Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Felltarn Friends: Lake District Adventures.by Claire Jayne Mansfield. £8.99
“Take your family on this great family walk. It’s a challenging 3 hour, 9.6 km long walk.” A walk up Latrigg sounds a good idea and there’s a map showing how you can walk along the old railway line and the River Greta and round and up back to Keswick.
However, this is not the usual guide to family walks in the Lakes. The person leading the hike is not the father, determined that the kids should get out and get some fresh air, nor the mother anxious that everyone should have fun together.
No, the ideas are being planted into the head of an eight year old or a ten year old.
Be warned, this activity book is the perfect way to get the kids involved , and if it works, they’ll be taking charge, telling you where they want to go and what they want to see, and finding lots of other things to do in the meantime.
The Felltarn friends take the lead. They’re Robyn Squirrel, Alice Rabbit, Henry Dog and Harry Fox and others,
Hatty Sheep wears overalls and a safety helmet to go to the Honister Slate Mines. There’s a maze to find the path to bring the slate up the mine. There’s a mining sign with two hammers on a yellow ground to copy and colour, and there’s six mining objects to find the odd men out. The answer is easy. It’s the fish and the flower.
You can count the climbers clinging on to the Via Ferrata and learn that its name is the Latin for the iron way.
On the opposite page are four flowers, dandelion, bluebell, buttercup and bramble, ready for colouring and with a tick box alongside when you spot them on that walk up Latrigg or wherever else you go in the Lakes.
There’s a picture of Grange in Borrowdale. The valley was created by glaciers 10.000 years ago. Oddly, Willie Pig is there with his cousins frolicking round the bridge. There are six of them to find and you can give them names beginning with the letter P.
And there’s a piggy joke as well. “What kind of pigs know karate?” The answer: “Pork chops.”
It’s almost as good as the one for Keswick Pencil Museum. “Why shouldn’t you draw with a blunt pencil?” Do you know the answer? “It’s pointless.”
You’re encouraged to count the stones at Castlerigg. But do it twice to make sure you’re right. The old legend says you never get the same answer. And there’s a picture of the Felltarn Friends playing at witches and wizards while they have a picnic at the stone circle. It’s one of 65 in Cumbria.
My favourite page has the outlines of two dozen birds set against a blue sky. There are 350 species in Cumbria altogether. These are waiting to be coloured in, which seems an excellent way to start looking at birds.
An activity book like this may seem as though it is designed for a rainy day – just an attractive collection of puzzles and jokes and things to do to keep the kids entertained when you’re confined to the cottage or the bed and breakfast. Claire Mansfield has done an excellent job, because the book is far more colourful and better presented than the usual run of activity books.
But these Lake District activities are much more than that. They encourage a real interest in the place. Any youngster who gets involved with these 90 pages will start looking around, noticing things, playing I-Spy, and they’ll know a few things you don’t know.
Before long, they’ll be dragging you up Latrigg or Catbells or demanding to go to Aira Force. And they’ll have plenty of jokes to keep you amused.
Felltarn Friends is available from Bookends, 56 Castle Street, Carlisle, and 66 Main Street, Keswick and from www.bookscumbria.com.