A couple of ideas for Boxing Day Walks

We've put a couple suggestions together from our Adventure Walks books for anyone who feels like heading off on Boxing Day to shake off the effects of Christmas...  full walk descriptions are in the books, but here is a little taster that might get you going.  

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Drive out to the Chilterns for a two and a half mile walk in the rolling hills where Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was filmed.  Park in the picturesque village of Turville .  Walk towards the Church and take the path out of the village past the old school on a footpath shaded by trees.  Stride up the hill on the footpath to the right and make a circular walk, with views of the windmill behind you.  Sing as many songs as you can remember from the film, look out for Red Kites flying high above you and have lunch at the Bull and Butcher pub where you can order Chitty Chitty Bangers and Mash.  01491 638283.  Ordnance survey map 171.

Swallows and Amazons
Pack the wellington boots and head for Pin Mill near Chelmondiston on River Orwell in Suffolk, once home to Arthur Ransome of Swallows and Amazon's fame.  You can see Alma Cottage where Peter, Susan, Titty and Roger stayed.  Take the river path along the from the Butt and Oyster pub on the River Orwell.  Book your table before you go and walk along the estuary and back.  Tell stories of sea dogs and pirates and practise whole body semaphore.   Watch the boats on the river and head back to the pub for a warm rum and treacle pudding.  Ordnance survey map 197.

More to follow...

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...

Well the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is well and truly here.  Gather sweet chestnuts and roast them on the fire.  Sit back, peel and eat.  Toast marshmallows too.  Delicious.

Mushrooms galore

Mushroom hunting in the woods

  See if you can identify them.

The ones you can eat

... and the ones you most definitely can't

Miss Happiness

While researching our next walks book for children, we have come across this obituary of the fabulous and extraordinary Rumer Godden, writer of the most glorious children's book Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, among others.  

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower

Parts of the obituary below is taken from the Daily Telegraph on Sunday 14th November, 1998:  Read full biography here

Margaret Rumer Godden was born at Eastbourne - "the most dreadful place", as she later came to think - on December 10th 1907. At six months she was taken by her parents to India, where her father ran a steamship company in the Bengal delta. Rumer Godden, cursed with a nose that resembled the Duke of Wellington's, was the only plain daughter. She was especially jealous of her elder sister Jon, who was as talented as she was beautiful.

"Everything she did was marvellous," Rumer Godden recalled at the end of her life, "and nobody took any notice of me, which was very healthy. To be ignored is the best possible thing for a writer. My writing was an effort to outdo Jon."

In 1920 she and her sisters were sent to school in England. With their wild, precocious ways, and their sing-song Eurasian accents, they were ridiculed by teachers and fellow pupils alike.  Rumer Godden trained in ballet, and back in India in 1925 opened a multi-racial dance school in Calcutta, which she ran successfully for eight years. But in 1934 she became pregnant as a result of a liaison with the dashing Laurence Sinclair Foster, "one of the Worcester Fosters", a stockbroker who thought that Omar Khayyam was a kind of curry.

"You'll just have to marry me and pretend you like it," he told her. So the knot was tied; the baby, however, died four days after birth. Rumer Godden's first novel, Chinese Puzzle, was published the next year.

Two further daughters survived, but the marriage did not prosper. When she sat silent and icy at cocktail parties, Foster would say: "Can't you be more chatty?"

In 1941 he left to join the Army, leaving her encumbered with debts which mopped up the proceeds of Black Narcissus. She retreated to Kashmir, and moved into a cottage high in the mountains with no electricity or running water - "the most beautiful place you could imagine", as she thought. To support her girls she got up at 4am to write, and returned to her desk when they had gone to bed until 11pm. It was while they were living in Kashmir that a cook attempted to poison them by mixing powdered glass, opium and marijuana with the lunchtime fare of dahl and rice. "It's gritty," her elder girl complained. In consequence, none but the dog perished.

In 1949 Rumer Godden married a civil servant called James Haynes Dixon, who looked after her devotedly, leaving her free to produce a steady stream of books in the 1950s and 1960s. "A nice, ugly man," she described him. "He would do anything for me, but it was not the other way round." Her heart, she claimed, had been given to Jane Austen's Mr Darcy: "I loved him far more than my own husbands."

