Wonderful Winter

The long wait

Photo by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

For many of us, much of winter is spent waiting for spring to arrive. The days may be short, but the months seem to drag on. Socialising (even pre-Covid) often comes to an almost standstill, as people burrow within their homes, cosy and warm, away from the harsh and unforgiving elements that comes with this time of year. Winter is a time of rest and of planning possibilities for the seasons to come, be it spring planting in the garden, or the things you’d like to do when summer comes around. 


You have a real treat with this week’s guest blog by the talented poetic nature writer, artist and photographer, Chloé Valerie Harmsworth who believes that if we look after nature, it will look after us. Find more from Chloé on instagram.com/chloevalerienatureart/   chloevalerienatureart.wordpress.com/

“…clearing your mind of heavy thoughts…”

Going outside isn’t an immediately obvious thing to do in winter. However, no matter what the weather, it is very worthwhile and rewarding to do so. Not only is it good for your physical health, but it’s essential for your mental health too. As well as clearing your mind of heavy thoughts and ridding your body of fatigue, you can get a vital boost of vitamin D and – just as importantly – discover the treasures of this magical and often underrated season. Perhaps surprisingly, this is one of the best times to delight in birds, now that they are no longer hidden by leaves, and also to learn your ash from your alder.

This post provides a short guide on what you can see whatever the weather, with the aim of inspiring you to get your boots and waterproofs on, and get outside!

“…get your boots and waterproofs on, and get outside!”

Foggy, misty days

Artwork by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

These are the perfect conditions to go for a contemplative walk in your nearby green space. In these dim light-levels, certain hues seem more vibrant, such as the lichen and mosses that glow green, blue, orange and yellow on the tree bark. Take a tree identification guide or app with you, and get to know the trees at the same time. Notice the stems of the red and yellow dogwood bushes burning against the muted background colours. Moisture in the air softens the edges of the world and lends an air of mystery to far-off views.

“…you will notice flocks of birds – noisy magpies, jackdaws and rooks – eerily gathering in the skeletal trees and swarming the grey skies…”

To add to the scene, you will notice flocks of birds – noisy magpies, jackdaws and rooks – eerily gathering in the skeletal trees and swarming the grey skies, as corvids seem to favour this deliciously-spooky weather. Watch them fly overhead en masse, cawing away. In the last light of the day, hundreds of spangled starlings murmurate in stunning wave-like formations before roosting for the night. And, if you’re lucky and sharp-eyed, you might spot a kestrel hovering high in the silent fog, especially if you live on the edge of the countryside.

Crisp, sunny days

Photo by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

This is when I like to go for what I call a “crunchy” walk in the morning. Wrapping myself up in many layers, I go out into the fresh and invigorating air, crunching over frosty grass, hardened mud and cracking through frozen puddles. The way the early sunshine lights up the dried seed heads of spent plants is simply stunning, and I now consider it one of the most beautiful sights of the year. 

The wildlife also likes this weather, so there is more going on than you’d expect. Birds make the most of the extra warmth from the sun to forage for remaining berries and seeds, and some insects stir themselves from their torpor to search for the nectar of early-flowering plants, becoming an extra food source for the birds in doing so. Amongst the glittering cobwebs, goldfinches swarm the teasels and hang daintily from the skinny stalks which hardly bend under the birds’ barely-there weight. Blackbirds gobble the leftover sloes from the naked blackthorn along park edges and redwings plunder the urban rowan trees for orange berries.

“… I go out into the fresh and invigorating air, crunching over frosty grass, hardened mud and cracking through frozen puddles.”

Goldfinch – artwork by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

Signs of spring

The more you look at the little details in winter, the more you will realise how many undeniable signs there are that spring is on its way. Particularly noticeable are the vibrant hazel catkins that sway golden in the winter winds. Buds on the trees are preparing to burst open with new flowers and leaves. Primroses, daffodils and snowdrops start to appear, with other flowers soon to follow.

If you live close to a meadow or farmer’s field, you might even hear a skylark singing high in the sky, claiming its territory, despite being associated with much warmer days. Whatever the weather and wherever you are, robins will sing and cheer you with their fluty song, promising that other birds will soon join them to provide the beautiful sounds of the spring concert.

