New Year res­o­lu­tion: must get out more

Make ev­ery week­end count with our Fam­ily Ac­tiv­ity Plan­ner, says Christo­pher Mid­dle­ton

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Family -

It’s not just turkeys which spend the fes­tive sea­son feel­ing stuffed and life­less; quite a few of us hu­mans aren’t in a very free-range mood at the mo­ment, ei­ther. Half the prob­lem, of course, is find­ing things to do in or­der to fill those acres of un­sched­uled time be­tween the end of Christ­mas lunch and the re­turn to school or work. Ev­ery so of­ten, some­one makes a half-hearted sug­ges­tion about go­ing for a walk or see­ing what’s on at the cin­ema (“Any­one got a lo­cal pa­per?”), but all too of­ten th­ese pro­posed out­ings never get off the ground, and the fam­ily never get off the sofa.

Now, though, thanks to a new, on­line ac­tiv­ity plan­ner, cooped-up fam­i­lies want­ing to spread their wings can dis­cover at the click of a mouse what’s hap­pen­ing in their area over the hol­i­day pe­riod. And whereas most sim­i­lar web­sites re­quire you to iden­tify in ad­vance pre­cisely what kind of out­ing you re­quire (Sport­ing, Artis­tic, His­tor­i­cal etc), the Tele­graph Fam­ily Ac­tiv­ity Plan­ner al­lows you to click a “Se­lect All Cat­e­gories” but­ton, thereby say­ing, in ef­fect: “Tell me what you’ve got.”

Fur­ther click­ing al­lows you to spec­ify not just the dates (or spread of dates) on which you want to do things, but it also lines up the ac­tiv­i­ties in or­der of dis­tance from your home (the near­est first). Opt for ac­tiv­i­ties in Le­ices­ter­shire, or to be more spe­cific post­code LE65 2GL, and the near­est sug­ges­tion will be a can­dle­light carol ser­vice at St James’s Parish Church, Bar­to­nun­der-Need­wood and the fur­thest­flung will be a chil­dren’s jazz-dance work­shop in Chatham, with rac­ing at New­bury some­where in be­tween. What’s more, you get not just vague di­rec­tions on how to get there, but a set of mil­i­tary-pre­ci­sion route in­struc­tions start­ing from your own front door.

On the whole, the most pop­u­lar fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties at this post-di­ges­tive time of year are those that don’t in­volve sit­ting down and eat­ing large amounts of food; for most of us, it’s a case of want­ing not so much to stretch, as to re­gain the use of our legs.

And what bet­ter day than Jan­uary 1 to stride out with a new brisk­ness in one’s step? Con­sult the Ac­tiv­ity Plan­ner, and you’ll find a whole se­ries of New Year’s Day walks that don’t in­volve you herd­ing re­luc­tant chil­dren around the block, but are in­stead for­mal, or­gan­ised out­ings put to­gether by wildlife and her­itage bod­ies (in other words, they do the herd­ing).

Such as the guided walk at Pam­ber For­est, near Bas­ingstoke (Hamp­shire Wildlife Trust) or on the Stour­head Es­tate, near Warmin­ster (Na­tional Trust, mulled wine and mince pies in­cluded), or even the New Year’s Day Dick­ens Walk, (start­ing point Covent Gar­den un­der­ground sta­tion).

And if you want to add some brain­work to the leg­work, there are plenty of walk­ing-plus ac­tiv­i­ties tak­ing place over the next few days, such as the Fam­ily Quiz Trail at the Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s Har­low Carr Gar­dens in Har­ro­gate (ev­ery day till Jan­uary 6) or the Fam­ily Trea­sure Trail at Mac­cles­field For­est in the Peak Dis­trict (to­mor­row).

It’s al­ways pos­si­ble, of course, that the weather won’t be up to much, in which case you leave the Out­door but­ton un-clicked and seek out un­der-cover ex­hi­bi­tions such as Doc­tor Who Close Up (cos­tumes, props, mon­sters) at the Mu­seum of Science and In­dus­try in Manch­ester, or else An­i­mals At War (Voytek the Pol­ish sol­dier bear, Irma the Alsatian ex­plo­sives-snif­fer) at the Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum in nearby Traf­ford Park.

In ad­di­tion, for those keen to ex­er­cise their creative mus­cles, there are classes in cre­at­ing your own cal­en­dar out of nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als (Bren­don Marsh Na­ture Cen­tre, near Coven­try), mak­ing your own (pos­si­bly) hit sin­gle in a record­ing stu­dio (Ri­p­ley, Der­byshire) and build­ing your own bird-roost­ing box to take home (Park Bridge Her­itage Cen­tre, at Ash­ton, near Manch­ester).

As well as just be­ing a source of one-off, day-out sug­ges­tions, though, the Fam­ily Ac­tiv­ity Plan­ner also points you to­wards pur­suits that you might, well, pur­sue. Such as learn­ing to belly-dance in Belper (Thurs­day evenings through till March), or join­ing one of 16 dif­fer­ent Life Clubs up and down the coun­try (branches from Ed­in­burgh to Crewk­erne), where the motto is “You De­serve To Be Happy”, and the or­gan­is­ers prom­ise you one “light­bulb mo­ment” ev­ery meet­ing. And, af­ter a week of con­stant cater­ing for the fam­ily’s needs, many women will feel like re­ply­ing in the af­fir­ma­tive to the ques­tion posed by the Droitwich Ladies Cir­cle: “Want an op­por­tu­nity to es­cape from the iron­ing, the chil­dren and the hus­band twice a month?”

Yes, like a puppy, the Ac­tiv­ity Plan­ner isn’t just for Christ­mas, but is an all-year-round events cal­en­dar. It may not be able to stop week­ends from be­ing wet, but it can at least stop them from be­ing wasted.

The Tele­graph Fam­ily Ac­tiv­ity Plan­ner can be found at www.tele­graph.co.uk/ac­tiv­i­ty­plan­ner. If you have an event or ac­tiv­ity you would like in­cluded, visit the web­site and click on the ‘Add An Event’ but­ton.

Park life: ex­plore the best Bri­tish at­trac­tions, such as Charlecote Park, Wark­wick­shire

Foot­loose and hav­ing an ice time: you can look for out­door ac­tiv­i­ties or browse hun­dreds of lo­cal events, from art work­shops to fun­fairs

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