The Gladstone’s Guide To The Great Outdoors – An Extract
Charlie and Caroline's Guide To The Great Outdoors is the ultimate field guide for any budding adventurer, regardless of their age. However, as we're all now rounding the final straights of the Easter holidays, we thought you might like a few select extracts for the younger explorer.
You can still pick up a copy of the book from the Farm Shop, along with a selection of our other favourite books.
GOOD THINGS FOR THE CHILDREN TO DO OUTSIDE
Make rosehip itching powder
Rosehips look lovely and can be put to masses of uses; they’re good for jelly and one friend of ours used to make cordial with them.
The wild rose, or dog rose grows in profusion in hedgerows and on overgrown sunny banks. They flower with a lovely pale pink or white bloom in early summer, and by autumn the bright, glossy hips glow with a distinctive pinky-red colour and are almost oval.
Rosehip jelly and cordial are all very well, but they are not as good as itching powder. And rosehips are probably the best source of itching powder in the great British outdoors. Our children once put it down their headmaster’s bed when he came to stay with us. We were trying to suck up to him; this might not have helped. He didn’t say anything.
How to do it
Making rosehip itching powder is easy. It is most potent if the berries have been dried for a week or two in a warm place, say an airing cupboard, on a sheet of newspaper, but perfectly effective from fresh berries. All you do is break open the berry and extract the insides: the fine hairs and the seeds. And there you have your itching powder. We always used to spoon it out but it’s fine to use fingers, too – just make sure you wash your hands afterwards or you’ll be inflicting an itch on yourself. The powder is best applied down the back of someone’s neck. It’s quite a mild itch, but still, a word of caution; avoid attacking people with sensitive skin or eczema.
I spent entire school holidays climbing trees. We had one huge cypress near to our house that was particularly good to climb; we had to use a rope ladder to reach the first branch but once we were inside the canopy it was a doddle, with loads of different routes to the top. Poking our heads out of the canopy at the top was always thrilling. We used to climb giant yews, too. These were good because we always felt safe inside them; if you slipped, the dense network of branches was bound to catch you, even if hitting a branch hurt. This safety thing is important; weirdly enough, tree climbing is probably the most dangerous thing that we’ll advocate in this book.
If you look on the Internet you’ll find lots of tips about climbing trees with helmets, ropes and harnesses; and lots of places that you can do it in a supervised way. This sounds great fun; but I don’t think that there was anything except free, DIY climbing when I was little. And this is the best way because all you do is spot a tree and, well, climb it.
There is only one way to decide on the best tree; and that is to look at it and see if it looks good for climbing. Dense trees are good for beginners for reasons already stated; small trees can be lots of fun, as being only 6m off the ground can be exhilarating without there being too far to fall. All sorts of pine trees are good, as are oak, beech, plane and yew. But, really, if you can get onto the first branch you can climb the rest of the tree. Use a rope ladder (I wouldn’t bother trying to make one yourself, they’re very easy to buy) or a rope or a friend’s shoulders to get up to that branch.
Though it’s impossible to take the risk out of tree climbing, here are some tips to help a little . . .
- Start on small trees.
- Be cautious! Your friend who is fearless and almost runs up the tree is not the best climber.
- Go slowly, check a branch for stability with your hands before you climb onto it.
- Stay as close to the tree’s trunk as you can. Branches are weaker the further from the trunk you go; and if one snaps it very rarely does so right up to the trunk, so you should be able to retain a foot hold even as most of the branch hits the ground.
- Do not be too ambitious. Practice makes perfect.
- Go down the same way you went up, facing inwards, like climbing down a ladder, not like going down stairs.
- Going down is harder than going up. So, as you climb, remember that.
- If you are climbing with someone, make sure you don’t tread on their fingers – particularly as you climb down and if you’re behind (and therefore, above) them. This can lead to them letting go and falling.
- Don’t carve stuff in trees to commemorate your ascent, or use nails or anything similar to attach ropes.