Rebranding the Family Walk
I walk a lot. In fact, I’ve had to start buying (what my wife considers) less trendy shoes as I was wearing out the soles of my *insert cool brand here* trainers within a matter of weeks. I’ve now got toughened hard soles. I like them.
When I sat on my sagging sofa one dark March evening and heard Boris tell me I was only allowed out once a day, I had a bit of a paddy. My kids don’t walk fast, or far – I guess that is understandable, given the leg length difference and their ages of five and two.
How was I going to get in my need for discovery, personal headspace, and the heart rate up with our one-a-day, one hour walk?
You know what? We slowed down, and we saw a lot more. We became more creative, we talked more, and we had fun.
I found different ways of getting my ‘proper’ exercise at home with a variety of creative workouts (sadly, I snapped my homemade balance board the other day ☹). As for getting personal headspace, well, that’s a bit tough with two young children in an open plan house. But we didn’t care, as we all looked forward to our daily outing.
What’s really become apparent is how important having a daily walk is for everyone now. I’ve seen more locals out regularly walking now than I ever did before, and the great thing is, they are still doing it (including my parents; Hi Mum, Dad!).
Life BC (Before Covid!)
Busy, busy, busy. Fast, action-packed. No time to listen. The list goes on.
What I really loved about lockdown was being forced to be creative and work with what you’ve got. We are super fortunate that we love where we live; we have some lovely coastal and countryside routes on our doorstep, which I appreciate makes things easier. But after a while, it was the ‘extras’ on our walks which were so memorable.
Life AD (After Dramatic Paddy – ok, I know that it’s technically ‘Life ADP’)
Our first couple of walks were centred around us as the adults. Take the pushchair for the little one, bribe the big one, and then walk as fast and far as we could for 30 minutes before turning back. It didn’t take long for us to think that this wasn’t sustainable though. Given that we were trying (not particularly successfully) to home school our five-year-old, we thought about how we could incorporate learning on our walks.
We soon started taking some pretend plastic (shame on us) bugs which we had, and one of us would run up ahead and leave them on the path or trees for the boys to find. This really kept them going, and was a lot healthier than jelly bean bribery. What’s more, they started to ask about the bugs, and “do any of them live here?”.
There were a couple of really memorable finds, though. Firstly, watching a slow-worm slither around our feet on one of our walks. Then, secondly, tadpoles.
I’ve already mentioned, in our ‘Little Lockdown Lessons’ intro piece, about the frog obsession which blossomed in our household. I genuinely think that the last time I saw frogspawn was about 25 years ago. Then, all of a sudden, it was everywhere! Was this nature taking over? (more on that later!).
We read up about collecting frogspawn and how to look after them. So off we trotted to collect some and put them in the boys paddling pool. We converted it into an oasis for frogspawn: 100% wholesome rainwater, an array of rocks, lettuce (and cucumber?!), some pond weed ‘borrowed’ from a neighbour, and some incredible Duplo structures our eldest had built. Each structure had its own intricate story around how the frogs would climb up the steps and then hang out in the swimming pool, or go to sleep in the bedrooms. I also discovered that Duplo floats, so I was constantly finding new ways to weigh it down!
Two or three months after we collected the spawn, we had a dozen froglets which we released back to the pond where we found them. The boys were like loving parents waving their adolescent children off to University; they’d loved caring form them, but were ready for them to move on!
Nature Taking Back the World!
I’m sure you have seen these already, but there were some crazy pictures and videos of animals all over the world. I really like this news report from Australian news channel ABC (skip the advert at the start), featuring the flamingos visiting the zoo!
We’ve probably all said it, but I’ve never realised how many birds there are and how much they sing! It was a truly magical experience to hear nothing for hours but birds. It may have just been me, but I also loved looking up at the clear skies and not seeing aeroplane trails, or walking beside a normally busy road with only one car passing every 10 minutes or so.
