I adore living in the countryside. Coming here after 25 years in London was literally a breath of fresh air.
Arriving with my two boys six years ago, then fairly small, 2ys & 7yrs I was given the gift of one big adventure playground. Vast open green spaces, a patchwork quilt of trees and fields with previously unseen wild animals making cameo appearances ensured we had no trace of remorse for all those London playgrounds we had whiled away many a weekend at.
Now with bigger boys, one a teenager, my country life involves wheels to go almost anywhere. Some weekends can be incredibly unsatisfying as I take on the role of a driver. However when time allows there is nothing quite like walking out of the front door and heading across the fields for a walk. Kitted out in wellies and layers with a backpack stuffed full of picnic treats, what else could I possibly want to do more? Our walks inevitably begin with a good half hour of whinging from my boys, the fight to not go on a walk seems to be a reflex but I tune out and wait, and within the hour I have two excited boys with found sticks in hands, scavenging for blackberries and chestnuts, sucking the insides out of a wild flower for the sweet hit and pelting me with ‘sticky-bombs’. The joy of untangling those from my long and thick hair…
Living in Hampshire and fortuitously within the South Downs National Park means we are only a 40 minute drive to the seaside. I have to admit to avoiding visits during the summer but once the temperatures drop and the crowds depart there is a new found pleasure in strolling up the beach, collecting stones, wading in the sea and all the more exhilarating on a super windy day. The sanctuary of one’s car after hours in the elements cannot be under rated!
West Wittering is our preferred beach, extremely long and when the tide is out, it feels almost as wide. The heady sounds of seagull’s squawking and waves crashing mixed with the odors of glistening seaweed, smelly wet dogs and an over riding fishy-ness awaken our senses with glee and snubs alike.
Rather sadly my boys have now had it with zoo’s, bird parks – ‘boring old birds”, National Trust houses and local museums, the thrill of a boot fair, the skate park and strangely, WH Smith, is where they’re at right now.
The charming Birdworld where we’ve idled away many an afternoon ogling at the pretty pink hues of flamingos and the fluffy feathered bodies of the ostrich’s are no more and the footage of a major fire at the elegant 18th century National Trust house Uppark, which had been watched with big saucer eyes countless times remain as two of my favourite hang outs.
As does one of my earliest Hampshire finds, The Watercress Line railway. A heritage visitor attraction offering 10 miles of track used by steam locomotives and punctuated with period stations all set in the period from 1940’s to the 1970’s. A ride on the steam train here is utterly magical; sat in a vintage carriage, enthralled by the chuff and motion of the train with big white puffs of steam trailing pass the window and the shrill of the whistle before plunging into the sooty blackness of a tunnel, it’s a Railway Children moment every time.
For me however the simple joy of driving or walking through beautiful countryside has never dimmed, the discovery of country living and its sharp contrast to city living has kept me utterly spellbound and even without my two boys in tow I rather suspect that those special places will be on my agenda for years to come.
Great Things To Do in the Countryside with the Kids, by Deborah Medhurst, No Added Sugar