Kents Cavern

Bears, Hyenas and Scimitar Toothed Cats…the rowdy mob have been coming to Torquay since pre-history.

Today started as a visit to the local play-cafe. You know the sort of place; dozens of kids charging about exercising their lungs, great castles of garish plastic architecture and Dad’s with a compromised look about them, (there’s a pub next door).

Fortunately for me the place was packed to capacity on account of the appalling weather, (a grey damp sky that seemed to be sat on the floor), so after a quick tour of Torre we left.

On our ‘visit list’ is Kents Cavern the famous cave network up in the all together posher Wellswood. They must think we are posh too; they’re charging for parking in a largely empty car park. No thanks, I parked on the road for free, (details of that below).

Gambling with Huey’s sleep (a long shot with frankly shit odds), we make the last tour of the day at 3.30pm. Our tour guide is a friendly chap called Simon who takes our tickets with a smile then takes us underground…

The first cave is a wide open space where Simon introduces you to the history of Kents Cavern set to a light show. It’s kind of cool and our small group dutifully stand listening and snapping pictures. I’m keen to get going though as I’m just beginning to wonder what Huey will make of this subterranean disco if he wakes up!

The caves are a beautiful, fascinating affair as you’d expect and Simon tells a good story that is a mix of legend and science. He points out a ‘flow-stone’ that with a little imagination is a huge face revered as a God by Roman visitors on account of the coins and valuable left here. Then he goes on to explain how the flow-stone forms; the constant, steady flow of water depositing calcite over the years.

We eventually reach what I’d think of as the classic cave; the postcard shot full of impressive Stalactites and stalagmites. Simon invites us to tell him if we know the difference between the two and in response our little group, rather smug with our completed secondary education, are all quietly muttering, ‘tites are the ones hanging tight’.

What he says next though gently breaks our smug spell and he has our full attention. Those ‘mites and ‘tites are rather old. Not decades old, not even centuries old, but old, old. If I’ve heard this right, he informs us it takes a thousand years to grow a few centimetres. The impressive stalactite to our left standing about 3ft tall has taken over 50’000 years to form…

I’m having one of those mortal moments we all get from time to time whilst looking at the night sky. That feeling that your time and existence here is virtually nothing in comparison to the universe. This rock formation doesn’t care if it’s a mite or a tite, it doesn’t care for presidential inaugurations or World Wars, it doesn’t even care for global climate change as it certainly wasn’t bothered by the last Ice Age.

This mighty ‘mite was here before the earths plates shifted and gave us the English Channel. The group is indifferent or tuned into this fact, either way they are all silent taking this in. Drip, drip, drip….for 50’000 years. The timescales here are literally counted in geological ages.

During this time Simon explains the caves have had successions of inhabitants. He describes the Hyenas, Lions, Bears and big cats that all lived here. He shows us reproductions of actual bone remains that have been excavated and found.

Coming back to recent times he introduces the idea of man living here and it turns out that Kents Cavern has been put on the ‘archaeologically important’ map. A jaw bone fragment found here from modern man, us, has been dated to be 40’000 years old. This turned out was some 30’000 years older than the original timeline for Homo sapiens living in this part of Europe. I imagine it caused quite a stir.

On the way out there’s a little exhibit of cave-men sat around a fire. Bec’s points out that they have a baby with them and is aghast trying to imagine how hard life could possibly have been. They are working with flint stones, catching their food and trying not to become food to the Hyenas…we can’t imagine. Later we look up how long they lived for; a lucky lifespan of 25 years.

For all that though, I am struck by a thought on our exit. Despite all our modern distractions and comforts, the bricks and mortar, the heating, the internet and iPad we chose to come here today. We have chosen to do exactly what our prehistoric ancestors did on a shit-awful January day. We’ve gone to the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs looking for shelter in the caves.


Free parking for Kents Cavern, Torquay

You can find this right on Ilsham Road outside the car park for the caves. We’ve been through here dozens of times and always seen spaces.

Head for postcode TQ1 2JF.

Is Kents Cavern suitable for a baby?

We managed perfectly well with Huey in a sling. A small narrow pushchair would be O.K not a big stroller. Best bet is the sling. The ground is firm and stable if a little damp in places.

Bantham Beach

Murderous wind-chill and a leaky nappy; happy bank holiday!

I don’t know how the weather was with you on New Years Day 2017, but here in the usually sunny Torquay it was absolutely pitiful. It rained relentlessly, was freezing cold and the sky a delightful deep shade of grey. So unless you are one of my mates in Australia (thanks Facebook), I suspect you were cooped up inside for the 1st as well; Happy New Year!

Desperate to get outside and see some daylight we optimistically consulted the BBC 5 day weather forecast. Things were looking good for the Monday and incredibly we woke to perfect blue skies. We packed up and had hit the road by 10.30am, (not bad with Huey) headed for the beaches of Bantham or Bigbury.

