Epic: The National Trust's 'Elite Ranger' group
By Carey Davies
The National Trust has made a 'checklist' of outdoors experiences every child should have as part of a new campaign to get kids outdoors.
The list is part of an initiative by the charity called ‘50 Things To Do Before You’re 11¾’ and includes such tried-and-tested activities as skimming stones, running around in the rain, hunting for bugs, setting up a snail race, damming a stream, flying a kite and baking a mud pie.
It follows a report commissioned by the National Trust which found fewer than one in ten children regularly play in wild places compared to only half a generation ago, while a third have never climbed a tree and one in ten can't ride a bike.
The Trust has formed a group of 'Elite Rangers' who will share their expert tips on enjoying outdoor adventures.
The five rangers, all Trust staff, come from across the
They include a 6ft 3” tree climbing expert who has scaled 50 metre-high trees known as 'Tree Man', a minibeast expert AKA 'The Bug Catcher', an outdoor hideaway-building champion, and a man who can skim a stone over 26 times, alias 'Captain Skim'.
The fantastic five will be offering top tips on their chosen skill to the nation’s children over the weekend of April 21 and April 22 when the National Trust will open up over 200 of its houses and gardens for free, as well as all the countryside spaces it cares for, which are always free access.
Kids can pick up a free 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11¾ scrapbook from participating properties and start ticking off their outdoor adventures to do list.
Plus they can continue at home by visiting nationaltrust.org.uk/50things where children can fill in their completed activities and earn points towards their very own explorer badge.
Tony Berry, Visitor Experience Director of the National Trust, said: “Our Elite Rangers are a fantastic bunch, with bags of enthusiasm for the outdoors and what it can offer kids. We’re hoping that the nation’s children will embrace the 50 things and start having their very own outdoor adventures with their family, with our Free Weekend the perfect opportunity to get outside in the fresh air.”
National Trust Elite Ranger Mark Astley, also known by his nom de guerre Captain Skim, took time out from his rigorous stone-skimming training regime to offer the following advice: “My top tips for stone skimming are to find some flat water, like a lake or sea on a calm day. Choose your stone carefully – the smoother, rounder and flatter the better.
"Next perfect your stance, bend your knees into a squat position with one foot in front of the other about a foot apart. Steady yourself by putting your non throwing arm in front of you and point your finger in the direction you want the stone to travel.
"Hold your stone throwing arm behind you and then bring forward - throw hard and low so it spins quickly across the top of the water.
"My personal best is 27 skims and I’m still trying to beat that. ”