“Was it as tall as that tree?” my seven-year-old boy asked with wide eyes, his imagination on overdrive as he pointed to an ash tree at least eight stories high.
“Yes, it could have killed me. No, I wouldn’t have been able to go fast enough, grizzlies can run at 35 mph. “And, with my nine year old boy looking over his shoulder,” I’m pretty sure you won’t have bears in these woods. “
We were somewhere in the forest of Houghton, West Sussex, on a mini mountain bike adventure with Jim Barrow of Marmalade MTB. Our trip was a break from learning at home, but the possibility of going out and spending energy will hold an appeal during school holidays, especially for families looking for post-block activities in the UK. My kids were so excited that they wore their bike helmets all the way in the car.
From our meeting point in Amberley, near the station for easy access, we could choose to climb a hill to the South Downs Way (which probably would have broken the younger one) and a pleasant ride winding down the river to Arundel. But as it was wet and windy Jim suggested a short drive to Houghton forest, which would have been more sheltered and offered a good mix of terrain, none of which would be too steep for our level (the rides are done on fit for skill and experience, discussed in advance).
While the usual group runs of up to eight are currently suspended, private driving is allowed for groups of up to five. A morning with a private mountain bike guide costs less than three tickets for Legoland – and in my opinion it is more fun and just as full of adrenaline. On Jim’s tail we darted through the trees, dodging under the brambles, bouncing on the roots and running along spongy tracks.
During the entire trip, we only saw one other person. Of course you can ride a bike without a guide, and during the block we rode a lot, but the special thing is the depth of the forest, on apparently secret paths that Jim has been following for almost 30 years. He also gave the kids a lot of advice along the way, such as looking at the spaces between the trees and not the trees themselves, and tilting their feet up on their pedals for greater stability.
Every now and then I stopped and let them go on, so that I could have a moment of peace to look at the canopy of the forest and breathe everything. When I reached him, they would ask him for more adventures on his mountain bike adventures, hanging from his every word. I knew they would love cycling, but I didn’t appreciate how much they would appreciate the company of an adult bike enthusiast, an elder who wasn’t a parent or a family friend. A role that their school teachers or football coaches would have played in normal times, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t come from a trip to a theme park.
• MTB jam tracks private guided group walks for four or five people from £ 30 per person; date for mixed group rides to be confirmed. Half day introduction to MTB sessions through South Downs and Surrey Hills for one adult and two children (normally 8 and over) from £ 120 for three hours The writer hired a bicycle Plaster pit paths for £ 30 (jam helps with rental depending on location) and sockets His sons own Frog bikes
Five more family days full of action
Hill Walking in the Brecon Beacons
Escape the crowds with Treads and Trails, whose mountain guides take families on hiking trails in a peaceful landscape away from the main tourist spots of the Brecon Beacons. The gradient and difficulty can be adapted to the group’s abilities and energy levels.
• Suitable for children aged six years and over, £ 100 for a family of five, treadsandtrails.co.uk
Kayaking in Cornwall
Retrace a historic smuggling route on a guided kayak tour along Frenchman’s Creek, a peaceful cove off the Helford River near Falmouth. Double kayaks are a great way to get younger kids involved without tiring them too much. Enjoy the view of the ancient oak forests along the banks, observe the strange look of a shipwreck and take a swim on a secluded beach at the end of the tour.
• Suitable for children aged six years or over, £ 180 for a family of four with kayak equipment and wetsuits if needed, korukayaking.co.uk
Caving in the Peak District
Explore caves, hidden river networks and prehistoric relics with a local guide who knows how Derbyshire’s limestone cave system is better than some people know the world above ground. Trips are personalized for each family; they can be pleasant, with a focus on historical and geological interest, or exciting, athletic and adventurous.
• Suitable for children aged 5 years and over, £ 120 for half a day for a family of four with all the specialized equipment provided, gritstoneadventures.co.uk
Surf in Northumberland
Learn to surf with your family in Bamburgh or Druridge Bay, two of Northumberland’s golden sandy beaches, so picturesque that you could easily forget you’re on the North Sea – until you dive into the water. Northside Surf is a friendly surf school run by Surfing GB coach Jon Nolan. The school also offers paddleboarding lessons.
• Suitable for children aged 8 and over, the surf lesson for families of four with all equipment included is £ 100 (family paddleboarding lesson £ 135), northside-surf-school.co.uk
Tree surfing in Devon
Enjoy the prospect of a primate forest as you make your way through the trees through a network of high rope bridges, stairs, rickety walkways and zippered wires, all on one knee knocking 15 meters from the floor. Tree Surfers is located on Tamar Trails, where it is also possible to walk, run or ride a bicycle for about 25 km of forest paths.
• Suitable for children aged 12 years (or 1.5m tall) and over, £ 84 for a family of four, treesurfers.co.uk