Robin – artwork by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

Inside

Even if you have to stay at home, nature isn’t shut off from you. Help the birds out by putting food in your garden, and your effort will be rewarded by the joyful sight of these colourful and charming visitors. Look for nearby trees and bushes bearing fruit and you are likely to get a glimpse of birds gorging on them. 

Furthermore, nature sightings still benefit us when experienced virtually, in videos and documentaries, so this is a brilliant time to catch up with the wonderful offerings from David Attenborough and the BBC’s Winterwatch. This is also the ideal time to research and expand your knowledge of flora and fauna – especially of those that are local to you – to be recalled on future days when you can take your knowledge further afield and see these sights in the flesh once more.

All photos and artworks © Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

Chloé Valerie Harmsworth is a nature writer, artist and photographer who believes that if we look after nature, it will look after us. She has written and illustrated her own nature diary. See more of her work at instagram.com/chloevalerienatureart/ and chloevalerienatureart.wordpress.com/

Decorate Your Window for Festive Streets

“Decorate a window”. For some people, it’s pure pleasure – an artistic joy they were born to produce. Yet, for others, it’s a hugely daunting task and they wouldn’t know where to start. If you fall into the latter category, read on!

This blog is from Nicola, project co-ordinator of the new #FestiveStreets project from Sustainable St Albans’ Playing Out team.

#FestiveStreets, the new community project we have launched across St Albans District, has taken off in a big way! We have been overwhelmed by the amount of interest and, as of writing, we have had over 250 people sign up from more than 180 streets across the district.

We hope this blog will give some ideas and inspiration to the hundreds of people across the district who have pledged to decorate their windows as part of Festive Streets.

Window display of Festive Streets Logo (Photo: Festive Streets)

The basics

The first task is to make some basic decisions:

  • Day or night or both – do you want your display to look best in the day or at night?
  • Lighting – lit from behind or lit by daylight?
  • Choose your window – downstairs is often more visible to the street; upstairs may offer more privacy (as you usually can’t see right into the room from the street) – or maybe. you will use more than one window!

Then

  • measure your window
  • begin your design….
Rope the family in to help with your window decorations (Photo: Festive Streets)

Privacy

This is actually quite a key decision early on in your design. If you are doing your design to be seen in the dark, you are particularly vulnerable to people being able to see into the room. Ideally, you want them to see only the display, not you and your family watching television! In addition, the design will be more effective if the view is not distracted by the room beyond.

There are a number of ways you can ensure privacy:

  • Fill the whole window with your design
  • Pull down a blind or pull curtains across the unused part of the window (or hang a sheet)
  • Go for an upstairs window if the room’s inside can’t be seen from below.
  • Use some kind of semi-opaque material to obscure the glass you have left plain: tracing paper, white tissue paper, greaseproof paper, a large paper table cloth, even opened out cereal box inner bags work well.
  • Put a light source for the display between the curtains and the glass – eg some very low wattage LED fairy lights round the edge of the window frame (and put them on a timer)

Types of design

The traditional shadows and light window

This is by far the most popular style for winter windows because they look fabulous at night. You can do it in one of two ways:

  • the silhouette – make shapes with dark materials.
  • the cut out – fill the window with black and cut holes to make your shapes

Your dark material can be anything that is opaque – black paper is popular, but try the leftover brown paper used in delivery parcels or the black inside of a plastic delivery bag.

You then light the room from behind and those on the street see the magical effect.

Shadows and light: silhouette shapes (Photo: Festive Streets)
Shadows and light: cut-outs(Photo: Festive Streets)

The coloured window

Fill your cut-outs or back your silhouettes with colour

  • coloured tissue paper
  • coloured cellophane sweet wrappers (eg Quality Street)
  • coloured thin carrier bags
  • change the bulb colour in the room or use coloured low wattage LED fairy lights on a timer

In fact, you don’t need black at all – you could do the whole window display in colour!

Colourful window (Photo: Festive Streets)
Colourful window (Photo: Festive Streets)

The daytime cut-outs window

If you’re going for a display that looks great in day time then white paper looks fab. Think of those snowflakes we all used to make as kids – a window full of those can look spectacular.

