Campfires, den building, pond dipping and flame-grilled hot dogs – safe to say last weekend’s ‘Who Let The Dads Out?’ event at Hinchingbrooke Park in Huntingdon was right up our street!
We spend quite a lot of time outside as a family, but what we don’t often find is other families who want to do all the same stuff we do. That was one of the motivations behind our attempts to set the wheels in motion for a nationwide network for outdoorsy families earlier this year. We’re still quite a long way from finalising anything with that, which is why I was so pleased to stumble across an advert for the ‘Who Let The Dads Out?’ event in Hinchingbrooke Country Park last weekend.
Organised by Richard and Tim from Huntingdonshire Community Church, it was advertised as a free event of ‘den building, camp fires, hot dogs and family activities’ – all we had to do was meet by the play park at 12pm. Needless to say we were up for it!
Flame-grilled hot dogs
We definitely don’t go to enough collaborative outdoor events like this. And as soon as we got there and saw dozens of other families sitting round the campfire, roasting sausages with kids charging about in the woods and having the time of their lives together, I realised it’s something I should invest way more time in.
It was all brilliantly organised by the ‘Who Let The Dads Out?’ crew, totally safe, and gave children who had never met each other before the chance to get together and experience things they’d probably otherwise never get chance to. After tucking into hot dogs and donuts (and a few healthy snacks too), we were introduced to Ranger Sam from Hinchingbrooke Country Park who led a den-building masterclass.
We’ve built a few decent dens over the past couple of years, including one we’re quite proud of in our own garden, but this was on a different level. Hinchingbrooke Park has a huge area specially set up for den building, with loose logs and long branches spread through the woods for kids to run off and find. We were given a quick crash-course from Sam on how to build a big (and safe) tipi style den, then we split into five or six different groups and went for it.
The kids charged around the trees collecting sticks, while the parents got stuck into building the dens (and we were, of course, all getting competitive about it). Half an hour later we’d all built dens for the kids to squeeze into, with prizes handed out to every child involved. Everyone was absolutely shattered, totally filthy and loving life by the time we headed back to the campfire.
I’m not sure what I’ve been doing with my time for the past 36 years, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever properly been pond dipping. After roasting some marshmallows on the embers of the campfire we headed down to the lake armed with nets, plastic trays and Pond Life ID sheets. A few minutes later we were scooping bugs and all sorts of fascinating things out of the water, then inspecting them in our trays.
Within a few scoops we’d found two water boatmen, mayfly nymphs and a water scorpion (just as cool-looking as it sounds) and Sonny’s two-year-old mind was still spinning with excitement when we headed back to the car more than three hours after we’d arrived. “Come back again daddy?” he asked as I strapped him into his car seat. You know what mate, I think we will!
Outdoor Dad verdict – Who Let The Dads Out?
A brilliant event organised by a brilliant, selfless bunch of people that brought together dads, mums, kids and families that would never normally spend time together – least of all doing so many cool, simple and fun activities. There must have been around 70-80 people there overall, united by some passionate dads who just wanted to let kids experience the outdoors and hopefully make some new friends while they were doing it. We already can’t wait for the next one!