“Isn’t he good at walking” I hear as we head off for a gloriously slow wander through the local cemetery (A. loves following the little paths and I don’t have to worry about cars!). I hear similar praises when we are out for a hike with E. I don’t think walking is necessarily something you can be ‘good’ at, but it is certainly something that not everyone (or child) enjoys.
Growing up, my parents would take us away in the tent and later the caravan, and every holiday involved setting out into the British countryside on walks. On the bookshelf at home, two shelves were taken up with maps and walking books. I don’t remember shopping for school shoes, but I remember sitting in the shoe shop and getting my first pair of walking boots – brown leather, just like Dads. When I was younger I enjoyed the freedom of leading the way, lost in my imagination riding horses or joining the Famous Five. Dad could ‘sniff out’ rope swings, and Ma would always have a chocolate bar or Jamaican ginger cake for the picnic (we were never allowed sugar at home). We would set out in rain or shine, and I have many happy memories of paddling in rivers, whittling as we walked through forests, and discovering perfect picnic spots. It sounds idyllic, and it was, but as I got older I started to resent that we weren’t going abroad like my friends, moaning at yet another walk, when I just wanted to hang out with my campsite friends.
It was easy to see walking as boring, but now I have come full circle and look back fondly on our walking holidays. I believe that these holidays inspired my love of the outdoors, which is continuing to grow to this day. My partner and I both enjoy climbing the Munros of Scotland, as well as exploring the South West coast path from our doorstep. When we had E. we believed it was important to bring her into our lives, rather than change who we were and what we liked doing. She was going to be an adventure baby, and it was up to us to plant that seed of adventure, and nurture a love of the outdoors so that she could join us on our various expeditions. As soon as she could sit up she came with us in the kayaks, and had bagged her first Munro (in a sling!) by the time she was 9 months old. As soon as E. could toddle, down she came from the sling and we would go off on little wanderings – no destination in mind, and no time limit to get back. I would follow her lead and off we would go on our little adventures. Our favourite haunt was our local zoo, which was the perfect environment to let her toddle around, but whenever we needed to go to the library or the shops we would always walk.
A. was born trying to run before he could walk. Already a confident walker having just turned one, he has not had the luxurious, time-limit free wanderings that I had with his sister. Being younger and having an adventurous, mischievous nature, A. has not had so much of a free reign. One is constantly fishing him out of streams, mires, and the Atlantic; or encouraging him to spit out whatever god awful thing he has decided to chew on this time (if he was a cat he would be down to two lives by now). We are also spending forty minutes in the car each day, to drop off and pick up E. from school (we are in the process of buying a house that means we can walk and cycle to both work and school – bureaucracy and red tape mixed with COVID has resulted in this commute, hopefully not for much longer) which puts further restriction on time we would normally spend walking. I find myself using the car more as “I am in it anyway” and, again due to COVIDness he has missed out on those zoo visits, hour long wanderings in to town and mini adventures.
But today, in-between the school drop off (in freezing rain), mandatory stockpile shop before the world goes mad again (I only bought extra coffee I promise) and the school pick up; the sun was shining and I caught myself at a loss at what to do. Grabbing our boots and my mushroom book (’tis the nearly the end of the season after all and one can never pass up the opportunity for a forage), we headed out, A. taking the route most littered with leaves, for who can resist a good crunchy stomp? Soon we’re in the cemetery and my little guy is having all the fun in the world following the paths up and down and round and round. We only had to go home when nasty Mummy wouldn’t let him climb over all the head stones and eat the rotting flower heads.
With winter approaching, and various viruses spreading, it is going to be all the more important to spend time outdoors – breathing in fresh air, and taking in the sights, smells and sounds of nature. Our physical and mental wellbeing depend on it, and who knows what foundations you will be setting up for the future? E. now has her own set of walking boots, and we regularly set off on wee walks in our local country side. She carries her own picnic, and I have inherited my fathers ability to sniff out a rope swing… If we can get A. to obey simple commands (“no, stop, not too near the edge!”) then I can start letting him out of the sling when we go out for our storm walks, and when old ‘Rona frees up the bed and travel situation, we will be off to Scotland to bag E.’s first Munro on foot. Until then I shall be content to grab little wanderings when we can, and encourage their natural desire to explore.
#littlefeetbigadventures #childled #ramble #cornwalllife #bringmethathorizon