Act now before adventure becomes a distant memory!

What are your strongest childhood memories? Chances are, if you were born during or before the 1980s, they involve climbing trees, roaming the fields until teatime and swimming in rivers. But new research shows that today’s children are potentially missing out on adventures of this kind and are too busy playing indoors instead.

According to a survey by garden and conservatory furniture firm, the fondest childhood memories of more than half (56%) of British adults include exploring and socialising outside. Yet almost the same number - 58% - of modern parents say they regularly battle to get their children outdoors, suggesting that the next generation is likely to be missing similar key memories from their own childhoods.


 Almost a quarter say their children ‘rarely’ play outdoors during their free time, while almost seven in 10 - 69% - believe their kids spend more time playing indoors on computer games and technology than embracing nature and the outdoors. Just nine percent think their offspring would play outdoors if was raining, compared to the 19% who did so when they were young.

 The research found that:
  • Building dens was cited as a former favourite outdoor activity for 68% of those quizzed
  • 65% loved playing in the park (65%)
  • 57% enjoyed trips to the seaside
  • Games such as hide and seek, hopscotch and tag were popular with 56% of today’s parents, closely followed by ball games including rounders, tennis and football (52%)
  • Almost half - 45% - loved splashing in a paddling pool, while 41% fondly remember water fights
  • Camping trips (38%) and having barbecues (31%) also form favourite memories for adults today
  • More than a third of adults (35%) regularly pleaded with their parents for extra time outside and 44% preferred playing outside to being indoors during the summer holidays

 Alfresia’s Nic Jones said, "It’s great that such vivid and long-lasting memories can be created for children simply through outdoor play. These are recollections that we will take with us into adulthood and cherish for years to come - and a lot of them involve doing things that are free.

"However, sadly many children today seem to be missing out on these long-lasting memories that are created through enjoying outdoor experiences. For many families, the vast range of technology they have at their fingertips is a reason to stay indoors, yet there is so much to embrace through outdoor activities and play.

 "Simple games such as treasure hunts, feeding the ducks and splashing in puddles can bring such happiness. Of course, indoor games and technology have their benefits and can also be a great deal of fun, but there is no harm in getting wrapped up and heading off for an outdoor pursuit come rain or shine!”


Our trails books for children cover all corners of the UK, so switch off, get outside and start making memories with your little ones today!



Created On  15 Jun 2017 13:11  -  Permalink

Fresh air and fitness

Fresh air and fitness keep us on our toes in National Walking Month!

  As a nation, it seems we’re more in love than ever with walking! A new survey of the over-40s shows that 70% of us think walking is more important than it was 10 years ago - and, given the interest we see in our 140+ walking books, we can’t help but agree!

 The research, carried out by walking holiday specialists Headwater to mark National Walking Month, found that three quarters of holidaymakers over 40 love to explore on foot. Seven out of 10 believe walking is more important than it was a decade ago and more than half - 56% - love the fact that walking holidays are active yet relaxing. Yet, with recent NHS findings revealing that one in four adults in England gets less than 30 minutes of exercise a week, it seems more essential than ever that more of us start to build a short walk into our daily routine.

 When asked what’s wonderful about walking:

  • 84% of respondents said the fresh air
  • 69% like the fact that walking keeps them fit
  • 54% enjoy being around nature
  • 57% cited exploring a region in their own time as their favourite part of a walking holiday
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of over-40s who choose a walking holiday do so because they get to enjoy the outdoors

Headwater's Alison Scott says: "Our research supports the recent NHS review of obesity, highlighting the importance of regular exercise for adults. Incorporating regular walking into your routine is easy and, as it’s not a strenuous form of exercise, it’s actually quite enjoyable! On a walking holiday you can enjoy pleasures such as fine food and wine whilst burning off some of the calories when exploring a destination on foot.

"Following the research, we’d like to attract and support those new to walking by creating a series of e-guides later in the year, covering everything from what to pack to reviews of the ideal cost-effective kit to how to take the best holiday photographs. We want to debunk the myth that walking holidays are just for the active and experienced and ensure that they are open to everyone of any age, experience or fitness level. Walking is important and we want to shout about its numerous benefits.”

