment, two huge food stalls that were wafting some rather delicious aromas into the small crowd and in the distance, signs pointing towards a campfire and marshmallow roasting opportunities. And that was just the start!

I visited each and every stall lining the carpark and the adjacent field, and do you know what I saw? Despite the rain and the cold, a never-ending parade of smiling faces beaming at me from behind every trestle table that was sinking in the mud.


Young people with a real sense of ownership for whatever they were doing, whether it was roasting chestnuts, selling doughnuts or hawking cupcakes by the light of their head torches because the rain had blown a fuse in the outdoor lights.

It was inspiring to see such pride and determination in the face of undeniably rotten bad luck. As the saying goes, “the show must go on”, and indeed it did.


Once I’d spent my time ooh-ing and aah-ing at what was on offer, I slipped and slid my way towards the fire pit, still marvelling at the sheer amount of people who’d appeared out of nowhere to support this community event. Warming themselves next to the bonfire’s roaring flames were folks of all ages and backgrounds, a real cosmopolitan mix, and each and every one with a smile on their faces too.

Perhaps it was the rain, perhaps it was the cheerful nature pervading the park grounds, who knows. But what I can tell you is that nothing could dampen the Wildfire spirit, and right up until the big fireworks launch at 7:30pm, people were still flooding into the gates.

Everyone wanted to be a part of it.


And when the first rockets finally hit the sky, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. I was never a member of the Scouts, nor do I have much in the way of involvement now. I’m not a north Londoner and hadn’t met most of young people and the whole host of volunteers helping them on this dreary Saturday evening in November.

But standing amongst them, I suddenly felt a sense of community so warming, it thawed me even more effectively than the cup of hot apple juice I had clasped between my hands.

Nice work WWESU, I’ll be booking my ticket for next year.


If your child is interested in getting involved with WWESU, you can contact Marlon, Annie or one of the other leaders via their website for more information. The group is for 14-18 year olds and they meet once a week on a Wednesday. WWESU also have an enviably busy social events calendar: hikes, camping trips away, outdoor sports activities and fundraisers to name but a few. The explorers also have a lively Twitter, Facebook and YouTube presence!

Out + About, Seasonal

The October Plenty Festival

November 6, 2014

Photography credit: S Pakhrin

If I say I love autumn, it sounds like I’m jumping on the blogger bandwagon.

You’d be expecting me to start professing my undying love for pumpkin spiced lattes, stomping in the leaves and wearing oversized jumpers. Now, whilst the aforementioned are all nice (except the lattes… coffee’s not my bag), there is an autumn tradition that I look forward to above any other, and I’m very excited to finally share it with you today.


Photography credit: S Pakhrin

Welcome, one and all, to the October Plenty Festival.

It’s difficult to know quite how to describe this marvellous piece of pagan-inspired harvest celebration. It’s such a unique and special thing, sand I wish I could somehow bottle and enjoy it for the rest of the year, just like I do with the first sunrise of the year on January 1st.

As I should imagine with most who’ve experienced it, I first discovered October Plenty completely by accident. It all starts on bank of the Thames, not far from London Bridge tube station. Usually all you have to do is follow the sound of the music.

It gets louder as you round the corner, and before you realise what’s happened, you’ve stumbled into a riot of colour and medieval-inspired costumes. There are folks selling corn dollies and handmade necklaces with faces of the Green Man on them.


Photography credits S Pakhrin: one, one and three

You’re distracted by all this for a few minutes, perhaps even rummage in your pockets for some change to buy a programme, though you don’t really know what it’s for.

Then, out of the corner of your eye you catch the sight of a procession making its way towards you, a bell ringer with wild curly brown hair at the helm and an accordionist at the rear, in between them women wearing rainbow-coloured dresses, folks with stag antlers and fox tails, morris dancers and a ten-foot tall effigy of a woman created entirely of vegetables.

Oh, and a man dressed from head to toe in green.


Photography credit (right) London SE1

What you’re seeing here are members of The Lion’s Part, a group of thespians from a wide range of artistic backgrounds who come together in order to share their love of traditional music, costume, celebration and the seasons. Twice a year they perform two free spectacles, the Twelfth Night celebrations in January, and the October Plenty Festival in October.


So hypnotising and heart-warming are their performers, and so jolly and jaunty their music, you won’t stop to question that you’re following this eclectic bunch along the riverside towards Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, up through the iconic gates of this glorious building and filing into the rows of wooden benches that stack three levels high and wrap around the stage.


