Have an awesome autumn half term with the National Trust

Autumn at Anglesey Abbey1 ©National Trust Images Richard ToddWhether it’s enjoying a stroll in a spectacular landscape ablaze with colour or spending time with friends and family jumping in fallen leaves, there are plenty of reasons to love this time of year.

Autumn is here for you to enjoy with all its colour, conkers, orchards full of apples and hedgerow fruits just right for picking. So why not take a family walk this autumn, discover some special places on foot and take part in some of our ‘50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ events this half term.

Take a walk on the wild side and track a woodland creature, build a bug hotel or hold a scary beast. If that’s not enough there’s tree climbing, wild art and conker competitions to keep the kids entertained in the great outdoors.

Here are the National Trust’s top half term events to tick off this autumn:

South East

Standen, West Sussex
Spooky Woodland Art , 29 October, 11am – 2pm
If you’re feeling brave, explore the woodland and wider estate at Standen and create some spooky woodland art for Halloween. Get creative in the outdoors with local artist Bleau Hudson, and tick off number 18 on the ‘50 things’ list. Bleau will show you how to create some eerie wild art inspired by trees and woodlands around you. If you can, collect some art materials beforehand and bring them with you – cones, twigs, leaves, bark, leaf litter and other woodland materials will all come in handy when creating your masterpiece.
Price: £3 (normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01342 323029

New Forest Northern Commons, Hampshire
Forest Play, 28 October, 10.30am – 1pm
This beautiful sprawling wilderness offers opportunity for both retreat and adventure this autumn. Join some of the rangers in the New Forest for a day of lighting campfires, building dens and woodland craft. Foxbury, near East Wellow, is a safe enclosure with space to play and learn and the basecamp is the ideal place for wild play, with rustic seating and a readymade fire pit perfect for marshmallow toasting and hot drinks. The rangers will show you the best ways to build and light a fire, help build dens, plus there’ll be woodland craft activities.
Price: Adult £2.50, Child £5 (booking essential)
For more information, please call 01794 344020

Tree climbing at Mottisfont - ©National Trust Images Arnhel de SerraPolesden Lacey, Surrey
Big Tree Climbing, 27 October, 10.30am – 4.30pm
Climb in the canopy of the big tree in Preserve Copse with the supervision of highly skilled and friendly instructors and get a bird’s eye view of Polesden Lacey and beyond, and if you’re brave enough take the zip wire back down again. If you fancy stretching your legs and getting your feet firmly back on the ground there are acres of the estate to explore and perfect spots to sit back, relax and enjoy the views.
1 hour sessions limited to 7 children per session. Suitable for children from age 6 years and over (no height restriction) Full tuition, safety equipment and harness will be provided.
Price: £15.50 per hour session (free entry to grounds for participant, plus one accompanying adult if child is under the age of 16) – booking essential. Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 0800 0556760


Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill, Cambridgeshire
Awesome Autumn Adventures, 25 October – 2 November, 10.30am – 5.30pm
Come and see Anglesey Abbey change colour with a range of self-led awesome autumn activities. The gardens and wildlife area provide a great place to catch brightly coloured leaves as they fall off the trees. Enjoy a game of conkers, create beautiful wild art, build a den and find many more adventures hidden in the grounds.
Price: Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01223 810080

Children building a den from twigs and branches, in the grounds of Allan Bank, Grasmere, Cumbria.

Hatfield Forest, Essex
Deer Rut Walk for Families, 28 October, 4pm – 6pm
Explore Hatfield Forest in the Essex countryside this autumn, once a favourite place for royalty to show off their hunting prowess. Join the ranger team for an evening journey into the secretive world of the fallow deer during their rutting season. Learn how to track and stalk in silence and remember to bring your camera for those majestic shots.
Price: £10 (Ages 8 and over only, booking essential) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01279 870678

Ickworth, Suffolk
Out and about Wednesdays, 29 October, 11am – 3pm
It’s awesome autumn and Ickworth is a grand place to see the changing colours of autumn. Set your creativity free and make some wild art with nature’s bounty scattered around the estate. Dive into mountains of leaves and then catch as many as you can falling from the trees. Discover the magnificent horse chestnut trees and choose your winning conker to join the great conker competition. Have a great day out in the Suffolk countryside and complete numbers 10, 18 and 33 of your ‘50 Things’ challenge.
Price: Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01284 735270


Croome, Worcestershire
Tree Climbing, 27 October, 10.30am – 4.30pm
If there’s one ‘50 thing’ you should do this autumn it’s climbing a tree and taking in the colourful landscape around you at the top. Spend an hour with two with highly-skilled instructors who will teach you how to use ropes, knots, carabineers and harness to climb to the top of the tree and zip wire back down again.
Run by the Great Big Tree Climbing Company.
Price: £15.50 (for ages 4 and over, booking essential)
For more information, please call 0800 055 6760

Child climbing a tree in the garden at Quarry Bank Mill, Wilmslow, Cheshire.