 With National Walking Month well underway, we agree that walking is one of the best exercises for beginners and experienced hikers alike. As well as physical benefits such as reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and some cancers, a short daily walk can be an excellent mental health booster, fighting anxiety and depression. A recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine also found that gentle exercise such as walking keeps the mind sharp in the over-50s, thought to be due to the increased supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients.

 If you’re new to walking and want to start gently, here are some suggestions for easy, accessible trails:

  Cornwall Walking on the Level

Find your feet with Norman and June Buckley’s collection of 28 mainly circular walks in one of the UK’s most popular holiday spots - perfect summer inspiration.

 Teashop Walks in Oxfordshire

Proving you don’t have to escape to remote countryside to go walking, Julie Meech’s book covers fairly level ground in the Cotswolds, the Chilterns and the Thames Valley - and has the perfect excuse to revive yourself with a nice cuppa along the way!

All Terrain Pushchair Walks in Snowdonia

You might have to work your way up to some of the more strenuous alpine adventures but, with a number of riverside strolls - the shortest being just three quarters of a mile long - Zoe Sayer and Rebecca Terry’s book truly has something for even the most tentative newbie.

  Lincoln Heritage Detective

You might spend more time ‘working out’ mentally than physically with Danny Walsh’s new release! This city walk requires you to turn detective and solve the cryptic clues in order to see Lincoln’s finest features in a new light - and to discover some quirky new ones!

 In the Spirit of Wainwright

National Walking Month is for everyone who wants to get outdoors, regardless
of health or ability. Be inspired by Debbie North and ‘sidekick’ Andy, who set off
in search of accessible adventure after Deb’s diagnosis of spinal degeneration.


Created On  18 May 2017 15:10  -  Permalink

Going round in circles

Boost your cycle rides with places of interest 

Unless you're on a pedalling tour or weekend break, leisure rides will inevitably finish from where you started. Although the process of turning the pedals and enjoying the freedom and fresh air are undoubtedly sufficient reasons in themselves to be cheerful, such journeys can be made even more interesting by visiting places en route – especially if you do your research, according to Sigma author and this week’s guest blogger Dave Hancock. On group rides, a cafe or pub will often be the choice for a mid-ride break. Lone and paired cyclists can be more adventurous – a castle, viewpoint or beach, perhaps.  

A French ace

Ride 1 - Oswestry old mills and bridges - in my book More Cycles Rides in Shropshire is a 20-mile route to the east of Oswestry which takes in the old perimeter road of Rednal airfield. A former RAF base, the airfield is on a large plateau. The Discovering Shropshire's History website has considerable information about the site of the former RAF Rednal, including that it was an Operational Training Unit from April 1942. Spitfires and Miles Master aircraft were used at Rednal and, sadly, there were many accidents, with pilots killed. According to the website, the French fighter ace, Pierre "Clo Clo" Clostermann, trained at Rednal. He went on to claim 33 "kills" (a number that has often been refuted) and died in 2006 at the age of 85.

Records breaker

Decommissioned in 1945 and then sold in 1962, Rednal airfield now hosts a variety of different activities. There are many industrial units and workshops, some located in old hangars. Unusual activities to have taken place there include the testing of airships (global balloonist Per Lindstrand has a base in nearby Oswestry) and the setting of three world records by Jason Rennie for jumping trucks on a motorbike!

These days the popular pursuits at Rednal include karting on a specially built track, paintballing based around the old WWII control tower and, in the same area, outdoor laser shooting parties. The site also hosts a large Volkswagen camper van festival each year and is used as a timed test on an historic car rally.


Cycle sightseeing

As well as watching the activities, it's also worth taking in the scenery as the plateau, although not high above sea level, offers good panoramic views. One drawback, depending on which direction you're pedalling in, is the strong headwind on the short section of road parallel to the main runway. At least overcoming it is a good excuse to stop for refreshments at Canal Central teashop further along this ride.


