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‘One thing magical occurs’: can you actually take children on a 630-mile hike? | Strolling holidays



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It’s late. The solar is setting. I’m sitting on a clifftop on the Jurassic Coast with my household. I can hear the clatter of forks in opposition to enamel, the slurp of camp-stove noodles, the distant draw of the ocean beneath. Our tent is pitched on a tough patch of lengthy grass, sleeping baggage laid out, a bar of chocolate and pack of playing cards ready for us. We’re drained and dusty after an extended day of mountain climbing, when Tommy, my eight-year-old, immediately says, “Look!”

A lone deer stands on the cliff edge, head lifted, darkish eyes on us. Separated from its herd, it appears nearly ethereal, the ocean washed gold behind it. I’m wondering what the deer thinks of us – 4 people huddled on a distant cliff high, miles from the closest constructing or street.

On the way from Bolt Head towards Salcombe.
Tommy on the way in which from Bolt Head in direction of Salcombe. {Photograph}: Lucy Clarke

We’re wild tenting on the South West Coast Path. It’s a 630-mile route that begins in Minehead in Somerset and follows the coast of Devon and Cornwall, ending in Poole Harbour in Dorset. Final September, my husband James and I made a decision we’d wish to attempt to hike the size of it with our two kids, Tommy (8) and Darcy (6). Our solely objective is to finish it as a household by the point the kids have completed secondary faculty.

Now right here’s the factor. In case you put my kids on a paved avenue and ask them to stroll for a mile, the foot-dragging and whingeing begins. But out within the wild, I’ve witnessed one thing magical occurring. They’re energised as they seek for path markers, scramble over boulders, squelch via mud, or ascend rope ladders. Abruptly they’re able to strolling 10 miles a day carrying their very own packs (but nonetheless throw their faculty baggage at me the second they exit the gates). On the path, they don’t complain about consuming plain noodles from a mug or the rain that lashes down as we stroll, as a result of that is an journey – and they’re sport.

The deer ultimately roams away. The solar sinks into the ocean. Stars swim above our heads. We transfer into our tent and make brief work of the chocolate, laughing as we play playing cards and uncover Darcy’s alarmingly robust poker face. I go to sleep that night time to the sound of waves, the rustle of sleeping baggage and the light snores of my household.

A break for camp stove noodles.
Comfortable hikers: a break for camp range noodles. {Photograph}: Lucy Clarke

When morning comes round, we unzip the tent on to dewy grass, a glittering sea. My mountain climbing boots are damp and I really feel stiff from the day gone by’s strolling. Due to the elevation of the cliff paths, I’m informed that by the point we full the SWCP, we’ll have walked 4 occasions the peak of Mount Everest. I imagine it.

I brew tea – which holds the faint style of final night time’s noodles – and we eat flapjacks for breakfast. Whereas James and I take down the tent, Tommy and Darcy run round taking part in play tag. Understanding we now have a day’s strolling forward, I nearly name, “Save your power!” however there’s no want. They’ve an abundance of the stuff. It amazes me how they do it, waking every morning utterly contemporary, like somebody hit the reset button.

With packs returned to our shoulders, we set off with no actual plan aside from strolling onwards. I like the liberty {that a} day on the coast path holds. We don’t know the place we’ll cease to eat or swim or relaxation. We simply stroll till one thing catches our fancy or the temper dictates a cease. Some days are stuffed with wonder-struck moments, like stumbling throughout a comfortable, low-ceilinged pub simply once we’re ravenous, or rock-jumping into the ocean in our underpants. Different days might be drizzly – and that cosy pub has stopped serving.

Tommy and Darcy work up an appetite.
Tommy and Darcy work up an urge for food. {Photograph}: Lucy Clarke

This morning there are just a few squabbles and complaints as we stroll – Tommy sure that his sister was handed an even bigger biscuit; Darcy lobbing blackberries into her brother’s hood; each pushing and shoving to get forward on a single-track path. The wonderful thing about disagreements on a path is, I don’t should police them. I simply decide up my tempo and hold a blissful distance between us.

As I stroll forward, I mirror on why I need to be out right here, mountain climbing as a household. Principally, I feel it’s as a result of it slows us down and immerses us deeply in nature. We have now already noticed a peregrine falcon perched on a rocky ledge, seen a pod of dolphins and a stoat chasing a mouse. But, as a lot because the path is about being out within the wild, it’s additionally turned out to be in regards to the individuals we meet alongside the way in which. Like the type couple who provided to provide us a carry again to our van once we had been stranded in East Prawle, or the group of teenagers who requested if we wished to hitch their sport of seaside rounders. The path gives up area and solitude, whereas additionally gifting us significant interactions, too.

Sunset on the Jurassic Coast.
Pitching up: sundown on the Jurassic Coast. {Photograph}: Lucy Clarke

To this point we’ve walked 120 miles of the SWCP. A few of these miles have been completed as day hikes, others as multi-day hikes, wild tenting alongside the way in which. I think about it’ll take us a number of years to finish the entire thing. Will the kids nonetheless need to hike with us after they hit their teenagers? I couldn’t let you know. What I do know is that in this previous 12 months, our happiest occasions as a household have been out on that path. That’s sufficient motivation for me to maintain on strolling.

All it’s worthwhile to know

Find out how to plan, what to pack – and methods to get your children onboard

For a one-stop helpful useful resource for planning your hike or looking for lodging and locations to eat, go to

How lengthy will it take? Grownup hikers sometimes full the complete path in 6-8 weeks, though many love to do it in sections over a number of years.


The place can I keep? There’s a vary of lodging choices alongside the path, from accommodations and B&Bs to campsites and YHA hostels. Wild tenting will not be allowed with out the landowner’s permission. Nevertheless, in case you are respectful, pitch your tent late, pack it away early, and go away no hint – then it’ll often be effective.

What ought to I pack? An OS map, compass, waterproofs, loads of snacks and water, sunscreen. In case you’re tenting, you’ll want a tent, roll mat, sleeping bag, spare garments, further water and meals.

How do I get my kids on board? Don’t chivvy them alongside – allow them to cease to have a look at a butterfly or skim stones or pause on a bench to choose their nostril. Make them a part of the journey by displaying them the way to learn a map or looking for the acorn image on the path markers.


Lucy Clarke’s newest novel, The Hike, is revealed by HarperCollins at £8.99. Purchase it for £8.36 at

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