Photography credit: Simon Cozens

The music goes on and you’re treated to laughs, thrills and stunning performance. The Lion’s Part have a long-standing friendship with the management of the Globe, and the head-honcho is there himself, standing next to the man all dressed in green and clapping his hands along in time with the music.


… and just in case you thought I’d be the only one in the crowd at such an obscure event! Every year I attend, October Plenty gets more and more popular.

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When the performance is over, the curly-haired bell ringer invites everyone to join the performers as they sing and dance their way down to ancient Borough Market (which this year celebrates its 1000th birthday!) to enjoy the annual tradition of Apple Day.

And then, no matter what your plans were up until that point, you’ll find yourself following the crowd jostling to leave the Globe, making your way past surprised onlookers – many of whom join the parade as you pass – en route to the market.


Photography credit (top) Robert Sharp, (bottom right) Garry Knight

Once you arrive, it’s clear its a foodie paradise. Cups of hot cider, freshly pressed juices, jams, preserves, cakes, crusty bread rolls, cheese as far as the eye can see and a never-ending supply of fruits and veggies, all backing on to stalls selling the most delicious and varied-looking world cuisine you can possibly imagine.

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But of course, it’s Apple Day and the humble fellow takes centre stage.


There are so many types of apples you’ll lose count; there must be a hundred different varieties. And if you’re feeling like something sweeter, the proximity of October Plenty to Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night means there’s always a toffee apple or two up for grabs!

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Things get underway again once the Lion’s Part reaches the makeshift stage at the back of the market, encouraging everyone to make merry and give thanks for the bountiful harvest. The Morris dancers perform their routine as the man dressed in green makes his way through the crowds, a veritable celebrity as people stop him for photographs every few feet.

And then it’s games of conkers and fairytale reading and more performing, a barrage of good-natured fun and smiles and an important reminder to be grateful for the bounty of the earth at this time of the year. It’s one last hurrah before we turn the corner into winter.


Photography credit: S Pakhrin

It’s hard to accurately sum up the experience of October Plenty, but one review I read managed to get it spot on: “imagine your primary school harvest table just came to life”.

And started dancing, laughing and performing Shakespeare right in front of your eyes.


The Month in Focus: July

July 4, 2014
_july https-::www.flickr.com:photos:vainsang:9559702043

Photography credit: Vincent Brassinne

It’s summer! How did that happen? I’ve been looking back through previous In Focus posts this morning, seeing how the pictures have changed since I started this feature. Time is funny like that, isn’t it? It passes so gradually that we don’t realise, but when we look behind us we realise months have elapsed and we don’t really have any recollection of where they went.

But let’s not get down! In the warmer months of the year we’re spoiled by the sheer choice of things to do, sand it seems like every weekend is stuffed full of potential. As always, I’ve tried to chose six of July’s best for you to enjoy, including what to eat in season, what to look out for in nature and the quirkiest of Britain’s celebrations to get involved in.

Have a wonderful time in July, and let me know which of today’s suggestions you’ll be trying!

_swans https-www.flickr.com-photos-matthijs-78658972

Photography credit: Matthijs

A peculiar British practice called Swan-Upping takes place on the River Thames in July. This involves the rounding up, catching, marking and releasing of all mute swans on the river in the home counties of the UK. This annual ceremony dates back to the twelfth century, when all swans in the country belonged to the Crown.

Usually occurring in the third week of July, the Queen’s, Vintners’ and the Dyers’ “Swan Uppers” row up the river in skiffs (traditional wooden boats) and ring any swans with cygnets in order to keep track of how well the Thames breeding population is doing. It’s an almost unique example of how tradition has evolved into modern conservation: each swan given a full MOT before being plopped back onto the water and sent on his or her way.

If you’d like to read more about the ceremony have a look at this amazing booklet! Fancy watching the Upping for yourself? Here is a list of tour dates.

_tomatoes https-::www.flickr.com:photos:piet_musterd:9365829505

Photography credit: Pieter Musterd

Would you just look at these juicy fellas? I’m not the world’s biggest tomato fan (that accolade goes to my little sister), but I have to admit tomatoes are beginning to look pretty darn delicious now we’re into July. It’s this month of the year that they’re at their best, and it’s not hard to see why we’re flinging them into salads left right and centre.

