The National Trust is worried about the nation’s kids. Not enough muddy knees and rosy cheeks, it seems. So they came up with a brilliant campaign called ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ to inspire children to get out into wild places and, well, go wild. Climb a tree, build a den, dam a stream, skim a stone, make mud pies – all these old-fashioned pleasures are on the list, together with a few modern twists like geocaching and bouldering.
Every National Trust property in Wales is doing its bit, and there’s a list of things for children to tick off their achievements, along with some helpful tips and safety advice for parents. To get you started, we’ve picked ten things off the list, and suggested places in Wales you might like to go and try them. Have fun!
Roll down a really big hill
Invading armies might have done it in a hail of arrows, but you can enjoy all the fun without the risk when you roll down the really big hill that supports Chirk Castle. Completed in 1310, Chirk is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I that’s lived in today, and there are still archers and pike men on patrol.
Catch a crab
The Menai Strait has some of Wales’ richest pickings for oysters, mussels, crab and lobster. Plas Newydd House & Gardens, the magnificent seat of the Marquess of Anglesey, has watched over these waters for centuries, but what lies beneath the waves is yours to discover with a net or crabbing line.
Take a look inside a tree
After a visit from the official tree recorder of the Tree Register of the British Isles (yes, this job really exists…) Powis Castle in Welshpool was pleased to discover that it has 12 ‘champion’ trees - the largest examples of their species in Wales. Which is why this is the ideal place to run free in the woods and explore some fabulous trees.
Find crazy creatures in a rock pool
Every rock pool is a little universe with its own mini ecosystem, refreshed twice a day by the tides – perfect for little explorers to go on adventures. The National Trust just happen to look after some of the most gorgeous bits of coast in Wales – and by extension, the world. Just take a look at Rhossili, the Blue Lagoon, Mwnt, Porthor, Porthdinllaen… they’re equally ravishing.
Climb a huge hill
If you're visiting Beddgelert in the heart of Snowdonia, huge hills aren’t hard to find. However, if you're looking for an easier scramble, try heading up to the castle ruins of Dinas Emrys. It has the added bonus of a proper Welsh legend: underneath this hill, a red dragon and a white dragon shook the castle foundations while having an almighty scrap. The red dragon won… which is why it’s our national symbol, fluttering proudly on our flag.
Make a mud pie
The kitchen of Erddig once produced elegant dishes and fine fayre for the gentry upstairs, but it’s the gardens that now produce remarkable pies these days – mud pies that is, as kids can get their hands dirty and show their creative flair in the grounds of the atmospheric country house.
Camp out in the wild
The first time you ever camp out in the wild is always an unforgettable experience, but to camp out in the wildlife oasis that is Stackpole in Pembrokeshire, where the inky darkness of the night sky allows each star to shine with a fierce brightness, makes it an experience to cherish forever.
Find a geocache
Geocaching is a fabulous way to pique children’s interest in the outdoors – it’s basically hi-tech hide-and-seek – and there are caches hidden at practically every National Trust site. You can have a crack for free by borrowing a GPS device at Llanerchaeron, an elegant Georgian villa, set in the wooded Aeron valley, which has its own farm, walled gardens and lake.
Fly a kite
Enjoy the wide open spaces of the fabulous parkland at Tredegar House near Newport by flying a kite in the luscious 90 acres that had for five centuries been enjoyed exclusively by the Morgan coal dynasty.
Go on a nature walk at night
Ever been out in the countryside at night with a powerful torch? There’s a whole community of critters out there which you seldom see by daylight: fox, badger, otter, hedgehogs, deer – they’re all most active at night. And then there are bats, of course –you’ll see several species at Dinefwr, where the rangers run regular bat walks in the summer.