Family AdventuresPosted by Jo Wulf Mon, February 09, 2015 21:44:20
You don’t happen to be able to do dinosaur themed parties by
any chance?”, asked a lady as her child dashed about with the other treasure
seekers in Gisburn Forest. The party was at its climax, the treasure chest on
the brink of being discovered under a large Rhododendron bush, and as usual,
one Settle Wolftracks Outdoor Party booking seemed to be leading to the
There is no denying that kids all love a treasure map. So my aim is to set up a treasure hunt using
a proper OS map to take them along a safe yet challenging route, hiding a few
clues along the way to keep them motivated.
With the promise of a chocolate tree in the deep, dark woods, a stash of
hot chocolate or ‘elf juice’ in a tree hollow or a message in a bottle under
the next stream bridge, children are soon orientating their maps (twisting the
map around to match the features on the ground), recognising lots of basic map
symbols and even using a compass to find north, south east and west.
My business started with just teaching adults navigation and
offering guided walks to visitors in the Dales.
But one day a fellow mum asked me if I did outdoor parties. Well… um… yes I do, I replied. Thanks to Gill, the idea has taken off and
seems to be a hit! I’ll never forget
that first party - a dozen 9-year old girls on Malham Moor one cold November
morning, with a most definite threat of rain on its way – you could see this
ominous curtain of grey heading towards us as we set off round the trail… but
it held off for an hour, finally wreaking its havoc on things just as the girls
had found their treasure in a shake hole – they all crept inside a group
shelter in their cosy dip, and happily munched on chocolate coins before piling
into vehicles and heading down to the warmth of Malham Village Hall for some
indoor navigation games and a home cooked meal of shepherd’s pie and fruit crumble.
The best thing about that first party
was the feedback! The enthusiastic bunch
were full of ideas – perhaps I ought to invite them to do a new improved trail
to see what they think!
And yes, from dinosaurs to Lottie Dolls, I will happily
tailor a party to add a real thrill to your child’s special adventure. I happen to know a young man who is mad about
Tintin and am enjoying developing a trail that will bring Tintin and his
faithful, four-legged friend Snowy into the Yorkshire Dales on a mission to
uncover treasure left by none other than Captain Haddock’s ancient ancestor,
the fine sea captain, Sir Francis Haddock!
Getting back to Gisburn Forest though, I was astounded on
Saturday, as I observed the different things the youngsters got out of the
challenge. Some were more physical and
boisterous and enjoyed tackling the terrain as they hunted for clues. Some simply loved experiencing the outdoors
in a way that they wouldn’t normally do - peeping into a bird hide or leaving
the comfort of the path to venture somewhere a bit wilder. Others quietly enjoyed walking at the back
with the map and compass, watching with fascination as the red needle kept its
course whichever way we turned. The
trail took them off the beaten track far enough to make them feel independent and
give them a true sense of adventure.
There were boggy ditches and streams to negotiate, thick branches to
crawl under, and plenty of opportunity to run off without running the risk of
getting lost. Everyone got a chance to
find a clue, solve a puzzle or add their stick to a den. And what could be more magical than finding
chocolates hanging in a tree or a flask of forest hot chocolate hidden in the bracken
under an ancient gate post… The best
fun of all for me? It’s watching the
whole adventure unfold on the big day, getting families outdoors and seeing
them learn basic map reading skills whilst having so much fun.
Family AdventuresPosted by Jo Wulf Sat, May 17, 2014 22:04:51
Today we went for a walk,
one of our usual little strolls – through Settle Market Place, past the
Langlcliffe Caravan park to the beautiful mill pond, then to the weir on the
Ribble, through Langcliffe village and along the old ‘High road’ that leads
back into Settle, the perfect, tiny lane with several benches along it to sit
and enjoy the views. The ideal little route for a boisterous 7 year old
who dashes everywhere like an untrained sheepdog and a more laidback 5 year old
who doesn’t like walking quite as much as her brother. Now, here’s the
difference: Before we left, I logged onto the Geocache.uk website which I’d
registered with a week before. I typed in our postcode, and lo and
behold, a whole map of our area popped up, just littered with caches!
Have you heard of it? , GEOCACHING?
I bet you walked past more than one just today!
