Wild camping and tree climbing with the Wild Network


Category: The great outdoors
July 15 2016

Why your kids need a Swallows and Amazons summer filled with risk and adventures.

This summer, the new film adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s 1930 book, Swallows and Amazons will be in cinemas on 19th August, bringing with it a shed load of nostalgia, wrapped in stunning rose-tinted shades of English countryside. It takes us back to a time when children were free and summer times were simple pleasures.

Phrases such as, “I remember when…” and “If only…” are bound to come from the lips of grandparents, as the parents embroiled in the guilt-laden world of modern parenting sigh with exasperation.

But what if you could create a Swallows and Amazons summer – and what if we told you that it was one of the best things that you could do for your 21st century child?

There is a mountain of evidence to support the facts that children are happier, healthier and learn better through outdoor play. Whether it be evidence from Forest Schools Association, Play England, or the National Childhood Report, outdoor self-directed play is essential for kids. And the risky stuff too. It really is part of growing up.

The two families in Swallows and Amazons may seem almost reckless by today’s social standards – it’s hard to believe anyone would let kids loose with a bow and arrow, let alone making campfires and gutting fish. However, by letting your kids get back to nature and back to their naturally explorative state, they’ll be learning as much about teamwork and problem solving as they do in dance class, cricket, football, or extra maths. And you don’t have to set them off to sail without a life-jacket to do it!

Here are Natalie Johnson's top tips for starting off on risky play…

1) Climb a tree or three

A glade in New Forest A glade in New Forest

Whether it’s a scramble up a park tree, or a football-rescuing mission, it’s a lot of fun for everyone. Most local parks or green areas will have a legendary tree to climb, while the lucky few can even manage it in their garden! If you have a membership of a national or local wildlife trust their websites often have guides to great trees to climb, too. Why not give it a go while exploring the ancient woodlands of the New Forest

2) Go wild camping

Wild Camping with the Walker Children Wild Camping with the Walker Children

Not once a year in a tent the size of a small village, but real under-the-stars adventure stuff. If you can make it to a mountain – go wild and try out sleeping under the stars with a bivvy bag. But you don’t have to climb a mountain, pitch a tent in Dartmoor or opt for a family adventure that won’t break the bank in Northumberland.

3) Develop some new nature tricks

Rolling Down a Hill Young Girl Rolling Down a Hill © by Mischa Haller

Try dandelion invisible ink. Perfect for secret notes. Pick a dandelion, choosing one with plenty of stem. Look at the stem – a white liquid or sap will be oozing out. Simply draw on a piece of paper using the stem sap. At first it will be very difficult to read, but leave it to dry and the message will appear for all to see. Cool and geeky all at once. 

4) Get them used to fire

A Fire Pit A Fire Pit

There’s evidence to show that the younger kids are exposed to risks, the more aware they are of them. Like heights and fire for example. Instead of becoming pyromaniacs at 16, start them young on their fire safety skills. You can even get them started on the BBQ while you stand back and admire the aromas or what about a bushcraft evening at Catton Hall, the next one takes place on 10th August. 

5) Be back by 5pm!

Tatty Spying Through the Trees, Swallows and Amazons Tatty Spying Through the Trees, Swallows and Amazons

Give them a watch and tell them to be back for teatime. This one’s just for old time’s sake, really. But every child should have a memory to look back on and say: “Remember when...” at least once in their lives!


Read more: The Wild Network’s Ten Top Tips for a Swallows and Amazons summer

Swallows and Amazons will be in cinemas 19th August



© Secret Harbour Films Limited/ British Broadcasting Corporation/ The British Film Institute 2016

Customer survey …

VisitEngland would like to invite you to take part in a short survey about our website.

It should take no more than a couple of minutes.

Please click here to be taken to the survey

To add items to favourites …

… you need to be logged in.

If you already have an account, log in.

Or register a

Access your account

Enter your e-mail address or username.
Enter the password that accompanies your e-mail.
Forgot your password? Recover your account
Don't have an account? Register an account