This route to the South Hams takes you invariably via Totnes and back in the summer had taken us about 3 days to get there. I can tell you with great joy that off-season the same journey took us under an hour. We breezed by Totnes and in no time, (Huey still asleep!) arrived at the decided Bantham.

On arrival it turns out that the obvious access and parking for Bantham Beach is privately owned. Being off-season however it turns out to be free to park up (or at least it was on this day). The money we save we instantly spend on hot chocolate at the fancy drinks van that’s in attendance.

This was not a bad shout, as whilst the sky was a perfect blue it was bitterly cold. I don’t know what temperature the wind chill was making things, but Becs looked frozen within two minutes of leaving the car. We necked the drinks, loaded Huey to the sling and set off at double time to try to warm up.

 

bantham beach
Becs in winter woolies

From the car park you can’t see the sea but it turns out to be a 2 minute walk through soft sand dunes to get there. Then there it is. Unlike much of the pebble beaches we’ve found to date Bantham is perfect, soft, golden sands. The cloud free blue skies make for fantastic views and looking out I realise the other destination we considered today (Bigbury), is just out across the bay. You can see Burgh Island and just make out the path of sand that connects it to the mainland at low tide.

We walked along the length of the beach heading towards Bigbury. Joining us were a few dozen others; dogs, kids, kite flyers…all taking in this bitter but lovely January day.

For the first time we try out the baby sling with Huey on my back. Having slept in the car on the way down he was getting a little grumpy not being able to see the action and this worked out pretty well. He spots the colourful kite flying low over the beach, the soft sound and colour of which had him transfixed.

bantham beach
Huey watches the kite play over Bantham Sands

After about an hour we’re back at the car mindful of Huey and the wind chill. We’re refreshed though; it’s been lovely and the cooped up feelings of the day before have been blown away.

I’m tempted to finish this post right here. Leave you with a sickening perfect tale of our perfect winter day, but that would not be telling the whole story. With Huey on board some little drama always seems to play itself out and today was no exception, so I will share with you todays’.

Before we hit the road we decided to stop in Bantham to eat. You’re limited here to the pub or the village store / cafe and that’s where we end up as the pub’s packed. We settle at a nice quiet window seat and we’re just perusing the menu when our noses indicate an unavoidable fact, Huey needs to be changed.

The toilet is outdoors but no matter, the two of us are pitching in to change him so this should be over in seconds. Except it’s not. Huey has picked today to have a bad belly and his poo has jettisoned from the nappy and all down inside his trousers. There’s no getting around it, the whole lot needs to be changed.

We strip poor Huey off, he struggles and in a flash we have baby crap everywhere. It takes less than a minute to get him cleaned up, but even in that time the cold has had its effect, he’s started to shake and shiver, something I’ve never seen him do before. My bodies reaction is to dump a healthy dose of adrenaline into my system, which is rapidly followed by an angry, loud, string of expletives.

The beauty of Bantham Beach is long gone. We’re now stuck in an outdoor Carsey with a potentially hypothermic baby and shit up to our elbows.

Dressed, I literally run him back into the cafe to get into that sunny window seat…piece of cake!  Where’s that menu??


Is Bantham Beach suitable for a baby?

Bantham is an entirely family friendly Beach. We walked Huey down in a sling but in the summer months especially you could eemanage a buggy. Even with the sling though this beach is about as easy as it gets.

Free parking Bantham Beach?

Parking was free out of season but it looked to us like you’d certainly pay for it during the summer.

Postcode for Bantham Beach TQ7 3An

 

 

Baby Led Weaning

One Dad’s perspective on this curiously controversial way to feed your baby.

‘We’re going to try baby led weaning’, Becs said, this being the first time I’d ever even heard of the subject. ‘OK’, I replied. I wasn’t in a position to discuss it having nearly choked Huey to death with a chunk of Tomato a week earlier, (no subject reading, just shoved it in his mouth. Not my defining Dad moment).

In an attempt to get up to speed with this decision I decided to poke around on google and was left a little puzzled at the result of my search. It wasn’t just controversy I found. Exponents of B.L.W were being branded as pretentious fools, to be damned in time by their starving, spoiled offspring…the anger was palpable and so I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

We are now 4 months in to feeding Huey the B.L.W way, so I’d like to share with you our experience and maybe look at dispelling some of that controversy…

What is Baby Led Weaning?

The name’s a bit of a giveaway but we’re not sending Huey off down the Chippy with a fiver in his baby grow just yet. The idea, is that your baby feeds himself from a selection of food you put in front of him. The sort of food you’d eat, in fact, exactly the same food you are eating.

  • Baby feeds his / her self. No spoon feeding, they use their own hands.
  • The food presented is solid food, possibly a selection from what you are going to eat.

There it is, no more mystery than that. Admittedly, if I’d previously fed a child processed food by spoon, this would seem an odd concept. In fact from the offset it was a personal battle not to pick food up and shove it in his mouth to ‘help’, him.

Why bother with Baby Led Weaning over traditional spoon feeding?

