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Blog posts originally featured in Cornwall's what's-on magazine: Blackbird Pie. Click on logo to go to their website.

Story Walking

Rucksack packed, picnic basket crammed full with tummy-rumbling goodies, sun in full bloom and walking boots snugly hugging your feet. Problem is, where are the kids?

For many children the idea of walking for fun is a contradiction. Using one’s legs and strolling about the countryside just doesn’t fill their heads or hearts with enthusiasm. And we all know non-enthusiastic family outings can prove a headache for parents. So why not save yourself some earache this summer by not using the word ‘walk’, and instead going on a story walk? Oops. I mean a quest!

Story walking (questing) diverts attention away from the physical activity and focuses on the ways landscapes can be brought alive to make walking a fun, intriguing and pleasurable experience.

Start your ‘quest’ by doing some basic research. Find places where there are lots of opportunities to stop, pause and engage with the landscape. This is not a problem in Cornwall as we have many beautiful places both on the coast and inland. Visit and walk the route in advance, or if not possible, search it on a map. List landscape features, such as unusual rock formations, peculiar trees and hidey holes. Also make a note of buildings; the quirkier the better. Dig around for a bit of history, such as interesting facts and a few dark myths. And don’t be afraid to throw in a bit of fiction.

Design a quest that has an alluring tale, like the opening of a good children’s novel. Explain you’re all going on a mission to find something, but don’t mention the distance, or the ‘w’ word.

If you carry a few objects that support your quest, like a crystal, or gnarly twisted wand, or unusual fodder that has been foraged (make sure it really is edible), then at least your bag won’t look like it’s full of the ordinary ‘day out walking’ stuff, and at least you’ll have some objects to throw into your quest when there’s an occasional lull in enthusiasm.

More importantly, while you might have an epic journey all planned out in advance, complete with stage props, acting, special effects and a few quirky characters planted on route, once children start to run with the idea (the story), let them take control of the narrative and before you know it they’ll completely ignore the fact they’re walking and focus on the mission.

If you would like to learn techniques for creating story walks, have a look at our workshops for further details.