The museum display window

A simple window display can be done in the form of displaying things. Stacks of small boxes or shoe boxes make fantastic mini shelves and you can then fill them with whatever is appropriate for your theme.

Window displays in boxes (Photo: Festive Streets)

Drawings in windows

You can probably paint or draw on windows with some special equipment but I’m no artist plus I wouldn’t know how to get it off again! What you might have to hand are permanent pens like Sharpies. These work really well on both used cellophane (try wrappings from florist flowers) and also opened out flattened cereal bags, which are even more preferable as they have add that element of privacy to the window. Sit down at the table, spread out your film and let your artistic flair in!

Window drawings on cereal bags in Sharpies (Photo: Festive Streets)
Window drawings on cereal bags in Sharpies (Photo: Festive Streets)

Garlands and strings in windows

Windows are the perfect format for stringing things up. Strings can run across the windows in horizontal lines or hang vertically down from the top. The ideas for what you can hang from your strings are endless – how about

  • traditional festive decorations 
  • homemade paper stars
  • homemade gingerbread men
  • pine cones
  • twig/stick art
  • salt dough shapes
  • toilet roll santas and snowmen

I’ve even seen a fantastic photo of a window display done with Hawaiian Shirts strung up!

Visit our Pinterest board for more inspiring pictures

Our Pinterest board is full of ideas – ok, some of them might be a little bit more beautiful than your average mortal can create, but they are sure to give you a starting point for ideas.

The Golden Rules

So now you’ve got some ideas, it’s time to go for it. The remaining thing I would say is simply to follow these golden rules:

  • Remember: it’s not a competition!
  • Keep it sustainable – don’t buy new unless you have to – use what you have or ask a neighbour
  • Keep your design as simple as you can
  • Rope in household members to help you 
  • Have fun!
  • Reflect on the joy you have brought to your neighbours and passers-by every time you see it.

Find out more

For more information about Festive Streets, follow the link from our Playing Out Project page. You can get a free Festive Streets electronic information pack to get you started which includes template notes to your neighbours, colouring posters and lots of inspiration.

Hertfordshire’s hidden wildlife treasures

A new online photo exhibition – Herts in Focus – is bringing some of our county’s most stunning wildlife into homes thanks to a new initiative from Herts Community Foundation.


This blog has been put together by Henrietta Buxton, local resident and amateur photographer.  Henrietta Buxton came up with the idea for, and curated, the new Herts in Focus photo exhibition following her recent appointment as a Hertfordshire Community Foundation (HCF) Ambassador. She shares some of the photos here.


Herts in Focus – exhibition of our county’s hidden wildlife treasures

Barn Owl in flight by Robin Lowry

Herts in Focus is the culmination of the work of 11 local photographers and 60 stunning photos revealing some of our county’s hidden wildlife treasures – from owls in full flight to bank voles nibbling on fruit…

Blue tit in blossom by Robin Lowry

You can enjoy all of the photos in the online exhibition and you can also purchase framed prints for £60 each. All proceeds will go to Herts Community Foundation and will stay in the county to support people in need.

Catch the fly   by  Henrietta Buxton

The photos are selling well and for anyone looking for Christmas gift ideas – look no further!

The inspiration 

Launching this exhibition brought together Henrietta’s love of all things nature with her desire and commitment to helping people living in need and deprivation in Hertfordshire.

“We hope that the photographs inspire you and bring you a sense of pride of Hertfordshire, which has so much to offer those of us that call it home. However, we are also acutely aware that life can be difficult for many, with hidden deprivation and social issues such as isolation, addiction, domestic abuse, mental illness etc affecting many local people. It was the desire to help local people that was the driving force for this exhibition. We are sure you will enjoy it.”

Henrietta Buxton Ambassador for Herts Community Foundation

Courting Brimstones photo by David Chapman

About Hertfordshire Community Foundation

For anyone who hasn’t heard of HCF, it is a county-wide charity that seeks to address a broad range of local social need. Since 1988 HCF has worked with hundreds of local philanthropists (including businesses, families and individuals) to provide targeted grant support to local communities where it is needed most. 