There are whole Thesis of thought on this so i will give you my understanding (from our experience and what we’ve read), and keep it brief:

Your baby learns to feed itself (and learn about the world) through play. This certainly seems to the case with Huey. He sits engrossed happily playing with whats in front of him, exploring the colours and shapes on offer.

Straight away he was eating some of the food put in front of him but he was still heavily relying on milk. A few months later you can really see the weaning to food has taken place, (though at Christmas my Dad wanted to weigh what was on the floor and see if he had actually eaten anything!).

Solid foods look and feel very different to processed so your baby learns the difference. Even from the start Huey would try the different things on offer but a lot of it just ended as mush. Only a few months in he can manage to feed himself slippy pieces of Avocado and bite off chunks of baby sweetcorn, (new teeth are helping!).

The foods that are challenging for him to hold are more a frustration to watch than they are for him trying to eat them. He’s happy just to have a go and wipe it round his face or drop it on the floor if it doesn’t work out!

He has certainly developed his favourites (his eyes light up when he sees rice crackers with peanut butter), but that doesn’t seem to stop him trying and eating the rest on the tray.

B.L.W helps your baby learn the skills of hand eye co-ordination. Huey has earned himself the nickname of ‘porridge face’, from an early encounter with the cooked oats that resulted with more on his face than anywhere else. From that messy beginning though, he can now pinch a grain of Quinoa and pop it successfully into his mouth

It’s fun. I’ve touched on this above so you get the picture, play is fun any baby and Huey certainly seems to be learning a lot through this play. He sits in his highchair for 30mins to an hour, shovelling in food and seemingly content!

What do we feed him?

Honestly, almost everything we eat. Before you scoff and exclaim, yes, there is some common sense to be applied here. He’s not getting the chocolate I’m addicted to and washing it down with a double espresso.

He’s eating the healthier part of our diets; vegetables, fruit, grains, meat and fish. Huey’s personal favourites are Broccoli, grains like Quinoa, baby sweetcorn, Cheese and rice-cakes. He loves peanut butter on toast, he will suck a chunk of Chicken, down fish fingers and I’m proud to say even eats my lentil curry!

Doesn’t the baby choke from feeding itself?

In our experience so far, no. In the early days this was some what terrifying, but this was largely due to my stupidity with the tomato. There are the usual considerations, don’t feed them foods known to cause choking. So no peanuts, no grapes, nothing shaped conveniently to block airways.

On the very odd occasion he will load up his mouth getting a little excited. The end result is a choking watery-eyed ejection of chewed food. This has had us leaping to our feet to commence emergency first aid but we’ve never had too. Every time he’s managed to clear it himself without issue, more essential learning!

I would encourage anyone contemplating B.L.W to read up carefully (as we did), beforehand. Obviously, you need to stay in attendance as he eats but that’s the same for any baby feeding.

Do we spoon feed him any foods?

We do. My feelings are you don’t have to follow any rule book in this regard. We make B.L.W work for us and and add in some spoon feeding as practicality dictates. We feed Yoghurt and some pureed fruit by spoon, after he’s had his main meal.  A spoon fed dessert if you will…

Don’t you end up with a lot of mess?

If there’s one thing I don’t like about B.L.W, this is it. A lot of food is grabbed and literally launched skyward inevitably ending on the floor, wall, into hair, wherever. We have minimised the damage and cleaning workload by putting a 6 x 4 piece of lino under Huey’s highchair. A bit of an eyesore perhaps, but I’ve given up on homely aesthetics as the house is full of plastic baby toys anyway!

Having said that I imagine if you’re flying puree aeroplanes into your baby’s mouth you’re still going to be picking ‘matter’ of your clothes and floor. At least this way you get to watch your baby rub fist-fulls of food over themselves.

Isn’t Baby Led Weaning a big hassle, is it worth it?

I guess it’s more work than opening a pureed packet, squeezing it on the plate and spooning it in. However, it’s not that much work. Whilst we are preparing dinner for ourselves, we put a little aside for Huey. We keep the components of meals we’ve prepared in a baby packed lunch box and take it with us when we go out. We’ve get into the habit and we don’t think about it, don’t know any different.

If it is more time-consuming I’d like the points I’d made above to show that it seems worthwhile. They’re just my feelings on the matter though, you’ll decide what’s best for you, your baby and your circumstances.

For me personally when we’re out and about on our travels, I love getting out and offering his little box of goodies. Any hassle at this stage has been worth it.


How and where did we learn about Baby Led Weaning?
baby led weaning gill rapley
baby led weaning by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett

Becs first learnt about B.L.W at the BAPS breast feeding group in Gloucestershire.

They had a visiting speaker to promote the idea, Gill Rapley. We went on to buy her book, ‘Baby-led Weaning, helping your baby to love good food’.

There is plenty of information available online but it’s this book that gave us the confidence to try B.L.W.

 


Good luck!

However you choose to feed your baby, all the best. If you have a go at B.L.W I’d like to know how you get on.