Created On  2 May 2017 14:56  -  Permalink

Dog friendly cafes in Cornwall

Sigma author Sue Kittow does enjoy a cup of coffee (or two!) when she’s out walking! "I have a high metabolic rate and need refuelling regularly, so it’s much nicer to do it in the warmth with friends, and enjoy a piece of cake or biscuits!” she says. Here’s Sue’s guest blog about the dog-friendly cafes in Cornwall she has visited recently:

1. Jampot Cafe at Gwithian, near Godrevy Lighthouse

The Jampot Cafe overlooks Godrevy Lighthouse and lies snuggled in the towans like the gingerbread house in a children’s fairytale. Its owners bought it 18 years ago; it was once a look-out station in the Napoleonic Wars but now supplies wonderful homemade cakes and bacon sarnies to hungry hikers and visitors. It has an indoor seating area for when it’s cold, as well as tables and benches outside. There’s also even a book swap scheme if you’re staying nearby! Be assured of a warm welcome and great homemade food, whatever the time of year.

2. Trebah Gardens, near Mawnan Smith, Falmouth

Trebah cafe, shop and gardens are very popular with walkers and holidaymakers alike - all are always busy, whatever the time of year - and it’s one of the few large cafes in the area where dogs are allowed inside all year round. The produce is supplied by local suppliers and is always delicious, as is their coffee. Fortify yourselves with coffee and cake before walking it off on one of the many lovely walks nearby.

3. Bissoe Cycle Hire Cafe, Bissoe, near Devoran

This cafe is sited at the cycle hire office at Bissoe and is popular with those cycling or walking along the path from Devoran to the north coast of Cornwall. Bikes of all kinds may be rented here and any walk along the trail is punctuated by sideways leaps to avoid cyclists! The cafe is always warm and welcoming, with excellent coffee, vegetarian options and locally made soup, bread and cakes. Dogs welcome inside and out.

4. Cafe Mylor, Mylor Yacht Harbour, near Falmouth

Situated in the heart of Mylor Yacht Harbour, this cafe is very popular with sailors and walkers. The cafe also runs a Wednesday morning social dog walking meet, so people can walk with others, whilst dogs get water and dog biscuits. Locally-sourced Tregothnan tea, wonderful homemade cakes and dog treats are supplied before ramblers head off to Flushing or further afield.

5. Inkie’s Smokehouse, Golitha Falls

Unusual eatery Inkie's is situated in the car park at Golitha Falls, opposite: a very popular place to visit, particularly for dog walkers. It’s wise to check opening times in the winter, but this mobile cafe offers barbecues year round and is raising money to build a permanent smokehouse. They also offer cake, coffee and hot drinks.

6. Chapel Porth Cafe

There are so many walks to explore on this wonderful part of the north Cornwall coast before queueing up at Chapel Porth Cafe for the amazing food on offer, including homemade French onion soup, breakfast sandwiches, baguettes filled with cheese, onion, mushrooms and clotted cream, or their hedgehog ice creams and flapjacks. Once you’ve been here, you’ll certainly come back - even the dogs have their own tin of leftover flapjacks!

Sue Kittow is the author of Walks in the Footsteps of Cornish Writers, Walks in the Footsteps of Winston Graham's Poldark and Discover Cornwall, which is being updated in a second edition for 2017. Follow Sue's adventures on Facebook

Created On  5 Apr 2017 15:40 in WalkingOutdoorsFood & drink  -  Permalink

Tearooms to take your mum to

It’s nearly Mothers’ Day, and what better way to treat your mum than with a sunny spring walk followed by delicious tea and cakes! Here’s our round-up of the tastiest tearooms for walkers in the land!

1. The Coffee Tavern, Pott Shrigley, Cheshire 

Built in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, this quaint corrugated hall started its life as a public reading rooms and library. It was converted to a coffee tavern and tearooms between the World Wars - although, at one point, it was used as a storage depot by the local plumber! After a brisk walk on Bakestonedale Moor or a stroll through the grounds of Lyme Park, it’s just the spot for rhubarb crumble and piping hot custard! 

 Tea Shop Walks in Cheshire, by Clive Price and Graham Beech 
2. The Flock-In Tearoom, Rosthwaite, Cumbria 

A tearoom for real walkers, where tea is served by the pint or half! Run by Yew Tree Farm, a traditional Lakeland hill farm, the Flock-In provides the perfect resting spot after a hearty hike along the River Derwent and through beautiful woodland onto the fells, where views open up of Derwent Water and the Skiddaw range. Try the ‘Flock-In Gorgeous’ mouthwatering chocolate shortbread, or the Sticky Borrowdale Mint Cake… Mmm! 

