paris

Over the last few months I’ve been doing a bit of writing.

First I put a ten-page entry into a sitcom competition run by Shortlist magazine. Alas, so did a large number of others and I didn’t make the cut.

Next I entered a travel writing competition in The Guardian. Results aren’t announced till next year and I have no real expectation of success, but I enjoyed writing the piece, so it wasn’t a pointless exercise.

A few weeks back I hastily scribbled a piece for the weekly travel tips, that paper runs. The subject was autumn walks, but as I attempted to submit it (half an hour before the deadline) my computer decided it didn’t like their site. So it was never submitted, but it is here in case anyone is stuck for an idea on how to get the kids out into the woods –

Having trouble getting your children to go on an autumn walk?

Soft ground means that now is a really good time for spotting animal tracks and making casts of them with your kids. Put some Plaster of Paris, a bottle of water, strips of cardboard and a few paperclips in an old ice cream tub and tuck it in a rucksack.

Look for animal tracks at the edges of paths and particularly where creatures have been making their way through fences and hedgerows. The margins of rivers and ponds are also good places.

Once some footprints have been found, make a loop with the card strips and paperclips and place it around them. Mix the water and plaster in the plastic tub with a stick and gently plop it into the cardboard circle. The lower the temperature, the longer the plaster takes to set, so unless you are prepared to hang about, it’s a good idea to do your casts on the outward leg of your walk and pick them up on the way home. Be careful to prise them up gently.

If you do leave them for later it adds to the fun to camouflage them with leaves them so that no-one else can find them. But be sure to leave a clue or sign so that you can find it yourself. A leaf threaded onto a stick makes a good marker.

Back home any mud can be cleaned off using an old toothbrush, and the casts can even be painted to bring out detail.

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