Helix Park, Falkirk

A couple of weeks ago the whole of Falkirk was very excited by the launch (at last!) of the new Helix Park. We finally managed to visit today, and it was splendid! It’s very popular. You’re supposed to walk or cycle via the Helix paths, a network of paths covering the whole of Falkirk, but it was a bit far for us today so we drove. Aidan and Megan did cycle once we got there though!

The canal end isn’t finished yet so we couldn’t get close to the Kelpies, but they were impressive enough from a distance. Two things that are finished are the Great Lawn (looking forward to concerts here – the stage and amphitheatre-style wall are very promising indeed) and the Lagoon – complete with kiosk on one side and beach on the other:

By the kiosk is a fountain of a type which attracts children of all ages – Megan soaked herself, Aidan and Daddy went through the middle without getting (very) wet, and Mummy stayed at the side and drank tea!

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We loved this spiral path in one corner.

We’ll definitely be back – possibly with roller skates!

Almondell

The kids had the Monday off school, so I took a holiday too and for a change we headed east, to Almondell & Calderwood Country Park. We followed the Almondell walk (but from the Mid Calder carpark clockwise, rather than the South carpark anticlockwise). It was a fantastically sunny and still day, perfect to discover yet another hidden gem of the Central Belt! We’ll definitely be back again once the foliage has appeared on the trees.

There’s a good formed path along the riverbank, multiple historic bridges, interesting industry and waterworks, loads of beautiful woodland, and a visitors’ centre that was open and sold icecreams! The visitors’ centre also has a great-looking playground, but we didn’t have time to stop. The walk around took us 1h40m.

This bridge was fascinating – it carried a small channel of water from one side of the river to the other!

 

Fun in the snow

At the end of last month we had some snow. Here are some of the things the kids got up to!

Megan with a cute wee snowman she made at Beecraigs Loch, 19th January 2013.

Beecraigs Loch, frozen (pic by Aidan).

Aidan and Megan making an igloo in the back garden, 25th January 2013. Unfortunately they ran out of snow soon after this, but it was a pretty impressive start!

Gargunnock House Gardens

A slightly different walk yesterday, in a mature and well-kept garden: Gargunnock House Gardens, in the grounds of Gargunnock House near Stirling. The garden isn’t open all the time, but it was open yesterday for the Scottish Snowdrop Festival.

We picked a beautiful sunny day for it, enjoying views of the Forth Valley, Stirling Castle and Dumyat on the way. The garden has a grand drive you walk down with impressive redwoods above, budding rhododendrons everywhere, and some promising acers to the side – and everywhere a carpet of snowdrops! Further on was the house’s main garden, full of the promise of spring. Beyond was the walled garden, and we chatted with Willie the very friendly gardener for some time, exchanging tales of old Wallacestone! We left refreshed and keen to return, and carrying three plants for the garden: a rhododendron for us, and a snowdrop pot each for the children.

The gardener assured us the snowdrops would be even more spectacular in a week; we plan to come back in May when the rhododendrons are out. Lovely!

Megan took some lovely pictures.

Blossom in the garden (pic by Megan).

 

The doocot (pic by Megan).

The fab weather continued into the evening; Megan got these two lovely photos:

Sunset at Grandma and Grandpa’s (pic by Megan).

 

Grangemouth from Wallacestone (pic by Megan and Daddy).

 

Carron Valley Forest

On Saturday we walked around part of the Carron Valley Reservoir, on a cold, lightly overcast but still afternoon. The winter greys and browns were subtle and beautiful.

There was only one marked walking trail – it’s mainly a mountain biking reserve – but both Megan and Aidan found plenty to amuse themselves: it’s very hard to bore them! Megan and Daddy took the high road through the trees while the Aidan and Mummy took the low road. True to the song Aidan and Mummy got there afore us.

Aidan was fascinated by the elongated vertical ice crystals (about 3cm long) he found in the patches of mud – does anyone know how these are formed? – and by the curved patterns in the icy puddles. [Update: this is called needle ice!]

Both Aidan and Megan assembled sculptures while we were there, from found materials:

Aidan was careful to read the signs, too.