Eyam Hall and Craft Centre, Derbyshire
Plant it, grow it, eat it, 25 – 26 October, 11am – 3pm
Roll up your sleeves as bring out your inner gardener as you get ready for another ‘50 things’ challenge at Eyam Hall nestled in the Peak District. Join the gardeners to harvest the apples and start to prepare the ground for more crops with number 41 on the list: Plant it, grow it and eat it. Lend a hand and plant your own seeds ready to harvest early next year and see how tall they can grow. Just like you, fruit and vegetables need a bit of time to grow but they’re definitely worth the wait. It all takes time but later next year you can enjoy eating your home grown produce.
Price: £3 (includes garden and craft activities) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01433 639565

The Weir, Herefordshire
Build A Bug Hotel, 30 October, 2pm – 4pm
Even bugs need to get away from it all once in a while so why not come along and build a bug hotel at this riverside garden. Bring the family along and join the gardener to learn more about creepy crawlies that make their home in the grounds. Once you’ve built your masterpiece take it home and put in your own garden and see who comes to stay.
Price: £3 (booking essential) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01981 590509

North West

Buttermere, Ennerdale and Whitehaven Coast, Cumbria
Buttermere Family Adventure Trail, 25 October – 2 November, 11.30am – 3.30pm
Escape with the family from the hustle and bustle of modern life and discover dramatic fells, farms, woodland and three lakes to explore. Have a change of pace as you follow the trail towards Buttermere lakeshore where you can skim a stone or make a splash as you jump over the waves. There are lots of ’50 things’ activities you can try out here; have a go at building a den in the woods or climb a tree with your friends. Who can find the best twig for a game of pooh sticks in one of the becks? Challenge your family to a race, so choose your stick wisely and take on the challenge.
Price: £1.50 per trail map
For more information, please call 017687 74649

Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Family Rut Walks, 27 & 30 October, 11am – 12pm, 1pm – 2pm & 2.30pm – 3.30pm
Whether it’s kicking up leaves, collecting acorns, or having fun at the log pile, autumn is an ideal time for families to explore the great outdoors at Dunham. Discover the autumn rituals of Dunham’s deer revealed in a family guided walk during the rutting season.
Price: Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 0161 941 1025

Children squirrel-spotting on Brownsea Island©National Trust Images

Formby, Liverpool
Squirrel Cycle Tour, 25 October, 10.30am – 1pm
The National Trust have teamed up with the ‘Visit’ project so you can get on your own bike or hire one for our cycling events. Formby is famous for its red squirrels, natterjacks, and prehistoric footprints – there’s plenty waiting to be discovered. Take a tour on two wheels and see if you can spot some of Formby’s famous red squirrels. The ride will make a stop at Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve for refreshments and to learn some more about the conservation of these fantastic creatures. This route will take you across the landscape using paths and roads into Southport from where you can make your way home or get the train back to Formby.
Price: £4 with your own bike or £6 with a hire bike (Normal admission fee applies and the ride will take around 3 hours)
Booking Essential on-line – registration from 9.30am for a 10am start
For more information, please e-mail formbyevents@nationaltrust.org.uk

South West

Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall
Wild Art Week, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30 & 31 October, 1 & 2 November, 10.30am – 4.30pm
Have fun creating some amazing wild art in the tropical Glendurgan Garden this autumn.
Have a go at making a colourful crown of autumn leaves or maybe a pebble picture at Durgan beach, or even a magnificent masterpiece by the maze. If you fancy a natural puzzle, take a stroll around the cherry laurel maze and see if you can reach the middle first. On your way back stop off at the Giant’s Stride rope swing for some spinning adventures.
Price: Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01326 252020

Child with a handheld GPS at Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire.

