Going for a simple walk in the fresh air can do wonders for the whole family. This might sound obvious to some but for those of you who don’t go on many walks, then perhaps I’ll persuade you!
Firstly, it’s free and you can go anywhere. Again, obvious perhaps but I would suggest getting a good local walk book. You can pick them up in most book shops or second-hand shops. Here in Gloucestershire, we love ‘Cotswold Walks’ by Christopher Knowles and Peter Reardon. These are ‘Family Walks of between 3- and 5-miles including places of refreshment along the way.’ They include detailed maps of the area and lovely descriptions of things to spot along the route. There are also some brilliant free maps called ‘Little Cotswold Walks’ that you can download from here.
Secondly, a good walk gives everyone in the family space. Not just physically but mentally. I’m no psychologist so I’ll try and explain with an anecdote: One recent Sunday, my husband and I decided to go for a walk with the family. My two step-sons 12 and 16 had been bickering all weekend. My 3-year-son had also been difficult: refusing to eat and winding up the older boys. Generally, everyone was a bit ‘fraught’ with each other.
We went on a walk. It was a beautiful sunny September day in the Cotswolds. We got our map out and started reading it. At first the older boys looked at us in amusement but by the end of the walk, they were the ones trying to spot the ‘ancient wall’ or landmark noted in the book. We came across a historic bridge across a steam, then a lovely old church which we went inside. Everyone explored and had their own ‘moment’ of peace. We ambled along a lovely quiet road fringed with apple trees and blackberry bushes. All the boys picked and ate them along the way. My 12-year-old step-son kicked a stone all the way down the road. He enjoyed being in his own space with his own thoughts although we were all together. He picked the stone up and brought it home.
We stopped on the way, sat and just looked about us. How often as a family do you all just sit together and do nothing? It was lovely. All the boys enjoyed each other’s company – there was no bickering or irritation. Both older boys had the small one on their shoulders carrying at times and at the end we had a drink in the pub. Lovely!
I would recommend a family walk in most weathers – even when it’s blustery and raining a bit, it can be so rewarding. Going on a walk can make children and teenagers feel like they’ve achieved something and it gives them some head space away from all the distractions at home. Even if you aren’t having in-depth talks (with can also happen on walks) you can feel connected with your family. It’s also sometimes nice to get away from the crowds of big attractions and explore the ‘free’ English countryside. It really does do everyone the power of good!
I also have a list of short local walks for children here.