Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Map reading is still an important skill, even with the invention of the Sat Nav. It's not like you're going to take that out with you on a long walk, is it? And why drain the battery on your iPhone if a simple piece of paper doesn't cost you a penny?
Orienteering is a really fun way to teach kids how to read a map. All you need is the map which you can often print free from the British Orienteering website, a compass to show the children how to point the map North when they need to turn it in various directions, and a drink to keep hydrated along the way.
I chose Coombe Abbey Park as it wasn't too far from where we live but I wasn't expecting it to be as beautiful as it was. This just made the experience even nicer. The splendid Coombe Abbey sets the backdrop for this historical park, full of lush woodland and lots of activities to keep you busy all day.
Car parking is £2.90 all day which isn't bad at all. If you head over to the cafe just opposite the car park, you can enjoy a drink or a meal before you start, or save it until the end. On a budget? Skip it entirely and take a packed lunch with you. There are public toilets just on the other side of the cafe so go before you start your orienteering experience, that's if you can get your kids off the park that's here too.
If you want to try the specific map we did, head over to the British Orienteering website and click on find your nearest course. Select West Midlands for the town and enter CV7 for the postal code. I can't share the map with you as you're not allowed to. Instead, add it to your basket and they will send it to you via email free of charge.
With the map we chose, there are around 32 posts to find, but we only managed half. That's ok, a good excuse to go back another day. We didn't start until the afternoon, and the kids stopped to play at the various woodland climbing parks along the way. Dad too!
There's so much to see, the swans and ducks, the many lakes, and the awesome trees are something to dangle your jaws at!
If you really want to make a day of it, you could also book in to one of the Go Ape activities which happen to be in the heart of Coombe Abbey Park. Whatever you do, I would recommend starting out early, taking a packed lunch, and trying to spend as long as possible here. There's lots of wildlife to see, a protected area of special scientific interest, gorgeous lakes, and wide-open spaces for picnics.
Once you've finished your day, take a little stroll around Coombe Abbey gardens. Relax on a bench by the water and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, before heading back out past that park you just know you won't get your kids off, and perhaps even treat yourself to ice cream before you leave.