Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Things to do in the Lake District when you are bored and 14

"Now pay attention, class. It's been a long journey and we only have three days, so we have to get a move on."
It's the back end of the 1960's. A time of free love and dropping out, only at the tender age of 14 we were all a bit too young for either, so while the rest of the world moved and grooved, we went on a three day long geography field trip to the Lake District.  And we are in a field, which is fitting. Oh, and did I mention the rain? No. Well, just for good measure, it's raining.

So just to paint the picture, that's 32 bored 14 year olds, in a field, in the rain. We wouldn't have minded if it had been in school time, but this was the back end of the Easter holidays. For dear Miss Robinson, the task of keeping us in order was like herding cats. But she was a determined soul and no doubt her 30 years of teaching experience were what eventually won her the day.

She was not helped by three days of Lakeland sunshine (aka drizzle) and hostel accommodation that was basic with a capital base. However, with a huge helping of Joyce Grenfell style enthusiasm and the promise of the last afternoon off, she managed to persuade us that carrying out a range of tasks such as measuring the pebbles in a stream and counting the number of species of plant in a square yard of sheep field, were not only worthwhile, but also fun.

And so we came to that last afternoon, our well earned afternoon off, and we ended up on a boat, cruising sedately up Windermere, unable to see out of the windows because they had steamed up. Had we been able to look out we would not have seen the shore. The mist was too thick. Little wonder that when we finally returned home we vowed collectively to never return. We'd been sold a dream that had turned into a nightmare. We were told our Lake District field trip would be an adventure we would remember with affection for ever. That it would inspire us to have respect for the natural world and all it's wonders. And yes, it would be the most fun we'd ever had in our lives. When we arrived we were excited. Looking forward to enjoying the freedom of this vast adventure playground. And then all we did was count pebbles in a stream, and have a ride on a boat in the rain.

The thing is that sometime between 1960 something and now, someone invented organised adventure. I'm sure it must have existed before the 1960's. I seem to remember Enid Blyton sending her famous five on one. But other than in story books we were not really told of it's existence. We were meant to discover it for ourselves. So as a child we swung over streams on ropes slung over the branches of a tree, or skidded downhill on a home made buggy, or raced our bikes up a home made ramp to see who could jump the furthest, and land without falling off. All great fun, all totally unsupervised, and it never cost us a penny. So if we had been given the opportunity to swing through the trees in the rain on that last afternoon, or to scale a massive polystyrene wall with steps in, or enjoy the thrill of a zip wire, then we'd have jumped at the chance. But we weren't able to do any of those things because, to the best of our knowledge, nowhere existed where we could. Unlike today.

In my travels around the Lake District, I am impressed by the amount of organised outdoor adventure opportunities available. From tree top adventures, to climbing walls, kayaking to mountain biking, today's 14 year olds have so much to keep them from being bored. And judging by a visit to Grizedale Forest last year, it seems that there is no shortage of teenagers taking full advantage. All of which kind of makes me wish I was 14 again. Actually, there are lots of reasons why being 14 again would be good, but the outdoor adventure opportunities is really high on the list, so we'll leave it at that.

Photo courtesy of GoApe

So with half term upon us, and the Easter Holidays just around the corner, here is a list of some of the adventure possibilities for today's youngsters. (actually, they are not confined to the young, one other change from life in the 1960s is that parents and grandparents can join in!)

Go Ape, swing through the trees, or race through the forest on a segway. There are Go Ape courses at Grizedale and Whinlatter Both have mountain biking opportunities as well. 

If you fancy a spot of indoor climbing, Keswick Climbing Wall is just the spot. A big indoor climbing wall, complete with a cafe for a snack afterwards. Click the same link and you'll find that the there is more than just a climbing wall available. They also do outdoor adventure. You have to book in advance, so check it out.

If you taking to the water is your thing, then check out Platty + , who have water sports on Derwentwater pretty much covered. Or if you are in the South Lakes area, try Windermere Canoe Kayak for your watery adventure.

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