Our favourite hikes: Sgwd yr Eira waterfall, Brecon Beacons

This has been one of our favourite hikes for years, partly because it takes you along a river that has carved a gorge through beautiful woodland, and partly because at the destination you get to walk behind, yes actually behind a waterfall!! I think it’s one of the most powerful experiences you can hope to have in life; an assault on the senses; we feel truly rejuvenated whenever we visit this truly magical waterfall.  

 
 We couldn’t wait to hike this route with our babies, but as its a fairly long one, can be fairly treacherous in wet or cold weather, and involves a bit of a drive for us to get there, we waited until the time was right, which happened to be when they were around 11 months old.

Our route begins at the car park (very small and often full) on the road between Pontneddfechan and Ystradfellte, at the Clyngwyn Bunkhouse. Link to map here

  
The walk begins through farmland, on a fairly steep but good path down to the river, where we find the first, beautiful waterfall, Sgwd Clyngwyn. It then follows the river upstream for a short while, before crossing a footbridge and turning right to follow the river downstream. The path which is rocky and sometimes steep and slippery in places, takes us through beautiful deciduous woodland and plantations, passing several waterfalls on the way, though we usually tend to skip these as they involve a bit of a detour up & downhill each. 

   
 
The babies were absolutely mesmerised by the lush green trees, and the river roaring next to us, then as we climbed the steep valley, the ever present deep rumble as we weaved the river banks far above. With just one or two stops for a drink for us, we made good progress. Eventually the girls got a bit grumpy and I had to stop to feed them on a very serendipitously placed flat rock. 

This worked well as they perked up and were in great spirits for the descent to the waterfall, which requires the most concentration!

  
 As they were doing so well, we decided to take the plunge (not literally) and walked behind the waterfall; such an incredible experience for us, I can’t even imagine how it must have been for them, but they were beaming and laughing all the way. 

  
   
   
We didn’t hang around for long, as we were mindful of the long trek back and the steep hike back up the valley.

In all, the trek took us around 2 and a half hours with a ten minute stop to feed the girls. The sense of achievement we felt to have done this walk with the girls was incredible, and we so enjoyed seeing it all afresh through the eyes of a child. 

  
  
There are a few important points I feel I need to make for anyone planning to try this route out, with kids or without: 

  • Take a map and familiarise yourself with the route before you go, it’s pretty easy to get lost in these parts
  • The right gear is essential on this trek; sturdy footwear, waterproofs for the kids and a change of gear is all wise. It’s a good idea to take a fully charged phone although signal is far from reliable. If you get into serious trouble dial 999 and ask for ambulance / mountain rescue. 
  • The car park can be full, and is pretty renowned for break-ins so don’t leave any valuables on display
  • The route can get really slippery during wet periods, and the rivers are cold and dangerous year round. Rock falls can also be an issue; walking behind the waterfall is not without risk and there are adventure activity providers that can take you on a guided walk with safety equipment which will mitigate some of the risks if you prefer. 

To get the most out of the trip I recommend the following: 

  • Take plenty of snacks and drinks
  • Take waterproofs and a change of clothes
  • Don’t forget your camera – you won’t want to miss this photo opportunity! 
  • Plan a visit to the wonderful Waterfalls Pub in Ystradfellte before or after the trek for delicious home cooked meals including vegan and gluten free options, cakes, hot drinks, and local ales. There’s a great kids menu and even a campsite! 


Life Unexpected

Our favourite recipes: superfood brownies

You will just not believe what is in these brownies as they are quite possibly the best brownies I have EVER had; I made the recipe up at random using bits from the fridge and cupboard and I’m really not great at baking, so it is a minor miracle that these brownies turned out to be so amazingly delicious, fudgy and rich. 

  
Please, before you screw your nose up at the ingredients, give it a try and see for yourself! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 100g dark cocoa powder (I like green & blacks)
  • 5 or 6 cooked beetroots
  • One medium sized sweet potato, steam cooked – stay with me here! 
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50ml coconut milk (full fat) 
  • 2 teaspoons almond butter
  • 200g honey
  • One egg
  • One teaspoon baking powder
  • A drizzle of coconut or olive oil 

  
Here’s the method: 

  1. Cook the beetroot (or cheat and buy pre-cooked like I did!) and peel, chop and steam the sweet potato
  2. Heat the oven to 180
  3. Put into a bowl with all the other ingredients except the ground almonds, mix really well with a blender / food processor or hand blender 
  4. Stir in the ground almonds, mixing well 
  5. Pour all the mixture into a square tin or dish
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, but check at 20 mins as your oven may be more powerful than mine
  7. Leave to cool then transfer to the fridge – keep them in the fridge as they tend to go a bit gooey if left out

I’m pretty lucky in that my toddlers will eat most things I give them, so I tried these for breakfast with some coconut chia, and they did pull some funny faces, I think because the flavour is so rich and chocolatey, but they kept asking for ‘more!’, which I’m taking as a seal of approval.
 