Connecting the kids, but also ourselves, with nature was certainly a big feature of our family walks. In addition to the bugs, we’d walk along the local stream and see tiny fish, which we later went and caught with the aid of some wriggly worms (much to my surprise!). Even the different plants and flowers growing became very noticeable, as did the changes in the colour of the landscape as April moved into May and so on. The truly nice thing was, we were all really interested.
Our in-house conservationist, Teresa Trayals, made a big boo-boo on her most recent animal spotting expedition. We need you to revisit (virtually of course!) all the places she went to and identify the animal found at each location. NB – some animals are sneaky and the link may take a while to load! Copy it into your internet browser to help it along! Spot them all and you’ll also reveal which animal Teresa is yet to track down. Download the Look Behind You! Puzzle to get exploring!
#TTLookBehindYou“ COMPETITION NOW CLOSED!
Thanks for all your entries! And Congratulations to Samantha Hubbard who was chosen at random to receive a Treasure Trails gift voucher!
Just like some of our Clues in our Trails, you had to look all around you to spot the animals, and some (No.7!) were a little shy to appear without perserving with the link! You can now download the answers to the Trail here: TTLookBehindYou ANSWER
Adventure (or, Planning for it)
Walks had a purpose, I made sure of that, and they still do now that we can have more freedom.
Every walk would have a story behind it or somewhere specific to explore. I showed the boys entrances to the tin miners’ tunnels and told tales of how previous generations worked underground. We went to natural caves battered by the waves, and re-enacted the entire tale of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’, which made the whole walk getting to the cave a piece of cake (which by the way, often came with us as well). We never found a bear, but that didn’t stop me drawing bear footprints in the ground and then chasing the boys roaring as loudly as I could.
We’d always veer off the main track – the mere mention of a ‘Secret Path’ was enough to get everyone’s attention! We especially loved going into the overgrown remains of an animal track just to get a different perspective. Sometimes, we’d even find a really cool tree to courageously climb.
Once, we even found a slackline which someone had put up between two trees, with a note written on an old bit of cardboard literally saying “enjoy!”. If you don’t know what slacklining is, have a watch of this video.
I have to admit, the one we tried was only 2ft off the ground, but that was scary enough for us!
One thing we would love to be able to do with our Treasure Trails is to have some physical treasure at the end of each Trail. This just isn’t logistically possible, though. However, on our own little family adventure walks, it certainly is! On a couple of trips, we made a treasure map for the boys, and while walking to a focal point, I’d run on ahead to bury something. My favourite was a Crpytex, which is a combination lock as seen in (or read in) The Da Vinci Code. Along with the map, there were some added instructions, all focused around helping our son to learn to read and do some simple maths. With the treasure map in hand, he would read the instructions to find where we had hidden the Cryptex (on the first quest, he didn’t know I had hidden it and he thought it was actually real treasure! 😊). Then, by working out the maths problems, he’d have the code to open the Cryptex.
We created a narrative around a lot of our walks as well. So, whilst our purpose as the adults may have been slightly different, the purpose for the boys was to collect something, avoid something (like enemy pirates or Secret Agents), gather vital information… the list goes on.
It’s Just Like a Treasure Trail, Really!
It took a few walks for me to realise what I was actually doing; I was taking snippets of what our Treasure Trails are all about and applying them to our daily family walk! I was making sure that we weren’t just going on a walk to get some fresh air, but a real adventure. We were seeing somewhere familiar in a completely different way, looking high and low and appreciating the natural or man-made environment. We were setting fun and original challenges through the walk to keep everyone smiling, and we were often wrapping it all up in a fun narrative to boil-the-pot-over with excitement.
If you aren’t familiar with our Trails, or if it has been a while since you have done one, then enter the location where you are interested in exploring and see which Trails we have. We are currently part-way through a two-year project to rewrite all of our Trails to add more narrative and even better clues and directions. The Trails are super popular at the moment as they provide the perfect stress-free outdoor activity; there’s no pre-booking or plastic screens needed and they just explore publicly accessible locations. You can tackle them in your own time and at your own pace. If you choose wisely, you’ll be sure to avoid the crowds.
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Aaron Hutchens 10th August 2020
Posted In: Ideas