Staying active and on the move underpins one of our favourite days out – a meander by the river and the serendipity the journey will throw in our path.
On Sunday I awake to blue skies and feel the pull of the great outdoors. Downstairs , my kids are sat on the sofa with screens on their laps. He’s building empires on Mindcraft and she’s following a loom band tutorial on how to make a dog. Have they noticed the beautiful day? I doubt it. I want them to notice that the green knots on the briars at the end of our garden have finally yielded blackberries. I’d like them to feel the grass beneath their feet. I’d even welcome an argument over who gets to throw the frisbee first. I want to get them OUT.
Were I to ask who wants to walk five miles, I’d get no takers. Instead I ask who wants to play frisbee? If I meet resistance I’ll throw in the promise of an ice-cream as well. That’s not necessary. I have two ready recruits. I gather together our modus operandi – the whistling frisbee, a tennis ball I can slip into my pocket, a scooter for him, a skipping rope for her and a picnic for our pit-stop. DH completes our merry band and off we set. Scooting and skipping, it takes us 15 minutes to get to the river.
The boathouse and jetty are nestled down an incline off the road and the boy loves to freewheel to the ferry.
The river is not wide and our trip across is very brief. On quiet days Ben, the ferryman, will take us on the “scenic route” where we circumvent a small island. Somedays he’ll take us to a nest he spotted earlier and we’ll count the fluffy ducklings. On Sunday we do the crossing straight. Ben’s installed an old table football set under an awning by the boathouse. We’re promised a game on our return.
Once on the far bank they throw the frisbee. DH tosses the scooter over his shoulder as the saucer-power kicks in. The children make good progress, taking it in turns to throw, then catch.
We advance this way until we come to a playground. They treat it like an assault course. In one gate, a whizz on every frame and out the far exit. Back on our river path my son asks for the tennis ball and throws it high above him then claps until its close enough to catch. My daughter even notices the blackberries on the hedgerows. I promise her we’ll pick some on our way home. Last year a dog walker almost put an end to our berry harvesting. “Avoid those low ones” he said, “that’s where the dogs pee”. It’s taken me the year to get her to start picking again and we make sure to go for the high berries.
They sprint ahead this time and run to the play-boats – Ratty and Moley. They are just about visible, protruding above the long grass.
Two raised platforms take the shape of sea-faring vessels and have been the scene of endless fun and games over the years as well as the site of new friendships. Today they have a boat each to themselves. I’d read the dedication on the sign before but take note of it this day. Screens have their use. I take out my phone and google the inscription:
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
It’s taken from “The wind in the willows”.
We entice them away from the boats with the promise of ice-creams at the cricket grounds, five minutes on. I know I’ll get a good coffee there too. DH tells them the story of the original Ratty and Moley over 99s’. Next to the cricket field are more swings and a play house that has seen better days. The plastic’s been bleached from sunny days like today. There’s a small climbing structure my son calls the Pandorica so he heads to it. His sister is happy to follow and fall in to whatever adventure he dreams up.
Our destination is Hampton Court and we have at least another 1/2 mile to go. I-SPY will progress us further . We file pass Moseley Lock. As we get close to the big bridge the banks get sandy. My kids call this the beach. They might throw pebbles or decide to break into their lunch to feed the swans and ducks. We’ll find a nice tree in the shade and have our picnic before repeating the journey to get us home. DH promises the boy a game of pirates on Ratty and Moley while my daughter and I pick the berries. They are out early this year. We must get back to the ferry before 6pm when the bell to beckon is taken down. There’s a sprint to the jetty as they both want to be the first one to ring it to alert Ben that are ready for fetching. The kids remind us that they’ve been promised a game of table footie. We don’t renege on that.
Back on the road the scooter and skipping rope reappear. When they start to flag a little I rely on an old favourite – car-counting. We choose different colours and do a car tally on the walk back to our house. Silver trumps.
As we walk through the door I hear my son shout “last one to the trampoline stinks” and off they both run. My husband grabs us two beers. He’s caught the sun and it suits him. I tell him we must have covered five miles today. “More than that” he says pushing our achievement up by another mile at least.
We might not have a gym membership or wear lycra but you’d have to call us an active bunch nonetheless. I put the berries in the freezer and not the fridge. The crumble can wait for another night.