The idea is, you log on and
seek out a cache you fancy finding, and using your GPS device to enter the
co-ordinates, you drive/walk/cycle/scoot/sail/fly… move however you like,
letting yourself be led to the cache! My mobile GPS refused to work, (I
knew there was a reason I prefer reading a proper map!) but a 10 figure grid
reference meant we could pinpoint the location quite easily on our map
anyway. By reading the cryptic clue, which Oscar had had fun deciphering,
and reading comments others had left, we managed to locate four geocaches in
one little walk. The children had their rucksacks with them, to carry
little trinkets and toys they were willing to swap, to place in the cache
boxes: if you want to take a treasure out, you have to put a treasure of your
own back in for the next geo-cacher. Then you sign the log and make sure
you hide the cache just as it was, without anyone else (they call
non-geocachers ‘muggles’!) seeing you!
I tell you, it was
hilarious when a muggle approached. Kirsten would yell “MUGGLE!!!”
at the top of her shrill voice, and we would all stop searching for the cache
and pretend we were enjoying the view or looking in our rucksack for the next
sandwich! Dodgy, loitering bunch! When people had passed by, we’d start
hunting again. We found one cache with the clue ‘magnet’ stuck on a
metal gate. It was a really amazing vessel (I am NOT giving it away!), with
a tiny scroll of paper hidden inside to log your name on. We needed
tweezers to get the scroll out! There were no treasures in there, but we
were quite excited anyway – our first ever geocache, found! The second
cache took a bit more hunting - a film canister under a rock at a rickety
gate. There was only a 2 pence piece and another scroll of paper in
there. We took the 2p and put in a marble and a fancy eraser, and signed
the log of course before following the millpond path to the weir, admiring the family
of ducks as we went. At the weir we had a fair idea where to look next,
having read plenty of comments online to help us. The clue was ‘shoulder height and hidden
by rocks’, and Kirsten was the first to spot the Tupperware box hidden in the
dry stone wall. What fun! This one had a special pin in it, from
the British Potholing Club, a coin from Iceland, (how cool!) a woven bracelet
and a button in it! The children each put two items in, just because they
had loads of stuff to give away and picked their treasures out! Kirsten hid
the box carefully again, and off we went up the hill and over the railway
bridge to find the last geocache, called Freda’s gate, so named after a 97-year
old lady who used to walk to this gate frequently from Settle. Her
daughter put this cache there in her memory, but boy will we remember how long
it took us to find. We nearly gave up, looking for another gate, but
returned for another try. After several funny moments ‘enjoying the
view’ as muggles passed with their dogs, Jan finally spotted it – all I will
say is, think ‘artificial/camouflage/disguise’ (it would be wrong to paint you
a fuller picture) and remember to write down the clue, so as not to forget the
exact wording! Well, I don’t think I would have spotted it! The
cavity inside the vessel was about as big as a wine cork and had only a metal
screw-up cylinder with a scroll of paper in it. We signed the paper and
the children were rather grumpy at not finding any treasure this time, but
still left some for the next people.
We can hardly wait for the
next geocache - it was a great way to get the family out, and we just logged on
to see what else we fancy searching for.
Next on our list will be several caches on one of our favourite walks in
Bremen, Germany that we’ve walked/run past many a time.
What can you find near
you? Just log on to www.geocaching.com and once you’ve registered, which
is quick, easy and free of charge, you can enter your postcode and click on
‘map this location’ and be prepared to be amazed. One of these days, I will be hiding a www.settlewolftracks cache of my own, so watch this space!
Top tips: only bring
small treasures - think of film canisters and other such tiny vessels!
Most of ours were far too big! Also pack a pen and tweezers. If
you’re geo-caching with children, do the research carefully, the night before,
so as to give yourselves the best chance of finding them. Some are defunct or damaged due to exposure
to the elements, so read others’ reviews of the cache and check how recently
they were written. Make sure your GPS
device is working, or brush up on your map-reading – can you remember that
little rule from those DoE days? ‘Go
along the corridor and up the stairs…’ Pack plenty of snacks and full
waterproofs if you’re leaving just at lunchtime with showers forecast like we
did! Our two didn’t notice the rain at
all, they were having too much fun! Good
If you don’t have time to
do all the preparation, let Settle Wolftracks do it for you, and book a
geo-caching adventure as a family treat.
You’ll soon be hooked, I guarantee it!