Stonehenge Landscape, Wiltshire
Geocaching – give it a go!, 28 October, 2pm – 4pm
Try a geocaching treasure hunt among the woods and fields on King Barrow Ridge this half term. If you’ve never tried geocaching before, you’re missing out on all the fun and ticking off number 49 on your ‘50 things’ list. Try your hand at treasure hunting and we’ll lend you a GPS device for the afternoon. Geocaching is about finding ‘caches’ that have been hidden by other ‘geocachers’ – some, like ours, include small toys and trinkets. Bring something with you to swap for something in the cache.
Price: £4 (booking essential)
For more information, please call 01980 664780

Tyntesfield, Bristol
50 Things activity – Hold a scary beast with our bug specialist, 29 October, 11am – 12pm & 1pm – 2pm
Tick off number 30 on your ’50 things’ list at this Victorian Gothic Revival house just outside of Bristol. A local bug specialist will be visiting Tyntesfield with a variety of his creepy crawlies for you to see and touch. Learn about what they eat, where they live and even try holding one if you dare.
Price: £3 (booking essential) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01275 461900 ext.138

Child making a picture from twigs and leaves in the garden taking part in a Family Fun event at Plas Newydd, Anglesey, Wales

Yorkshire and North East

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire
Bug Box Making, 28 – 30 October, 10am, 11am, 1pm & 2pm
Discover breath-taking views across the magnificent twelfth-century abbey ruins and the beautifully landscaped Georgian water garden this autumn. As winter approaches we’re not the only ones wrapping up warm in preparation for the chill. Our creepy crawly friends are also looking for somewhere to bed down and you can help them out by making them a brand new home. Roll up your sleeves and come and make a wooden bug box for your garden.
Price: £5 per bug box (booking essential) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01765 643176

Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, Northumberland
Activity Day, 29 October, 10am – 2pm
Struggling for things to do this half term? Why not join the Hadrian’s Wall Country Group team as they host a day of fun filled activities for all the family. Join in with pond dipping, mini beast hunts, bush craft, geocaching and much more – it’s the perfect way to work through your ’50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4′ list.
For more information, please call 01434 321888

Nostell Priory and Parkland, West Yorkshire
Conkers Bonkers, 30 October, 11am – 3pm
Only a stone’s throw from Wakefield lies Nostell, built on the site of a medieval priory it offers landscaped parkland and gardens. Visit this half term for self-guided, guided and themed walks. Stroll around the estate or speak to one of the rangers to find out exactly where the best trees are to find a winning conker. Remember, it’s not always the biggest conker that wins. 50 things tip: put some conkers in a bucket of water; all those that sink to the bottom are winners, those that float are losers.
Price: Normal admission fee applies to gardens
For more information, please call 01924 866841

Child playing in the autumn leaves; NT Images John Millar (1)

Northern Ireland

Crom, County Fermanagh
Nocturnal Nature Tour, 23 – 24 October, 7pm – 10pm
One of Ireland’s most important nature conservation areas, Crom’s ancient woodland and picturesque islands are home to many rare species. Take a tour in the jeep and discover what lurks among the trees and foliage of Crom estate after darkness falls.
Price: Adult £10, Child £5 (booking essential)
For more information, please call 028 6773 8118

Mount Stewart, County Down
Festival of Light, 31 October, 6pm – 10pm
A Magical event not to be missed is returning for a Halloween spellbinding special at Mount Stewart as the woodlands come alive with lights and music. Bring the whole family for an unforgettable, fairy-tale experience with an illuminated lake walk and log fires in the tipis.
Price: Adult £10, Child £7.50 (5-17 years), Family £30 (2 adults and 2 children) (booking essential)
For more information, please call 0844 249 1895


Plas yn Rhiw, Gwynedd
Autumn Adventures, 25 October, 11am – 3pm
Come and have an autumn adventure at Plas yn Rhiw, a manor house that has views from the gardens across Cardigan Bay. Play Halloween games, explore the woodland and complete some of your ’50 things’ activities by creating wild art and building a home for a wild creature – there’s plenty to do.
For more information, please call 01758 780 219

Visitors enjoying one of Bristol Astronomical Society's stargazing evenings at Tyntesfield, North Somerset.Craflwyn and Beddgelert, Gwynedd
Craflwyn Night-time Ramble, 29 October, 6pm – 9pm
The foothills of Snowdon are a great place for a night-time ramble in the woods in the heart of Snowdonia. Tick off some more of your ‘50 things’ and go for a nature walk at night, discover star-gazing and cook on an open fire.
Booking advisable
For more information, please call 01766 510120

Stackpole, Pembrokeshire
50 Things autumn challenge, 28 October, 12pm – 3pm
Visit this beautiful stretch of coastline with sandy beaches, wooded valleys and lily ponds this autumn where you can do as many of the ‘50 things’ activities as possible, including kites on the courtsite, cooking on a campfire, snail racing at the stone seat, and all things autumnal.
Price: £2 (Normal admission fee applies)
For more information, please call 01646 661425

Make this a Summer They’ll Never Forget: do Nothing

SONY DSCSchool holidays are (finally) upon us in the UK. This past month has felt like cruel and unusual punishment as countries all over the world have broken up for their holidays and the independent schools have been closing up shop for the summer one by one! It has felt a very, long term indeed.

