Our Last Trip of the Summer
As a part of my work, we run outdoor activities throughout the whole summer holidays. We deliver two trips per day, ranging from walks for under 8’s, through to mountain biking, gorge walking and coasteering for young adults, and much more in between. It’s always a very busy time and, by the end of the summer, even we can’t wait for the children to go back to school!
So, our tired little troupe of outdoor workers, fed up with wearing damp wetsuits and not wanting to see another buoyancy aid for a long while, all decided that our last summer holiday activity would be a forest day, with a small group of under 8’s from a local play centre. Relaxed, not much kit to pack and, (let’s be honest), easier than clambering up a waterfall.
This ended up being one of my most favourite activity trips of the summer.
We didn’t have to travel far, as we went to Forest Fawr in Cardiff, not far from Castell Coch. It’s a wonderful forest area, with lots of safe space for children to roam and explore while still being in constant visual contact of the staff. It’s also where the T.V. series Merlin (as well as episodes of Sherlock Holmes) have been filmed, and this is something that the children love to be able to recognise and relate to.
We loaded our rucksacks with a Kelly Kettle, fire building equipment, tarpaulins for den building, wood cookies for outdoor medals and other bits and bobs for a full day of forest adventures and exploring.
We had a short walk to the site, which has a fire circle already in place and lots of space for den building. The children off-loaded their bags, and couldn’t wait to explore the area. Luckily, we gave them each a set of waterproof clothes and wellies, because it’s easy for us to wash off the kit, and the kids all go home clean and mud free!
They really did need protective clothes, as this was the first thing they spotted!
Mother Nature providing the perfect playground!
The children spent ages balancing on the tree, carefully stepping and sliding along it. Eventually, after about twenty minutes, they finally became brave enough to stomp, squelch and jump in the mud, mud, glorious mud!
The staff stopped and took a step back, (thinking that we were the ones who were going to have to wash the kit), but all agreed that the children were having a wonderful time.
They say that one picture can say a thousand words…………
After a bit of washing off, we headed to our base for the day. There, we handed out tarpaulins, ropes and string, and then just allowed the children to create their own dens. What struck me the most, was how the children worked together and didn’t need (or seek) our help. They were so confident and comfortable in the environment that they didn’t need adult intervention.
That’s how it should be…… child-led play.
It was so amazing to watch. As outdoor workers, that’s what we strive to see. Play is such an important experience for children, as it allows them to develop in so many different ways. Seeing the children happy, confident and totally in control of choosing how and what they want to play. It was wonderful.
We spent the rest of the afternoon learning about fire-safety, and how to make fires. The children loved having the opportunity to learn how to make a fire in a safely controlled environment. It was something they’ve never been allowed to do, and to see them working responsibly in pairs, on such a risky activity, was great. Then, the staff cooked popcorn on an open fire, which was enjoyed by everyone, both young and old.
……………….and, of course, there was even more mud!
All the children and the staff had such an amazing day. It’s funny, sometimes, that people often “talk-up” activities such as gorge walking, canoeing and mountain biking. People are amazed that we get involved in delivering those sorts of activities to children and young adults. But, to this tired and weary outdoor worker, (at the end of a long summer programme), this simple yet fun-filled adventure in the forest has to be one of my favourite memories of this summer.
sometimes, the simple things in life are truly the best!