Winter is just around the corner, and children are still desperate to play outdoors (despite us adults wanting to stay indoors warm with a movie and some hot coco!) but there are so many amazing locations to explore and enjoy as the days get shorter and colder. So dig out your thermals, pull on your wellies and go explore!
The benefits of outdoor play for children is so important. Their confidence grows, positive risk taking can be explored, and independance develops- not to mention the huge environmental educational benefits of exploring the world outdoors.
Regatta, the leading outdoor clothing brand conducted a study relating to children’s outdoor play and the recent Covid pandemic. Children’s engagement with the outdoors has been impacted by recent lockdowns. A survey by Natural England, published in October 2020, revealed that six in 10 children have spent less time outdoors since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 70 percent want to spend more time outdoors with friends after the pandemic. Regatta were curious to explore the mind’s of our small people and asked them what their Dream Green Space would look like, and it was genuinely inspiring and rather emotional. If you would like to see what amazing ideas these children thought of, you can read the Kids Ultimate Green Space Ideas here. Incredibly inspiring work.
I’ve taken the time to pick my favourite 5 places you can take the kids over winter, where imaginations can run wild, education explored and lots of fun to be had. Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather- just bad clothing. Let me know in the comments where your favourite outdoor space to visit is, and if we visit your location, I shall be sure to let you know!
Walton On The Naze- Essex
I’m mentioning this stunning coastal location first, as it really is my place for a cheap family day out. We visit often, parking at Naze tower- an 18th century Georgian lighthouse (and parking is cheap!). Walking down the steps to vast beaches. A quick glance at the sand and pebble mixed beach and you shall very quickly find amazing fossils, including my favourite 50 million year old Striatolamia Striata shark teeth, pictured below. If you’re really lucky you may even find a real Megalodon tooth. The fossiliferous clay shows prehistoric evidence of life, dating back 54 million years. Modern finds can also be easily spotted- such as beautifully coloured sea glass. Keep the softly worn glass for future craft days, as sea glass can be used for so many pretty projects.
Once you’ve walked down to the beach you can turn left or right. Either direction will provide you with a few miles to walk. The left side (as you face the sea) seems to produce more fossils, but either direction still delivers some amazing finds. Make sure you keep an eye on tide times, as the rocky coast line can leave you caught out quickly, so please be safe and plan your day in accordance with tide times.
Once you’ve searched the beaches for fossils and dinosaur teeth, take a wander back to the Tower and explore the onsite museum and cafe, and climb the tower to view the beautiful scenery from above. Whilst I personally have never wandered into town, driving through the streets to get to the beach I did spot many lovely little antique shops, charity shops and art stores. So if shopping is also your thing, it looks to be well worth the walk into the town.
Walton On The Naze seems to have avoided the typical British commercialisation, as many coastal towns have done over recent years and remains a quiet place to explore, with lovely parks for kids to play, remains dog friendly, and nice smooth footpaths for wheelchairs, prams and skateboards. Make sure you take a walk along the row of beach huts too, as some are totally adorable!
Sandy Heath RSPB- Bedfordshire
Sandy Heath RSPB, also known as The Lodge is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) head quarters, with over 400 acres of land to be explored. The nature reserve sits in the heart of Bedfordshire and overlooks the river Ivel, allowing visitors to explore a stunning waterway, coniferous woodland and sandy heaths.
There are regular activities (bookable via the RSPB website) for the whole family including den building, nature trails and guided walks. The park boasts an incredible play area, for children to explore positive risk taking. Take a rest in one of the bird hides and relax whilst watching the ducks, swans, squirrels and other creatures.
Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the Great Spotted Woodpecker or the dainty deer and see where your adventure leads, as there are many paths to explore. If you’re feeling strong, take a hike up the deep sand quarry. Bikes and dogs are welcome, but dogs must be kept on a lead at all times. If you’re an RSPB member parking is free, but prices for non members remain low.
Sheringham Beach- Norfolk
I only recently discovered Sheringham beach after taking a trip to this small town a few weeks ago, and I can’t believe I didn’t know about it sooner. Just a short drive from the overly commercialised Great Yarmouth, Sheringham appears to be stuck in a perfect time warp, of a good old fashioned coastal day out.
The small town offers visitors a lovely market square, locally sourced seafood and some of the tastiest ice cream I’ve ever had (Lavendar Honey flavour is my new fave!). The beach is mostly pebbles, but sea glass and fossils can still be found. The waters are calm and clean and the beach is sectioned off into small bays, making easier to keep an eye on the kids as they play freely.
When we went to visit we were even treated to a wonderful air display, with a plane performing stunts above our heads.
A stunning small coastal town, that remains quiet and has avoided fun fairs, casinos and tacky stalls. Hours can be spent relaxing with a beer, a picnic and the beauty of the Norfolk coast. You can park down by the train station (you can even take a trip along the coast on a steam train- something I’m desperate to do during our next visit) at a cheap pay and display car park, and take the short walk down through town to the coast.
Tynemouth Castle- North Shields
Tynemouth Castle and Priory was once one of the largest fortified areas in England, overlooking the North Sea protecting the North coast from invasions. The castle is over 2000 years old, and is a wonderful open site to explore. Take a wander around the grounds then a walk along Tynemouth beach. On a calm day, all year round, surfers can be spotted riding the waves.
I regularly visit the North East to see family, and Tynemouth Castle is a regular visiting spot for me and the kids. The site is owned and ran by English Heritage, and remains exceptionally well maintained. Discover Tynemouth Castle’s history from starting as an Iron Age settlement, to becoming an Anglo Saxon Monastery, before it was finally used as a gun battery during the first world war. Now, you can enjoy the history up close and whilst looking out to sea, keep your eyes peeled for surfers, seals and even dolphins!
Explore the tombs, the castle walls and the views during your day out and make the most of the Instagram worthy photo opportunities!
Regular readers of my blog will know that we are huge fans of Geocaching- A worldwide game, where you follow GPS directions to find hidden tubes, boxes, locations (and maybe even a prize or two)!
There are millions of these mysterious geocaches hidden around the world. You just need to find them. So, what are you waiting for? Join the world’s biggest treasure hunt! Download the Geocaching app, and find out where your nearest Geocache is hidden. You may be surprised how close one is to you.
Some Caches have small gifts inside. If you find one of these Caches, you can take something from Cache and replace that item with something of a similar value. I like to carry a small bag of goodies, to put into any Caches we find with bounty inside.
Many Geocacher’s have stories of finding some exceptionally well camouflaged Caches. There are caches made to look like tree bark, hidden within thick grown ivy, made to look like rocks, and some are even pieces of litter with log books stuffed inside! 2 of my favourite Caches that we have personally found include a tiger in a tree and a Mentos mint packet, tucked behind a fence post.
The best bit about Geocaching is that its totally free! You can play anywhere in the world, from your local village to major world cities. There are Geocaches to be found EVERYWHERE! If you want to read more about my family Geocaching, click here.
*This post is written in collaboration with Regatta*
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