The family is sitting around the dinner table and the usually surly teenager says with a laugh, “Remember when you stepped onto that patch of grass and fell into a marsh up to your knees?” The youngest adds with a snort that threatens to shoot some spag bol from a nostril, “Yeah! And you lost your sandal in the mud…” And although at the time Dad was grumpy about this unfortunate encounter, now he chuckles along with everyone else.
Some of the best family stories are ones that happen when we’re slightly out of our comfort zone, in an unfamiliar setting. Good family stories rarely begin with ‘Remember when you were on your phone in the lounge and I was on the iPad and….’
Going on an outdoor adventure together as a family creates occasions for bonding and for laughs, even slapstick comedy at times. Nature is rich with opportunities and invitations to learn more about ourselves, each other and the wild world out there.
What we’ve always known, through just plain common sense, that being out in nature is good for humans, is now being supported by all kinds of research. ‘Green space therapy’ makes us relax, get perspective and become more sociable. Studies show that getting out there into the wilderness (or at least 1mile away from the closest coffee joint) has the potential to grow our relationships and improve our impulse control and self-discipline (useful skills in family life).
In addition to that, going on fun outdoor adventures together adds to the family archive of good memories and funny stories to tell. It engenders a love for nature, which invites our children to become firstly, curious witnesses, and eventually, with a bit of luck, loving caretakers of the natural world.
Take a forest, lake, the moors, add some adults and a sprinkling of children, a picnic or a campfire and you’ll get laughs, stress relief and bonding. You’ll get creative problem solving like, What is the perfect ratio of toasted marshmallow to chocolate biscuit? You’ll see kids who have been known to whine because they don’t have the latest Minecraft game, happily spending a long afternoon building forts with sticks and twigs and leaves.
So this is an invitation to get out there and let some good stories find you. Let your outdoor adventures together give you loads of material to laugh about when you’re all tucking into a hot meal around the dinner table later.
Although pitching a tent outside of any designated campsite is illegal in England and Wales, much of Scotland allows you to do just this. One of the most beautiful spots to go wild camping is Glenfeshie, Cairngorms. It’s a wilderness area that has benefited from the ‘Rewilding Britain’ initiative, which has helped to regenerate the ancient woodland of Scots pines that used to carpet the area. Pack your gear and head over, using the Open Access Code for guidelines and your OS map to find the perfect spot (and keep dad away from any marshes). Soon you’ll be gathered around the flickering campfire telling stories and toasting marshmallows.
Walking in the Yorkshire Dales
If this ruggedly beautiful area is new to you, and you feel a bit daunted at the thought of figuring out where to start, make use of the expertise of guides who know this area well. Walking specialist HF Holidays offer three- to seven-night guided walks, suitable for all ages, at Malhamdale. You can choose from easy six-mile stretches to longer 13-milers. These walks take you to the rolling pastures of Malham Tarn and the panoramic views from Simon’s Seat.
Check out HF Holidays as one option for walking tours and Wilderness Now also has loads of walking options around the UK or send us an email with what you’re looking to do and we will do our best to find your next family walking adventure.
Coasteering along the Causeway coast
If you’re in the mood for something a little more strenuous and adventurous, then this could be your family’s new hobby. Coasteering is thought to have been started by mountain climbing enthusiasts and involves leaping and scrambling over rocks and sea cliffs. Kids of ages seven and up will be able to enjoy this adventure with the family. Explore the rugged Causeway coast with an experienced guide, who will help you explore hidden coves and islands, and point out interesting wildlife.
The team at Causeway Coasteering is a good bet for jumping into the water, safely.
Surfing in Saltburn-on-Sea
One of the original centres of the north-east surf scene, Saltburn-on-Sea is a bit colder than Cornwall but offers world-class surfing. When the swell is right, beginners can find friendly waves on the side of the pier and more experienced surfers will be able to head out and ride the waves further out to sea. Picture the excitement on your daughter’s face as she successfully surfs her first wave.
Book your surf adventure HERE!
Bird watching on Pocklington Canal
This tranquil activity will keep adults as well as children happily occupied for the duration of a pleasant morning. Pocklington Canal stretches for 9.5 miles from the foothills of the Yorkshire Wolds to the river Derwent and is one of the UK’s most important waterways for wildlife. Experienced guides will tell you all about nest building and mating habits of the birds along the canal, as you sit and listen to the quiet lap of the water against the banks, hoping to catch sight of the blue flash of a kingfisher’s wing.
Details and dates for Pocklington Canal bird watching can be found HERE
Monkeying about in Trentham Forest
This is the only place in England where you’re able to wander in a 60-acre forest filled with the calls and antics of 140 Barbary macaque monkeys. These primates wander about freely among the trees, so you’ll have the chance to watch them in the wild. There are friendly guides on hand to explain their behaviour and habits. This forest forms part of the 725-acre Trentham Estate, which has loads of other activities to keep everyone in the family happy, from stalking fairies on the Fairy Trail, to the adventure playground and the maze.
Visit England has details on where to find the monkeys HERE