Last year HCF awarded over £1m in grant aid helping tackle hidden need here in Hertfordshire. With 25,000 children living in poverty, 213 people sleeping rough and 18.3% of households living in poverty demand for HCF’s support grows year on year. All these issues have of course been compounded further by Covid-19 and HCF has distributed more than £800,00 in emergency relief grants since lockdown began but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Taking part

To see the Herts in Focus exhibition see www.hertsinfocus.com

For general enquiries about the exhibition or HCF please email office@hertscf.org.uk


Awesome Autumn

Slumber

Like spring, autumn is a time of change. Though, unlike spring, it is not a time of awakening; instead, it is a time of falling slowly into a deep slumber. The leaves turn yellow, orange and brown, and are then released, one by one, from branches onto a sodden or frosty ground. This year I’m finding the developing patches of rusty colours speckling the green horse chestnut leaves (Aesculus hippocastanum) particularly attractive.

And who doesn’t love discovering a shiny conker on the ground?


This week’s beautifully observant and poetic blog with images is written and fully illustrated by the gifted nature writer, artist and photographer, Chloé Valerie Harmsworth. See more from Chloé at instagram.com/chloevalerienatureart/  and chloevalerienatureart.wordpress.com/


Horse Chestnut leaf painting by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

Activity

While autumn might seem a more lethargic season, there is a flurry of activity too: flocks of metallic-sparkled starlings return from northern Europe, crowding the trees and skies with their excited whistles and clicks; a deluge of redwings and fieldfares gobble up whole trees’ worth of ruby berries; and jewel-like domes of fungi sprout daily across the leaf-laden earth. 


“.. a deluge of redwings and fieldfares gobble up whole trees’ worth of ruby berries…”


Hurry, hurry, hurry

Everything is in a hurry. Trees fruit as part of their final hurrah, and animals urgently gather what they can before winter sets in. As I inspect the nuts of the hazel trees, I can see that their shells have been pierced by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) to get to the tasty kernels within, leaving holes that make the nuts look like they are saying ‘Oh!’ or ‘Ah!’

“..I can see that their shells have been pierced by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) to get to the tasty kernels within…

Photo of hazelnut by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

The Queen bee

The last of the summer’s butterflies, bees and wasps are feasting on the leftover blackberries and autumn-flowering plants.

On one of my walks, I find an exhausted queen bumblebee on the path, in danger of being flattened by feet or paws. Using two leaves, I manage to carry her to a nearby patch of white dead-nettles (Lamium album) and there she takes deep draughts of the nectar and begins to move more energetically.

I hope that she will survive, either to hibernate until she starts her nest in the spring, or to begin her work in the autumn (an increasing trend among the bees in southern UK). I notice that there are mites hitchhiking on her neck and hope that that they won’t cause her or her future hive too many problems.

“there she takes deep draughts of the nectar…

Photo of Bumblebee on white dead-nettles by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

Stash and cache

While we are using the season’s apples and plums to make crumbles, jays and squirrels are collecting nuts from the oak and beech trees to hide away in anticipation of leaner winter days. Some of those stashed away will be forgotten, and become the grand old trees of the future. 

Jays

For a long time, jays (Garrulus glandarius) seemed very elusive to me – especially compared to their more gregarious cousins the crows, magpies and jackdaws (all of which are very noisy at this time of year). Then last year I saw five of them making a racket in the tree next to my house. This year, I have spotted them moving between the branches of the field maple trees. They are full of character and the variety of colours held within their feathers is remarkable. One of my most precious recent finds is a black feather with the jay’s signature electric blue barring.

Jay – painting by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

Dreamlike light

The sun’s light at this time of year is rather special too. Almost all day it has the quality of evening light, as the reddening orb hangs lower in the sky. The blue sea holly becomes extra striking, as the dust in the atmosphere makes blue flowers stand out all the more. This is contrasted with the soft, dappled light of the woodlands and the glow of the goldening landscape. 

Invigorating scents

As the summer flowers fade, the air becomes rich with the scent of decaying leaves and vegetation, verdant stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) with their new seeds, and lingering smoke. There’s nothing better than an invigorating walk in the fresh air, even on a drizzly or atmospherically misty day, followed by a warm drink when you return home.

