We had been really lazy all winter, rarely getting outside. Our weekday schedule was so busy that the kids especially just wanted to sleep in and stay in their pajamas all day. I couldn’t blame them plus the weather in London is a total drag during the darkest months of the year: rain and wind were the daily forecast. As a result, I had suggested outings to the park with no real determination and had been met with resistance and complaints, leaving us in our small flat most weekends. Until now.
I absolutely love to be outside. The air is fresh and makes me feel like I can breathe again after the stagnation of our contained indoor space. Immediately my mood lightens. Combined with physical activity, it causes increased happiness and well-being. The kids are always happier outside too. The hardest part is the transition from inside to outside, getting motivated and dressed takes some encouragement on my part. I notice that once we do get through that hurdle and we are exposed to sun and oxygen immediately everyone’s enjoying each other’s company much more.
I felt the need to instigate change yesterday. My kids, like us, like a challenge so I offered them one: we, as a family, would take one section each weekend of the Thames Path National Trail, which stretches 184 miles from Greenwich to the Cotswolds, and walk it. We decided to break it into small portions to ensure that the kids could do each leg and keep track of our completed sections on a map as we go. It would take us awhile, I pointed out to them, but it would provide us with a goal to work towards together and a weekly activity to look forward to. We would see wildlife along the river, play, make dens, collect treasures, perhaps find a few geocaches, and enjoy exercise and one another. It sounded perfect! We would take turns navigating from a map that I had printed–who wanted to start? Fiona raised her hand first. I encouraged her to pick a section of the path closer to home to begin with. She decided on the Kew Bridge to Chiswick bit, a 5.5 mile portion of the trail. She then studied her directions to be familiar with the route before we arrived at the start.
Fiona did a fantastic job directing us and was prepared for every turn as she read aloud landmarks listed in the route notes. The day was sunnier than expected and we were grateful for it. We did look for one geocache on the route but we read it required digging and that most people had difficulty finding it. We decided to skip it and continued on.
The path alternated between concrete pavement, small dirt paths and some walking through quiet tree lined streets. The water in the Thames was very low which enabled us the ability to walk along and scour the beach. We collected some stones from the river’s shore and a few sticks that James carried for at least two miles. Colourful spring flowers were in bloom everywhere. We were determined to find a pub to eat a late lunch towards the end of our route but never found one. It seemed we were in a food “dead zone”. Note to self: find and map out food and beverage proprietors before leaving the house next time.
Overall, it was a successful outing although in the end we only completed about 3.5 miles of it. Baby steps. I know the kids are capable of more in one outing as they’ve easily walked 10 miles with me previously. After a long winter inside though, it will take some getting used to again and I am hopeful that our new challenge will help with that. I’m not sure we will actually walk the entire path but I will continue to track our walks on different sections of the trail and see how that goes. The important bit to remember is to get outside and enjoy it, the experience is our reward.