Altogether, a great time was had by all! Given there’s only the one shortish trail and it was fairly flat we’re unlikely to return, but it would be a beautiful stopping point on the B818 for a leg stretch. (There appears to be a new attraction in development, the Duncarron Medieval Fort, which may draw us back when it’s ready!).

Beecraigs Country Park

It feels a bit wrong putting this here because we visit it so regularly, but it’s a great park.

On Saturday there was a light dusting of snow, so we went out to enjoy the unfamiliar look of a familiar place.

We decided to walk around Beecraigs Loch. Last year Aidan and Megan built a shelter here (Bear Grylls style), and they keep returning to see how it’s bearing up, and to add little bits and pieces. It’s doing quite well!

After the circuit of the loch we were briefly tempted by the red-blazed woodland walk, but when we realised we’d done it just a couple of months previously we decided this time we preferred to eat cake in a cafe in Linlithgow!

Plean Country Park

On Saturday we continued to implement our New Year’s resolution: exploring the walks and outings within a 45-minute radius of our home. We went to Plean Country Park, a beautiful park just a few minutes from the M9 at Stirling (J9).

We set off for a walk on one of the four marked paths around the estate. The maps and signs were excellent.

Plean House itself was imposing; the story of its ruin in 1973 was a sad one. This park could definitely use a tea rooms or a museum.

What really struck us, though, was the potential of this place: it’s a beautiful park, but it’s clearly a work in progress. The Friends of Plean Country Park are working hard to improve and develop it – we were impressed to see the clearing work they are doing throughout the park, removing storm debris but I think also invasive non-native species.

We can’t wait to go back in the spring – hopefully there will be bulbs in flower!

Devilla Forest

We went for a lovely walk yesterday in the Devilla Forest, near Kincardine. We haven’t explored this lovely forest enough – we’ve only been three times, and the first was back in 2008! We were delighted to see this time that a local couple has taken it upon themselves to investigate the history, and to put maps up around the forest with points of interest marked. Wow – thank you very much! I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

Moor Loch, with the boat house in the background

We walked around Moor Loch. It was a beautiful day for it, but there weren’t very many people out. Much less crowded than some other forest walks we’ve been on.

A and M by the entrance to the forest

Happy children after a good walk – off to get some lunch now!

C posted about our walk too.

–KW 😎

Happy Christmas!

May the blessings of Christmas be with you now and throughout the New Year!

We’ve had a pretty busy year, and indeed our life is pretty busy right now – Keith’s mum is unwell and so he is flying out to New Zealand for a couple of weeks. Carolyn, Aidan, and Megan are in the midst of the usual rush of Christmas parties and preparation. It’s so good to stop and remember what it’s all about – the arrival of hope, a light in the darkness, the renewing and refreshing power that God sent into the world through Jesus.

Hopefully we’ll update this post over December/January 2012/13 with more about our year, so please check back. For now:

Aidan and Megan are now 9 and 7, and continue to amaze and delight us:

8th December 2012, at the work Christmas party.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the making of our Christmas cards:

We’ve been making a little something in the kitchen, and this shot just struck me from an architectural point of view:

This year, Carolyn has been keeping a daily blog ordinary moments of “three beautiful things”. Keith has a blog Gurunoia too, but he doesn’t update it very often. And Aidan and Megan’s blog Two Adventurers (which you’re on already) should be updated every so often with pictures and creations. We’re also on Twitter at @kw217 and @viokaps.

More soon if we can – in the meantime, we wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2013.

Cheers,

Keith, Carolyn, Aidan, and Megan xx

Boys Brigade Spiritual Competition

Aidan, Ewan, and Peter won the Boys Brigade Spiritual Competition for 1st Polmont BB this afternoon! Well done! Last year they were second, so this was a great achievement!

Aidan (like the others I’m sure) has been busily reading and rereading the book of Esther over the last week or two, studying hard. We read the book together on the drive down to Cumbria this weekend, looking for nuances as well as the overall flow. What a story – Esther was truly placed where she was “for such a time as this”.