 

 Even my husband didn’t make fun of me for having yet another baking disaster (I made red kidney bean brownies once – not.nice.) so I think he approves too! And they went really nicely with my mid morning coffee. 

If you try them, I’d love to hear what you think! 

Our favourite places: Dunraven, Vale of Glamorgan 

  
I’m a bit biased as this place is practically in our back garden, but it really is such a stunningly beautiful place to visit, with or without the kids. Although it gets really busy during the Summer months and school holidays, it is equally spectacular in Winter and some days we have the entire place to ourselves! 
  
I spent a lot of time here surfing and swimming before I had the babies; when pregnant I would stroll the sands imagining what it would be like coming here once they’d arrived; as newborns I’d walk with them for hours, the sound of the waves sending them off to sleep; and now, as toddlers they just love to splash in the waves, play in the rockpools and build sand castles.

  

  
The great thing about Dunraven (aka Southerndown) is that whether the tide is in or out, you can be sure of a lovely walk – on the sandy beach when it’s out; or through the walled gardens if it’s in. The gardens are great in extreme wind or heat too, as they offer shade and shelter. 

  
For the brave, the stunning cliff top walk up a very steep grassy hill from the car park, down to Witches point and then East along the coast, brings you back round to the gardens; a great circular walk that will really stretch your legs and lungs, especially if you’re carrying a baby or two! 

  
On to the practicalities: the access down on to the beach is very pram unfriendly; not a problem for most people but for a while I couldn’t get down on to the beach at all with two babes in arms. So instead I made full use of the garden which is fully accessible for prams – there is always an alternative flat route to the many steps in the gardens. We sometimes take the girls on their trikes which is great fun for them! 

  
  
The car park costs £3 and charges are in place from Spring until early Autumn. In the peak Summer season the car park can get very full and the overflow car park is on a very steep field. 

Toilets are usually open during the busy periods and so too is the shop where you can buy ice creams, hot and cold drinks and snacks. Lifeguards are on duty throughout the Summer. There is a dog ban in place on the beach between March and October, though they are still allowed in the gardens.

The Heritage Coast visitor centre is a great place to find out about the natural history and heritage of the area, and they often run special events, including for children, throughout the school holidays. 

Although stunningly beautiful, the area’s cliffs are extremely dangerous both from above and below. This part of the coast also has the second highest tidal range in the world so particular attention should be paid to checking not only tide times, but heights, to get an idea of how quickly the tide will rise. 

  
In Southerndown village, the Three Golden Cups is a lovely country pub with a beer garden and lovely food and drinks, and a seasonal campsite. There is a small village shop in St Bride’s Major which is well stocked and has good opening hours 7 days a week. Local Slade Farm Organics farm shop stocks delicious organic produce, perfect for a beach BBQ! 

For a scenic family day out near Cardiff, you could not ask for more! 

  

Life Unexpected

7 ways to be a traveller at home

  
Recently I’ve been coming out of the thick fog that a twin pregnancy and the first year of my daughters’ life shrouded me in, and my itchy feet have come back with a vengeance! 

I’ve had wanderlust for all of my adult life. I went to live in Spain aged 18, came back for a few years of university before going back to study in Spain & France for a year. After graduation, I worked 3 jobs for a year, then set off to travel Central & South America. I fell in love with Central America but was drawn back home by the love of my life; whom I eventually persuaded to jack in his job and come travelling with me! 

  
We travelled together through Asia, Australia & New Zealand, then headed back home to settle down & earn some money. I was lucky enough to travel a bit with my job to East Africa, and then I met up with my old fling, Central America, again on my honeymoon, this time with my husband by my side. 

  
Shortly after, our two beautiful daughters were on their way; our greatest adventures yet, turning life as we knew it on its head and inside out. 