“As the summer flowers fade, the air becomes rich with the scent of decaying leaves and vegetation…

Magical fungi

Although appearing throughout the year, it’s the damper and cooler conditions in autumn that makes mushrooms and fungi more prevalent. My favourite finds have been bright red fly agarics (Amanita muscaria), which I had previously only seen in fairytales, violet-tinged wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) and smoky candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon). 

“My favourite finds have been bright red fly agarics (Amanita muscaria), which I had previously only seen in fairytales…

photo by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

Smoky candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Photo of smoky candlesnuff fungus by Chloé Valerie Harmsworth

Contemplation

Autumn is a good time to pause and reflect on the year so far, and to think of the year ahead. If the summer has burned you out, now is the time to recuperate. If this most unusual year has left you feeling sorrowful or lost, this season is the ideal time to take stock of what you have been grateful for and consider what you would like to work towards in the future.

Nature teaches us many lessons throughout the year, so take time to look around at autumn’s beautiful changes and discover what you can learn.


N.B. All photos and artworks © Chloé Valerie Harmsworth – Chloé Valerie Harmsworth is a nature writer, artist and photographer who believes that if we look after nature, it will look after us. See more of her work at instagram.com/chloevalerienatureart/ and chloevalerienatureart.wordpress.com/


Ideas For Halloween 2020 – Playing Out St Albans District

“All is not lost! You can still enjoy Halloween as a family and as a community!”

The Playing Out project from Sustainable St Albans brings us 10 top tips for enjoying this Halloween which is unlike any other. Find out how you can create a community atmosphere in your part of St Albans District and satisfy your kids’ cravings for fun and treats while celebrating the Spooky Season in a sustainable way.

October Half Term is coming up fast and Halloween is the final Saturday of that week. Many streets across the country would usually be planning decorations and a big Trick or Treat evening; many others had gained permission to close their roads for organised Playing Out sessions that weekend to pull their community together for free play sessions on the road before it got dark and the sugar fest began. With this year’s epidemic, that can’t happen any more. Yet all is not lost! You can still enjoy Halloween as a family and as a community!

1. Organise a street pumpkin trail

Playing Out is all about community building and Halloween is traditionally one of the few times when lots of people go out onto their street at the same time and enjoy celebrating together, almost like a street party. Despite, the fact that trick-or-treating is off this year, we’ve been delighted to hear lots of reports of neighbours getting together to organise something fun and Covid-safe for kids on their street. It just takes a couple of people to get together to think up something that works for your area. Why not consider one of these ideas….

  • A printable pumpkin poster for all the kids in your street to colour in and put in their window.
  • Or, for bigger roads, a selection of printed posters dropped through your neighbours’ letterbox with a “bingo” style list for the kids to tick off as they spot the images – many neighbours without children will be persuaded to stick their image in their window for the children to enjoy.
  • Or how about an agreement between all households that a front of house decorations will go up but no-one will knock for treats? Maybe share a special “Happy Halloween, Keep safe, No door-knocking” poster for front doors and lamp posts?
  • Then take your kids out to spot the posters or pumpkins and give them a treat for their Halloween bag every time they spot one. 
  • Remember to spread out the fun – it doesn’t all have to happen at 5pm on 31st October. Co-ordinate with your neighbours to ensure everyone can keep safe and streets aren’t crowded.

Some of the District’s communities even have a dedicated Facebook page to help organise Halloween Pumpkin Trail with specially designed posters, such as the Redbourn Pumpkin Trail page. Also, some local school PTAs are organising trails. Keep an eye on your local social media to see what is happening in your neighbourhood.

2. Invite neighbours to a virtual Halloween party

Many streets now have a newfound community since the Lockdown – often there are email or WhatsApp groups set up. Why not use this to organise a virtual Halloween party with some neighbours? Or organise a competition via Zoom – best costume or best spooky food, perhaps.

