Category Archives: Sophie loves Brixham

Swimming season

The unschooling diaries: week twenty-one

We never seem to manage to go swimming nearly as much as I’d like to during the winter.

I’m not a fan of indoor pools, with their chlorine and claustrophobic changing rooms, and there always seem to be more appealing ways to fill the colder days.

Summer, though, is a whole other matter.


We are lucky enough to live within metres of not only the beach but also a wonderful seawater pool. It has struggled for survival over recent years, but with the help of an army of local volunteers (of which I am one) its future now looks bright.

So many local children have learnt to swim here in the ninety years that the pool has been in existence, and I am thrilled that Arthur is going to be one of them. He has yet to have a formal swimming lesson, but he is so completely confident in the water with his float suit that I am sure that when he is ready to go it alone he will not struggle to work it out.


He will certainly be getting lots of practise over the next couple of months. This week, we have been down to the pool almost every day. We’ve had spring tides, and when they’ve been high the water has spilled over the sea walls and onto the deck, creating the perfect area for splashing around.


Arthur can stand in the shallow end too, and loves the freedom that gives him. Together we have ventured deeper, practising kicking legs and blowing away the water that splashes over his face.


We may have not got round to formal swimming lessons so far, but he is learning so much just by exploring and seeing what his body is capable of. I love that our pool is safer than the sea, but is so close to it that Arthur is still able to understand the particular power of the ocean and learn to respect the watery world that is never far away down here.


And selfishly, too, I love nothing more than the feeling of cold, salty water on my skin when the sun is hot. We’ve been doing pretty well on that front this week: long may it continue!





“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

To have a beach – Arthur’s beach – on the way home from town is probably the reason I love living here the most.

He is so completely at ease there – could spend hours throwing and climbing and sitting and looking. At this time of year it’s particularly special, because more often than not there is no-one else around.

Just me and my Arthur, the stones and the sea.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Sunday photo: 13th December 2015


Arthur in his happy place.

Throwing stones into the sea is still one of his very favourite things to do, but he loves to explore the beach now too: clambering over the rocks at the end whilst I watch, heart in my mouth and muscles poised to leap to his rescue if he needs me.

I sometimes lament the lack of manufactured play areas near our house, but really of course  this natural playground has so much more scope. And whilst Arthur plays I get to breathe in the sea, listen to it tumble the pebbles at its shore and lose myself in its bigness for a few precious moments before we continue with our day.


Linking up today’s post with Darren at One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo and Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Blackberries, bike rides and bravery

I’ve been mulling over how Arthur and I spend our days rather a lot lately. He’s coming up for three, and I am still almost solely responsible for his childcare. Generally I’m happy with this – I know there will be benefits he is getting from me that just aren’t accessible anywhere else – but still, sometimes I worry. Most of his friends are in nursery, and their parents naturally extol the benefits of that. Sometimes I worry that I’m just not fun enough, creative enough, hands on enough to have taken on this level of responsibility for my son’s education.

And then…


Then I have days like the one we enjoyed on Thursday. We got up, we hung out and played for a while, Arthur napped and I wrote. And then we had lunch. And then we went exploring.

And I saw Arthur’s learning, his development, in every step he took. He’d been zooming his balance bike around the kitchen for a few days already, showing a confidence that had been lacking in months of experimentation. He was more reticent, out in the big wide world, but still he wanted to ride, pacing around the headland with barely concealed glee.


He did get tired, eventually. But then his bravery transferred to another sphere.

All summer, we have talked to him about berries: the ones he can eat, and the ones he can’t; the ones we’ve grown in our garden, and the ones that flourish freely on the hedgerows. It is those that have been most significant over the last month or so: the inky blackberries that in my mind form the perfect snack yet for Arthur have been a concept just too unfamiliar to get his head around.

Until this week. When suddenly he wanted to try this delicious wild fruit, and having succumbed to its sweetness stood and gorged himself until his fingers and mouth were stained with black.


Both of these things, the bike riding and the blackberry picking, represent huge steps of freedom for my little boy. I am proud of his bravery, of his confidence. But I am scared too, just a little. Because picking wild berries brings with it the danger of choosing the wrong ones, and lifting your feet from the floor when riding a bike means that you will one day surely fall.

But then these are precisely the sorts of risks that I need to be prepared to take if I am going to take on the challenge of educating my child myself.

He is still very young, but his curiosity is beginning to lead us to amazing places.

I just need to make sure I give it the space to work its magic.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

The way through the woods

We went for a walk in the woods this week. Arthur had been asking for a while – unusually, as he tends to prefer the sea. And so once the rain had cleared and the colds we have both been laid low by had begun to recede we headed up towards the trees.