She also wrote books for children, including The Doll's House (1947), The Mousewife (1951) and Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (1961). In 1972 she won the Whitbread Award for The Diddakoi; Kingsley Amis called it "the sort of book children had to fight for to get it from adults".

"There are several things children will not put up with in a book," she reflected. "You have to have a proper beginning and an end; you cannot have flashbacks. Then you can't have a lot of description: keep it to a minimum. And you must be very careful with words. I find I use fewer, and they have to fit the case exactly and be chosen with extreme care."

Don't you just love her?

Family Christmas Theatre Shows

Bookings are open for Christmas shows and with so much choice these days for families it’s often hard to decide which will be the winners. Past performance is often a good way to narrow down the field.
On that basis, first on the list  has to be the Little Angel Puppet Theatre’s production of Alice in Wonderland (www.littleangelpuppettheatre.com). Picking up on Lewis Carroll’s nonsense world the show is packed with verbal jokes, witty songs and visual tricks. Whether you make it for Christmas or not a visit to the Little Angel is hugely atmospheric at any time of the year. It has been the home of British puppetry since 1961 when it was founded by a troupe of enthusiastic puppeteers under the leadership of South African master, John Wright, in a derelict temperance hall off Cross Street in Islington.  It puts on shows, their own creations as well as touring companies, using all styles of puppetry: marionette (puppets on strings); rod; table top, glove, shadow, and Japanese Bunraku.  It’s a magical world and one not to be missed.
Other offerings this Christmas that look worth bagging a seat for include the Hampstead Theatre’s Beasts and Beauties (www.hampsteadtheatre.com) dramatised by Melly Still (who directed a gem of a production of Cinderella at the Lyric Hammersmith’s couple of years ago) and Tim Supple. Otherwise the National Theatre always tends to put on a good production. This year the  team that directed last year’s winner, the Cat in the Hat are back with Beauty and the Beast (www.nationaltheatre.org.uk) so it should be excellent. 
For some, Christmas isn’t Christmas without the booing and hissing, double entendre’s and full on audience participation of the traditional pantomime. The best are usually at either Theatre Royal Stratford East (http://www.stratfordeast.com) whose Little Red Riding Hood starts on 4th December or the Hackney Empire  (http://www.hackneyempire.co.uk). They are showing another  old favourite: Jack and the Beanstalk complete with a singing harp, a golden hen, a  giant of all giants and Buttercup, the break dancing cow. Can’t wait…..

The Story of London

'London is a city in which there has been a great ‘Eureka!’ moment around almost every corner.'  Boris Johnson

There are so many things going on in London that it is almost impossible to keep up with them all.  Some of the best are completely free.  The success of last year's Story of London festival has led Boris and his team to make this an annual event.  With over 100 events between this weekend and the 10th October, it is worth checking out their website and finding something that suits you.  Go to The Story of London Festival  website and download the Time Out guide.  The festival is a celebration of London 'as a city at the forefront of innovation and inspiration'.  There are dozens of workshops, walks, lectures and screenings.  

We especially love the 'London in a Box' idea - they are giving out over 4000 cardboard boxes from Council offices among other places, for people to fill with pictures, ideas, old bus tickets, photos etc of what London means to them.  Take a look at My London in a Box  for details of where to submit your masterpieces.

Pretty much every day until the 9th October, there are two free filmmaking workshops for 8-16 year-olds.  The first, at 10.30am, is about futuristic London; the second, at 2pm, focuses on the Londoner Charlie Chaplin.   It all takes place at the London Film Museum, County Hall, Belvedere Rd, SE1 7PB (020 7202 7040) near Waterloo tube.

Other favourites include a free talk on Florence Nightingale by Dr Rosemary Wall, with a walk and an exhibition, starting at the Maughan Library, King's College London, Chancery Lane tube, from 6 - 8pm on Thursday 7th October. email specialcollections@kcl.ac.uk to book.

Take the children to hear firefighters talking about the history of firefighting in London since the 1666 Great Fire at the London Fire Brigade Museum, 94 Southwark Bridge Road near Borough tube.  From 10 - 3 on Friday 8th October.