Family AdventuresPosted by Jo Wulf Fri, February 21, 2014 22:35:40
It’s half term and the
Wulf family needs an adventure fix. Off
we set in our van (Cali) up to Keswick for a couple of days. We’ve got a few ideas in our heads and
various bits of kit with us: picnic, wellies and walking boots, our Innov8
Mudclaws (boy have they had good use this winter... the only running shoe for
all this mud!), swimming togs , climbing harnesses, head torches – all set for
a spot of adventure! Let’s start with
Cat Bells shall we? A great little
summit for kids with a good path, great
views and a walk along the shore of Derwent Water on the way back to the
Hmmm, as we approach
the A66 the weather is getting worse rather than better. We carry on regardless, glimpsing views of
Blencathra as its snowy ridges swirl in and out of the mist. No sooner than we have parked up, we find
ourselves drawn into the woods, rather than up the mountain, as it is now
pouring with rain. The kids are far too
busy building their dens to eat a sandwich, so Jan and I sit in our group bivvy
and laugh at ourselves sat here on this steep, mossy, wooded slope with a
delicate orange layer of fabric between us and the rain. Soon the kids join us and tuck in too. Once the rain eases, we head down to the
shore... the kids are leading us away from our summit plans. Never mind – let them lead the way today!
There is something spellbinding about being here on this wind still day. Shingle beaches, logs and rocks
half-submerged become islands, boats, horses...
Away from the crowds, we take
our time and let the children lead the way, gazing out over the mirror still
water as the light seems to improve and the weather disperses.
We head into town, to
eye out the new year bargains and enjoy the delights of the lovely Old Friars Sweetie shop www.friarsofkeswick.co.uk/about-us - where we feast our eyes on every beautiful display before helping the
kids choose some jelly beans from every flavour you can imagine! Oscar tried ‘sizzling cinnamon’ this time, as
well as ‘green tea’! Kirsten went for
‘ice-cream parlour mix’, ‘water melon’ and ‘candy floss’ to name a few! Jan and I chose cappuccino chocolate buttons...
OK folks, time
for a swim now – as much as we love our local Settle pool, coming to the
Keswick Leisure Centre is a real treat, with its wave machine, waterfalls and
big tube slide, which spits you out violently so that you get a good dunking
before finding your feet and surfacing.
Day 2 – it’s
still raining, but mild. Let’s get up Latrigg Fell – it’s described as
Keswick’s own personal fell, and only a third of its towering neighbour,
Skiddaw, most of which is hidden in cloud this morning. Luckily, the clouds part when we reach the
top, and we are treated to a great view of the town and Derwent Water. Beneath
us, the car park is out of sight. We
watch as three walkers head down the path which winds around the slope, but
decide to take a bearing and head straight for the van. Oscar and I are sent ahead into the mist, and
we turn our little navigation exercise into a fun ‘leap-frogging’
technique. It’s always surprising when
you take a bearing... if you try
beforehand to point where you THINK you might be heading, it just shows how
important the bearing is, and how you really have to trust your skills and your
compass (unless your compass needle is being affected by a mobile phone in your
top pocket or by magnetic rock in the area but none of that here!) – Oscar is
impressed that our bearing leads us straight to our goal, and we definitely got
there more quickly than if we had gone round on the path. All very small-scale, but perfect for getting
the kids excited about navigation!
We’re off to the Keswick Climbing Wall, at the
Adventure Centre at Goosewell Farm. I
had not realised it was just opposite Castlerigg Stone Circle – we absolutely
have to have a quick look at that. It’s
been five years since we last stopped at this impressive prehistoric site. Of course, nothing has changed , and why
should it have? These ancient stones
have stood here for four to five thousand years, and remain firmly in place,
set on this unique, grassy plateau surrounded by high mountains in every direction
you look. Just a little further down the
road, we reach the climbing wall: www.keswickadventurecentre.co.uk. The kids love the climbing holds – from
turtles to aliens, and they surprise us with the number of routes they achieve,
as well as having a go on the bouldering wall, where a (very nice) young lady
is working hard at problems whilst Oscar and Kirsten look on with total
admiration. Soon they are trying to copy this future champion, attempting
sitting starts and hanging upside down from the lowest overhangs! I like this place – great facilities (indoor
picnic area, a comfy sofa for a rest whilst watching the climbing and nice
toilets too), friendly and vigilant staff, and Oscar is most impressed that he
is old enough to try archery here too, so we’ll be back soon.
It’s time to head home, but there’s one last mission –
Jan is hankering after a good, long training run, so we drop him and his trusty
mudclaws off in Ingleton, from where he makes his own way home, over
Ingleborough, through Crummackdale, Wharfe and Feizor before descending to
Settle from Giggleswick Scar. In true
German style, he arrives home exactly three hours later, just as he said he
would. Nice one Jan. My turn tomorrow. Now where shall I head?