Being a parent is never easy. Once you had the liberty to roam the open fells at will. And then, shackled by mortgage and growing children, you long to regain that lost freedom, but the kids, even though they can run round all day and well into the evening until you’re completely exhausted, won’t walk.
A short easy stroll and you thrill to the fresh air in your lungs, but you’ve only walked a mile and they begin to ask how much further and my legs are hurting and I’m hungry and all the peace and serenity of sharing your pleasures with the family are gone. It doesn’t seem worth it.
Chris Bagshawe may have the answer or he may have very compliant children: “There’s no magic formula for walking with children, but judicious use of Polo mints and some of the finest scenery in Britain should help you introduce your little ones to the outdoors with much enjoyment all round.”
In this cheerfully designed little book, complete with sketch maps and fun things to do, he offers twenty road-tested walks to prove his point.
Bitts Park in Carlisle isn’t exactly Helvellyn, but it’s a good place to start. A two and a half mile walk from the Castle to the ‘funny’ Memorial Bridge and back again should promise family fun. And there’s the reviving bribe of the splendid playground just beneath the Castle Walls. The route takes you through “a surprising slice of rural Cumbria, complete with grazing cows”.
Equally enticing is a stroll along the old railway track at Keswick and through Brundholme Woods. “Playing at trains,” Chris assures us, “is the best game”, but there’s several good beaches and dippers and kingfishers and red squirrels and invariably an ice-cream van at the end of the trail.
If you’ve broken them in in Bitts Park or Brundholme Woods you might try the Whinlatter Forest Walk, two and a half miles through the trees with more challenging ascents and a café at the end of it. You can keep your eyes peeled for birds, squirrels and deer and poke around in rotten tree stumps, look for a lost dam and expend all your energy in the adventure playground with its aerial runway and model forestry vehicles.
The next stage in converting your kids to commandos might be a walk up to Lanty’s Tarn above Ullswater. There’s nothing more exciting than the idea of a secret lake and once you see the lake through the trees it’s the ideal place for hide and seek and skimming stones. You can then climb up to Keldas and survey Ullswater, before scurrying down to catch the boat and complete a perfect day.
Another two and a half mile walk through Stonethwaite and Langstrath offers “plenty of satisfying sploshing”. You follow a bridleway once used by packhorses on a route that “splashes through several shallow becks on the way as well as a short stretch of bog making it a really good walk for wearing wellies.”
But the final assault is on Hallin Fell. It’s 1,273 and can count as the first of their 214 Wainwright summits. The clever thing is that, having driven up the road to Martindale you’re within 600 feet and only a half a mile from the top. And to help them on their way you can play “uphill golf” – spot a feature in the heather ahead and see who guesses the right number of paces to get there.
Before long your kids will have grown up and be fully-fledged Wainwright baggers or they will have gone to live in the city. You will be free to return to your solitary tramps across the wide open fells.