Why is it important to get the whole family outdoors this summer?

Steve Backshall

Steve Backshall

There are numerous benefits to getting outside and active; free-flow of endorphins, vitamin D, increased metabolism etc., but for me it's the less tangible advantages. It's making memories with your family, experimental learning, connecting to the natural world, picking up a physical appreciation for animals and wild places… I could go on for hours! That is why the Brave Bones Club is great for families who are in need of a little playtime inspiration; they can simply go on the website or watch our video series this summer for adventure ideas.

When did your own zest for the outdoors begin?

I'm really lucky in that my mum and dad are wild keen on the outdoors, well, you could probably say 'obsessed'. My dad will sit out in the last tiny corner of the garden that has sunshine until the millisecond the final vestige has gone! As kids we were encouraged to head out of the front door at daybreak, and not come back till we were tired and hungry. I appreciate that not everyone has the advantages I had as a child, but I got so much from those early years, and it's been the basis for an incredibly happy life.

Why is it important to you to encourage others to be more outdoorsy?

I know what they have to gain from it! But also from a conservation point of view, there is no doubt that people who love nature, wild animals and the outdoors are the exact same people who will want to protect it. We need more people who are ready to be custodians of nature, who will treasure each and every part of it as much as I do.

What are the health benefits for families to get out more?

Too many to mention; I've been around when kids have stepped out of the sea after surfing their first wave. I've been with families on their first ever horse ride, and have taken kids rock-pooling, crabbing, pond-dipping, building camps and learning how to make a camp fire. I don't need peer-reviewed science to prove to me what the advantages are; you can see the sparkle in their eyes, and the bubbling enthusiasm, and know for a fact that the experience has been an enriching one, physically as well as psychologically.

What activities would you suggest for families that currently spend most of their time indoors to get them started?

Start with the basics and in your own back garden or park. It's not necessary to start with a barefoot safari in the Kalahari, or white-water thunder down a Himalayan river, but those could all be in the future if you start now and start small. I'd suggest simple activities like building camps, learning to navigate with a map and compass, whacking bushes to catch and identify bugs, spotting birds and butterflies, learning to track animals by their footprints… and just being able to run riot playing tag, French cricket, hide and seek as well as all important unstructured play.

You have also written books for children- so why is it important to you that they should also read widely as well as get some fresh air?

Several of my books are 'How to' guides, specifically about getting outdoors, giving kids and parents ideas for what to do in the wild world, so they can take them along! Reading has always been an important part of my life - my first degree was in English, and I still read voraciously. I surround myself with books, kind of hoping the vast knowledge will just seep into my mind through osmosis. Even my fiction novels are all about outdoor adventure, and have plenty of information to encourage the reader to get interested in adventure and conservation.

Can you tell us a little bit about your own outdoor summer plans?

Yes - I'm going to see my girlfriend Helen Glover compete at the World Rowing Championships, she's repaying the favour by coming on her first long 'multi-pitch' rock climb in the Alps. After that, I'm going to be taking her on her first ever safari in Namibia. It's a self-drive, and we're going to be sleeping out rough in the sand dunes, and trying to find cheetahs and rhino. Bliss.

What is your most memorable outdoor adventure?

There are too many to choose from, but I would say sea kayaking around the Knoydart peninsula and small isles of Skye, Rum and Eigg with some pals one winter. It was cold, but clear and calm, and we camped on deserted white sand beaches, collected and cooked up our own food on driftwood fires, and had seals and otters popping up alongside our kayaks.

What is next for you?

As well as working with The Brave Bones Club on our series of adventures this summer, I have another expedition series for the BBC, as well as a live programme from Monterrey Bay over the summer. I'm doing a talks tour around the UK through the autumn, and have a new book 'Mountain' coming out in a few months, as well as the paperback of my third young adult fiction novel 'Wilds of the Wolf' coming out in the next few weeks. So busy busy busy!!!!

Steve Backshall is working with the Brave Bones Club, an initiative set up by Cheestrings & Yollies, to encourage kids of the UK to embark on their own brave adventures this summer. For playtime inspiration, visit www.bravebonesclub.com