On Friday night I went to the launch of a new book and app called The Great North Walk.  A friend of mine, Matt McClelland runs a bushwalking website called Wild Walks and he’s just put together an impressive new guidebook on one of the best bushwalks in Sydney.

But there is another reason bushwalking has been on my mind and that is because the Oxfam Trailwalker was on over the weekend. I had a few friends from my church doing it – which is pretty impressive – because they have to walk 100k in 48 hours.

Since we had Molly, we haven’t done as much outdoorsy stuff as we used to.  I must confess that my kayak is pretty dusty right now, which is very sad.

When Birdy was little we used to throw her in the backpack and go bushwalking quite a lot.  I can actually walk to The Great North Walk from my house – in fact it runs right past my daughter’s school.  With the weather in Sydney being so good lately there’s really no excuse to sit around inside.

I often think the trick to getting out and being active is not to be too ambitious.  My husband works all weekend, so if we waited for a free day to go bushwalking it would never happen.  So we went out after school last week, just on a Tuesday afternoon, for about an hour.

I can’t say Birdy was too enthusiastic about the idea.  When I first mentioned that we were doing a bushwalk after school, you would have thought I’d told her we were going to spend the afternoon cleaning the toilet.  She really did not want to go. But having a husband who suffers from a great deal of inertia at times, we have both learnt that if you just do these things, whether you feel like it or not, then usually everyone enjoys it once they get there.  And that’s exactly what happened.  As soon as we were out in the bush, Birdy started planning how she’s going to make her next birthday party a jungle party, and she’s going to have a treasure hunt through the bush with a map.  It was amazing how fast her attitude changed once we were actually out in the bush.

It’s really hard to be grumpy when you’re surrounded

by a beautiful view of the water on a clear sunny day.

 Just a week ago, I saw a story in the paper that quoted some new research by Planet Ark.

26% of kids have never been bushwalking and 17% have never visited a national park. 

In this country there’s no excuse for that.  In Sydney there is so much amazing bushland and there are so many beautiful waterfront parks that you can get to by public transport. Recently Richard Louv visited Australia – he’s the author of a very influential book called Last Child in the Woods. He coined the phrase ‘nature deficit disorder’ to describe the disconnect between children and nature in modern life. One of the things he’s discovered in his research is that kids learn so much better in natural settings, even when they’re studying subjects like maths, history and art.  He says that getting kids outside actually stimulates them and improves their cognitive function, creativity, behaviour and learning ability.  So when you’re choosing a school for your child, don’t forget to ask about their approach to outdoor education.

Of course the other major benefit of getting out into the bush is that it’s a chance to spend gadget-free quality time together.  (Although it might be good to have a gadget, just in case you get lost.)

Interestingly, bushwalking has been shown to help reduce stress and depression, probably because it puts all our little problems into perspective.

You just can’t feel quite so overwhelmed by the stresses of life when you’re looking at a mighty river or a towering precipice.

Do you enjoy spending time in the Great Outdoors with your kids? Are they enthusiastic about it?  How do you make it enjoyable for everyone?