Muddy shoes, cold noses, woolly hats and gloves are part and parcel on our little outdoor adventures.
As Bobby gets older I am gradually starting to introduce more adventurous outings, by exploring different places, uncharted lands, uncharted by us anyway. I say this because there are only so many swing sets and seesaws you can use before they get a bit tedious. I find kids will play on them things because they’re there. If they weren’t there, then they’d have no option but to find something else to explore.
So, one crisp barely above freezing afternoon in early January I told Bobby we were going to the park. Unbeknownst to him, this wasn’t like the other 50 parks we had been to over the years. This one was ‘uncharted’. Buried along a tumbling country lane in the garden of England, just out side of Sevenoaks is a place called Knole Park. I had heard about this place, and seen a couple of pictures of friends visits. Although I had no idea how to get there. So with this brief knowledge, me and Bo got wrapped up warm, packed a bag with some supplies, picked up a football, and a camera and headed out the door.
I typed our destination into the sat nav and we started driving. These kind of spontaneous trips make an adventure day even more exciting. I followed the directions, missed several turnings and ended up stumbling upon the front gates to Knole Park, maybe the back gate, or the side gate, to be honest I had no clue where we were! One thing I did know, was that my best bud was by my side and we were going to have an adventure day together.
Parking on a verge in the middle of the wooded surrounding, we took a slow bimble towards the gate. Bobby was in a inquisitive and curious mood, and was observing signs on the roadside, asking what they meant, one of which being a Deer warning sign. Bobby promptly asked if there were “reindeer at the park?” – After an innocent pause he concluded that they should really be resting at the North Pole after a busy Christmas, and we continued.
As we strolled down the entrance path we began to pass a football around, in a half hearted attempt to get warm. Then Bobby stopped and asked what those horses were doing. What horses? I asked, as he pointed to two, small animals nibbling from the shrubs in the distance. He had spotted some deer about 200 yards away and after a short discussion, he decided we should go and investigate.
As we delicately moved through the undergrowth of this newly found land, I was talking to Bobby about how we should respect the animals and not make them feel scared or threatened as this was their home, he was so excited at what he was seeing. As we got to around 50 feet away I hear a crunch and a crack beside me, and the deer I’m looking at freezes and stares right at us.. It was at this crucial moment, Bobby had decide now would be a fabulous time to trip over a stick and sausage roll down the hill! With the giggles we both regained our composure and carried on after the deer had wandered off during Bobby’s mishap.
Continuing our journey we see more and more deer grazing in this expansive park. On these adventures we like to go slightly off pesté and not follow a set path, more find our own way. The best of the wild is never found on the tourist trail, it’s the hidden spots that make an adventure.
Bobby only being 5 years old, hasn’t seen much of what the world has to offer yet and every new experience is one for him to cherish. So seeing a family of deer at 50 feet had made his day so far. I’m sure he felt like he’d discovered a new species, like a true adventurer.
Now, I’m no deer expert, nor wild life expert but I give it my best shot, with Bobby asking questions about such things. So much so that I find my self educating him along the way. He’ll repeat little facts I’ve told him to his mummy upon her return from work. It makes me a very proud dad when I know he’s been listening to me waffle on.
What also makes me proud is how independent our little guy is becoming, happy to wander off and explore without us holding his hand. This is especially magical to see out in nature. It was at Knole Park that I realised he had stepped up his adventure game, Bobby was finding his own path in front of me, not afraid to forge his own trail through the undergrowth, having fun, with only the odd spare moment to check behind to see if his daddy was keeping up.
It was on one of Bobby’s forged paths that I stumbled across something incredible. We had gained a new friend along the way. A deer, just casually wandering up to us. Bobby asked if it was “okay to go closer?” I didn’t know, I had a few thoughts, one that my son would be taken and raised by deer, like a Kentish version of ‘The Jungle Book’, another was that it’d be fine and then hop off into the tree line. It didn’t, as Bo walked up closer the deer did the same. They were literally face to face. Bobby wasn’t scared, as he placed his hand and stroked the deer on the back, he was alight with glee, exclaiming that “nobody ever gets to touch a deer!” He thought at that moment he was the real king of the jungle!
Places and experiences like this are what is truly great about adventure, and the outdoors. The unexpected, the beauty of the landscape, and the outstanding beauty of two innocent species crossing paths and respecting one another. To the deer, Bobby was probably just another kid trying to bother it. To Bobby, the deer was an achievement, the next step completed on his way through life.
You don’t always have to travel thousands of miles to find true adventure, no matter how small.