It’s a walk we’ve done many times before. We’re so lucky to have Berry Head on our doorstep: as well as the spectacular views from the top it offers a winding woodland on the way. I had thought, once we’d wandered through our usual patch of green, that we might make our way to the cafe on the headland. As he is increasingly wont to do, though, Arthur had other ideas.


There is a gate just off the main path which I’ve noticed several times before, but which we’ve never actually been through. Not for any particular reason – it’s just not the way we go. This time though Arthur was intent on seeing what was on the other side. He actually managed, as I hung back dreaming of a latte, to get the gate open himself. And once he had? Well, it would have been churlish not to follow.

I let him lead the way from that point, and I think the images capture the adventure that followed better than I can in words. He was so fascinated by everything he discovered – things to look at and smell and touch and hear. Occasionally he threw a glance in my direction to check I wasn’t too far away, but essentially he was lost in his own little world.











The finale to Arthur’s explorations was suitably spectacular: at the end of this little avenue he discovered what he could only imagine was a spaceship. Not long after this last pic he made a dash for my shoulders – there had been plenty of exploring for one day.


This particular adventure clearly left quite an impression on him. He has talked about the ‘big and strong’ spaceship in the woods as he’s drifted off to sleep the last couple of nights. I can only imagine the wonders he has been seeing in his dreams.


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Summer is here!

I’ve decided I’m calling it.

Admittedly it’s early days: as I’ve been writing this post the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard has been accompanied by the rain spattering the window panes. White horses skitter across the bay, and the leaves in the trees are being buffeted by a wind too strong to be called a breeze. But that’s just part and parcel of the season here in Devon.

And looking at the week in balance there is no doubt in my mind that we have crossed the boundary into summer.


It’s half term of course, so the streets of Brixham are filled with holidaymakers. Dangling lines over the harbour wall to tempt crabs into their buckets, clutching ice creams which drip deliciously over little fingers.

On Breakwater beach paddlers are venturing deeper and deeper into the sea, delightedly splashing in the icy water and sometimes taking the plunge and diving in for a swim.

It’s that for me that marks the transition into summer most clearly. I am still a fair-weather swimmer. I aspire to being one of the hardy souls who takes to the sea all year round, but I’m not there yet. This week, though, I made it in.

We’d managed to tire the toddlers out with stone-throwing, and leaving them dozing under the watchful eye of friends we headed for the water.


And it was glorious!

Pretty feckin’ freezing, obviously. We’d hoped to have a dip in Shoalstone pool, which whilst it wouldn’t have been warmer would have at least given the option of jumping or diving in. But pump problems combined with excessively low tides put paid to that, so we scrambled over the rocks instead. Feeling my way through the shallows I almost gave up, but my stubbornness took over and saw me through till that all-important moment when numbness takes away the worst of the cold and you can just concentrate on how wonderful it is, floating in the salty sea looking back at the shore, cobwebs of all varieties well and truly blown away.


We’d hoped to have another dip yesterday, but the sun wasn’t shining quite so brightly. It didn’t deter Arthur from paddling up to his waist – I think swimming kit is going to be an essential part of the arsenal when we head to the beach from here on in!


The clouds cleared as the afternoon went on, and the beach was still busy when I walked back from my council meeting at 9 o’clock last night.


So yes, I’m calling it: summer is here.

Stay tuned for more watery adventures over the weeks and months to come!

My word of the week is summer.

The Reading Residence

Evening light

Is it just me, or do the evenings all of a sudden seem to have got lighter?

I realise that *technically* the lengthening of the days is a gradual thing, but I swear this week someone has just flicked a switch. Suddenly we’re finding ourselves sitting down to dinner in broad daylight, and I’m having a hard time explaining to Arthur why he has to go to bed before it’s got dark…

Toddler sleep habits aside, it is pretty wonderful.

There is nothing that screams to me that summer is finally coming more loudly than when the days begin to stretch out beyond the afternoon. And it is when living here, in our beautiful little seaside town, really comes into its own.


What with all the hectic we’ve been juggling recently we’ve really appreciated being able to go out as a family in the evenings more easily, wandering into town and soaking up the views. There is a sense of excitement and anticipation that all three of us share as we venture out just at that point when normally things would be winding down. Arthur has taken the evening strolls in his stride, enjoying another burst of energy and of course the obligatory beach time.



We even got to sit outside at Rockfish for a bit the other night, gazing out to sea as the fishing boats trundled through the twilight with their catch. Arthur was absolutely transfixed as he watched the fish being docked – he hasn’t stopped talking about it since.



There is certainly something incredibly liberating about the extra hours of daylight this time of year brings, and it’s making me ever-more excited for the summer.




My word of the week this week is anticipation.

The Reading Residence