 Lake District Tea Shop Walks, by Catherine Savidge 
3. Orchid House Tearoom, Bedwelly Park, Tredegar 

Tucked away in one of south Wales’ lesser known valleys, the Sirhowy, Bedwellty House and Park is a real find. Bedwellty was the home of 19th century ironmasters and later became the platform for the the career of a certain Tredegar boy called Aneurin Bevan. There’s plenty to see within the park grounds, including a Victorian bandstand, a war memorial and the world’s largest block of coal! Then it’s time for tea in the Orchid House, where Mum (and Dad) can choose from Lord or Lady Tredegar’s Afternoon Tea, adding a cheeky glass of Prosecco for an extra £3.50. There’s also a children’s option, complete with fruit as well as the sugary stuff!

 Heritage Walks in South East Wales, by Rebecca Lees 
4. Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire 

Home to the infamous Georgiana and still owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire today, Chatsworth is widely regarded as one of the finest houses in England - and we’d say the same of the tearoom! Large and elegant, it’s popular with visitors to the stately home and walkers alike, with a genuine welcome for all. A lovely circular walk from the car park at Calton Lees sweeps around the estate, taking in the Emperor Lake, the Hunting Tower, Swiss Cottage - and a nice cup of tea! 

 Tea Shop Walks in the Peak District, by Norman & June Buckley 

5. Hyde Park, London 
Mums in the capital this Sunday will be spoilt for choice of lovely tearooms and, with the weather set to cheer up over the weekend, why not take your mum to one of the many cafes in London’s parks? Hyde Park is always a favourite, with the Serpentine Lido cafe and a number of gallery cafes for art lovers, or you could just pop to one of the Royal Parks’ many refreshment kiosks and bag a deckchair! 

London Walks in Easy English, by Patrick Gubbins

Created On  23 Mar 2017 11:34  -  Permalink

After publication - an author's story

What do you do when you love walking and love football? You create a long-distance walking trail dedicated to Sir Brian Clough, of course! Here Sigma author and Sunderland fan Martin Perry describes his joy at seeing The Clough Walk - written with friend and Notts Forest fan Geoff Smith - in print after years in the making.

"Words cannot describe the unbelievable excitement and anticipation when the package arrived. Gingerly I opened it, being careful not to cause any damage, and there they were! Five glossy, gleaming new copies of the book I had cherished and worked at for seven years, The Clough Walk. I lifted the book up, stared at the cover, flicked through the pages, looked at the photographs and just savoured the moment. They say everybody has a book in them and this was mine. Boy did it feel good!

"I very quickly delivered copies of the book to Simon, Nigel and Elizabeth Clough, Brian's children. Simon was delighted and Elizabeth emailed me to say: "It was just a lovely idea from the start and words cannot really express what a touching tribute it is to my dad." Over the next few days I examined the book thoroughly and then started thinking - you only get one chance to make a first impression! This galvanised me into contacting 25 newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations associated with the walk.

"Very soon I found myself giving telephone interviews with the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette, Middlesbrough Gazette, Hartlepool Mail, Nottingham Evening Post, Notts TV and NHS Media, as there was an obvious health angle. This was followed quickly by live interviews on Radio Derby and Radio Nottingham! People asked me if I was nervous but the blunt answer was ‘no’. The interviewers were very professional, put me at my ease and let’s face it, I was talking about something I knew an awful lot about! I was on air for about 20 minutes and was asked all the right questions: What prompted you to write the book? How did you get the support of Brian Clough’s family? Why is the walk from South to North? How do you begin designing a long distance walk?

"Alan Clifford on Radio Nottingham actually suggested that The Clough Walk could become an annual charity walk. This is certainly something I would be interested in. Wouldn’t it be nice to let the Clough family decide the charity? Finally I had the immense pleasure of walking into Waterstones in Nottingham and seeing my book on a display stand. I blinked twice - and it was still there!"

Martin Perry

Martin, from Cheshire, met Geoff, from Nottingham, in 1971, starting an enduring friendship throughout their teaching careers.
In the late 1970s and early '80s they witnessed the success of Forest under the stewardship of Brian Clough and later Martin met Sir Brian when he invited him to preside over his school's annual awards ceremony. On entering their fifties, both became avid long distance walkers and completed together most of the well known walking trails.

Created On  27 Feb 2017 10:51  -  Permalink