Baby Routes has moved….

If you like what you see here, please visit Baby Routes at babyroutes.co.uk for all the recent walks, posts and reviews! Hope to see you there soon!

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Great personal blog on camping with kids, including recommended and reviewed campsites!

YellowFields

For loads of inspiration for outdoor fun and making for your kids check out this great series of books by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield.

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Shakespeare’s Way

‘…a turn or two I’ll walk,

to still my beating mind’

(Prospero in the Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1)

Even William Shakespeare appreciated the benefits of a good walk. What more appropriate way could you find to mark William Shakespeare’s birthday than a walk along part of Shakespeare’s Way – the 146 mile walking route between Stratford-upon-Avon and The Globe Theatre in London?

Starting at Shakespeare’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon, the scenic route meanders on footpaths, bridleways and quiet roads through the beautiful and typically English countryside through the Cotswolds and the Chilterns, leading finally to London where Shakespeare spent so many of his most productive years as a playwright. The route itself has been based on a route Shakespeare himself may well have followed closely to when travelling between Stratford-upon-Avon and London during his life and offers a cultural variation on other long distance walks.

Passing through many scenic and quiet villages, this is a route that can easily be split up into a series of small day walks so that you can cover the course over a longer period of time or just those stretches you fancy most.

Full details of Shakespeare’s Way can be found at the Shakespeare’s Way website.

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Free National Trust entry this weekend – 21st/22nd April

Just a quick post as this is an opportunity too good to miss! If you’re not already a member of the National Trust and at a loose end this weekend, why not take your family to your local National Trust property or estate. If you take along a voucher from the National Trust website you can get in absolutely free to over 200 properties. Given all the April showers and weather for a walk looking a bit dicey, a trip to one of the National Trust’s estates is a good option offering the chance for a walk in the UKs finest countryside when the sun peeps out and plenty of indoor history, interest and teashops for when the weather turns wet.

If you’re in the South Oxfordshire/Berkshire region, why not try visiting Greys Court or Basildon Park -both with fantastic walking options and the chance to stroll through bluebell woods. You can read more about the Greys Court walk here.

For your free visit, just print off a voucher from the National Trust website here.

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Poo bags!

Ok – admittedly talking about poo is something that new parents unexpectedly find themselves able to hold forth on with surprising eloquence and enthusiasm. Some would even excel if selecting it as their specialist subject on Mastermind! Today however I am not talking about baby poo but dog poo – the menace of our footpaths and hazard of walk with children.

As a dog-lover (I am constantly making my case at home for having one of my own) I have nothing against our faithful four legged friends but I find myself perplexed and baffled by the approach of some (and for sure it is only some) irresponsible dog-owners. No longer do we suffer from the plagues of poo on our footpaths I remember when I was growing up. Dog owners are a responsible crowd these days, always leaving the house armed with a poop-a-scoop and disposable bag. Some of these bags are even biodegradable to lessen their final impact on the environment. However what is confusing beyond measure, despite picking up the poo, despite numerous receptacles for dog litter placed at the start and finish of popular footpaths, is why oh why do owners forget to pocket their poo bags and dispose of them in a bin?

I’ve seen poo bags hanging from stiles, nestling at hedgerow bottoms,strung up in groups along fences like some kind mocking selfish tribute to the lost days of respect for our countryside and for others. Do we live in such a nanny state now that some dog walkers think that if they leave their mess behind then someone from a local authority will come and tidy it away for them? Are we really such a selfish lot that we assume others should be doing the jobs we don’t want to do, that somehow because we pay our taxes or are otherwise upstanding members of the community someone else should scoop our dogs’ poop? Or somehow because the dog owner has actually gone to the effort of removing the poo and putting it tidily in a bag (and a biodegradable bag at that)does this constitute tidying up? If this is the case, I would love for someone to provide an insight for me because how can adding a piece of brightly coloured plastic to the original poo pollutant on a walk possibly improve the aesthetic and environmental impact of a messing dog? Why, when we remember to close the gates behind us and take the remains of our picnics home, is it so hard to remember to remove the dog litter too? Sure, we are less likely to tread on a bright coloured plastic bag by mistake, especially if it’s been moved to the side of a path but it looks even worse, is adding an extra pollutant to the environment and those in biodegradable bags will eventually allow seepage and pose the same health and environment risks as leaving the mess lie unwrapped.

