Looking for ways to get out and about this bank holiday weekend?
The National Trust today relaunches its 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ campaign with an exciting new line-up of self-led activities, as well as hundreds of organised events that kids can join throughout the year.
This year, there are 15 brand new challenges to try out, as well as a special ‘top ten’ list of activities that have been identified to help children reconnect with nature. These were chosen by the National Trust’s kids councillors – ten children appointed by the charity to help make its properties more fun for younger visitors.
The campaign was originally launched last year in response to the Natural Childhood report, which highlighted evidence of a long-term and dramatic decline in children’s relationship with the outdoors.
To celebrate the launch, National Trust properties in Sussex are handing out hundreds of copies of the new 50 things scrapbook, so that kids can get cracking on their challenges straight away.
Families can also download a 50 things planner to find out where to tick off the activities in their area here. Children can log their adventures, unlock secret challenges and collect rewards here. The website comes with lots of tips to help families enjoy the great outdoors this year,
If doing all 50 activities is a bit too daunting, why not start with the best top ten?
Here are the best places in Sussex to do them:
1. Climb a tree
Climbing trees provides fantastic fun. Keep three limbs on the tree at all times and choose a tree with big, strong branches that you can reach from the ground. In Sussex, the beautiful countryside on the Slindon estate is covered in suitably strong trees. Or visit the wider estate of Petworth House and Park to seek out more trees to scale. Join in the fun at Devil’s Dyke, which is holding organised tree-climbing events this summer – call 01273 857712 for dates and to book.
2. Build a den
Who doesn’t like making their own dens in the woods with branches and leaves? These cosy dwellings are great for secret meetings, games, and hiding from parents! Good, flat places in Sussex for den building include Nymans, Slindon, Uppark and the Woolbeding Estate. Use materials already lying around and never break off sticks or leaves from living trees and plants.
3. Go on a really long bike ride
There’s nothing like the feel of the wind in your hair as you whizz down a pathway on your bike. So grab your bike, a helmet and some lunch and explore the wider estates of Petworth House and Park, or Woolbeding, tucked away in the tranquil Rother Valley.
4. Go on a walk barefoot
Feeling the cool soft grass tickle your soles as you walk across a lawn is really delightful. So, shed the shoes and socks and enjoy a gentle stroll around Uppark’s grassy lawns and banks. Get barefoot on the Sussex coast and wiggle your toes in the soft sands at East Head.
5. Hunt for fossils and bones
Cretaceous fossils are often exposed on the shingle beach of Birling Gap as a result of the chalk cliffs’ continuous erosion. Use a bucket and spade to collect your finds. Watch out for tides and adverse weather conditions.
6. Hold a scary beast
You can hunt for mini-beasts anywhere. All you need is a magnifying glass and some patience. Good places to look include fallen wood, the trunks of trees, and long grasses. Devil’s Dyke is a particularly good place for spotting and handling mini beasts.
7. Track wild animals
Looking for animal footprints works best when the ground is soft and damp. Different animals move in different ways, with badgers keeping to set pathways and foxes wandering around a little more. Go animal tracking in the fields and woodlands of Petworth House and Park and Nymans. Don’t forget to wear sturdy trainers or boots and keep your eyes peeled.
8. Discover what’s in a pond
Pond dipping is a fascinating way to while away a few hours. You can find all kinds of wildlife, from frogs to pond skaters. Scoop some water into a tub and use a fine net to see what’s about. Look carefully. Some of the inhabitants will be very small. Sussex has plenty of interesting ponds to explore. Start with a trip to Nymans, which is also holding organised activities, or venture further into the countryside at Devil’s Dyke.
9. Go bird watching
From robins to rooks, the UK’s bird life is as varied as it is fascinating. Grab some binoculars and head out to see what you can spot circling overhead or perched in the bushes. Keep quiet and still and you will soon be rewarded. East Head’s beautiful coastal landscape and big skies are perfect for bird watching, as are the wide expanses of countryside at Woolbeding.
10. Cook on a campfire
Setting a (safe) campfire and cooking your own food on it really does bring you back to nature, with a fun activity followed swiftly by a satisfying meal. Join a camp fire event at Nymans - call 01444 405250 for more information.