Did you know that tomatoes were once believed to be poisonous? According to my favourite section of Countryfile magazine, prior to the use of ceramics for bowls and plates, Europe’s wealthy folk ate from pewter. The naturally acid-rich tomatoes leached lead from the dishes, poisoning the diners. It’s not surprising that this cheery fruit was associated with evil magic!

Why not try one of these top ten recipes from The Guardian? Tomato party!

_kite https-::www.flickr.com:photos:vironevaeh:3985783648

Photography credit: Karen Blaha

Did you know just how many kite festivals take place in the UK during July? Kitecalendar.com tells me that there are no less than fourteen separate events happening up and down the country throughout the month, so there really is no excuse for missing one!

One of the biggest is undoubtedly St. Annes Kite Festival in Blackpool, which takes place on 26th and 27th of July. This free, family-friendly event aims to fill the skies of the seafront with colour, as display teams demonstrate their skills with a variety of kites in multiple sizes and styles. There will be stalls, entertainment for kids and even fairground rides, all on site.

_gardens https-::www.flickr.com:photos:hereistom:8071785504

Photography credit: Tom Jutte

Not only is July the time of the year for kites, it’s also an excellent opportunity to visit the gardens of stately homes here in the UK. Throughout the spring, horticulturists and gardeners alike have been tending to the green spaces of some of our most beloved castles, mansions and manor houses, and now that summer is here everything is in full bloom!

Off the top of my head, the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show looks to be an amazing display, and then there’s Plantasia at Kew Gardens as well. If you’re not in London, have a look at the English Heritage and National Trust websites to find listings of great days out with gorgeous gardens to enjoy in your local area.

_snails https-www.flickr.com-photos-66235205@N06-7589222946

Photography credit: Dennis

Yes, it is real, and yes, it is exactly what you think it is. The annual Snail Racing World Championships takes place in Congham, Norfolk, and competitors are still trying to beat the record set by a zippy little chap called Archie in 1995. He cleared the stretch of thirteen inches in a surprisingly quick time of only two minutes, making him the unbeaten champ.

Last year first place was awarded to Racer II, owned by six year old Sue Ryder from Kings Lynn.

If you’d like to compete in the World Championships, all you have to do is turn up to Congham up with your snail on 19th July (make sure you pop a little blob of paint on his shell to distinguish him from the other competitors) and give it your best shot! For more information, take a peak at the official website. Ready, steady, slow!

_oysters https-::www.flickr.com:photos:adactio:13628693445

Photography credit: Jeremy Keith

The Whitstable Oyster Festival is a week-long celebration of all that is amazing about the sea. Kentish folk have been giving thanks for its plentiful bounty for generations, including a special mention for the humble bivalve that made the town so famous.

You can look forward to a week jam-packed with activities in the run up to the beginning of August, including a harbour food festival, street parade, seaside cinema, an oyster eating competition, Venetian carnival, and the building of the “grotters”, which I understand are constructed using the empty shells of the oysters and illuminated from inside.

As usual, have a look at the excellent official website for more information.


Six Festivals for People who don’t like Festivals

June 27, 2014

Photography credit: 10:10 UK

We all know one, don’t we? The only person in our group of friends that always makes excuses about why they don’t want to sit glued to the computer on Glastonbury ticket release day, or wait for hours in gridlocked traffic trying to get to Download in the pouring rain.

But today I’m thinking about it from the other side of the fence. What if you are that person? What if it’s you that doesn’t like camping in the baking heat with thousands of other half-naked revellers and could easily do without throwing expensive pints of cider down your neck? 


Photography credit: Russ Garrett

Never fear, my friends. If you feel this way, I promise you’re not alone. I’m supposed to be an outdoor-loving hippie, but in truth, I really like my bed and I don’t always want to get swept up in a big free-lovin’ crowd. I’ve only ever been to two festivals in my life, and even though I enjoyed the experience overall, there were parts of both that weren’t really my cup of tea.

So I thought I’d put together a list of six festivals for people who want to hide under a rock when the ubiquitous “which festivals are you going to this year” question gets bandied around at the office. And maybe, just maybe, together we can be brave and enjoy the experience of a quieter, smaller and more intimate gathering of people.

No need for bum-exposing shorts and Native American headdresses, I promise.

2000 trees https-::www.flickr.com:photos:matthewdawkins:7717709716

Photography credit: Matthew Dawkins

If Glastonbury is too big (but you like your music): 2000 Trees

If you want the traditional festival experience but you can’t afford the Glastonbury price tag and you’d rather not trek for hours to get from one side of the campsite to the other, you could do much worse than 2000 Trees Festival in Gloucestershire. I attended for the second time last year and it is such a good option for the festival amateur.

