The Go Wild Go West blog

Autumn adventures – with a twist! The best autumn activities with kids

Hello Autumn!

It’s time to welcome autumn back. Beautiful colours, falling leaves, a new chill in the air, family walks, and darker cosy nights. Conkers, blackberries, rosehips, leaves, acorns….. so much to do and see outdoors with the family by day then snuggling by the fire at night.

Covid and lockdown will make this an autumn with a difference. Perhaps 2020 is a year to appreciate the calm and beauty of the season more than ever? Ever wondered what fun things you can do with a conker? A blackberry? Where to see autumn leaves? There are so many new adventures and outdoor activities for the family at this time of year!

With autumn magic in mind, it’s upsetting to learn that the Junior English Dictionary has been gradually removing words that they feel are ‘no longer common currency among children.’ Iconic autumn words like Conker, Blackberry, Acorn, Heather, and Bramble have been deleted.

heather in autumn
autumn colours

Well, sod that. Let’s show the kids how awesome autumn is!

These words may be deleted from the pages of a book, but luckily they’re very much still around and ready to be enjoyed at this time of year.

Here are my 7 favourite activities to do outdoors with the kids this autumn. The list incorporates many of the deleted words to show how relevant they still are in our children’s lives.

walking in woodland

1. CONKER

Have a conker fight!

We all laughed when we were told conker fights were banned from schools for health and safety reasons but why don’t we often see kids have conker fights anymore? Let’s buck the trend – conker fights are the ideal family Autumn activity!

We like to harvest a bunch of conkers each year, perusing the floor underneath a variety of Horse Chestnut trees to find the finest specimens. We then take a scientific approach and test out a few different techniques which allegedly strengthen them in preparation to for fight season…

conkers ready
conkers at the ready!

A few ideas are;

  • Bake them in the oven. The heat should make them stronger
  • Heat them just before the fight (warm them up your jumper before the match)
  • Pickle them in vinegar for 24 hours
  • Paint them with nail varnish
  • Talk to them and tell them how strong, shiny, and invincible they are. This is my approach. Yet to see any positive results…..

We take conkering very seriously. Do these techniques actually make any difference or is the original, untreated conker still the best? Do you have a secret, winning technique? Please share!

Then drill a hole through the conker and thread some string or a spare shoelace through it and get ready for battle!!

Encourage the kid’s friends to join in – 99% of schools still allow conker fights….

2. LOST BIRDS

Head out on a bird search

Birds have been lost from the dictionary too. If they’re considered to be irrelevant in our children’s lives then why not make them relevant?

Use GoWildGoWest’s bird search game to find our lost birds.

  • Magpies, Wrens and Goldfinches may be in your garden or local park. The goldfinches will visit your feeders for sunflower hearts and niger seeds and if you’re lucky, you may have the little wren hopping around underneath.
  • Look up high for chattering Starlings. From November to February head out to see the incredible murmurations.
  • Head to a river (with a picnic?) to look for the iconic blue flash of the Kingfisher
  • Rivers, lakes, and wetland are all perfect for the noble Heron
  • Head to woodland to listen for the beautiful croak of the Raven. When you’ve heard it once, you’ll never forget it.
  • Skylarks – these are easy to spot in Spring and Summer as they hover, merrily singing over farmland and highland. The challenge is to spot them in Autumn as they migrate to lower ground. Can you see them?
family bird watching

3. BEECH

Find autumn woodland walks near you

The vibrant green of Beech leaves in Spring and the beautiful reds, oranges, and golds in autumn.

Wrap up warm and visit one of the many deciduous woods across the UK to see the golden colours and run through the heaps of fallen leaves. Pick them up, throw them around and try to catch them. Look low at the beasties hiding underneath the leaves. The National Trust recommend some of the best woodland walks across the South West here.

kayaking on the Dart
Explore the woods on the river

If you want something more adventurous than a walk, take to the river on a kayak or swim to see the Autumn colours from a different angle.

Or choose a favourite local Beech tree and watch it change through the seasons.

Watch as Pip the dog makes the most of the Autumn leaves….

4. NEWT

Get your buckets ready for a pond dipping excursion

Head out on a pond dipping adventure armed with nets and buckets. Our little bucket pond in the garden is still too young for newts so we venture to a few natural ponds in fields near us or into our neighbour’s garden to check out their pondlife. Newts aren’t scared of the urban life either. No matter how small your garden, a little pond will make a very welcome home for a newt or frog in a time when their natural habitat is being destroyed.

See if you can catch them in your hands or nets and take a look at just how cool these little creatures are. In autumn they’re venturing back on to dry land so look under rocks, wood, and paving stones where they’ll be fattening up on slugs and insects in time for winter.

Make it even more exciting with a night time visit to the pond. What’s out and about in the dark that you wouldn’t otherwise see in daytime?

pond dipping

5. HEATHER & FERN

Walks in autumn colours

Fern and Heather are at their BEST in autumn. Head out for a family walk on heathland, moors and bogs to see the purple of autumn heather and gold of the fern. Find out about our recommended walks on the Quantocks, Dartmoor, and the Mendips all renowned for their autumn heather and fern.

quantocks

Did you know that Heather was used to make brooms – can you make your own using a large stick, heather and string? Make brooms as a fun family Autumn activity – a great way to get the kids ‘helping’ with the chores!

6. IVY

Become a bug detective

Ivy is often seen as one of the ‘baddies’ of the natural world accused of strangling trees, but actually it doesn’t harm the tree at all, and Ivy supports at least 50 species of wildlife – a definite goody I’d say.

Those big juicy berries, the nectar and the pollen on the ivy are an essential food source for insects and birds during autumn and winter when there’s not much else about. It also provides shelter for insects, birds, bats and other small mammals. Insects forage on Ivy before hibernating so autumn is a great time to spot all kinds of beasties. Don’t be afraid of anything buzzing around; bees, wasps and hoverflies all visit Ivy for pollen and nectar which are essential before winter sets in. If you sit still and watch, they may come close to check out what you are but they won’t harm you.

Find out more about being a good nature detective here.

bee on ivy
A bee enjoying the Ivy

7. BLACKBERRY

Blackberry tie-dye

There are many times that I’ve thanked the humble Blackberry for providing a much needed snack for the children on a walk. They’re also great for baking with and making potions but have you ever tried blackberry tie-dye!?

Check out our guide to Blackberry tie dye here.

blackberry tie dye
Success!

Happy Autumn adventuring!