The Gift of Giving – Gift Vouchers

Gift Vouchers are seen, by some, as a cop out. A way for distant relatives to oblige the kids or a present in a hurry. We at Seabirds HQ have a different view. A voucher is a great gift that allows the recipient to get something they really want, avoid postage costs of large presents and avoids plastic presents. Groups can club together and buy gift vouchers for an individual so their total to spend allows them to purchase an otherwise over budget buy. It also enables gifts to be thoughtful and avoid Christmas consumerism. Giving a voucher ensures the recipient spends time relaxing, learning something new, getting outdoors or doing something they love. Who wouldn’t want a massage or a sauna!

Here are some of our favourites from the Brighton Beach Community!

SeaLanes Brighton

SeaLanes Brighton gift vouchers make the perfect gift for family or friends. Whether they are a keen swimmer looking to improve their stroke, or a novice looking to gain confidence, give them the gift of swim coaching in the most advanced endless pool available.There are four gift voucher values available and these correspond with the SeaLanes coaching options. Seabirds have tried, tested and loved the coaching session which uses high definition underwater cameras, to provide instantaneous visual analysis of your technique. Using the video playback, you and your coach can then see exactly what you are doing in the water allowing you to make adjustments to your stroke there and then. It’s on our Christmas List to go back again for more amazing Andy analysis.

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Beach Box Brighton

Situated within the SeaLanes complex Beach Box Brighton is a wood-fired sauna spa right on on the beach. Their set-up, on a secluded area of Brighton beach, includes a wood-fired sauna in a beautiful converted horse box, indoor changing and hot showers, cold showers/buckets and chill-out area. It is the perfect place post sea swim to warm up. Again Seabirds have tried and tested the sauna and will be returning this weekend with a new batch of birds to experience the Finnish fun. Currently open at weekends over the winter months but it can be privately hired on request. In true beach community style they are donating £1 from each voucher to our Social Enterprise which in turn will enable us to get more people in the sea to improve their well being. We even got owner Liz to swim with us in the summer.

Brighton Beach Bikes

More than just a bike shop, Brighton Beach Bikes is a seafront institution. Run by born and bred Mark there is nothing he doesn’t know about the local area and not just bike routes! You can hire your bike on-line and pick up on the seafront or join a tour. There really is nothing better than being outside with the whole family. So why not book a bike for the Spring with family or friends to ensure you get outdoors and get to spend time with each other. In the summer months Mark swims regularly and welcomes anybody to join him or is always happy to look after your stuff. They have a selection of clothing, swimwear and accessories in store. Take home an original design Brighton Beach Bikes t-shirt, or if you want to give your bike that Californian style they’ve some cool bike accessories from Electra. They are experienced sea swimmers so they carry swimwear, goggles and wetsuits from TYR and Aqua Sphere as well. It’s where the Seabirds get theirs!

Brighton Beach Bikes logo

Seabirds Ltd

An then there is us! We have just launched our Gift Vouchers. Not only does the voucher allow the recipient to chose a gift from our webshop it also allows the purchaser to give as they live. As a Social Enterprise everything we sell increases the donation we make to Surf Solace, a local community group. They aim to improve the wellbeing and mental health of Sussex based young people by encouraging them to participate in sea activities with a supportive group of volunteers. Surf Solace will launch in the summer of 2019 and the unrestricted funds website purchases raise will be used to buy equipment such as surf boards and wetsuits.

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Plastic Free Christmas Hack!

The fabulous and inspirational Surfers Against Sewage are crowdsourcing tips for a “Plastic-Free Christmas” guide – which they will release during the days of advent.

Seabirds the have added a few suggestions and would encourage you to add them to their post and in the comments below this blog please 🙂

Here at Seabirds HQ, we’ve been thinking hard about how to reduce all our waste at Christmas.  ZERO waste might well be a bridge too far but we will do our very best. Here are some suggestions below on how to make it less of a waste-binge-horror-fest this Chrimble!

A few tips for a less-waste Christmas

* Buy pre-loved

Shop from second-hand shops to find unique gifts that are built to last. Charity shops, vintage markets and shops like Brighton’s own Pre-Loved

* Give memories, not ‘stuff’

Go for an experience. No shortage of brilliant ideas in Brighton. It even has Feminist Swear Nights which sound truly perfect for our potty-mouthed Seabirds… How about Membership of the Duke of Yorks Cinema? (last year they had great Black Friday deals…hopefully the same this year. Apologies for mentioning BF), A Kimchi making workshop, a gig or a talk about anything from micro-dosing to the art of flirting….or, my personal favourite –  the Catalyst Club , which promises to celebrate the singular passions of everyday folk. That’s us!
 