Three days camping, a great selection of bands, a friendly vibe and on the whole, pretty sensible attendees, 2000 Trees is the perfect way to ease yourself into the culture without diving in at the deep end. It’s also ridiculously cheap – weekend camping tickets are only £75! Catch ’em quick though! 2000 Trees takes place from 10th-12th July.

buddha https-::www.flickr.com:photos:90664717@N00:2686322755

Photography credit: Akuppa John Wigham

If you want more than hedonism and hangovers: Buddhafield

There aren’t that many alcohol-free festivals here in the UK, but after doing a bit of searching I did find one that caught my eye: Buddhafield. Unfortunately this festival is taking a sabbatical this year and will return in 2015. Boo! However, the organisers have decided to put on a smaller event called Green Earth Awakening Camp that will run from 16th-20th July in the Blackdown Hills, near Wellington, Devon.

Sharing many of the bigger festival’s values, Green Earth Awakening offers live music, dance, green crafts, meditation, a forest school, healing fields and yoga classes. It looks like a lovely intimate event, perfect if you don’t like crowds and would rather not spend your festival days bumping into inebriated folks. Adult tickets cost £80.

looe https-::www.flickr.com:photos:yarr_matey:4783592110

Photography credit: David White

If your hayfever spoils all the fun: Looe Music Festival

If siting in a field for a weekend and sneezing your head off isn’t your idea of a good time, I’m with you. I’ve suffered with awful hayfever for most of my life and if I wasn’t dosed up during the summer months I would have a really rough time of it. So how do we sniffly ones get partying without the need for copious tablets and nasal sprays?

When I started looking for the ideal weekend away for a hayfever sufferer, Looe Music Festival in Cornwall caught my eye straight away. Taking place on the beach and in the small surrounding town, there isn’t a field in sight and yet the festival vibes are just as prevalent. Folk favourite Frank Turner is headlining and there are a whole host of other acts that will grace the stages. Tickets start from £67.50 and the festival takes place from 19th-21st September.


Photography credit: Giles Moss

If camping isn’t your thing: try “glamping” instead

Look, I get it. Camping isn’t for everyone. Deflating airbeds, lumpy sleeping bags, soggy tents: I don’t believe anyone who says they really enjoy them. Luckily, most festivals have embraced the fact that not all attendees know how to set up a tent in the pouring rain, and many offer pre-erected tents, tipis and yurts that are ready and waiting for you upon arrival.

One of the best options I found for anyone that doesn’t like the idea of sleeping in a cramped tent was Rewind Festival. Being held in three locations (Cheshire, Henley-upon-Thames and Perth, Scotland) this eighties festival looks like a lot of fun! And they’re ensuring you can camp in style with the choice of cloud houses, bell tents and pod pads. Check out the glamping section of their website for more info. Tickets start at 117.50.


Photography credit: Daniel Skinner

If you’re taking the kiddies with you: Shambala

Many festivals claim to be “family friendly”, but I know that if I was taking my (albeit imaginary) kids with me to a huge weekend party, I’d want assurances that they were going to not only be safe, but entertained and catered for too. So I took it quite seriously when I started looking for the best festival option for families, and after a prolonged search I hit upon Shambala.

Winner of both the Festival Kidz Festival of the Year and the Green Parent Festival of the Year awards in 2013, Shambala dedicates a huge section of its festival (and indeed its website) to families and children. With several dedicated family fields, kid-sized loos, adventure playgrounds, nature workshops, free-play activities, baby changing facilities, bedtime stories in the family yurt and even a creche, it’s no wonder families come back year after year.

And if for some reason you still don’t believe me, check out this adorable video.


Photography credit: Sasastro

If they’re all too expensive: your local community festival

There’s no denying that going to a festival is an expensive affair. Not only do you have to cover the cost of the ticket, travel to the site and food and drink throughout the weekend, there’s all your camping gear to worry about too. It’s no wonder a lot of us decide not to bother.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the atmosphere. Almost every town or city in the UK has some sort of summer community festival you can get involved in, and most of them are free. You’ll get local bands, stalls, and even food and drink without having to travel too far from home or worry about camping.

Time Out has a page dedicated to festivals taking place in the capital and Money Saving Expert lets you search throughout the UK. Let me know what you find!

