With 3D films, online gaming and smartphones bombarding our children’s senses with high energy, action-packed fun, it’s not surprising that even theme park consultants are having to re-think their attractions to ensure they still provide the thrills our 21st century off-spring expect. So how on earth can we get our children off these artificially manufactured thrill-givers and get them to thrill-seek amongst nature?
One way to exhilarate and get them up close and personal with nature is to take them coasteering.
Coasteering, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, involves moving along a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming and usually involves climbing, jumping and diving into the sea.
Courtesy of buyagift.co.uk we took our two boys, aged 11 and 8 years, on a half-day coasteering experience at Howick with Adventure Northumberland, here’s how we got on.
Booking your experience day
Firstly booking, this couldn’t have been simpler, I just rang Adventure Northumberland direct, quoting the personal buyagift.co.uk voucher number I was given, and booked our preferred experience date and time. My booking was then confirmed by email.
Further information including meeting point and kit list was emailed to me a few days before our experience date, followed by another email with registration forms and consent forms (for unaccompanied children) for completion.
The experience day
On the big day, we arrived at The Beach car park, Howick, Northumberland, to be warmly greeted by our two guides who swiftly proceeded to kit us out with our coasteering equipment. However, and this is my only gripe about the whole experience, it would seem that the online forms which I had diligently filled out stating which suit sizes were required weren’t worth the email they were sent on, as for some reason they didn’t stock a full size range!
Fortunately, even though my boys are quite diminutive, they managed to ‘fill out’ the suits available and would still be going to the ball, or in the sea, as it was in fact!
Back to the main event, now all kitted up with a wetsuit, life jacket, wetsuit socks, trainers, shorts over the top of wetsuit and helmet (!), we were all ready to go, as were our fellow coasteerers two couples, an older guy from London and two young boys, 10 and 12, who were on their summer holidays in the area.
After an initial briefing, we headed off down the beach to start our adventure.
Scrambling over the rocky inlets of this Heritage Coast, which is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, our first dip in the sea was a bit of a shock to the system.
Crystal clear, the water was extremely ‘refreshing’, even in a wet suit, but one by one we all took the plunge and jumped in. With shrieks of surprise/shock or just nervousness from grown men to young boys we all splashed in feet first and then bobbed straight up into the surf with big grins on our faces.
From here on we followed our trusted leaders across a watery assault course, which included swimming through small caves, wading through rocky inlets against the surf and balancing, very unsuccessfully, along rock ledges that were covered in slippery seaweed.
To give us chance to get our land legs back we headed back onto dry land where there were plenty of opportunities to admire the scenery (we were travelling in the shadow of Prime Minister Earl Grey’s cliff edge 19th century, Grade II listed Bathing House), including the majestic ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle to the north and the many natural rock pools which were teaming with sea life.
A few more sea plunges and rock lunges later, we were given the opportunity to either head back to our starting point and explore some submerged caves or head for the big jumps.
Without hesitation the shout from all of the children was ‘big jumps’!
Heading up towards the cliff tops in the distance chattering increased amongst the group, partly fuelled by anticipation, part excitement and quite rightly so, as when we arrived we were surprised to learn that we would be jumping from a variety of cliff edges ranging from approximately 10ft to 40ft – eek!
One by one we all took our turn, 10ft jump – done, 20ft jump done – yes, even the little chaps, then 40ft. At this point the numbers wishing to hurl themselves into the sea dwindled, but the braver ones did take the plunge and enjoyed it, even though some, my husband, landed a bit awkwardly and temporarily winded him!
Cheering each other on, supporting our fellow coasteerers we had all faced our own personal fears and had an amazing experience, the buzz was fantastic!
This is another thing that’s great about experience days like these, unlike theme park roller coasters that are enjoyed as individuals or couples, you experience these adventures as a group, bonding with your ‘team mates’ through mutual fear, support and encouragement and in a mixed aged group this is wonderful to encounter.
Over the years my boys have been lucky enough to visit several theme parks, enjoyed the thrills of 3D cinema and had fun on video games, but without exception they have never ‘sung’ with so much excitement or enthused about anything as much as they have coasteering. With days since of endless chatter about ‘favourite jumps’, ‘scariest moments’ and ‘biggest splashes’ to countless enquiries about the height’s and depths of the jumps, they both declared it’s the best thing they’ve ever done in their lives. Not only that, they got to challenge themselves, have fun outdoors whilst exploring the environment and experience the sheer exhilaration of nature at it’s best, plus it was a fabulous work out for all!
To find out more about coasteering and other adrenaline adventures, head over to buyagift.co.uk
Photos courtesy of Adventure Northumberland