For five years our weekends and most holidays were spent at a tiny coastguard cottage on the Solent. It was in the middle of a row of ten. We shared front gardens with our neighbours on the left and back gardens with our neighbours on the right. For some reason the weekenders used the front gardens, which faced the sea, and the full time residents used the back gardens, so we never really had to share at all. But there were long expanses in the mid winter when we simply didn’t use the cottage and felt guilty when we weren’t there, in fact felt guilty whenever we went anywhere else. When it was cold we couldn’t face the drive, the weather and the wind. We gave it up in January, as it didn’t make sense to be paying for two houses in the middle of a bleak recession. At first it was exciting to be in London with so much to see and do. I liked tramping the dirty pavements and going to cafes, and seeing random last minute films. There were friends to invite over and museums to visit, but having exhausted trips to the country to stay with out of town friends and with a five year old and an eight year old to keep amused things became tense. Our small garden, (well more of a patio) is not enough to contain them for more than a few minutes. When we had friends over for lunch the other day they spent quite a lot of time playing on the flat roof outside Belle’s room. The adults ate lunch and pretended not to notice or to care about the potentially life threatening situation.
I heard from a friend about a brilliant little book: Adventure Walks for Families in and around London by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis. Last weekend we drove to the Chilterns in the rain because I was determined and desperate to get out of the city for a hearty walk recommended by the guide. We had decided to do the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Walk. At first the children were reluctant. My five year old sat at the bottom of a hill and refused to budge. We coaxed her up, (well my husband put her on his shoulders) and as we passed the windmill used as a location in the film, she cheered up, and climbed down, and I told her a few back to back stories, until she really got into the walk and sped down the hill towards some grazing black cows, that really did look like an art installation. I forgot to mention that by now the sun had come out and the landscape was stunning. The children ran and laughed and looked for items for a scavenger hunt: a feather, a shiny stone, a piece of animal poo etc. (again advice from the book) and then their moods changed and by the end of the walk they were smiling, happy and rosy cheeked. Luke and I had our usual discussion about moving to the country (which actually never goes anywhere). The walk was two and a half miles and completely restored us. The book also recommends pubs to visit and things to do in the car. Genius.