Before they were born, we were simply pot plants…now we’re trees, we’ve put our roots down firmly into the earth…

As our daughters grow, we can’t wait to share with them our love of the world, of travel and adventure. We have grand plans to travel the world with them when they’re a bit older, but for now the circumstances aren’t right for us, and so with these itchy feet burning once again, we’re going to be travellers at home. This is how we’ll do it: 

Once a month, visit somewhere we’ve never been before

Whether it’s a town, a beach, a tourist attraction or an historic site, there are so many places close to home that we’ve never been to or don’t know much about, we’ll make a list of our must-sees and clear a date in the calendar to just go.

  
Regular weekend trips 

We haven’t got the budget to travel far or for high end accommodation, so we’ll do it on a budget like we do when we’re backpacking; hostels, bed and breakfasts, and camping. 

  
Mix with the locals

Where we live in Wales, everyone knows very well that people from Cardiff are a different race entirely to those from Swansea, for example! So we’ll make an effort to get chatting to the locals; it’s how we do it when we’re overseas, so just because we’re from the same country it’s no reason to believe we don’t have a thing or two to learn from local people. Plus when you’ve got kids you’ve got an easy conversation starter.

Explore all the cultures that make up our corner of the world

Cardiff, our capital city, is a multicultural melting pot of cultures and traditions from all over the world! In almost any city in the UK you can encounter tens if not hundreds of types of cuisine, shops, and languages. I used to love visiting an amazing Caribbean restaurant in the city which has since sadly closed down, but it genuinely transported me to Caribbean shores when I was there. We’ll explore the world through the eateries in our city; it will be a great way for the girls to be introduced to different foods and sounds before we take them travelling overseas.

  Dress how we want
One of the things I love most about travelling is that it’s more than a means to an end; it’s a way of life. On the road, almost anything goes and fashion is low on the list of priorities. Comfy travelling pants are a favourite, so are bold, colourful patterns, interesting jewellery and headgear to keep the pesky hair out of the way while on an adventure! As a really busy mum, comfort is key and while I’m on a career break I can be as adventurous with styles and patterns as I like! 

  
Teach the kids a language

Other than English, I speak French and Spanish, and what remains of my a-level Welsh. Once I’m confident that the girls are making good progress with their language development (twins often suffer language delay) I will begin to introduce them to different languages. 

Have adventures

Hiking to a waterfall, getting on a bus to somewhere we’ve never been before, trying a new dish in a restaurant we’ve never been in before, taking a boat trip to an island, or going wildlife spotting – with a little imagination the world is our oyster, here at home! 

  
How do you keep the traveller in you alive between trips? 

Our favourite recipes: Coconut chia & mango pudding

This is a firm favourite in our household, it’s a delicious pudding which feels really rich and indulgent but is really nutritious, clean and ticks many dietary requirement boxes; gluten free, vegan, raw and refined sugar-free. Plus it is ridiculously easy to make. 

It pleases everyone, our 15 month old twins and my sometimes-fussy husband (even if he jokes it looks like frogspawn!)

Here’s the recipe and method: 

  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds (I prefer black but white work just as well)
  • 300ml water
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • One ripe mango
  • 4 serving glasses
  1. Stir the chia seeds into the water, mixing well 
  2. Leave for 15 minutes, until the seeds expand forming a gel
  3. Chop and blend the mango into a purée 
  4. Stir the coconut milk into the chia gel mixture
  5. Spoon a layer of mango pulp into the glasses
  6. Spoon a large layer of the coconut chia mix on top
  7. Swirl a bit more mango purée onto the top

  
Et voila! There you have a delicious, nutritious pudding that will impress the fussiest of toddlers (or their dad!), dinner party guests, your next sweet craving or even for breakfast when you want a break from eggs! 

Twin life: 7 unforeseen twin parents’ problems

‘Double trouble’, ‘you’ve got your hands full’, ‘they’re so cute’, ‘I’d never be able to tell them apart’; these are the things we hear on a daily basis. But that’s only the beginning of the story. During my 15 months of twin parenthood, I’ve come across many unforeseen twin-related problems! Here are just a few:

My hands are always full, but so are my arms, feet and mouth!

I am now very adept at answering the phone with my chin, picking up a book off the floor with my feet, carrying a car seat in either hand and my changing bag plus car keys with my teeth; in fact I look like a Christmas tree with various decorations dangling from various parts of my body most of the time. 

Forgetting to put the pram in the car

Driving 10 miles to a baby music group, arriving and realising you forgot to put the pram in the car. Carrying two almost-toddlers from the car park through town to the very badly located play centre is not an option; the only option is a 20 mile round trip to get the pram. 

  
Double odd socks

My sleep deprived mind can’t even work out the stats behind this! Somehow we always end up with a massive pile of odd socks, twice as many as we should have! 