* Make your own cards, presents and wrapping

We love re-using fabric wrapping like the Japanese Furoshiki or even old scarves. My kids re-use last year’s cards for gift tags and we are already busy collecting glass jars to make kimchi for everyone this year.

* A Secret Santa actually worth doing

Have fun, save money and get a gift you actually want with a “friends and family Secret Santa”. Our family uses  DrawNames to keep it anonymous and add as many present suggestions as you want. Saves you time and money and avoids you getting or buying unwanted landfill. Buy some brilliant gifts from Wastenot Shop – it’s plastic free paradise

  • Don’t go anywhere near a Poundland.
  • Make your own crackers, without the landfill plastic moustaches.
  • Buy all your presents from us!  All carefully chosen to reduce the use of single -use plastic or be very very useful and long-lasting!

What are your top tips? Do  please share and re-share you ideas….

Author: Seabird Catherine
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10 Good Gifts for under £10

Affordable, thoughtful, local, ethical or non-plastic pressies for under a tenner!

The dreaded ‘C’ word. Much like the inevitable John Lewis Ad and the Coca Cola bus.

The Television of full of Christmas adverts. Restaurants and pub are full of Christmas menus. The shops are full of Christmas presents. It is an expensive time of the year and too much money is spent on single use, plastic cheap gifts. It’s easy to say stop buying gifts but a hard thing to actually do. So if you are inevitably going to buy gifts here is a list of affordable, thoughtful, local, ethical or non-plastic pressies. Happy Shopping!

  1. £5 Thirty Words for Water book. A wonderful booklet written by Vivienne Rickman Poole who swims and photographs in Snowdonia. Open Water Swimmers will love it and it will be featured in next months Book Club. In her words it is “Part descriptive, part emotional, these words are personal, found from inside my very core. Brought about by my wandering relationship with water since childhood, from a month of continued swimming, and from loving and losing.”
  2. £8.50 Ecostrawz – eco-friendly stainless steel drinking straws. In an ideal world people wouldn’t use straws but we do not live in an ideal world. Kids love them and the elderly sometimes need them to assist with drinking. Pack of 4 with a squeegee to clean them thoroughly so you can use them for years and years. Eradicates the need for plastic straws. Dishwasher friendly. High quality stainless steel. Suitable for hot and cold drinks. No more single use plastic straws and closer to zero waste and a plastic free community. A durable and sustainable plastic pollution solution.                                                           stainless-steel-straws-long-[3]-163-p[ekm]180x180[ekm]
  3. £8 The Box Express 30mins session at Brighton Beach Box Sauna

    Beach Box is an outdoor Sauna Spa at Sea Lanes Brighton . The sauna is in a beautifully converted horse trailer on Brighton Beach. The sauna experience gives you space for relaxation, body care, digital detox and socialisation. Great for a quick warm-up after swim, massage, treatment or class.

  4. £7-£10 Seabird  Pint Pots and Water bottle   The 800ml stainless steel water bottle in our tough canteen range and comes with both a quench cap – good for drinking on the go or at the gym and a screw top. The pint is made in the UK from recycled stainless steel. Take your own pint to events and festivals and avoid single use plastic.
  5. From £7.50  Lush Shampoo Bar   Shampoo in a solid form so there is no need for a plastic bottle. There are different shampoos for different hair – lots to choose from.            web_halcyon_shampoo_bar_2018Lasts longer than conventional liquid shampoo too. What’s not to like! And everyone likes smellies at Christmas.
  6. £6 – £9 Seabird Enamel Mug and Bamboo Coffee Cups Reusable Coffee Cup in beautiful patterns. There is no more excuse for single use plastic. Reuse cuts daily consumer waste of single-use cups. Made with natural, sustainable bamboo fibre
    Light and lovely to drink from; no plastic after-taste and fully dishwasher safe.Or you may prefer the Classic/Retro White and Navy Large enamel mug printed with the Seabirds Logo. Great for camping, picnics or at the beach. Long-lasting. Holds a whole pint of tea!

     

  7. £8.50 Wastenot Shop Bamboo Cutlery SetThis super lightweight cutlery set can go anywhere with you. I keep mine in my handbag. Ideal for camping, hikes, impromptu picnics, and to keep in your bag or pocket for lunch on the go. The set comes with its own handy travel pouch to keep it tidy and clean. Say no to single use cutlery, bring your own! cutlery
  8. £5 – £6 Seabird Tote Bag and Turtle Bag  These colourful, and durable cotton bags are small enough and lightweight enough to squeeze into your pocket or handbag so you are never caught out. Your only decision is which colour to buy!

