As we reached the top of High Wheeldon hill, the glory of the Peak District emerged on the other side and stretched out around us to the horizon. Jake, my seven-year-old, turned to me with a look of wonder. “It’s soooo beautiful,” he said with a stunned smile.
As Brits we can often think it is our natural duty to belittle our own home, but the UK has some of the best scenery on the planet. Our islands are stuffed with endless extraordinary sights and locations for explorers young and old.
Yet too many of us think we can only venture outside when sunshine makes an appearance. Partly as a result, a recent National Trust survey found that fewer than 10 per cent of children play out in the wild compared with almost half of us just a generation ago, and that a third have never climbed a tree. We’re turning them into pampered little screen-obsessives.
This is a national scandal. With waterproofs and warm clothing almost anyone can handle our island weather. We have become so overprotective that our children are no longer exposed to the rough and tumble of the real outdoors. Kids need to be encouraged to get outside and get stuck in; otherwise we risk losing essential skills handed down through the generations, like hunting for bugs or rolling down big hills until you’re too dizzy to stand.
A shocking number of parents in another recent survey said they couldn’t even think of anything to do outdoors with their kids. But there are hundreds of incredible parks, cool campsites and adventure playgrounds dotted around the entire country, even within easy reach of our biggest cities. If you know anyone who can’t think where to go just suggest they get a map of their own area, upturn a glass centred on their own home, then draw a ring around the rim. Tell them to explore everything in the circle and make that area their own.
An hour in the real world offers more excitement, thrills, happy memories and soul-building than a week on a screen.
So clearly it’s time for us all to put a bit of steel in our spines and reclaim the great outdoors. Cut the plug off the telly, hide the tablet charger, and get your friends and family ready for your own British adventure.
Go in search of the steepest hill, the muddiest field, the largest cave, beautiful scenic drives and secret wild swimming pools. Rediscover Britain, even when it’s wet and windy, rediscover your sense of adventure, and enjoy some experiences you’ll treasure forever.