3. Join the St Albans District-wide Rainbow Pumpkin Trail Hunt

Across St Albans District a “Rainbow Army” of volunteers has been colouring in rainbow pumpkins and colouring in real pumpkins ready for them to be displayed in windows across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages from 25th to 31st October. The St Albans Rainbow Trail is behind the initiative and residents are invited to visit the St Albans Rainbow Trail Facebook Group to find out full details of how to get involved. In essence, spot one of their rainbow pumpkins then visit the Facebook page to contact them and tell them where it was – and be entered for prizes. Following on from other themed trails from the St Albans Rainbow Trail, the volunteers usually suggest a small donation is made to a named charity with each competition entry. This time organisers are suggesting that residents donate to their local school. Visit the St Albans Rainbow Trail Facebook Group for more information.

Getting ready for the St Albans Rainbow Pumpkin Trail

4. Make sustainable decorations yourselves

Playing Out is, first and foremost about play. Free, unstructured play. The most unstructured way to decorate for Halloween is to let the kids go wild with natural materials and their imagination.  You can still decorate your house inside or out this year. (For ideas about how to work as a street to decorate without traditional trick-or-treating, see tip number 1).

  • Forage in nature – pine cones, conkers, autumn leaves, twigs all make great decorative materials.
  • Hand them a bucket of chalk and let them decorate the drive with spooky pictures
  • And don’t forget the pumpkin!
Halloween decorations from natural materials look fabulous

There are also plenty of sustainable decorations that you can make. No need to go out and buy them – make them from the stuff you already have! Don’t forget to try to avoid glitter if you can.

  • Wool spiders’ webs
  • Make a haunted house den from a big cardboard box
  • Cut out spiders and ghouls from black plastic bags and blue tack to walls and windows – those plastic postal bags that have black insides are ideal for this.
  • Fill jam jars with spooky stuff and dot around – what pocket money toys are lying around your house? Plastic spiders and other insects, pretend eye balls, fake thumbs from a magic set can be put in a jam jar filled with water. Add a few drops of different food colouring to each for a spooky display.
  • Decorate jam jars – and fill with LED tea lights to make lanterns
  • Egg carton bats
  • Bed sheet ghosts (stuff a pillow case in the middle and tie with string to make head then suspend)

5. Carve a pumpkin

You might need to help the kids with this one but carved pumpkins are a great way to celebrate Halloween. Maybe you might want to carve a rainbow on yours this year? Hertfordshire Council have a You Tube video on how to do it – just click here to link to the HCC page.

If your carved pumpkin is original and worthy of a prize, why not enter it into a competition? If you live in Harpenden, you can enter into the mayor’s competition and if you live anywhere in St Albans District you can enter the St Albans Rainbow Trail Competition.

Keep your pumpkin decorations sustainable by not creating unnecessary food waste. A terrifying 12.8 million pumpkins are expected to be left uneaten this Halloween, in the UK alone!  Hubbub UK’s annual Pumpkin Rescue campaign is back, this year called “Eat Your Pumpkin”. For lots of ideas visit Hubbub.

Why not try this great pumpkin soup recipe from Grow Community Sopwell in St Albans. And don’t forget pumpkin seeds can be roasted too for a tasty snack!

6. Make Halloween food

At Playing Out sessions, we would normally encourage neighbours to have a tea station with tea and biscuits to share – a spot for adults to gather and get to know each other while the children play. Quite often, for festive occasions, neighbours will provide fun food.  You can still enjoy Halloween food at home this year or even show it off to your neighbours at a virtual party.

  • Think plastic-free when it comes to the sweets and treats – cardboard and foil are both recyclable. How about a visit to the local independent sweet shop choosing loose penny sweets with a paper bag or perhaps making some homemade treats? Interested in more Plastic Free ideas? Why not join the discussions on local Facebook Groups like Plastic Free Harpenden and St Albans Eco?

You can make all other sorts of fun-themed food:

  • Bloody fingers in a vice (vegetarian sausages and ketchup in a roll)
  • Mummies (vegetarian sausages wrapped in a snake of pastry – add eyes to be extra creepy!)
  • Spooky spiders (chocolate krispy cakes with chocolate finger legs)
  • Skeleton biscuits – gingerbread men with white bones drawn on in icing
  • Banana ghosts – stick lollipop sticks in half a skinned banana, draw on spooky face in chocolate drops and freeze
  • False teeth – carve a wedge out of the skin-side of a quarter apple, smear with something sticky (peanut butter, jam, honey) and stick in “teeth” – almonds, rice crispies, small crackers or roasted sweetcorn.