     

  9. £7 No More Plastic Book by 2 minute beach clean founder Martin Dorey.  Have you ever wanted to know what you can do to cut down your plastic consumption but don’t know when to start? No.More.Plastic. is a simple and effective way to do this. Great as a gift for a family member you are trying to convert! Also £ 8 Duffys Lucky Escape available in the Surfers Against Sewage Shop is a wonderful children’s picture story book.
  10. £7.50 Seabird Swim Hat – for the swimmer in your life. It doesn’t matter if you swim in a pool, the sea or a lake hair in your eyes in a thing. There is one in every colour to suit every swim suit or pair of goggles and the profits go towards getting more people to use swimming as respite.

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Happy Shopping and Ho Ho Ho!

A Seabird Haven

Seabirds swimming in fresh flowing water at Wallers Haven

Wallers Haven – Seabird on tour, inland!

Earlier this summer I was attending Camp Abyss with some of my favourite people in the world; close family and oldest of friends. Sweltering in the heat of high summer and stuck in an exposed, treeless field for the last three days, we needed to cool off and get wet. I turned to my new favourite discovery; (yes the one I’ve been banging on about for ages) the Wild Swim Map and the Wild Guide and found out that Wallers Haven was our nearest swim spot. Hooray!

It is a little difficult, to say the least, to match the spot on the road to the description given. However, we parked on the side of the (very fast) road, waited for a gap in the traffic, then headed over to the bridge to investigate. Unfortunately, we ended up taking the most difficult route, which turned into a battle with nettles and one of our party almost falling down the side into the river.  Don’t do that as there is ‘proper’ access via a path a bit further up the road each way!

Stumbling on, hotter and grumpier by the nanosecond, we eventually rounded the concrete jetty described in the map. It really is the most beautiful spot. Peaceful and surrounded by countryside, with Weeping Willow trees dangling down over the silky surface of the river. Mineral tasting water, refreshingly cold in the heat of the day. My first river swim! Having been stung by nettles, almost falling into the river and spotting a ‘snake’ on the surface of the water, one of our party stated that they were just there to watch.

However, it proved inviting enough to get all of us in and having the absolute best free fun that there is to be had! This despite our varying levels of confidence and anxiety about being out of our depths etc. Some stuck to the edges for a quick float, others dived or jumped in and generally messed about. A perfect spot full of simple pleasures. We all returned to the festival invigorated, energised and much, much happier, all fully converted to Wild Swimming too.

We would love to hear of your favourite swim spots in the comments.

Author: Seabirds Catherine

Swimming for your Life – Lest we Forget

A story of my granddad. A Great Man.

100 years since the end of the Great War – Armistice Day. It was mean to be the war that ended all wars – but it didn’t.

My family knew the story of Dunkirk well before Kenneth Brannagh dramatised it for the silver screen. My Grandfather lived through it and told us tales of being on the beach. We are a close family. Cousins are more like siblings and we still regularly holiday, camp and celebrate together. We talk to each other almost daily from which ever corner of the earth we habit. Until granddad passed a couple of years ago, we would get together on his birthday where tales of his life, which included serving in WWII were told. This particular story lives on in everyone of his children, grand children and great grandchildren.

My grandfather was a professional soldier. He left his native Scotland and signed up in 1932 and had been serving for over 6 years before War was declared. Within three weeks he was in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, 22nd Field regiment, Royal Artillery.

On the retreat to Dunkirk, he was part of a group of about 20 men who were ordered to stay behind in Belgium to hold the line on Newport Beach. They were ordered to remain there until they had used up all of their ammunition. They were left with two guns and a lorry. Once the ammunition was used they destroyed the  guns and my grandfather drove the lorry heading for Dunkirk. They didn’t get very far as the roads were destroyed or full of abandoned vehicles so they walked through the night until they reached the sand dunes.

When daylight broke on 31st May the magnitude of the beach retreat was revealed. There aren’t words to describe a beach full of soldiers, cold, tired and hungry, desperate to get home. He and ‘Young Berryman’ had become separated from their rest of the group and were alone. They could see that everyone was forming queues, so he and Berryman joined one. A Regimental Sergeant Major, inspecting the line,  asked them “who the bloody hell are you?”, Granddad replied with his regimental details and depending on who’s version of the story you listen too the RSM said “you’re not one of my men – Fall Out.” or “Bugger Off”. And they did – without question – ever the professional soldier.

