Stride out on one of our Great British Walks
Can you tell your Shaggy Inkcap from your Magpie Fungus? Guided fungi trails are flavour of the month, as the National Trust gets families walking this autumn with its Great British Walk programme, writes Samantha Laurie
At Polesden Lacey, Claremont Landscape Garden, Esher and Ranmore Common, ranger-led walks are some of the 3,000 events taking place at the Trust’s sites until the end of October.
Most are designed to get children out of the house with a raft of tricks: themed walks with dressing-up, adventure trails with maps and wildlife discoveries.
At Denbies Hillside, with its views towards towering Leith Hill, rangers are running a campfire-and-conkers walk where the steep climb on the North Downs is rewarded with toasted marshmallows.
At Hatchlands Park, the Georgian mansion in East Clandon, the lure is special bat-detecting equipment to identify the nine species on the site at dusk.
And in Bookham Woods, near Leatherhead, a butterfly trail will take you in search of the elusive Purple Emperor and to the copse where breeding males perform daily territorial displays.
Getting kids out means choosing terrain wisely. Flat paths and straight lines don’t cut it; they need to clamber and explore. Nowhere offers more in that regard than Box Hill, where the newly-built play trail with its tunnels, log bridges and rope swings built around tree stumps, its ditches and its dips, makes the circular loop from the top of the hill an adventure playground as well as a ramble.
The free trail guide offers excellent advice on tree climbing and play in general. Walkers can continue from the play trail to the Stepping Stones Trail, a two-mile circuit through meadows and woodland to the stepping stones across the River Mole.
Diversionary tactics are always helpful in the battle of sofa versus the great outdoors – and Alice Holt Forest near Farnham has them in spades. The Forestry Commission’s most popular site has family cycle trails, orienteering events, two excellent adventure play parks, a 3D maze, a Go Ape high wire for over 10s and a wide range of bookable activities such as family bushcraft days (Oct 27) and den building (Oct 30) to attract the most reluctant forest dweller. There is also a programme of weekly autumn activity walks for toddlers and pre-schoolers with stories and woodland crafts.
Children love drama and excitement on a walk. Treasure hunts go down well and a new website that provides pre-written treasure hunts promises a good way of getting children discovering streets, statues and local attractions that they may never have noticed before. Huntfun.co.uk has over 240 treasure trails for different towns and cities. The package contains a map, directions and questions that can take up to two hours to complete. There are three in and around Surrey – in Richmond, Kingston and Guildford – suitable for all ages. The hunts cost £7 to download or between £4.99 and £6.99 for a printed version. Another initiative is the website walkswithbuggies.com, which offers a free online directory of walks for parents with children in pushchairs. Walks have been tested and reviewed, there is information on difficulty, distance and facilities and the website offers free Ordnance Survey maps.
To find out more about the National Trust’s Great British Walks see; nationaltrust.org.uk
For events and activities at Alice Holt see; forestry.gov.uk