New Year resolution: must get out more
Make every weekend count with our Family Activity Planner, says Christopher Middleton
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.
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