- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Frances Lincoln (June 2008)
The words and photos are by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis and it's clear they've been out and tested their ideas as the directions are excellent. There are also lots of real parenting tips included such as diversion tactics and when to keep the kids close if there's a crossing ahead.
The authors have three children each and the youngsters do the illustrations which I've found encourages children to want to look at the book too as they find it more accessible.
Each of the twenty-five walks comes with some scene setting under 'The Adventure' where you'll get some history about the area and why it's the right place for that themed walk. The distance and terrain is also included with every walk which is fantastic when you have kids of different ages so you know you can take a buggy or that preschoolers won't be exhausted after the walk.
'What to Pack' is included too which may mean some survival technique items, as well as games ideas or dressing up clothes for role playing. There's even a recipe for a great high-energy snack from New Zealand called scroggin.
The driving directions from London are excellent but that's the book's only downside as you do really need a car to get to the start of most of the walks. Not all but most.
There are suggestions on what to listen to on the journey - seriously, can you think of another guidebook/walking tour book that includes this? - and plenty of ideas for entertainment on each walk so it's not just 'visiting the countryside'. You might get to try quill making or do leaf rubbing. Maybe a scavenger hunt or crabbing at the beach. But you're not going to get bored.
Don't worry if the weather changes during your day out as rainy day options are included, although I love the rainy day suggestions on one of the London walks: "run between the various places" which is excellent advice as rain should never spoil a day in London as we have so many attractions.
Each walk ends with where to eat with the kids which is a classic problem for families as children aren't always welcome but the places included in this book are tried and tested.
The Idea Behind The Book
The authors wrote the book as they love the outdoors and were well aware of the problems families in a city have with playing outside. They wanted to find a way to encourage and make it simple for families and these twenty-five walks are all within easy reach of London.
While parents may start out with the best of intentions for family walks in the country it can all seem like more trouble than it's worth when the kids are bickering before you've even got in the car, ask constantly "Are we there yet?" for the whole journey, and then you realise you've forgotten something important when you get there and you're quite unprepared.
Thankfully this book is here to help as it's very inspiring so will sort the motivation and get you planning free days out in the country. The ones I want to try first are a couple in The Chilterns to see the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang locations in Turville and a return visit to the Roald Dahl Story Centre in Great Missenden. Especially as those Whizzpopper drinks from the Twits Cafe there are superb!
Another location that keeps getting mentioned as worth a visit is the Isle of Sheppey on the Kent coast. It's used as a film location in the 2012 film version of Great Expectations and there's a walk included in the book to do some bird watching there. There's also some excellent instructions on how to skim a stone which has occupied me and my family on many days out near water.
The book's index is great and has encouraged my daughter to look up more information. Plus the recipes such as nettle soup and elderflower cordial are excellent reasons to get out exploring nature.
As a slight downside it's really a better book for car owners as the authors suggest you "just hop in the car and go." Those without a car would do well to make friends with drivers and have more out with them to enjoy each walk.
Whether you want to know the collective nouns for animals and birds, or need a photo guide recognising the different house styles across the south of England, this book has it all. It does make me wish I had a car so I could try them all but I'll certainly be trying a wood louse race soon.