Great outdoors fun for kids
PUBLISHED: 10:59 20 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:13 20 February 2013
Do your children spend a lot of time indoors in front of computers and television screens. With the arrival of spring weather, why not entice them into the fresh air with some exciting outdoor activities. Gill Moon has some ideas
Do your children spend a lot of time indoors in front of computers and television screens. With the arrival of spring weather, why not entice them into the fresh air with some exciting outdoor activities? Gill Moon has some ideas
A recent survey in the UK found that children today spend 60% less time outdoors than their parents did at the same age. In these days of TV, video and computer games, where youngsters look to simulated adventure for their enjoyment, it is becoming increasingly hard to find activities to encourage children to venture outside.
The countryside is often seen as boring and wildlife as uncool, but if we want our environment to have a future as a cherished and respected place, then we need to start encouraging our younger generation to get outside and get involved.
We are lucky in Suffolk that we live in a county so rich in beautiful countryside.
From the Sandlings and rivers along the heritage coast to the forests of Rendlesham, Dunwich and Thetford, we live in an area of diverse habitats which all offer the visitor something different. We need to start getting our children out and enjoying all these wonderful environments before we lose them for good.
In todays busy society and vulnerable economic climate, where the work/life balance is often skewed towards our working lives and money can be hard to come by, family trips out are often the first luxuries we sacrifice. However, you dont have to spend a fortune to enjoy the Suffolk countryside and even short visits can be hugely beneficial for children. Here are a few ideas for low cost activities to get your children reconnected with the countryside.
Suffolk is a beautiful county with some wonderful countryside and it is really important that the next generation grows up to appreciate what a wonderful resource we have. If we can change childrens attitudes by getting them involved maybe they will see the countryside as an exciting place. Then the future of our environment will be in much safer hands.
This is not often a favourite pastime for children and can be seen as a chore, but there are some interesting places to go where fun walks can make all the difference. Try the giant sculpture trail at the High Lodge centre in Brandon where children can play on six giant sculptures each representing an animal found in the woods. There are four other walking trails here which range from one to three miles long. At Rendlesham Forest children can follow the three-mile UFO trail and discover the mystery of Suffolks most famous alien sighting.
CYCLING AND MOUNTAIN BIKING
Suffolk is blessed with some really good off road cycle routes. Top of the list is High Lodge in Thetford Forest which has three cycle routes, easy, medium and hard, ranging in distance from six to 11 miles. There is also an 11 mile mountain bike route with hills, jumps and steep inclines which is suitable for the more experienced rider. Rendlesham Forest has two different off road cycle routes as well as a cycle park which is great fun for children of all ages. Other places to cycle with good off road sections are Tunstall Forest and Dunwich Forest and Heath.
This is possibly one of the most popular seaside pastimes for children and is great entertainment. All you need is a line, a bucket and some bacon for bait. Any of our river estuaries will provide you with large numbers of shore crabs to catch but good places to try are Bawdsey, Ramsholt or Woodbridge quays on the River Deben or Southwold and Walberswick which is Suffolks crabbing capital. Make sure you check out the British Crabbing Championships which are held every August in Walberswick.
You wouldnt necessarily associate Suffolk with fossil hunting but there are a couple of sites along the coast that are well worth a visit. Pakefield, just down the coast from Kessingland is a rich hunting ground for ammonites, shells, and belemnites. Fossils can be found on the foreshore and must never be taken from the cliffs. Further south check out Ramsholt on the River Deben, where a walk along the river bank will reveal a small beach known locally for its sharks teeth.
This is another discovery activity that children love, and which doesnt require any specialist equipment. Our heathlands are particularly good habitats for this activity and on a short walk you can discover mini beasts ranging from ants to beetles to moths and dragonflies. Good places to go include the sandlings heath which is made up of Sutton, Hollesley and Blaxhall commons. Further along the coast Westleton and Walberswick nature reserve and Dunwich Heath are worth a visit as are the inland areas of Knettisham Heath Country Park and West Stowe Country Park. Many of these sites also offer bug hunting days where enthusiastic experts will show your children how to find and identify a range of small creatures.
SAILING, CANOEING AND BOATING
The Suffolk coast opens out to six beautiful rivers, from the Orwell in the south to the Waveney in the north, all of which make wonderful places to explore by sailing boat or canoe. There are plenty of good sailing schools on the Orwell, Deben and at Oulton Broad, but for a cheaper alternative try the 60 acre boating lake at Thorpeness. With a choice of over 100 boats to hire ranging from canoes to rowing boats, punts and sailing dinghies, there is something here for everyone.
With so many miles of coast and tidal river bank in Suffolk, fishing is an activity that every child should try.
A permit is not required for tidal waters and all you need is a good rod and some bait to fish for sea bass in the summer and cod and whiting
in the winter.
You never know you might catch something big enough to eat!
We are lucky in Suffolk to have so many diverse habitats on our doorstep. The RSPB has some stunning reserves at Minsmere, North Warren and Lakenheath Fen, which all make great days out. But you dont have to visit a reserve for good birdwatching. Our rivers provide fantastic habitats for birds and especially good places to go are the Orwell at Pin Mill, the Deben at Bawdsey and Ramsholt and the Alde and Ore at Snape. All have good riverside walks enabling you to get up close to avocets, plovers, curlew, redshanks and a variety of other waders.
Children love discovering things and the tiny creatures that lurk beneath the surface of our ponds are particularly fascinating. Several of our local reserves and wildlife trusts lay on special pond dipping activity days for children, where for a small fee you can hire nets, trays and identification sheets. Good places to go include Dunwich Heath, Minsmere and the Suffolk Wildlife trust reserves at Redgrave and Lopham Fen and Lackford Lakes.