He and Berryman remained on  the beach and like all the other soldiers they were constantly under enemy fire from the land and the air. They considered making their own way out to the boats but Berryman couldn’t swim and granddad would not leave the young lad that had signed up when war broke out. He finally persuaded Berryman to wade out into the sea up to their necks and waited, at night, in the dark. A small motor boat towing three rowing boats passed them full of soldiers. Granddad shouted to them, “Any chance mate?”. The answer was immediate “No!”. He shouted again “I’m alright but my friend can’t swim”. The answer was “Catch the last of the the rowboats and we will tow you out”. And that is how my granddad escaped Dunkirk Beach, towed through the water, hanging onto a boat with one arm and Berryman with the other.

Granddad spent the remainder of the WWII in the Far East and Africa. We have all been soothed to sleep by a lullaby in Swahili. Whoever the youngest grandchild was at the time got the spot on granddads lap. He went on to live a wonderful life until he was nearly 102 years old. He left a huge hole in our lives when he passed. It all could have been so different as he nearly lost his life on the beaches of Dunkirk because he could swim but was determined to look after a young frightened soldier that couldn’t. To this day none of us know the young soldier’s first name. To us he will always be ‘Young Berryman’.

Just before my granddad passed he was interviewed and asked his tip for staying young. He replied “Sheer will power and dogged determination. But I’ve always kept peace of mind – definitely peace of mind” All of that showed to be true on his days on the beaches waiting to go home.

Author: Seabirds Kath (with help from parents, siblings, aunts, cousins…)

Grandad

 

 

 

 

 

Seabird in the Dales – a Summer of Swim Love

Seabird Swim Story of a family holiday in the Yorkshire Dales guided by the Wild Guide and Wild Swim Map

“Imagine a summer spent swimming in mountain waterfalls, exploring lost ruins and caverns, and camping in ancient forests.” Wild Guide – Lake District and Yorkshire Dales: Hidden Places and Great Adventures

Inspired by the above and the heat of early summer this year I planned our family holiday around my new love, wild swimming. I found two amazing resources:

  1. The Wild Swim Map; This is a website where you can search for swim spots wherever you are heading and read other swimmers’ reviews and notes.
  2. The Wild Guide series for the Yorkshire Dales. This not only features swim spots but covers other ‘wild’ aspects wherever you are going – forests, ancients spots and walks.

None of us like a long journey without a stopover, so I used the amazing resource that is the Wild Swim map to find a swim along our route – Port Meadow on the Thames. I wanted somewhere halfway(ish) between home and our final destination. We took a picnic from Brighton, drove up, parked in the car park and ate in the car because it was pouring with rain. Of course!

The braver (less grumpy) 3 of us then went investigating up river, guide book in hand. Argued over whether this was ‘the spot’, looked round and felt slightly shy as dog walkers were the only others around. Our inner Seabird kicked in then and we thought ‘sod it’, whipped off our clothes and jumped in with the ducks. Weedy green water caused squeals when legs became entangled in it, ducks and swans and anglers only a little further off. We felt slightly self conscious before getting in but the minute we were in we didn’t care and felt adventurous (or a bit naughty).

It was the perfect stopover when heading North – just off the M40. Rope swing nearer the bridge that even the older two would play on. The smallest one ended up soaked to the waist and spent the rest of the journey wrapped in a towel. Then onward and Northwards…..

Masons Campsite is right next to the River Wharfe in the Yorkshire Dales near the village of Appletreewick. The river is at the bottom of the small campsite and has 2 great rope swings where the kids line up and swing out over the river endlessly or spin each other into dizziness and the thrill of nearly falling in.

10 minutes down river from the campsite, after a bit of hesitation and doubt, we found the spot that matched the picture in the book. Despite the glorious sunshine nobody else was in there. Whipped off our clothes again (becoming a theme) while bemused dog walkers looked on and slid in tentatively. Much much colder than the sea in Brighton, peaty tasting brown water, soft and silky. Fantastic. Numb feet like November in Brighton in just a few minutes. Slimy, weed covered stones under foot and bum. Surrounded by stunning scenery. All to ourselves.

We spent the holiday using the Wild Guide as our bible and it kept us outside, off screens and well fed with great pub grub suggestions. Fantastic. Highly recommend. Keep tuned for the next wild swim spot recommendation coming soon…

Author: Seabird Catherine

Monarch of the Glen – Swimming with a Laird

When one kid leaves another one comes along. As my daughter Libby boarded the plane home from our swims in the lake District, my son Archie, arrived with his dad for our Scottish adventure.