Sleeping through the night

My baby finally slept through the night! It’s the holy grail for all parents. My baby did sleep through the night once, and so did the other one. Unfortunately it wasn’t the same night.  

Choosing which baby to save

The one that’s crawling towards the cream rug you naively bought pre-babies mid nappy-change, or the one heading towards the massive untouched cup of coffee that you’ve already re-warmed 3 times? Oh well, it’s probably gone cold again anyway. 

Copycat breastfeeding

You’ve already fed baby no 1 because they woke up half an hour before their twin. But now baby 2 has woken up and needs feeding and there’s no way baby 1 is going to let baby 2 feed without them having some! Result: twin babies will never wean. Ever. 

Birthday cards

If you’ve got twins, and assuming you make it through the first year, you have to buy 4 different first birthday cards: one for each of them from Mummy & Daddy, plus one to each from each other. Do you know how hard it is to find 4 different designs of first birthday card in one shop?! 

Mummascribbles

Our favourite places: Margam Park, South Wales

I can’t believe it has taken me until my girls are almost 15 months old to visit this place, considering it’s just a 20 minute drive from our house! 

Margam Park is a vast country estate very conveniently situated next to junction 38 of the M4. Whoever is managing the estate has done an incredible job of diversification in the park which consists of a magnificent 19th Century castle and gardens, orangery wedding venue, conference centre, Go Ape high ropes course, deer park, farm park, two huge children’s play parks with picnic areas, and water sports lake, to name just a few of the amenities on offer!! 

We parked in the main car park (£4.70 flat fee but entrance is FREE!! unless there is a special event on!!) and went straight to the lower play park for our picnic. Probably one of the best parks I’ve ever been in, there are all the usual playground pieces plus a special area for toddlers, miniature houses and a miniature fairytale castle! They’ve recently planted a huge willow structure which my girls had so much fun running around in. 

  
After an hour of picnicking and playing in the park I put the girls into the pram and pushed them up the very steep hill through the gardens towards the castle. 

  
We paused briefly here to take a quick look inside where there was a t-shirt designing activity for older children being held, and we stopped in the main visitor’s area complete with toilets, cafe and gift shop, as well as a free drinking water tap, so we refilled our bottles and then headed towards the lake and farm park. 

   
The farm park sent my girls into a massive frenzy of excitement as they just love animals and they ran from pen to pen shouting out ‘baa’ and ‘neigh’ as they went! 

  
  
  
 
It was time for the girls to have a bit of a break after all the excitement and so into the pram they went for a stroll through the deer park and forest track. 

It was time to head back to the car and although there is a mini train shuttling to and from the car park during summer holidays, I didn’t think I would get the double pram in, so we walked back down the hill back to the car. 

It was such a good day out, and very reasonably priced, it’s definitely on the list of favourite places to go from now on! 

Find out more here: http://www.margamcountrypark.co.uk

A healthy picnic lunchbox for toddlers (and mum!) 

I’ve written previously about getting out and about with weaning twins; but as they grow older and get more teeth, feeding options become a bit more varied and in theory, easier. Which means we can have picnics outside! 

Key to a successful trip out for us is having enough of the right food; I find making a packed lunch far less stressful than eating out in a restaurant or cafe: with twins our family takes up a lot of room and it’s not always easy to find somewhere that serves healthy kids food (why oh why?!), plus it’s so much cheaper to take our own. Having said that, if there’s a really good health food cafe where we’re going, I love to take the opportunity to have a break from cooking! 

  
Just a small amount of preparation makes eating on the go with my two toddlers really simple. Our Thermos lunch bag & Tupperware keeps all the food cool and is a good size for the three of us. The girls don’t usually eat all that I pack for lunch in one sitting, so the lunch leftovers roll over for an afternoon snack. 

Here’s what’s in today’s picnic for the babies, and me: 

  • A water bottle each – I love the Sistema bottles which are Phythalate and BPA free. We have two of the small ones and a large one for me. My girls find them really easy to drink from; they feel grown up drinking from a bottle like mummy and they’re the best spill free option I’ve come across. However, I continue to look for a more eco friendly equivalent.
  • Spanish Tortilla
  • Carrot & cucumber sticks
  • Cheese sticks
  • Sliced ham
  • Sweet potato falafel
  • Tinned peaches
  • A banana
  • Apple & date bars from Organix Goodies

  

I’m always looking for more healthy lunchbox options; would love to hear any suggestions. 

”Monkey