Feeling more adventurous? Try BBC Good Food for lots more Halloween recipes.

7. Get dressed up – without buying new

No need to buy a costume! Make your own or try getting one second hand – it’s so easy and it’s cheaper!

  • Ghost up with a sheet (best advice my mother-in-law ever gave me – “never throw away old sheets – they come in so handy for everything”).
  • Toilet paper mummy – wind round you!
  • Cat – black outfit, cardboard ears attached to hairband, homemade tail from old tights.
  • Bat – black outfit, wings from black material, cardboard bat ears attached to hairband
  • Don’t forget the joy of Facepaints – scary witch, spooky ghost – there are tons of ideas on line!

Second hand, try local charity shops. For St Albans District there are many local selling Facebook groups, such as

And don’t forget to scout the free sites and pages:

Facebook pages for free Halloween stuff: 

8. Go on an Indoor Treasure Hunt

Want to stay indoors for the fun? Why not send the kids on a treasure hunt round the house to find the treats.

For little ones, cut out pictures of pumpkins on paper or card and hide around the house for them to find. Once they have found them all, give them a treat.

For children that can read, make 10-15 clues that lead them round the house until they find their treat at the end. They can be simple for little ones or more complex for older kids. For example:

  • Where mummy sits to work (put next clue on your desk chair)
  • I make the clothes go round and round (put the next clue in the washing machine)
  • Brrrr it’s chilly in here (put your next clue in the fridge)
  • etc

Try to alternate clues upstairs and downstairs to get the maximum running around!

If you’re feeling super lazy, here’s a ready-made one!

Then get the kids to make up a treasure hunt for you!

9. Do an outdoor scavenger hunt

Playing Out sessions encourage us to get to know and connect with the local area, particularly our own street. Prefer your Halloween fun to happen in daylight hours? Go out on a scavenger hunt in your street: just make a list together and go outside with a bucket to hunt and spot!

  • For example, collect 
    • Red leaf
    • Yellow leaf
    • Brown leaf
    • Acorn
    • Conker
    • Pinecone
  • For example, spot
    • Pumpkin
    • Pumpkin picture
    • Other halloween decorations (if it’s 31st)
    • Boot
    • Squirrel
    • Spider’s web
    • Flying bird
    • Mushroom
    • Bugs (worm, slug etc)

Why not take a litter pick and a rubbish bag with you and clean up your community while you’re out with the kids?!

10. Play spooky games


Whether online at a virtual party with your neighbours or at home as a family, there are some fantastic games you can play at Halloween. Playing Out tends to focus on traditional street games – skipping, ball games and scooting and biking are all great in the neighbourhood. So keep the feel traditional for Halloween night, and try:

  • Apple bobbing – can’t get more traditional than that!
  • Telling spooky stories – tell them to the kids, or get them to make them up. Add atmosphere by sitting in your homemade haunted house den with your homemade lanterns. For smaller children, try a spooky version of Chinese whispers with sentences that are Halloween themed.
  • Make a Halloween “feel” box – cut a slot in the top of a cardboard box and fill with textured objects to spook everyone out – try peeled grapes inside that feel like eyeballs and cooked spaghetti for guts, tinned peaches for a liver and an old rubber gloved filled with flour for a dead hand, how scary can you make yours??
  • Play a Halloween-themed Kim’s game – a good one for an online party: show a tray of Halloween themed items and then take one away – what is missing?

About Playing Out St Albans District

Playing Out is a nation-wide concept where residents choose to apply to the local authority to close their road to through traffic to allow the children to come out onto the street and cycle, scoot and play together in the road. It is a fabulous way to build communities, offering neighbours a chance to build support networks and children the opportunity to get fresh air and exercise, as well as learn to play in an unstructured manner with other children of all ages.

At the current time, organising road closures for Playing Out is not possible due to Covid restrictions. However, if this is something you would like to see on your street in the future, why not join our mailing list to be kept up-to-date with the latest news so you can get involved once restrictions are lifted.

Join our mailing list here.

Happy Halloween!