Autumn family adventures
Looking for exciting, outdoor family adventures this Autumn? GetOutside Champions, Jen & Sim Benson bring us 6 of the best events on offer at your local National Trust places.
Grandparents, mums and dads, aunts and uncles, kids, partners and friends – all people you’re likely to spend some quality time with this festive season. And one sure way to make those moments more memorable is to head outside.
Because being with the people we love outdoors brings a different dimension - to the place and also to how we see them. The views we best remember are of things broader than just the TV.
A post dinner family walk is the best way to get everyone out of the house... I recommend a little hill for a Christmas Day view.
Plus it helps avoid the post dinner slump and the washing up!
Every festive season, each family member can bring something special to the great GetOutside party. Grandparents can be great at joining in youngsters' creative play; kids can help us see the outdoors with fresh eyes. So we’re celebrating the things different family members bring to a seasonal day out, and sharing their top festive GetOutside tips.
We go on a neighbourhood Christmas lights walk to see how many reindeers and Santas we can spot.
Plus, a lot of National Trust properties have lots of family activities going on over the holidays.
Perhaps it’s because they’re smaller or perhaps it’s because so many things are new, children have an innate ability to react with wonder to our world. Which makes them fantastic to be around on a festive outdoors outing. Because they haven’t yet learnt that icy temperatures make puddles solid and robins don’t just appear at Christmas (imagine!).
Who forgets their child’s reaction the first time they saw snow? Which of us would be worse off if we also, just for a moment, looked on those magical falling flakes in such awe. If we let it happen, following the lead of our children outdoors means us adults can rediscover curiosity and child-like joy.
We always do a Kids Frostbite Ride in the Christmas holidays where we invite kids out for an hours’ local ride and back to ours for hot chocolate.
A Christmas Day bike ride, perhaps with a new helmet or bike, is a perfect before lunch activity. It’s an ideal activity to work off energy together as a family.
In The Summer Book - by the creator of the Moomins Tove Jansson - a grandmother and her granddaughter holiday on a tiny Scandinavian island. It’s a place of mild adventures and quiet surprises, where small things lead to big themes and curiosity helps them connect with their world.
Grandparents are like this with grandchildren outdoors at Christmas. Whether they’re leading us all to the top of the hill or strolling beside us down a lane, our older generations excel at marvelling at nature, remembering, sharing wisdom, savouring the moment and discovering things anew.
And often grandparents have some forgotten knowledge to tap: what is that tree? When will this blossom? What used to be here forty years ago?
We did a Christmas Eve walk in festive dress with mince pie and festive goodies. A great way to start Christmas for the right reasons with the people that matter.
Once they’ve removed the Christmas cooking aprons, parents can be ace instigators of outdoors festive fun. Perhaps it’s singing loudly - and even sometimes tunefully - at outdoors carol concerts.
Or prompting us to pop down to the park or seafront to try out new scooters, bikes, roller skates, hats, scarves and – of course – socks.
Or are they the ones daring you to take a festive open water swim? Brilliant, bracing and more than a little bonkers, it’s a highlight of many a Christmas break.
And aren’t we glad they do? Because our parents are right in thinking that it’s these times outside as a family that matter. Once those festive socks dry out, the memories will remain.
If you do decide on a festive open water swim, please be careful - the Outdoor Swimming Society has some excellent safety advice.
And if you don’t already swim outside year-round, consider limiting it to one of countless organised, charity Boxing Day / New Year’s Day dips nationwide.
I used to rope siblings into an afternoon walk or festive parkrun – my brothers were always competitive enough to agree!
While we love our brother and sisters, which of us doesn’t enjoy just a little bit of sibling rivalry? Who can walk fastest, reach the hill top quickest and skim stones furthest - and that’s just the adults.
Christmas also offers excellent opportunities to compete and enjoy a little rough and tumble. Snow is a prime example – a well-aimed sibling-bound snowball can be deeply satisfying; as can shovelling handfuls of the wet white stuff down a brother or sister’s back. Happy days. But what if, as can often happen, there’s no snow? Some families opt for festive pine cone fights in the woods instead.
Perhaps because many Aunts and Uncles don’t have to do the dull day-to-day discipline stuff, they can add a dash of novelty to festive outdoor play.
They’ve maybe not done the ‘walking and swinging the child by the arms thing’ a thousand times before, so respond brightly to the cry of “again!” It’s a treat to be asked to do carrying duty, rather than a daily occurrence, and piggy backs are still unusual fun.
As youngsters get older they can also be a supportive friend – conversations can be easier when you’re walking side by side.
Some are also slightly subversive ringleaders, colluding in puddle jumping, hide and seek, and snowball ambushes – they remember those sibling ‘snow down the back’ moments and might, just might, be after a little gentle revenge...
We have an annual beach/forest walk and involve the whole family. The kids initially dragged their feet, preferring to stay indoors with new toys but fast-forward a few years and it’s the highlight of Christmas!
Try alternating beach and forest; on beach year have a stone skimming contest and collect interesting rocks to paint (and add the year on them). On the forest walk try hide and seek... although younger members may just end up climbing trees! A treat like sausage sandwiches afterwards could make the experience a great tradition for the whole family to enjoy the morning outside.
As is so often said, Christmas is about families. But friends also play a hugely important part. There’s little better than gathering a big group together to head out for a walk. Kids, dogs, family and friends all striding out.
Some recommend scheduling it for Christmas Eve to ensure the youngsters are tired enough to settle down quickly amid all the excitement. Others advocate arranging it for “Twixtmas” – the gap between Christmas and New Year when a blast of fresh air works wonders.
One top tip: follow it up with bacon sandwiches around a friend’s BBQ. Or consider a New Year’s Eve with a difference: a bunch of friends under canvas in a formal site or wild camping under a tarp - it’s a great way to see in the New Year.
What do your grandparents, mum, dad, aunts, uncles, kids, partners and friends bring to an outdoors experience?
What tips can you share that help turn those family festive GetOutside moments into lasting memories?