When you have small children it is great to get out and about. The benefits of walking with your baby or toddler include:
1. Being free!
2. It gets you out the house.
3. It enables you to be in the fresh air and in nature.
4. It’s a form of exercise you can do with your little person (and it’s weighted!).
5. You can make it sociable and invite your friends.
6. Cornwall has hundreds of great walking routes.
7. Most importantly….It’s a great excuse for a coffee and sticky bun!
However, walking with babies and toddlers brings with it some logistical challenges, the primary one being they can’t walk (or at least not very far, or in the right direction) – so you have to carry them. At this point you have two options, buggy or rucksack. Both have their merits and drawbacks:
- You don’t have to carry them on your back (even the lightest soon feel heavy).
- Have rain covers so there are no excuses, whatever the weather.
- You can load them up with all sorts of other ‘essentials’.
- Can be heavy and steps are a challenge.
- Are generally not good off road (except on graded tracks), meaning you are very limited with where you go.
- Running style/off-road buggies can be expensive and take up lots of space in the car boot.
- Walking options are limitless, where can’t you go?
- They are ideal for coastal paths.
- Modern ones come with great rain covers so it is easy to keep little ones dry and warm, whatever the weather. Sun shades are also a must for the summer.
- Rucksack, plus baby, plus kit, nappies, snacks and water are heavy – our daughter is now two and the weight of the whole ‘rig’ tops out at over 20kgs and my range is now limited to an hour or so.
- You need to be aware of overhead dangers (branches, brambles etc) as your little one’s head is often higher than yours – especially when going up steps.So once you have decided ‘how’ you are going to carry them you then need to decide ‘where’. Here are a few things to consider:
Parking – needs to be near your chosen route.
Toilets – Ideally on the route or nearby.
Coffee – A good ‘child friendly’ cafe to look forward to at the end.
Time of year – Many paths are fine in summer but way too wet and boggy in winter. You also need to consider plant growth, in the summer the bushes and brambles encroach on the paths making them more difficult to negotiate.
Here is my pick of the TOP 3 walks in West Cornwall – ranging from the very safe to something a little more adventurous.
1: Trelissick Garden – A great place to start. The Woodland walk is beautiful and is on a well graded path the whole way around. You can either do the Northern Walk, the Southern Walk or both. The whole way around is approximately 4-5km. Unfortunately, it’s not really suitable for buggies as you can’t avoid the steps. Trelissick has a great cafe and toilets. If you are a member of the National Trust you can park in the Trelissick garden car-park. If not, there is a free layby on the left hand-side on the approach.
2: Penrose Estate – There are lots of options here. Park in the car park just past the car garage (Flora motors), opposite the boating lake and park. If you are using a buggy the walk starts with tarmac. Keeping the river on your left head towards Penrose House (National trust). It’s flat and is about 2.5 km to the house and stable cafe which has toilets. It’s a great option for running with a buggy. You can head for home along the reverse route or carry on past the house and cafe, towards the sea. The track after the cafe is more suitable for rucksacks as it turns into a bumpy woodland path. If you are feeling adventurous and fit, you can carry on over the beach and around the lake (always keeping water on your left). This path brings you back through the woods, and eventually back to the car park. You definitely need a rucksack past the beach as the path is too narrow for a buggy. In winter it is too muddy to carry on past the beach (unless you are Bear Grylls). The whole walk is approximately 10-12 km, and takes a good couple of hours.
3: St Anthony Head, on the Roseland – A particularly stunning circular walk with various options. For the best one, park at Towan Beach and follow the river along to Place Creek. Carry on around the headland, past the lighthouse, along the coast path back to Towan Beach. There are toilets at St Anthony and good cafes in Portscatho. 100% NOT buggy friendly, but totally worth the hills. Again, this takes a good few hours so make sure you have the right footwear and plenty of snacks. There are lots of benches on the route which make great picnic spots.
Summary: Just because you now have little ones don’t think you have to stop ‘proper walking’. Anyone can walk around the boating lake at Helston, but let’s be honest that’s not really a walk. Get the right kit, prepare and plan and there is no reason you can’t set out on some ‘proper little adventures’ with your new family.
Written by Dad of 1, Toby Budd