This post first appeared in May 2009.
How to Walk #1
An Occasional Series of Top Tips on how to get the most out of a London Walk.
The series launches with David on taming the savage child…
“Kids on walks. It’s usually not the best of fits. For obvious reasons. But help is at hand. Spectacularly so. In short, there’s a one-size fits all solution. Okay, almost all. It’s probably not right for wee winks. But 8-year-olds on up: well, here’s the answer.
It’s courtesy of an Australian couple who – along with their two kids – were on my Along the Thames Pub Walk last Friday. Of course I noticed they were toting scooters and asked the parents about them. This was the reply:
‘We learned about it from our friend. She loves walking tours. Her kids hate them – they get bored. So the last time she was here she brought the kids’ scooters along. Voila! Problem solved. Kids as happy as could be – tootling around on their scooters (within sight of the group of course) AND burning up lots of 9- and 10-year-old energy.’
And parents as happy as could be because they’re getting to go on their walk and not having their kids bored and fretting and squirming and ‘how much longer-ing?’
‘We’ve been on three walks so far – and it works a treat. We get to enjoy our walk; our kids are along for their ride (notice it’s ‘their’ ride, not ‘the ride’ – and they’re loving it. It’s absolutely brilliant.”
Anything else? Well, yes. The scooters are extremely light. They fold up. And the Australian couple had even produced a nifty carrying bag (and strap) for each of them. Made from the legs of an old wet suit (a scuba diver’s wet suit). Light and cushiony. Let alone waterproof. How resourceful - how brilliant - is that!
That’s the one-size fits all solution. There’s a much more painstaking solution – namely, pick your guide and your walk very carefully. Because some guides – and some walks – are right for kids. Even though the walks are pitched at adults, not kids. You want corroboration just take a look at the little film of Shaughan guiding his Ghosts of the Old City. Those two happy little people skipping along beside him aren’t short adults. They’re kids.
Finally, take a look at the Walks for Kids page on The Mothership.
Well, not quite finally. The whole episode crystallises something else - namely, why, we as guides, love guiding walking tours. It's in part because of the people you meet on them. Walking tour types are the sort of tourist you want to meet. They're bright, switched on, resourceful, good fun. It's not just a one-way street. In short, we learn from you guys, just as you learn - we hope - from us."
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