Now that school is over and the kids are finally free, let’s give them a summer that they will remember forever. I am not suggesting that we fill their every waking minute with constant stimulation – that’s what the school year, with its homework, after school clubs and play dates is for.

Let’s do…nothing.

Let’s take all the external stimulation away in order to fire their imaginations, their thirst for adventure, and their sense of self. Let them lie on the grass and find shapes in the clouds; create a camp from blankets; run under the sprinkler in their bare feet; paint endless pictures; make a mess. Oh yeah, and build a bridge out of loom bands!


Maybe this will be the summer where they have their first taste of independence, with a walk to the shops on their own, or a sleepover at a friend’s. Let them take on projects that they can devise and manage on their own, like a lemonade stand, a charity fundraiser, or a day trip of their own planning. Take them walking somewhere – anywhere, they will be filled with wonder wherever they go.

In the UK we have six short weeks after a long, pressure-filled school year. If we want our kids to experience a small fraction of the freedom we had, then summer is our best opportunity. If you have to work long hours all summer, don’t try to make up for it by cramming in evenings and weekends of activities. Just be with your smalls. Teaching your kids to do absolutely nothing and not get bored doing it is one of the most valuable life skills that they can learn.

Doing nothing will give them ample opportunity for adventures of their own making and it will fill their hearts and minds and make for a summer that they will never forget.

Re-Introducing Children into the Wild by Project Wild Thing’s David Bond

10138864256_a78cb58a76_bFilmmaker David Bond has just released ‘Project Wild Thing’ to tie in with The Wild Network’s campaign to get kids back in to the outdoors. Here he explains how the idea for the film began and where it took him. Read our story about the launch here.

I’m a father of two small children. I look at their lives and worry. They spend the bulk of their time indoors, playing with plastic toys that spill out of cupboards, watching television, playing games on the computer and stroking apps on the iPad. What they don’t do much is go outside.

They scream when I suggest we go out for a walk. My daughter, Ivy (6), prefers the television. ‘How much do you love TV?’ I ask. ‘A hundred billion per cent’, she replies, ‘It’s so relaxing’.

Two years ago, I decided to do something.9670569769_8cdd357c72_b

My inner geek needed numbers to work with. I am a filmmaker. I strapped a camera to Ivy’s head to find out how she spends her time: the bulk of it – over a quarter is on screens. Just 4% playing outdoors; the same proportion as she spends in the bathroom.

Yet when she does play outdoors, she enjoys herself far more. My children love nature – they love being outdoors. They just don’t choose it.

All the science shows that getting outdoors is hugely beneficial to children and young people. It improves their health, reduces stress and boosts wellbeing. Just the view of greenery from an exam hall window helps students achieve better grades.

A UNICEF report finally convinced me. It compares child well being in Spain, the UK and Sweden. Across all three countries, children describe a ‘good day’ as being one where they spent time with their family outdoors. But in the UK, children get much less of this than elsewhere – less even than in colder Sweden. When I ask Ivy to remember her ideal day, screens are not mentioned. She talks about camping or playing together in the garden.9340352577_29765d5ef4_b

My daughter misses nature. She’s not alone: millions of children are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Children today spend half the time playing outdoors as their parents did. A third more children can identify a Dalek than can spot a magpie.

This retreat from the wild has serious implications. The British Heart Foundation has spoken up about the importance of an ‘outdoors childhood’ in tackling child health inequalities. Published in June, the State of Nature report, shows that tenth of species are at severe risk of extinction. If children don’t learn hands-on about nature, why would they care to save it?

Their generation face tough environmental challenges. But why bother preserving the ash tree if they can’t name it, have never climbed it or slept under it?

Disconnection from nature affects all children: rural and urban, rich and poor.

Making ‘Project Wild thing’ I spent 18 months travelling across the UK, talking to children of all different ages, races, and social backgrounds. The more I met, the clearer it became that, although all children want and need nature, they don’t choose it or get it. The barriers they face are overwhelming, ranging from parents too afraid of strangers to let their children out through heavily congested roads to a lack of suitable green space.

