Whatever the weather, you know going outside will lift your mood, give you some much-needed vitamin D and reduce stress and anxiety. For children this is doubly true.
The latest guidance (in England) on exercising over lockdown continues to be:
You can spend time in an outdoor public place for exercise or recreation:
- with one other person, plus any children under five
- with members of your household and/or support bubble
- with children you are informally caring for as part of a childcare bubble.'[*]
So while you may not be able meet up in a crowd, you can go for a walk with a friend. And that walk can become a real joy if that friend starts out a bit reluctant to go… because more likely than not, you’ll both feel great after, and you might just spark a lifelong love of the outdoors.
Here’s our five top tips to get even the most reluctant indoors person outside exploring!
1) Think warm and dry - dressing to impress comes second!
NOTHING cuts short a winter walk like the cold and wet. We live in Britain, from November to February it is usually about 8 – 12 degrees, and often much colder, wetter and wilder. So Tip Number One is...
Wrap yourself in wool and waterproofs, hats, gloves and boots, and suddenly it’s not grim. It is exhilarating!
Umbrellas are great if rain is coming straight down, but waterproof trousers, boots and a raincoat won’t let you down by blowing inside out in the wind. Suddenly there is nothing stopping you…
If money is the biggest barrier getting waterproofs, get in touch. We have a small selection available for families on low incomes – for parents as well as children.
2) Take a seat…
Having something to put on a seat means your bum won't get wet when you pause for a break. Again, don't stress if you can't afford the latest technical thermal insulated sit pad, you can improvise – cut up an old yoga mattress, use a plastic ‘for-life’ bag, or a waterproof picnic mat (borrowing your friend’s or child’s coat for this purpose is not fair).
The sit pad is even more important if you’ve come with children as it means you can take time to sit in comfort on your own.. to read, observe nature or Facetime another friend while the kids go off to play.
3) Take a flask of tea!
It’s a fact. To quote the rather marvellous Caitlin Moran:
“If you can leave the house with half a litre of hot tea in your luggage at all time, you will feel as a god. There is nothing the day can throw at you that can’t be remedied by remembering you’ve got a brew in your bag.,..”[†] Caitlin Moran, 2020
With a friend? Make sure you bring your own (no sharing in Covid, sorry…), and for children hot Ribena, lemon water with a bit of sugar or good old hot chocolate.
4) Carry everything in a backpack (not a shoulder bag)
Seriously... your back will thank you. Handbags and satchels are lovely, but for a walk, especially in winter, the backpack is your friend... especially if you are avoiding cafes and have other people’s children with you.
What to pack? A book. A game. A small first aid kit. A map. Snacks. Maybe even a magnifying glass or binoculars to better see the wildlife. But make sure you leave space to put your coat and outer layers (when the sun comes out and you get too hot).
Recently Arc’treryx UK asked our CEO Cath Prisk specifically what she always carries in her rucksack on their podcast. Her answer?
“A sense of curiosity, awe and smattering of stoicism…”[‡]
They don’t weigh very much on your back, but the more you walk (and carry the layers), the more of them you and everyone you take outdoors will have.,
Oh and a backpack is great to carry your hot tea (as Ms Moran also pointed out!).
5) Learn five things to watch out for
If you can identify only five birds, plants, trees and cloud formations, you’ll wonder how you missed the diversity of nature right on your doorstep whether you are in Hackney or Hull.
You don't have to learn the 'proper names, why not come up with your own?
But if you want to know more, there are lots of books, apps and websites. Our favourites include:
- London Wildlife Trust
- British tree identification by the Woodland Trust
- The Wildlife Trusts : Nature Finder
- Chirp! Bird Songs UK & Europe
- Star Walk：Find Stars & Planets
With your five things you've got instant Nature Bingo... see if you can chalk off seeing a Magpie, a Robin, worms and/or woodlice, a London Plane or an Oak tree, and on the way home find Mars in the sky, then you know you've had an adventure. Once you know these you’ll know them forever and you’ll see so much more around you.
And finally, while the destination is rarely the point for children at least, the Ordnance Survey Maps app and website has hundreds of routes mapped on it for inspiration, and a green layer so you can find a new playground or woodland. Go Jauntly is another favourite for short walk inspirations, and especially useful around London.
So your mission today is just to ask a friend to come for a walk, and tell us where you went! If you tag us in any social we'd love to share your adventures to inspire more people to just get outdoors.
[‡]What's In My Pack? | Episode 8 | Rob Ferguson meets Cath Prisk https://open.spotify.com/episode/2F4aPBF8GKX46EOxk3YUzw