Additionally, last year I wrote a post called The Ultimate Festival Packing List for Girls, which might help you out if you’re struggling with what to take to your first festival. Whatever you get up to and wherever you go, make sure you have a ton of fun and make some good memories that will carry you through the winter and on until summertime 2015!


Why Do We Celebrate The Summer Solstice?

June 21, 2014

Photography credit: Charamelody

As we get closer to summer, we all know that the days start to get longer.

Suddenly it’s easier to get up in the morning to go to work, easier to stay out late in the evening without feeling tired and easier to pack weekends full of adventures and party until the sun goes down – absolutely marvellous!

Unfortunately, on the flipside, we also know that these magically long summer days can’t last forever. At some point they have to shorten again in order to prepare for the run-up to autumn and winter. But when exactly is that day, when the hours of sunlight in the day are at their greatest, and its rays peek into our bedrooms earlier than any other point in the year?

Actually folks, that would be today!

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Photography credit: Chris

What is the Summer Solstice?

More often than not it’s a glance at the calendar that reminds us of the Sumer Solstice, but you’d think we’d make an effort to remember really, considering it plays a hugely important role in our lives and we’d be season-less and confused without it.

Taking place on 21st June each year, the Summer Solstice marks the day with the most hours of light and least darkness, and occurs when Earth’s natural tilt points it directly at the sun, giving the illusion that our planet is standing still before turning away again. The word “solstice” actually comes from two Latin words: “sol”, meaning sun and “sistere”, meaning to stand still.

Its counterpart, the Winter Solstice, occurs on 21st December, and just to confuse things even more if you’re living in the Southern Hemisphere, all this is flipped and you’re completely back to front. Bewildered yet? Stick with me.


Photography credit: Wessex Archaeology

Why does it happen?

Earth is on a tilt. Imagine that our planet is a cherry, and you stick a cocktail stick through the dead centre. Then pretend that you’re resting that spiked cherry in your glass at an angle of approximately 23 degrees. If you were to spin the cherry by twisting the cocktail stick and also spin the glass at the same time, you would almost be perfectly demonstrating how Earth rotates around the sun.

Notice that the angle of your cocktail stick never changes; sometimes the top of it faces the sun, and sometimes it faces away. When the top of the stick faces in, more of the Northern Hemisphere gets coverage per daily orbit. This is our summer. When the top of the stick points away, out of the glass, the Northern Hemisphere gets less coverage during it’s daily rotation, and this is our winter. It’s the opposite for the Southern Hemisphere.

The summer and winter solstices occur when the tilt of the earth is most inclined towards the sun. Just like your imaginary cocktail stick, the hypothetical axis on which the planet is spinning is directly facing (or opposing, during winter) the sun.


Photography credit: Chris

Who celebrates it?

Many of the Midsummer festivities we see today are inspired in part by traditional pagan celebrations. These folks were hugely devoted to the appreciation and love of Mother Earth, celebrating the turn of the year and the changing of the seasons. In contrast to the Yule solstice, the darkest part of the pagan year, the summer counterpart is known as Lithia.

Some modern day druids and pagans make an annual trip to Stonehenge in Wiltshire to celebrate the summer solstice beneath the ancient stone monument. Pagans and druids hold great reverence for stone circles, and  as the light cracks the sky at the dawn of the Summer Solstice, they perform spoken rituals and give thanks to the sun.


Photography credit: Lulu Lovering

How do I join in?

Many folks choose to join in and celebrate the sunrise at Stonehenge, but over the years one could argue this event has become almost “festival-like” in size and popularity. If this isn’t for you, don’t worry! There’s still a multitude of ways you can enjoy the longest day of the year.

Be outside. This has to be the most important one, who would want to be cooped up on the longest day of the year? Walk, run, cycle, it doesn’t matter, just get yourself out there!

Take your yoga mat into the garden… they’re called sun salutations for a reason!

Get dancing! My good friend Elizabeth told me that if you dance in the sun on Midsummer’s Day, you’ll go to bed that evening and dream of the man you’re destined to marry.

Get your Shakespeare on and read a Midsummer Night’s Dream. The bard was famous for mentioning the supernatural in his plays, and this famous story pays homage to the fey folk rumoured to wander the lands during the turning points of the year.

Light a bonfire in the evening, wave adieu to the memories of the first half of the year and prepare yourself for the next half. Feel cleansed and refreshed.