Project Wild Thing addresses one barrier in particular: the commercialization of childhood. Marketers sell my children everything under the sun. They give them a view of nature so idealistic that the reality of their small garden in South London can never compete. Appointing myself the Marketing Director of Nature, I decided to ‘sell’ nature as the ultimate adventure. I wanted to compete with Disney and Nintendo.

I ran a major marketing campaign. I put posters up on billboards in railway stations across the country. I spoke to children in the most remote Scottish islands and in the busiest of city estates. But on my own, it was never going to be enough.

We all need to be Marketing Directors of Nature – and the best way to sell the product is to enjoy it ourselves.

Project Wild Thing will be shown in cinemas nationwide from the 25 October – screening details can be found at here.

David Bond is a filmmaker9343142752_24aa206053_b

The Wild Network Launches with ‘Project Wild Thing’ Documentary

10138864256_a78cb58a76_bIf you are a parent who is trying to raise happy, healthy and active kids into interesting and interested human beings, you are no doubt concerned with the amount of time your kids – and indeed all kids – are spending outdoors. We certainly are. The Fableists’ clothes are made to live in, to play in and to explore in. We want to see our clothes up trees and rolling down hills. While all kids love being outdoors and running free, convincing them to get out there isn’t always easy. And more and more, competing with the ‘screen time’ your kids crave is to blame.

The newly formed Wild Network is launching the biggest ever campaign to reconnect kids with nature and outdoor play. Their goal is to get parents to swap their kids’ screen time for ‘wild time’: playing outdoors and spending time in the natural world. The Wild Network is made up of more than 370 organisations, including RSPB, the NHS, Wildlife Trust, Scout Association and The National Trust, whose fabulous ’50 Things to do Before You’re 11 3/4’ campaign, was our intro to this current project.The Wild Network

This campaign is probably long overdue. As Andy Simpson, Chair of the Wild Network, said: “The tragic truth is that kids have lost touch with nature and the outdoors in just one generation. Time spent outdoors is down, roaming ranges have fallen drastically, activity levels are declining and the ability to identify common species has been lost.” This is worrying stuff that needs to be front and centre of our parenting agenda.

The Wild Network is advocating the ‘re-wilding’ of our kids with more wild time, and encouraging a swap of 30 minutes of screen time a day for an equal amount of outdoor time. The health and wellbeing benefits of more time spent outside are well documented and the campaign is “all about finding wildness on your doorstep and discovering the sights, sounds and smells of nature, whether in a back garden, local park or green space at the end of the road”.

The centrepiece of the campaign launch is the new, feature length documentary film, ‘Project Wild Thing’. Patrick Barkham of The Guardian claims that “this film will change your life” and it is hoped that it will help to bring about real and lasting change.9670569769_8cdd357c72_b

In the documentary, filmmaker David Bond takes a look at this modern challenge of getting kids into the natural world. Three years in the making, the film began as a personal journey when Bond realised his own children were living a vastly different childhood from his own, spending just 4% of their lives outdoors. In an effort to get his kids off the sofa, he appointed himself ‘Marketing Director for Nature’ in order to help his brand – nature – compete for a share of his kids’ attention.9340352577_29765d5ef4_b

Harnessing the power of marketing, which he blames for commercializing childhood, Bond embarks on a campaign to sell nature. The outdoors is the ‘ultimate, free wonder-product’, the one gift you can give your kids that won’t cost a penny. The film follows Bond’s journey to re-brand nature to recapture the imagination of our kids so that they can rediscover the joys of a childhood lived with fresh air and no boundaries.

Ultimately, every parent needs to market nature to their own kids by exposing them to the world outdoors and to show them how to enjoy it. The fondest memories any child will carry with them into adulthood are of time spent outside, on adventures with the people closest to them. What the film urges is that this can be in a garden or city green space; it can be on the walk to school or to the shops; it can be jumping in puddles after a heavy rain or collecting conkers. All we need is to take the time to introduce our children to nature because all kids love being outside. As Bond says in the film: “you’re guaranteed to love nature, or your money back.”9340422049_4d2172dc52_b

You won’t find ‘Project Wild Thing’ preachy or nostalgic. It is funny and fresh, modern and moving. See it this weekend in the UK. It is being shown in over fifty cinemas across the UK from the 25 October (https://projectwildthing.com/film). The whole family will love it.

Follow the discussion on the twitter feed @wearewildthing and using the hashtag #wildtime or #projectwildthing. Download the new ‘Wild Time’ app, which shows how technology can help give time-pressed families a bucket list of ideas to help get their kids outdoors.9343142752_24aa206053_b