It’s one of the nicest things to do with your children – run through fields, explore woodland and soak in the gorgeous scenery.
And with Calderdale’s beautiful landscape, we have the perfect backdrop for picnics, paddling and walks all year round.
But it’s not always easy to find tracks for little legs, that are also suitable for strollers and interesting for all ages.
Enter Sarah Rodgers, Brighouse mum-of-two and the walker behind the Facebook group and website Walking With Kids. Containing hundreds of child-friendly walks suggested by people from all over the country – many tested by Sarah, her husband and two children, Isla and Daniel – it’s her panacea for expensive indoor activities.
“My love of walking and outdoors started as a child,” says Sarah. “I grew up living in Colden, above Heptonstall, in Hebden Bridge and I would often go out wandering the countryside with other local children, finding somewhere to build a den, grass sledging and general exploring.
“My father would also regularly take us to the local Ragley Woods and we would do berry picking and have a dip in the water in the summer and do icicle picking in the winter.”
Her passion for exploring was reignited in her early 20s, when she travelled abroad and hiked in the countries she visited.
When she returned, she set about exploring the valley she had left behind. Then she met her husband, and they walked together, climbing Hadrian’s Wall to celebrate his 30th birthday, scaling Scafell Pike on their honeymoon and even achieving five miles on their wedding anniversary when Sarah was seven months pregnant!
Once children arrived, they chose pram-friendly walks and encouraged the kids to toddle alongside.
As the children grew, so did their interest in the great outdoors so they added in camping (at Jerusalem Farm in Luddenden) and hunted geocaches and Pokemon.
By the time Sarah launched Walking With Kids, she was struggling to find new places to explore and tired of expensive indoor activities.
“I found that when my children were outdoors, they thrived on the fresh air,” says Sarah. “They were able to run around unrestricted and as a mum, I was happy because there was no mess to clean up, no household chores to stare at, nothing for sale on the edge of the path other than the odd ice cream van and I could see that the kids were genuinely happy just exploring – all for free!”
At first, the group was made up of Sarah’s friends but in just four months, over 10,000 people have joined to share their ideas.
She also set up a website to streamline the ideas shared on the group, a Facebook page to focus on wheel-friendly walks for little legs (age 2-4) and longer walks for older children. An Instagram account visually highlights the beauty of where they visit.
“We have massively benefited as a family from all the great recommendations that have made in the group,” says Sarah. “And it remains a lovely positive group despite its size. Two recommendations that we are looking forward to exploring this summer as a family (amongst many), are Copley Woods and Baitings Dam in Rishworth.”
Sarah’s Top Tips for Walking With Kids
Do your research – find out where to park, how long the route will take and if you are planning to bring a stroller, make sure the paths are accessible.
Know what to bring – I always make sure I have some change for parking and toilets and a small treat for me and the kids. Wet wipes are a must as there are often trips and falls in mud and faces to wipe clean after food and ice cream. Water for everyone is also an obvious essential.
Check the weather forecast – if you’re taking a picnic, try and find out if there is undercover seating in case of rain.
Think about footwear – you don’t want to be in wellies if it’s a nice tarmac path in the heat, or in sandals if the path is uneven and muddy.
Think of an extra activity to occupy the kids – I take their scooters if I know the path is tarmac. Perhaps you can search for Pokemon or Geocache, go on a bug hunt or my daughter sometimes designs her own scavenger hunt before we leave to tick off things she sees along the way.