If you go down to the woods today


A trip to the forest then.

In involved two hours up the M6 via Tebay, a walking trail with two small children, enough promises of ice-cream to bribe Olivia to behave and, according to one friend after photographic evidence emerged online, me looking like “a metrosexual Bear Grylls.”

I can live with that.

Maya [pictured above], Olivia [pictured below] and I spent a weekend recently on assignment for the Guardian.

We went to Whinlatter, the Forestry Commission site just outside Cockermouth in Cumbria, primarily to walk the Squirrel Trail. It’s an orienteering course for kids to introduce them to the sights, sounds and stories of the forest.

The story appeared last Saturday under the headline “We’re going on a squirrel hunt – orienteering for the very young.”

The trip coincided with National Parks Week and with one of those summer-survey PR campaigns, one commissioned by the Forestry Commission to talk up the fairytale quality of a day out in the forest this summer.

Yes, I know. But, to be fair, the girls really enjoyed playing at the Fairy Kingdom, a part of Whinlatter’s WildPlay Trail, even if I felt a bit sceptical about the survey’s suggestion that:

“90% of parents think children are losing their imaginations by age ten.”

They survey cites a lack of outdoor play and too much time spent on computers and games consoles for making today’s children less imaginative. It also rolls out some big guns, reporting that Albert Einstein wrote about the importance of fairytales in boosting children’s intelligence.

Off the back of it, the Forest Fairy Tales campaign will see events taking place across the country at various Forestry Commission sites during the summer holidays. These are designed to foster imaginative play.

I’m not convinced by the survey results but I’m always up for a walk in the woods, some stunning Cumbrian landscape and outdoors time with the girls.

Besides, a walk around Whinlatter was like being in very own Anthony Browne story – without the spectral woodland characters haunting the shady glades.

So we walked. We breathed in the forest. We went for ice-creams. It was fun.

* What’s your favourite place for a walk in the woods? Do you think our kids are less imaginative these days?

Post your comments below.

More from Forest fairytales; Cumbria Tourism.



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