If you’re interested in reading more about pagan customs and beliefs, these articles from Witch Vox and The Pagan and the Pen do the subject far more justice than I ever could.


The Month in Focus: June

June 12, 2014

june in focus_v2

It feels like only yesterday that I was writing January in Focus, and somehow now we’ve made it to June! The sixth month of the year is one of my favourites: it’s the start of summer, and it always feels so much more full of promise than July and August, even if the weather can still sometimes be a bit up and down.

Evidently I’m not the only one who thinks June is the opportune moment to do everything on the planet though, because I’ve been overwhelmed by the choice of activities and events on offer this month… and all of them seem to be happening at the same time!

Still, I’ve tried my best to pick a handful of things for today’s post that can be enjoyed all month long. Have fun and let me know what you get up to!

01 seal_v3

During June, one of the two species of seals that call UK shores home are getting ready to have their babies. Regularly seen basking on rocky spits just a little way out to sea, harbour (or common) seals are surprisingly elegant animals… when they’re in the water at least! Even so, watching them shuffle along on their bellies to get comfortable is nothing short of delightful.

I’ve been on seal spotting boat trips twice in the past, the first time at Blakeney Point in Norfolk, and more recently off the Farne Islands in Northumberland. Both were great experiences, and I couldn’t recommend them enough.

05 broad beans

Do you remember the sunny afternoon I spent on the allotment back in March? I planted a shedload of broad beans, and according to the seasonal veg section of Countryfile magazine, it seems as though June is the time they like to pop their heads up and say hello. I will have to return to John and Helen’s veggie patch and get harvesting…

Broad beans always seem like quite an old-fashioned food, and these chunky fellas often get folks raising their eyebrows and wondering how to cook and eat them. Never fear though, because a quick Google search will put you right and provide all sorts of inspiration for incorporating these high in vitamin A, B1 and B2 super champs into your diet.

03 glow worm

I’ve never spotted one of these bioluminescent bugs before, but perhaps I’ll get lucky soon, as June evenings are apparently the best time to catch a glimpse. The glow worm, or Lampyris Noctiluca if you’d like its posh name, is not a worm at all: it’s actually a beetle. It’s only the wingless female that glows, and as you might have guessed it’s to attract the flying males.

If you’d like to spot a glow worm or two of your own, the good news is that they’re not as hard to find as you might think: often they’ll already have set up camp in your garden without you even noticing! If your house doesn’t have a garden then good places to try are those with an abundance of chalk or limestone in the soil.

04 wild swim_v2

Last year my friend Judi and I spent a weekend camping, hiking and breathing fresh air in the Trossacks, Scotland. One of the things I’ll never forget about the experience was Judi convincing me to wild swim in the still blue waters of Loch Lomond. It sounded like a very spiritual, outdoorsy thing to do, so without much persuasion I jumped straight in.

Even now, the memories of how cold that water really was makes my teeth chatter.

Wild swimming isn’t for everyone, but even if you’re a big wimp like me you can still enjoy the spectacle. Starting this Friday and finishing on Sunday, hundreds of mad brave souls will be leaping into Lake Windermere in the Lake District to take part in the Great North Swim, an event suitable for swimmers of all strengths and experiences.

02 solstice

I grew up in Wiltshire, not far from the heritage monument of Stonehenge. Every year in the run up to the Summer Solstice I consider welcoming in the longest day of the year in the company of the Druids, but something always stops me. I guess it’s the additional crowd of drunk revellers, treating the whole thing like a free music festival that probably does it.

If you’d like to celebrate the beginning of the second half of the year without all that, don’t feel bad about staying clear of Stonehenge. The Druids will understand. If the idea of stone circles still appeals though, Avebury is a much better option, but it is totally acceptable just to take an early morning walk or even pop your head out of the window at sunrise instead.

Remember, it’s not what you do that counts, it’s how it makes you feel.

06 naked

Here’s what I think: clothes cause a lot of problems. I’m sure we’d be much nicer to each other if we were all happier with the way we looked underneath.

Of course, if you’re taking part in the World Naked Bike Ride, (the London leg of which is happening this Saturday), you don’t need my sappy advice. This event will see cyclists of all abilities join in to peacefully protest against car culture and oil dependency, all the while making the most of the opportunity to get an all-over body tan…

But if you’re not feeling brave enough to get your kit off and join in, make it your June mission to appreciate your body instead of berating it. It’s the only one you’ll ever get after all, and it’s totally imperfect and beautiful in its own funny way.