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Published June 22nd 2016
Winter is the best time to discover bushwalking
Let's consider the life of child today. They spend a lot of time indoors and sitting in front of a screen. Many are in child care and school all day. When we take them out it is usually to man made outdoor spaces such as shops, parks and playgrounds. Children today need excitement and some challenges as they grow. To go out into the bush is a way we can give experiences of the wider world to children. But a walk in the bush does need some planning and discussion with kids before hand.
Bushwalking for kids is not simply a walk in the park. It needs some planning for both safety and fun. Image by Out and About.
Here in Adelaide we are blessed with many bushland walks that are very close to where we live. Many walking trails can be reached by public transport. A handy website in searching for transport to get anywhere is www.rome2rio.com. I find this easier to use than adelaide metro website for transport information. Another handy website for finding walks is walkingsa.org.
Entry by vehicle is $12 but if you take the train on the Belair Line which is a lot more fun you can walk in for free. You can park anywhere along the line and hop on at a local station. There are many walks in the park. Older kids are sure to enjoy the walk to Echo Tunnel and then on further to see the waterfall. This would suit upper primary ages and older.
The entry to the National Park is at the far end of the historic Belair Station. It is the last stop. See the sign at end of platform and walk down the stairs. Image by Out and About.
For younger kids it's an easy walk from the station down to the lake to see the ducks and koalas in the trees. Take some snacks and sit and explore around the lake. Toilets are located here at the lake. If walking from the train take the small track through the bush not the fire vehicle track as the track through the bush is a lot prettier. There are lots of pretty flowers in late winter and spring such as tiny native orchids. Coming here is a must if you live in Adelaide with kids. If going further than the lake I would recommend printing map of the park. For more information on Belair National Park see here
The lake at Belair National Park is an easy walk from the Belair Station. Image by Out and About.
The Angove Conservation Park Located near house number 46 on Bowen Road in Tea Tree Gully in the western suburbs. This is a short walk of under 1km that even very young children could manage. It is an easy walk on flat ground on solid compacted dirt paths. It goes around in a loop so you can't get lost. This is the last of the natural growth bushland with native she-oaks, wattles and other flowering shrubs. There are many bird species in the park. Tell the children this is what this land all around here looked like before it was bulldozed to make way for the new suburbs.
The Fairy Garden Walk, Heysen Trail, Bridgewater Whoever thought this up must be a big kid at heart. This is part of the extensive Heysen Trail, but this section to the fairy garden is only 2 km return. Start at the playground near the Bridgewater Mill on Mill Road, with a picnic then a play and toilets. Then head off on a surprise walk through the bushland. Kids love a mystery, and they wont complain when you tell them it's a big secret as to what is ahead. There is even a tunnel to walk through. Rug up warm in winter as it is a lot colder in the hills. The walk ends at Deanery Reserve, so one adult could walk with the kids and the other drive there if you want to make it a shorter walk of only 1 km.
Mount Barker Summit Walk This is a short walk to the summit of Mount Barker of about 500 metres return. But the good thing is you don't have to climb the whole mountain. You can drive most of the way. There are some picnic tables and good views for kids who love to climb to the top. This is a good one for very young kids. For older ones you can take the "scenic bushwalk loop" which takes you through the bushland in a rim around the hill. It is undulating land for 2.4 kms and kids over 8 would be able to manage this one. Drive to the car park at the end of Mount Summit Road to access these walks.
Winter rains proved this walk at Horsells Gully a little too wet. A good reason to wear sturdy waterproof boots or shoes. Image by Out and About.
Stop a while and hug or touch a tree. A good way to redirect attention when they are unsure of their surroundings is to focus on something small. Image by Out and About.
Tennyson Dunes Native Plant Trail This easy walk would be perfect for late winter on sunny days with no wind, especially when kids have been cooped up all winter. Breathe the fresh sea air and long for summer on it's way. The plants will be flowering and the birds will be flitting about in the warm sun. If you download the PDF file, which is 2 pages, you can take it with you to spot the native plants along the way. An easy walk for all ages and good one for grandparents too.
Morialta Falls Conservation Park This is a rite of passage for Adelaide kids. Once you have conquered the long walk to the base and then the hike up the hill to see the falls then you are now set for some serious bushwalking. This is a great walk in winter to see the waterfall. Enter from Stradbroke Road at Rostrevor.
Coming across a spot like this is an ideal place for kids to clamber on the rocks or run through the tunnel. Sit a while and have a water break. Image of Barossa Goldfields bushwalk by Out and About.
This is where my photos of the kids were taken on this article. However not long after setting off on our winters day walk, I realised it was a poor choice. After heavy rain parts of the small dirt track had turned into a creek.We jumped a couple of water crossings but as we went further this got a little treacherous. The older child jumped the running waters and headed off up the track out of sight while the young one on the verge of tears decided she had enough and said she was going back to the car and walked the other way. Both of them disappeared from view with a few seconds. All ended well, but the outing was a bit of a flop, as I had been away and did not know there had been so much rain. I have included this story to show how quickly things can go wrong when out with children.
I have been walking here for some 30 years, and it's one of my favourites. It is a pleasant walk but it is on the side of the hills so it does have an incline. Eventually you end up at some ruins but this may be to far for young kids.
SOME ADVICE FOR BUSHWALKING WITH KIDS
1. Choose your location well and check the weather. The Adelaide Hills are not always a good choice for young children, as most tracks are on the side of a hill and can be a bit hard going. Aim to start with flat terrain. and progress to harder walks each year.
2. Wear appropriate clothes and a waterproof jacket. I make kids wear a whistle around their neck in case they get lost. I tell them if they get lost to stay in the one place by a tree, and do not wander about. Older kids get this, but a child under six simply will not comprehend why and just keep walking looking for you.
3. Explain about toilets, and that sometimes there is not any out here. You may need to teach kids how to do a wee in the bush, which essential for kids to learn if they are going to learn bushwalking. Some kids can be scared to do this as they are afraid of accidents. Don't go on a long walk after eating a big meal. Be patient.
4. Give each child their own small backpack to carry their own snack and water. This will get them used to carrying weight on their back and be responsible for their own things. To do advanced bushwalking in later years you have to carry a lot of water which is heavy. Put contact details inside the pack. Always carry water even if only going a short distance. Walking makes you thirsty.
5. Taking kids out of their comfort zone, especially in winter can be a little tricky. If they have never done any bushwalking choose an easy walk and make it fun. Older kids may like to learn to use a compass or take photos. If they get a little upset redirect their attention such as an interesting tree, rocks, or say "hey, I just saw a lizard."
6. Kids are excited when they first set off and may run ahead. That is okay but you will need to teach them how to pace themselves and stop for rest and water beaks. Tell them to look at where they are walking by observing stones etc in the path.
Sometimes kids will stop dead in their tracks if unsure about something. Yes their brains were working here, when they suddenly said this is not the way we came. And they were right, but I wanted to see if they were aware of their surroundings. Image by Out and About.
Learning to walk safely in the bush while young is a skill all Aussie kids can enjoy and prepare them with some skills for life. In addition they are learning to appreciate our wonderful parks and nature. Teach respect by example and take your rubbish with you and by not picking the flowers. Many high schools go on bushwalks and camps and your kids will be well prepared for later in life and hopefully pass on a love of the bush to their children.
Information and facts were checked with the website below for this article, with thanks to the many contributors.