Free play: 50 simple pleasures to rediscover

The National Trust is worried about the nation’s kids. Not enough muddy knees and rosy cheeks, it seems. So they’ve come 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 website 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!

  • Two children rolling down the hill at Chirk Castle, North Wales Borderlands
    Rolling down the hill at Chirk Castle, North Wales Borderlands by National Trust

    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  

  • A man panning for gold at Dolaucothi Gold Mines, Carmarthenshire

    Dolaucothi Mines, Carmarthenshire

     by Discover Carmarthenshire

    The National Trust looks after some of our most gorgeous sections of coast, where you can hunt for treasure in old smugglers’ caves. Or if it’s gold you’re after, try exploring some of the miles of tunnels and caverns that have been dug out of the stunning Cothi Valley in a 2,000-year-old pursuit of gold at Dolaucothi Gold Mines.

  • A family fishing for crab

    Children in Beaumaris, Anglesey

    The Menai Strait has some of Wales’s richest pickings for oysters, mussels, crab and lobster. Plas Newydd Country House, 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.

  • A kettle boiling on a camp fire
    Making tea on the camp fire by National Trust

    Penrhyn Castle's 'Wild in the Woods' days are a chance for kids to go wild, build a den from branches, make a fire, then enjoy sampling the delights of food they themselves cook over the fire. Ray Mears eat your heart out.

  • Aerial view of Powis Castle and Gardens
    Powis Castle, Mid Wales

    After a visit from the official tree recorder of the Tree Register of the British Isles (yes, this job really exists…) Powis Castle 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.

  • Children snorkeling at Abersoch, Llŷn Peninsula

    Children snorkeling at Abersoch, Llŷn Peninsula

    Smugglers may have used the hidden rock pools of Llŷn to store illicit booty in bygone days, but these glistening pools still contain plenty of treasure: a wealth of mini ecosystems, alive with dozens of crazy creatures. The National Trust owns large sections of Llŷn's stunning coastline, and runs five car parks here. 

  • Erddig House, Wrexham

    Erddig House, Wrexham, North East Wales

    The kitchen of Erddig House near Wrexham 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.

  • Tents overlooking Fishguard Bay, Pembrokeshire

    Camping in Pembrokeshire

    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.

  • Girl geocaching in woods
    Girl geocaching by National Trust Images/John Millar

    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 from Chirk Castle or the National Trust shop in Rhossili, where there are several hidden caches near a beach that was recently voted one of the world’s best. 

  • A man and girl flying a kite at Tredegar House, Newport

    Flying a kite at Tredegar House, Newport, South Wales

     by National Trust

    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.