Written by Regatta's resident children's outdoor educator, Anja.
Adventures come in all shapes and sizes and so do ‘tarps’…..
A ‘tarp’ is basically a big waterproof sheet that outdoor adventurer folk use to create a shelter in the wild. They are cool to use as you can still see and feel nature around you whilst keeping you safe from the worst of the weather.
As a family with young children, we have found that a miserable wet task on a bit of a dull day becomes super fun under a tarp, from weeding a veggie plot to having a teddy bears picnic, or simply reading a story together.
In fact just sitting and listening to the rain is awesome and really relaxing under a tarp but if you add a thermos flask and a hot chocolate into the mix it makes for a great activity! It looked so cosy that one of our baby chicken chicks joined us too for a snuggle.
You can get an all singing and dancing super light tarp with multiple attachment points, durable material etc... or you can just improvise....an old plastic sheet or gardening tarp foraged out of the garage or bought from the local store. Some long lengths of string or cord for rigging it up are really useful, as are some reinforced holes in the sheet for attaching strings (though not essential). You can improvise any pegs from sticks.
All of the above options are super fun for children and…...when its raining you can still be outside! It opens up the weather barrier for families in the UK where our climate can sometimes be a bit unpredictable.
A tarp is also very handy for collecting big piles of leaves or other foraged materials to play with in the autumn, and we have also tried things like collecting rainwater off the material to water our indoor plants or greenhouse seedlings; just string the tarp up to create a V-shaped funnel and put a bucket at one end to get collecting! It’s a great beginners survival exercise and can feel really adventurous for little ones.
Here are some Top Tips to help you get going...
• You can use strong trees or other strong structures to make good attachment points to raise your shelter up above the ground. Check out what you have available at yours to help you decide where best to string it up safely and in a good place, and check what’s above you before siting that there’s nothing going to fall on you from above (especially if windy)
• Make sure it is quite tight and at an angle so the rain runs off easily. Also, even though it’s tempting, don’t use a bigger sheet area than you need as it will catch the wind and be much harder to set up and to make tight (especially if little ones are helping). Fold it in half if it’s too big. Less is sometimes more!
• Don’t let not having a fancy one stop you; you can use any old large plastic sheet, an old ground sheet or even a gardening sheet or old plastic sacks or packaging linked together; improvising can be part of the fun; there’s always something lying around you somewhere, or one you could borrow from a friend.
• If you don’t have a tarp with reinforced grommet holes for strings, reinforce any holes you create (so it doesn’t tear); or if you don’t want to make holes, just tie knots in the corners of the tarp and tie the string round the back of the knot. You could even use a small pebble wrapped in the sheet and tie round this to create a tie in point. We raised the centre of our shelter like this in our example to give a bit more space inside.
• Pin all the corners to the ground, tie all corners up in the air, or a mix of the two; depending on what anchors you have available, what you’re doing, and what view you want. We pinned down one side in our example and tied the other up. Be creative!
• tent pegs are great to pin it down but you can also use sticks or tie it to something fixed low down like the bottom of a tree.
In the words of our 7 year old…...
“Well I think its just lovely”
Anja, Berni, May and Sam (and Tulip the chick) xx
Learn more about our resident children's outdoor educator:
“It's really important now, more than ever, that we all start to reconnect with nature and really get to know the outdoor environment around our homes. Summer and autumn are super seasons to start appreciating what’s on your doorstep with your family and notice all the little things around you. For inspiration on how to engage with the natural world, from outdoor activity ideas to natural art and primitive skills, I hope we can help"
Hi I’m Anja, I live in rural Cumbria with my husband Berni, our two children and our six rescue chickens. We have both worked in the outdoors for many years, helping people to get outside, to explore and to reconnect with the natural world.
I began my career as a secondary school teacher but soon realised that learning in the outdoors is much more memorable and engaging for many children and so retrained as an outdoor educator.
I spent the next 12 years taking groups into the mountains, crossing lakes and spending nights under the stars. Time in nature for many young people can be life changing...it empowers, it fuels the imagination and it is great for the soul.
I realised during this time that storytelling and time immersed in nature are both immensely powerful ways of reconnecting with the natural world and ultimately with yourself. I wanted to share this passion, so during the summer of 2012 I developed a series of story maps called Tale Trails. They offer families a way of exploring locally and having an adventure that’s fun and inspiring from the children’s perspective. You can download these for free here taletrails.co.uk
In my spare time I love exploring off the beaten track and spinning tales about natural wonders, myths and folklore. I am constantly on the look out for secretive spots and inspirational ideas to share with everyone.
My husband, Berni also has a background in outdoor education. He has spent many years guiding people in the mountains, running navigation courses and leading wild camping expeditions. He specialises in teaching and demonstrating primitive and traditional outdoor survival skills, such as fire lighting without modern tools. He is also a keen fell runner and is often out in the hills before dawn.
Over the coming months we will be bringing our skills together to show you some simple and fun activities and imaginative ideas to help make the outdoor world as fascinating and accessible as possible for all.
As a family, we’re very grateful for the natural world as our primary source of wellbeing, entertainment, and inspiration (and resources!). We are homesteading on a small scale; growing our own fruit and veg, rearing our own chickens and making our own compost. We’re constantly learning how to live more sustainably, use less, and contribute more to the environment where we can. We try to share some of the things we’ve been learning and have experienced as part of our sessions too.