For the budding artist, head East to Walthamstow, home of the writer, socialist, designer, craftsman and conservationist William Morris unique multimedia show of contemporary artist and craftsfolk.  Saturday 10 - 3pm at the William Morris Gallery, E17.  Walthamstow Central tube/rail.

Discover what 'Tottenham Pudding' was to Londoners during the War and go to Stir it Up - A Recipe for Recylicng:  learn how to make do and mend as they did in the olden days, from rag rugs to pig swill and packed with family activities.  They are even going to bury a time capsule. Markfield Beam Engine and Museum, Markfield Rd, Markfield Park. Seven Sisters tube/rail.  Sunday October 10th. 11 - 4pm.  Free.

Hips, Haws and Hedgerows


Don't know about you, but we think the blackberries have been better than ever this year. When we walked in the Chilterns the other day and picked our way down the hedgerows, the blackberries were unusually delicious.. cobnuts were littering the ground; sloes, hips, and elderberries were weighing down the branches. 

We came home laden - or would have done if we had thought to take a bag to gather it all into.....Here's the link for the blackberry jelly recipe we were going to use:   blackberry jelly . Never been quite sure what to do with cobnuts other than have them in a bowl on the table only to throw them out untouched a few weeks later. Finally thought it best to look up what to do and found this: Cobnut Recipes on the really nice Allen's Farm website. Apparently children used to play a version of “conkers” with hazelnuts.  


Sculpture in the Park

If you are in London and want a walk in the park head to Kensington Gardens to see the fantastic Anish Kapoor sculptures. This is part of a new directive by Julia Peyton-Jones, director of the Serpentine Gallery, to bring art out of the gallery and put it where everybody can see it. These giant stainless street mirrored sculptures provide endless entertainment - think Fun Fair Hall of Mirrors style distortions.  They also enchantingly reflect and enhance the landscape, trees, sky, water, wildlife in the park.If like us it is an uphill struggle to get your brood excited about going to a modern art exhibition, entice them to come out with tales of Peter Pan, Pirates, and ticking crocodiles using the the Peter Pan walk from our book 
London Adventure Walks for Families.  Once you've got them to the park it's pretty much a guarantee that, in spite of themselves, the children will love the sculptures too. http://www.serpentinegallery.org/2010/03/anish_kapoor.html

Day at the Museum

Tales of a City: London Adventure Walks for Families on sale 
in the Museum of London bookshop

We set off to re-explore the Museum of London. We hadn't been since it's amazing makeover and came out greatly inspired. The museum has completely revolutionised the way they display their collections. It is out with the boring glass cabinets and in with real life settings and interactive displays. We especially liked the Victorian Walk, a charmingly atmospheric street, packed with all the shops you would expect on a high street, the pharmacy, the toy shop, a barber, a milliner, a pub, and even a latrine, brilliantly bringing Victorian London to life. Have expected Charles Dickens to appear from round the corner. The Pleasure Garden was also real delight, an 18th Century park recreated with trees, figures dressed in period costume, birdsong and chatter, with a clever backdrop of film of acrobatic entertainments. It makes you feel as if you are really there. If you haven't been for ages then a wander round here would be an easy and enjoyable way to spend a rainy afternoon, the children will hardly realise they are in a museum. What's more it's completely free. http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk

New beginnings for Adventure Walks

Welcome to our new Adventure Walks blog.  We are planning to use it to give our readers ideas and inspiration on where to go and what to do with children.  We've picked out our favourites off the beaten track museums and places to go for families and are always on the lookout for new, special places.  We will be walking regularly and will feedback on where we've been and what we've seen.  Sign up if you'd like to receive free walks for families by emailing us at Adventure Walks.  Our website adventurewalksforfamilies.co.uk is still up and running but we wanted to find a more interactive forum for you to tell us about your walk experiences and for us to send you regular updates and information.  We'd love to see your photos and suggestions, too.  

A children's workshop and leaf rubbing with crayons

Isabella and Otti on a Winnie the Pooh walk with the Daily Telegraph

Becky at the Golden Treasury Bookshop, South London

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