50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4

This has to be one of the best ideas to get kids doing more fun things outdoors. You can see the full list of things here. It makes the list into an online challenge. You post pictures and a description of what you do on each step, and for each one you get an online ‘badge’. If you manage to get a lot of them done (it doesn’t say how many) you can unlock games, and if you get all 50 done, you get a mystery prize and an actual National trust badge. Pretty cool I think.

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The list is full of things that I did when I was a kid, and definitely my parents did as kids. All of the ‘adults’ (40+) that I have asked have done all, or all but a few of these. I must admit though, I have never managed to skim a stone more than once- though not for lack of trying- and I was 15 before I slept out in the wild. I have still to this day never gone geocaching (a GPS worldwide hide and seek type game) though I expect I will at some point. I have also never kept a caterpillar until it became a butterfly as I never kept my creatures long enough.

I did have a love for snails when I was younger though. Especially when me and my friend Grace (another very outdoorsy type) got together; as well as herding the sheep in the field next door to her house, building things out of wood, foraging, climbing the hay bales, playing with candles, catching wasps (butterflies are for pansies), excavating old plates and rusty metal from the ground and making many many many (etc) bonfires we would catch snails. As well as having snail races, we would build complex houses for the snails out of flower pots and bits of rubbish we found in the woods. Something I am slightly ashamed of doing, now I am a little older, is ‘personalizing’ the snails. When we got to a certain age, nail varnishing numbers/ patterns on the snails was not quite interesting enough. Grace had a mini set of drill type things (they weren’t exactly drills, more like grinders but I can’t think of the right name). We would get on hand the drills, TCP (a antiseptic used on wounds), little plastic gemstones, and the chosen snails. We would select a drill bit the same size as the chosen gemstone, soak the gemstone and the drill bit in TCP, disinfect the snails shell, drill a hole through the shell (being very careful not to catch the actual snail and then placing the gemstone in the hole. It was really interesting to see as the days passed, the shell healing up around the gemstone, leaving the stone truly part of the snail. This usually only took about a day to heal and it made us identify the snails easily. I lost count of the snails we did this to, but only 3 died ‘post op’. Good old TCP.

One of the things that I loved most about my childhood is where we lived (moving when I was about 7). Not so much the house itself, but that it needed loads of work doing so it was a building site most of the time, and that it is cradled by woods. Me and my brother got to operate a digger, build brick towers, build many and build a toboggan run out of bricks and decking waiting to be used. The toboggan run was the best. We did it in winter, balancing planks between bricks stacked two high. We put the ‘rails’ just far apart enough to fit our crappy plastic sledge between (you know the ones with the rim around the edge- perfect runners for the rails). We put the course on the side lawn which slopes slightly, and put a bit of a jump at the end- not that it worked very well. Each night we would fill buckets with water, and sploosh it about the planks and the section of grass in the middle. Then the next day we would suit up and run outside to pull each other along the course in the toboggan. It is a shame I no longer have a DVD ripper on my PC as the video of it is great!

The crux of the argument is that it is great to have free access to building equipment as a kid. With the help of my dad, we build a proper large treehouse slightly into the woods. Then after that, when my parents weren’t watching we climbed up a tall tree at the front of our house, used a pulley system to get our tools up, and built a tree platform at second story height. It’s still there, and it is a great place to just sit and think, up in the tree, where you can’t really be seen. Family friends Sarah and David came over a lot when we were kids. As we spent so much time in the woods, we split it into a boys half and a girls half. We each had our own base camp with swings and a shelter. Littered throughout the woods are trees with nails hammered into the trunks enabling us and children to climb up to where there are branches to climb onto. Something that me and Sarah did most often, was something that I am very sad that I am too heavy to do anymore. We would each take a really long bit of rope and tie a strong stick to one end and a heavy bit of wood to the other. We would then go out in search of trees with really high up branches and fling the end with the weight over. Then you would sit on the stick, and hoick yourself up but pulling on the other end of the rope. That way you could get up really high, and swing in lots of different places.

When I was out exploring a new walk with my friend Em the other day in Johnathan’s hill (incidentally, a place that may be good for boarding), on the spur of the moment, we decided to relive our childhood and build a den. Slightly strange passtime for a 19 and 20 year old, but it was a beautiful day and, well, I need no more excuse.

Here is our result:

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Surely even doing ‘children’ things out in the woods is still ok for adults to do. . . . don’t you think?

Charlotte

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