Archie wasn’t enamoured with the idea of a holiday in the middle of no-where with no network and no WiFi. The salt in the wound, was that his big sister was escaping this fate to go hang out with her friends back home. Something he was intent on not letting us forget.

Archie has a difficult friendship group. He doesn’t always help himself as he reacts spectacularly to anything he sees as unjust or unfair. So he is an easy target for some of the group members and can be purposefully excluded from activities which plays itself out in the very public domain of social media group chats. We limit his xbox time and do not allow him to have 18 rated games which in the world of liberal parenting makes him a social pariah. His social struggles add to his anxiety which he hides with bravado to the outside world only to melt down in the safe confines of the home. We are more than aware that as he navigates Year 9, and testosterone kicks in varying rates amongst his mates, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Our solution to Archie’s social struggles is family down time, which in the summer was a holiday in Scotland with no electronics. We chose Scotland as we have been promising to visit an old university friend who settled there over 20 years ago and because Archie is a Laird and owns some land there. He was gifted the land for his thirteenth birthday as a tongue in cheek gesture. Archie has a few self entitlement tendencies so a Title seemed a fitting birthday present.

When we arrived in Alba, we stayed in Balquidder at our friend Gary’s house which has a river running through the back garden. After arriving at night, in the dark, we woke to the most beautiful view and were soon inflating our stand up paddle board (SUP) and pulling on our swimmers. The water level was low because the endless hot summer even reached north of the border. But it was still deep enough to jump into which the dog did before we had even shut the back door. We were not far behind using wooden steps in the bank to jump onto a chain ferry which you could then dive off. Archie paddled but wasn’t keen to get in the icy trout filled water. Instead he set sail on the paddle board, accompanied by the dog to see if he could make it to the next village. In the afternoon Gary got out his angling gear and taught Archie how to fish. A whole day of no gadgets and no melt downs.

That evening we travelled to a house on the banks of Loch Venachar to stay for a few days. Before I had even unpacked the car, Archie and his dad had found some bikes and headed off to explore the local area scouting for swim spots. They found Loch Achray and Loch Drunkie before it got dark. Every evening before dinner and after a days exploring we would swim and SUP in the loch across the road with Ben Finglas as our back drop. Very different to the salty sea I am used to, the water was dark and foreboding but really fresh. It was almost a metallic orange in colour giving you a swimmers tan in the water. Archie still opted for the SUP over a swim but the water was still working it’s magic and he was relaxed and happy. A few more days of no gadgets and no melt downs.

My favourite day was when we travelled to Glencoe and onto Glen Nevis. Archie’s land is part of a conservation project. The idea is you buy a plot of land and the money raised from the sale is used to return the land to it’s original natural state. The big pines trees you see on the side of mountains have been purposefully planted and are killing the soil and changing the ecosystem. So we spent some time in Glencoe Woods with a GPS device trying to locate the Laird’s land…..which we did.

We travelled onto Glen Nevis in search of a Steal Falls to swim in. We walked for miles on the hottest day of the year (it was even hot in Scotland) through the Nevis Gorge with large rucksacks full of food, drink and most importantly swim suits. Words cannot describe how beautiful it was. I honestly think it is the most beautiful place I have ever been. Definitely the most beautiful spot I have ever swum in. The water was crystal clear and cold. The kind of cold you only get when the water has come from the highest peak in the British Isles. Waterfalls, gullies, plunge pools, stepping stones, it was the stuff of fairy tales. And we practically had it all to ourselves as we chose the path less trodden on the opposite side of the glen.

But it wasn’t the beauty that made it my favourite day, it was Archie. He didn’t moan once on the long, sometimes difficult climb along the gorge. He ran ahead constantly looking for safe spots to get in the the rapidly running glen. He only stopped when the dog got stuck in a peat bog!

And Archie finally got in. Allowing his dad and I to go first we jumped off a rock into a deep pool. With lots of encouragement he did a tandem jump with the dog. As his head appeared back above the water, a huge smile took over his whole face. He struggled to breath not because of the cold water shock, but because he was giggling so much. The giggles continue when he realised he couldn’t clamber back up the rock to get out and the current took him down stream. Another day of no gadgets and no melt downs.

We cannot cocoon our kids from the outside world. But we can give them a chance to relax and re-calibrate away from scrolling screens. Swimming is my sanctuary and in Scotland it was my son’s.

Author: Seabird Kath