Need to stretch the legs and get the kids outdoors? Here are nature walks for the family in Cork:
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With the stretch in the evenings becoming more noticeable, and the weather gradually improving, I’m finding myself more inclined to bring the children on some fun Nature Walks. We are lucky in Cork that nowhere seems too far from either the seaside or some woodland – both of which are ideal places to bring children to learn about nature, get some fresh air and exercise and have some fun at the same time. And for those of you who live in the countryside – no excuses – wandering through fields qualifies as a nature walk in my book!
Before setting out it is helpful if you decide on a few things such as:
- what route you would like to take
- how far are you going to go (depends really on the age of the children)
- can you bring a buggy for tired toddlers?
And don’t forget:
- Snacks and drinks
- Tissues/baby wipes and a few plasters are always handy
- Weather appropriate clothing- wellies/rain macs/hats/scarves/swimming gear/sun protection…
- And maybe a change of clothes for emergencies
- Net for fishing/catching butterflies, buckets and spades
- Box/bag for treasures like feathers/shells/leaves etc
- A packet of sweets (kept secret in your pocket) can prove invaluable towards the end of a long walk in order to bribe the children to keep plodding on back to the car!
There are plenty of woods and forests throughout Cork which are perfect for rambling through. Some have routes of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty, e.g Gougane Barra National Park or Farran Forest Park.
But for a really fun Nature Walk with the kids, the road LESS travelled is your best bet in our opinion! There are lots of exciting things to do in wooded areas – here are some of our fave:
- search for animal tracks, sketch any you find and try to identify them – keep the sketches and you can make a scrapbook as a memento of the day!
- try and find as many different species of tree as you can
- if you come across some hazel or willow – both of these are really good for making bows and arrows as they are flexible. Cut the bow to be about 2 feet long, make a small groove across either end for the string to sit along, tie the string to one end, tighten and tie to the other end. Make some arrows from some shorter straight twigs- no need to bother with arrow heads as we don’t want any accidents! You could organise a fun target practice for the children as they would then be less inclined to aim at each other.
- if you think of it in advance, go dressed in camouflage and have a great game of hide-and-seek
- when walking along, get the kids to race each other from tree to tree- this keeps the momentum up!
- if you bring some paper and crayons you can do some bark/leaf rubbings for your scrapbook
- in autumn look for chestnuts- make hole through centre, thread some string through and tie a knot at the end- conker fights!!!
- if you find acorns- take one home and plant it in a pot. See if a baby oak grows.
- make up some silly, funny songs for marching along to
- if you pass any bridges/streams, have some twig/leaf races!
- give each child a task of finding certain items in the woods e.g
Click here for a list of Corks fabulous beaches! Activities for the beach include:
- skimming stones- there are 3 secrets to this (although I’ve never managed more than 4 hops!) 1. you need a flat stone 2. you should throw it low and finally 3. you need a spin on the stone. Happy skimming!
- collect shells or stones you like
- go rockfishing- this can be as simple as crouching at a rockpool and gently moving aside the seaweed that is attached to the side- revealing, if you are lucky, a crab or an anemone, or a small fish/eel.
- at some beaches, when the tide is well out, it is possible to collect periwinkles and other shellfish. (It’s a good idea to ask a local, if you don’t know yourself, if they are safe to eat)
- fly your kite on a windy day
- make extravagant sandcastles- we’re talking moats, drawbridges, flags (feathers!), turrets etc. Oh and it really is a case of the bigger, the better!
- swimming- plenty of gorgeous blue-flag beaches out there
- a good old-fashioned game of frisbee
- with the tide out most beaches have vast open flat spaces ideal for hurling, football, tennis, rounders
- bring a bottle with a lid, write a note and set it off on the open sea…
We love the freedom of traipsing through grassy fields and idling down quiet country lanes- between wild animals and wild flowers, there is a wealth of treasures provided by our beautiful Emerald Isle waiting to be appreciated.
In the field in front of our house alone we have seen:
- a fox that travels the same path through the field nearly every day and other foxes with their cubs
- deer- male with antlers, female, and babies
- rabbits and hares
- pygmy shrew
- native Irish lizard- I didn’t even know they existed until we found her, and while the boys had her in a bucket waiting for their dad to get home from work to show him, she had 8 babies!
- red squirrels
- barn owls and countless other birds
Other Fun Nature Activities
In the half-hour between home-work and starting the dinner, my kids love going cloud-gazing on a fine day. We lie on the grass and look up at the passing clouds saying what we think they look like. This can get hilarious!
We also like collecting wild flowers either to spruce up the table a bit or for pressing. Pressing flowers is really easy and you don’t need any special equipment. Pick the flowers – try and choose ones that will look good flattened out (pansies, ferns and leaves are great for beginners), place between 2 sheets of paper and then weigh it down really well- the more pressure, the better. After a couple of weeks they should be ready and you can use them to make pretty cards/decorations etc.
Making daisy chains is another favourite and we have competitions to see who can make the longest!
Article written by Noelle, mum of 3