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Being a mum with three small kids puts many pressures on time but I’ve found the best thing to do is to plan well and use your time wisely. It’s amazing what little adventures you can get up even in a limited 40-minute slot.
I am mummy to Connie (5), Alfie (4) and Eli (2), three kids with lots of energy who love to be outdoors. When I’m not coaching gymnastics or working at the dentist we love to get out and about to explore the kingdom around us.
Living in Kilkeel, the capital of the Mournes means we have many short adventures to choose from. Our favourite has to be one of the various walks around the Silent Valley. You can choose the long forest walk and look out for squirrels, head for Sally Lough and count the ducks or even just run up the hill to the top of the lower dam to see if the water is going down the “plug hole”. No two days are ever the same and you can easily tailor a walk to the time you have available.
If feeling more energetic we may want to conquer a “mountain”. Knockcree, just off the Ballymegeogh Road outside Kilkeel may not be a mountain in the official sense but when little feet manage to get to the top they feel like they climbed Everest. The view from the top of Knockcree gives an amazing 360-degree view over the Mournes, stretching down to Cranfield Point and out over Carlingford Lough to the Cooley mountains in the distance. The kids like to pick out our house or their school from the townland below.
Kilbroney Forest Park also offers a few options for young families like ours. You can enjoy the Narnia Trail or Fairy Glen in a 30 minute dander which lets imaginations run wild as the kiddies think about lions, witches and wardrobes. If it’s another “mountain” we want to tackle then a drive to the top car park in Kilbroney lets you make your way up to Cloughmore Stone within 20 minutes (10 minutes if you didn’t have a 2 year old stopping at every stick on the ground!). Like Knockcree you have a wonderful view over the Lough to the Cooley Mountains with a foreground which inspired CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books.
Living close to the shore opens up various short coastal walks which the kids love. I drop my 5 year old daughter off to ballet on a Thursday afternoon which leaves the boys and I 45 minutes to walk around Annalong harbour, over the bridges in the shadow of the old Cornhill and look for the goose in residence. We don’t like to get too close in case he tries to chase us!
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Getting outside as a family has so many benefits for us. Health and fitness is an obvious one and so too are educational opportunities as we learn about the world around us. We can see how rivers begin and cut routes through valleys, see how frogs begin life as tadpoles in a puddle at the side of the path and learn how to tell the time by blowing the seeds of a dandelion!
However more importantly it allows us to bond as family. While we may be walking through the same forest trail it is never the same to kids as their imaginations transform it into a castle, a pirate shape, the surface of the moon or a gallery full of statues. This is a particular favourite as they run to hide behind trees and freeze in a funny pose. Walks like these always do my heart good.
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Living in this part of the world means that there is not always the perfect time for an adventure. You just have to get up, wrap up and go make the most of every little window of opportunity.
For that reason I find it helpful to make sure the coats, hats and wellies are always to hand as you just never know when you will be able to head out and begin a new adventure. Kids are kids and with three there is always the potential for little legs to tire, or someone’s hands to get cold. Therefore making sure they are warm and dry is vital as well as remembering to pack some snacks. It’s amazing how the promise of such encourages those little feet to make it round the next bend or over the next hill.
Distraction is a technique used by magicians but also by many mummies like me. Complaints are easily forgotten when you can point out a red squirrel, a newt on the ground or think you heard the roar of a friendly bear. Little ones may only ever look at their feet so encouraging them to look, listen, touch, smell and taste stimulates all of their senses as well as their imagination.
When walking with kids it’s important to place the focus on them, walk at the pace of the person with the shortest legs and don’t feel defeated if you don’t make it to that milestone. Some treks for longer legs will require half a day but with little ones every trip out of the house can be an adventure even if you are just trying kill time between football or ballet practice!
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