Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Free for all.

Welcome to another one of my mini rants.  This time inspired by two articles in the recent news.  Offending article number one: UK families are being priced out of day trips.  This is probably very true, with a day trip to the big theme parks costing over £100 for some families and even trips out for lunch costing easily in excess of £50.  The second article appears today:  Inactivity killing as many as smoking.  Again, I'm not going to argue with that; there are definitely too many inactive people for whom reasons to go out and do something are far outweighed by a list of excuses not to.

Enjoy the outdoors!
My problem with both of these pieces is their tone and implication that fun and activity cost money.  Children are going to be "cooped up at home" because their parents can't afford to take them out and activity, apparently needs to be "more affordable".  Whatever happened to cheap, outdoor fun?  When did a "day out" need to be more expensive than bus fare/ car parking and a packed lunch?  I am a girl of the technological era, I love my Xbox and assorted other gadgetry but it's not a replacement for getting out and about.  As my gran would say "all things in moderation" (except perhaps Gin) - in other words, it's all about balance.  Family day trips can be cheap and fun and walking to the shops costs a lot less than driving there.  What's lacking here isn't money, it's imagination.

I could quite happily rant on for another page or so, but instead I will turn this blog piece over to cheap and/ or free fun activities.  I'll kick off with a list of things I know about in Cumbria, but please feel free to comment below with any others you know of, especially if you're promoting small businesses.

Levers Water
The Lake District.  All of it.  C'mon, in Cumbria there really should be no excuse for not getting out and about and wearing your kids out on the fells.  Start small with Catbells if you're not used to hiking, but don't underestimate the stamina of kids; my 3 year old nieces have already scaled Skiddaw completely under their own steam.  I'm told they slept well afterwards.

And if you don't happen to live near a great big adventure playground, then what?  Well I grew up in the middle of urban England, but greenery was just a bus ride (or occasionally 2) away.  Pack a picnic and head for the nearest large green space.  For us Sutton Park or Cannock Chase were a huge treat with loads of space to tear around and have adventures while the adults read a book or snoozed.

View from Fell Foot Park
Indoor fun.  So the summer hasn't been the best lately, so what?  There are cheap/ free indoor play areas in many locations.  Around here there's Bowness, Ulverston station and Kendal (near K Village).  If you know of others, please add them below.  (Thanks to my friend Gary for the pointers on that one.  He's got 2 lively youngsters and, if I know him, there's probably a hostelry near each play area.)

Barrow Dock Museum.  For older kids perhaps, but a fabulous, interesting and FREE place to visit.  Even the parking is free.  And there's a nice little cafe if you want to splash out while you're there.  The exhibits are displayed over several floors indoors in an old dry dock and if your kids have any sort of interest in boats they'll be mesmerised by the huge scale models of boats from all eras.  (Or maybe I should call them ships.  Apologies to any old sea dogs reading this.)

Fell Foot Park.  If you're in the South Lakes then this is a must any day when it's not raining.  There's loads of space for picnics, a small adventure playground and easy swimming in the lake.  It gets pretty busy on warm sunny days and the parking can be a little pricey.  But if you're there early enough there are a few laybys on the road which are free. Having just checked their website it seems they'll be allowing camping there during August this year; brilliant idea.  There are few sites with better views.
Just get out there and have some fun!

Local Farms.  Holme Farm is just down the road from lovely Grange-over-Sands and is refreshingly un-gimmicky.  No entrance fee and they've got home made ice-creams (modestly priced), a small play area and usually a few animals for the kids to see.  No website but you can find them here: Holme Farm Dairy Ice Cream - David & Brenda Lawrence, Holme Farm, Meathop Road, Grange-over-Sands 015395 32991

Well, I think that's me done for now.  I found both articles quite sad and feel sure there is a link between them.  The concept that fun or activity need to cost money is being used as an easy excuse not to get out and about, when that's simply not the case.  As a society we've gotten overly reliant on someone else doing our thinking for us and telling us how to have fun, be it via technology or at theme parks.  If we used our credit cards a little less and our imaginations a little more we'd be financially better off and may live a bit longer too.