This may be a personal peeve of mine but I am not alone. Only last week the Marine Conservation Society released the results of its Beachwatch Big Weekend 2011 survey and one of the headline results was the 11% increase of plastic-wrapped poo polluting our beaches in just one year. 11% more poo in plastic floating around our seas and washing up on the same beaches we take our children to build sand castles on, with the biodegradable bags doing their job and slowly seeping back into the environment in direct proximity to the kids we are teaching to enjoy and care for it…

Enough said. I know that those leaving bags of poo behind are the minority and that the majority of dog owners are responsible and trusted guardians of both our natural environment and the health of wildlife and our children who use the many footpaths in the UK. It is just a shame that some are spoiling it all for others.

 

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Updating walks

The walks and this site are constantly being updated and improved as I find better ways of doing things and new walks to share. The latest change sees the addition of Ordnance Survey OpenSpace maps on the walks details as well as google maps to help with directions to get you to the start of each walk. Hope this is helpful!

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Map reading and countryside access

Map reading in the Lake DistrictMap reading – a dying art? So several articles I found recently on the web would have it. The advent of SatNav systems and beloved SIRI on our iPhones means we no longer rely on map reading and the art of paper and symbols to understand how to get from A to B and are outsourcing yet another facet of our intelligence to machines. Now as an iPhone addict myself  and a regular driver, I am not about to right off the virtues of this modern technology. My iPhone is my trusted companion on many a walk to help track my walks or ping back my location to family if I’m off the beaten track with limited company. Likewise many a time I have found myself saved by voice of the SatNav as I deliberate which of the four lanes of London traffic I’m supposed to be in before I have the decision made for my by the herd of rampaging London black cabs bearing down on either side of my car at breakneck rate. However, when the news that people are beginning to rely on these helping hands alone and failing to pass on these vital skills to kids is a worry for the future. Fewer people able to use maps could mean fewer hikers or more worryingly, more cases of people leaving home without the right kit or understanding of where they are going or how to get home if weather, signal or batteries play up. Basic map reading is included as part of the UK Key Stage 3 (7-9 yr old) curriculum but at this relatively tender age & geography not compulsory for secondary school kids there is a legitimate concern that the knowledge may not survive to the adults of tomorrow. Even the adults of today are struggling if the British Cartographic Society and an online 2007 survey by eSure are to be believed. The latter reported that a quarter of British adults can’t read a road map and 83% couldn’t identify the symbol for a motorway!

Ordnance Survey are on the case at least. They have a great resource – MapZone – which has everything you need to kickstart your child’s map reading skills, including a handy pdf guide to the basics of understanding a map.Failing that, sign them up to Girl Guides or Scouts as soon as they are old enough or get your teens to join the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme – all of which still encourage the pursuit of good old fashioned map reading skills. For those of us older but not necessarily wiser, why not brush up on your skills for both beginner and advanced map readers with the adult guide from Ordnance Survey. The Ramblers also have a good page to get you started on compass work, ditching that online route measurement software for a trusty piece of string and a list of suggested courses for those of you serious about improving your navigation skills – you can find it here.

Of course, once you know your route is definitely on a footpath not an A-road, you’ll also need an awareness of your rights on public paths and an appreciation of the countryside code.  The below information from the Environment Law website gives more information on public rights of way:

 

Footpaths

This public right of way is meant for pedestrians only. You are allowed to walk your dog as long as it is under your close control. When walking a dog, you must ensure that it keeps to the public footpath and does not trespass into nearby properties. Prams, pushchair or wheelchairs can also be used on a footpath.
Bridleways
These are meant for walkers, horseriders and bycyclists. Bicyclists are expected to give way to walkers and horseriders.
Byways Open To All Traffic (BOAT)
These byways are normally marked “byways” and are open to motorists, bicyclists, horseriders, motorcyclists and pedestrians. As with public tarmac road networks, motorists must ensure that they are legally authorised to use BOATs (i.e. registered, taxed, insured and MoT’d).
Restricted Byways
Restricted Byways are created under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. They are open to the traffic mentioned above in BOATs, but exclude motor vehicles and motorcycles.
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