Walking with Children


I often hear ‘outdoor’ parents complaining of the lost years when they have young children; years that they rarely see the hill tops and a good walk is a 1 mile trawl along a dirty canal with a complaining child at their side. Maybe this is a mite exaggerated to emphasise the point but there is no doubt this is seen as the ‘downside’ of having children by many. It need not be so! Tailor the walk for them (and make it interesting for you) and remember that views are not for them but interest value is.

I found the most difficult time to take children on decent walks is from 3 to 5  when the little boy/girl is too heavy to be carried in a back pack but is still lacking in any type of stamina. Walks at this time contained a great deal of bribery with large sections riding on my shoulders – not at all ideal. Having said that I was astonished to hear of a young boy complete the Wainwrights at age 5! I guess it depends somewhat on the child.

Prior to age 3 I took my two girls up in a sturdy back pack which was actually ok. I even scaled Pavey Ark with Charlotte and that is a steep old haul (not Jacks Rake) and Lucy has completed the Lion and the Lamb and Pen y Ghent mainly in her pack. I found this fine as long as you get a high quality back pack which sits well and high – a good waist belt being key so there is not too much pull on your shoulders. I enjoyed these walks because they got me high and offered more than a taste of true fell walking. However I also was able to take them on lower walks – usually by rivers/lakes, and visited places that in the past I would rarely have dreamed of visiting (leaving them till I was old and knackered). Ingleton Waterfalls was one, a circuit of Buttermere another, both of which were thoroughly enjoyable for all of us.

Once the back pack has been thankfully abandoned there are two considerations that are key to the children, and therefore yourself, enjoying the walk. The first of these is to bring a satisfying selection of snacks (whatever that may be), the second is choosing the right walk. My eldest judges a good walk by the amount of scrambling involved, “I hate these boring hills” she said as we trawled up Carrock Fell but cheered up immeasurably when I produced the wine gums. Next year Sharp Edge is on the cards. Make the hill interesting and she thoroughly enjoys it – the length and height is less important but it is boredom that is the big downer, keep them interested.

I have listed below my favourite 10 walks for children of roughly 6 to 8 which are a great day out full of interest and contrast  – 5 in the Lakes, 5 in the Dales:

Dales

Lakes

There are many more.

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Click below on ‘Previous Posts’ to see older blogs on the Mountain Rescue Teams, the Where2walk challenge and the potential impact of government cuts on footpaths.