Walks with Children


I am asked (particularly at this time of the year) what are the best walks to take children on. The glib reply is ‘any’, my next question is what their ages are and then I usually add the following comment. “Don’t make the walk too long (up to the age of 10), make it interesting and  give it a purpose”.

On the summit of Blencathra
Looking over the Blencathra ridge

My two daughters are 11 and 16 and have been out on walks from age 0. Initially I carried them in a back pack but after hauling one up Pavey Ark (not via Jack’s Rake) I decided enough was enough, they had to walk. Lower walks for a while driven by the excellent book, Making Tracks, was soon replaced by trips to the lower fells (Hallin, Gowbarrow etc) and soon to higher fells. My 6 year old climbed Blencathra via Halls Fell, just a fact not a suggestion. One thing to be wary of, you should be a competent walker and ooze enthusiasm and confidence.

Its not what you climb, it’s what makes it interesting.

Lion & the Lamb
High point Lion & the Lamb

Both girls are distinctly unimpressed by some of the walks in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales which I thoroughly enjoy. ‘Boring’ is the common  refrain on anything that does not involve some scrambling on the rocks, water or other things ‘of interest’. They are fearless on rock. You may be terrified watching them scrambling up a fell but they love it.  A nice wide ridge with splendid 360 degree views does not hit the mark, neither does a path which makes its way up a gradual slope that lasts more than about 20 minutes to half an hour.

Climbing the rocky bit on Pen y Ghent
On the scramble up Peny Ghent

I am off to the Lake District with them (we go every year) and selecting some walks which will satisfy their needs (sweets are also a pre-requisite of any hike) is always more challenging than I thought. Walking in the Dales is even tougher as the ‘excitement’ value is less easy to find (but still there). My own dad just went for the iconic name and badge approach (‘we are going up Gable today’) and there was never any debate but now I like to get a certain amount of buy in before heading off.

On the roof of England, Scafell Pike

On the roof of England
They have a book which they fill out after every half decent walk and this helps – after all they surely must have a ticking mentality like their Dad. Mist, our border collie, also helps by diverting their attention and retaining the interest factor but the reality is that the walk has to be judged on time likely to be taken and a certain amount of blackmail. In practical terms a good breakfast, decent training type shoes, a waterproof and a picnic all help – something I have personally been useless about in the past.

Climbing a Corbett, aged 5
On a Corbett aged 5

My own  Munro journey more often than not involved setting off in inadequate shoes, a couple of Mars Bars (limited or no water – there are streams) and a blinding headache courtesy of a night on the ‘Heavy’  or some other poison. However I have tried not to pass all of this on to the girls, there is no doubt that walking would, and is, seriously more pleasant with food inside, plenty of water and some reasonable, but not over expensive, kit. Despite some angst on the walks we have done, afterwards they were happy as sandboys and keen to try another one.

Bit boring, this bit
On the steep bit

They will remember their walks forever.

Big Yes’s: Summit cairns, filling out a book, sweets, scrambling, dogs, packed lunch, spotting other children, counting cairns (there are 98 from Styhead to Scafell Pike), bribery and rapid descents.

Big No’s: Views, grassy hillsides, nagging parents, ill fitting boots/shoes, heat, rain (at the start, oddly enough ok once on the move), maps/compasses and large packs (note DofE)


Top Tip
: Improve the flavour of your water by allowing your daughter to lose a lemon bonbon she was eating in your water bottle at some point in the walk….

5 excellent Family Walks in the Yorkshire Dales (below the age of 10)

Gordale Scar from Malham

History in Gunnerside Gill

The Waterfalls of Ingleton

Ilkley Moor Baht’at

Kisdon Fell Circular

5 excellent Family Walks in the Lake District (below the age of 10)

Blencathra

Lion & the Lamb

Gowbarrow via Aira Force

Great Crag from Rosthwaite

Easedale Tarn from Grasmere

Enjoy your walking

Jonathan

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