What’s not to love about autumn? The trees turn all those gorgeous colours, and we get to wrap up in chunky jumpers, stick on our wellies and go splashing in puddles.
Then there’s brambling and scrumping, baking giant fruit crumbles and huddling around the oven to get warm. And just when we’re getting fed up of the cold, come the festivals of Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali, to brighten up the chilly nights.
One of our favourite things to do this time of year with our missie gnots and master gnots is to go on an autumn family walk.
Going on walks or hikes as a family offers a great way to spend time together, enjoy beautiful scenery and get some exercise. There are wonderful walks the length and breadth of the UK, and further afield, of course, many of which are (or are in part) ideally suited to families. And as walking is the most popular physical activity in the UK, with some 38 million people a month taking to the hills and countryside to stretch their legs, why not join them and enjoy the benefits this almost cost-free activity offers?
Below are some tips and information on enjoying a day out or longer sojourn with your family, walking, hiking or trekking, including details of where to go, what you’ll need to take with you and equipment for carrying babies and toddlers.
Planning your trip
Walking trips and holidays can work well with children in tow – you just need to do some careful preparation and research in advance. The main consideration will be the age of your children. If you have fit and healthy teenagers, you’ll find there are many options available to you, and you could – if your kids are up for it – embark on really challenging walks which will give you all an incredible sense of achievement (though such excursions might not fulfil your notion of a ‘holiday’ as such!) But if you have much younger children you’ll have to think carefully about the duration of your walk and what is realistically achievable for each member of the family without children becoming too tired and tempers getting frayed.
Are you looking for a gentle walk across easy terrain that can be covered in a day? Or do you want to go on a longer walk, with overnight stops along the way, or with a base in a central location you can return to at the end of each day? Will your children be walking themselves some or all of the way, or will you be walking with buggies or carrying equipment? All of these considerations will dictate the length and difficulty of your walk.
As a general rule the most difficult age to take children walking is from 4 to 8 years as children of this age are too old to be carried or pushed but too young to walk long distances. That’s not to say you can’t embark on a walk or hike if your children are this age, but you’ll just need to factor in plenty of breaks along the way, and allow them some down-time from the walking – they’ll need time to stop at a beach cove, forest or stream for a play, paddle, snack and rest.
Consider also what you’ll need to take with you as long days out with children inevitably involve lots of additional baggage – nappies, drinks, milk, change of clothes, etc. If one of you will be carrying a babycarrier on their back remember that only one of you will be able to carry a rucksack so you’ll need to fit everything you need in one bag.
Where to go
Once you’ve worked out the practicalities of your walk, you can then move onto the fun bit – planning where to go! It’s vitally important to stick to a family-friendly route and thankfully there are plenty to choose from. A good place to start is The Ramblers Association website (the Ramblers Association is Britain’s biggest charity working to promote walking and to improve conditions for all walkers). Not only will you find comprehensive information on walking for families but you can search for family-friendly walking routes across the UK by ticking the ‘walks suitable for people with children’ box.
Another good source of information is Pushchair Walks, a collection of over 200 tried-and-tested pushchair-friendly walks in some of the UK’s most stunning locations. All walks have been tested and graded using all-terrain pushchairs, and some are quite challenging, but there are also suggestions for walks if you have a less heavy-duty pushchair, such as a three-wheeler stroller or lightweight buggy (McClaren or similar). You do have to pay if you wish to download a walk but the £1 charge offers you the reassurance that the route has been carefully researched, as well as a user-friendly map, clear directions and interesting additional information. You can also buy a range of pushchair walking guides at Amazon, researched and written by the same people behind the website.
Amazon also has more general walking guides for families if you’re planning a trip in the UK, covering unmissable beauty spots in the UK such as Snowdonia, the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.
If you’re looking for walks in England, check out the enjoyEngland website, where you’ll find details of walks in all corners of the region. You can also buy walking products and guide books, and download MP3 tours.
Walks with Buggies offers similar information, including reviews from other parents of walks, free downloads of OS maps and directions, and an easy-to-use search function which lets you search for walks by region, distance (from 0-2 miles to 5 miles plus), gradient and terrain (easy to extreme).
Babies & toddlers: carrying equipment and pushchairs
If you’ll be walking with young children you’ll need to make sure your equipment is up to the job. Easy walks should be manageable with your normal buggy but you may still encounter the odd patch of rough terrain which is tricky to negotiate with a standard three-wheeler, McClaren or similar. If you’d prefer not to have to push the buggy there are a range of baby and child carries on the market you could consider. If you have a very young baby who cannot yet support their own head you should carry them in a front-of-body carrier, such as those in the Baby Bjorn range, which allow your baby to be held facing you or outwards. Remember also that if you’ll be putting a very young baby in a buggy for your walk they should not be pushed over very bumpy terrain – small babies of under 4 months old should only be pushed across easy, level ground so they are not shaken around too much.
Older babies who can support their own heads (from around 6 months, generally-speaking) can go in a back carrier, which can usually take a child of up to 4 years or 20kg. You’ll need to try a few out in the shops before you buy to make sure you find one that is comfortable and manageable for you. All models are not the same and you’ll need one that can be adjusted to suit your height and build.Mothercare has a comprehensive range of both front and back carriers, or check out Bushbaby’s great range of back carriers, covering carriers suitable for short walks to the shops to hikes in the mountains.
If you’re looking to buy a new buggy and want something that can cope with rougher ground, look out for an all-terrain pushchair, which will be more suitable for walks than a standard buggy. All-terrain pushchairs usually come in three-wheeler format, with pneumatic tyres, lightweight but strong aluminum frames and a longer wheelbase. This makes the pushchair more robust and suitable for covering mountainous or uneven ground. You can find some helpful reviews of all-terrain pushchairs and accessories at Pushchair Walks. There are also several specialist ATP suppliers online, including Kidsense and Chariots.
So get out there, enjoy the beautiful autumn colours and most importantly enjoy quality time with your family.