Swallows & Amazons

Swallows & Amazons

Swallows and Amazons. A wonderful book of our past. But does it have to just be a story for our kids. Is it really possible to live those water-y, exploring, wild-swimming, tree climbing summers?

Well. We’re trying to help families who might not normally get that chance. This ideas list if just that – ideas. Please take them on and adapt them as you want (she says with her nervous health and safety hat on for a moment…!)

Money shouldn’t be a big decider for this holiday. You can book a cheap or an amazing place. Swallows and Amazons holidays don’t have to be in big houses next to the sea (clearly that will help though). It’s about parents allowing their children the freedom to explore, make mistakes and find their own solutions in a ‘safe’ place where they can be independent without you ‘big brothering’ them at close hand. The forests and beaches in the New Forest are all free, lovely and ‘safe’ if you’re sensible.

Our job, at NFE, is to help you facilitate, so that your family get that rich, learning experience. Please ask us if you want to take up any of these ideas. We can point you to any number of good beaches, or forest glades.

Swallows and Amazons relates the outdoor adventures and play of two families of children. These involve sailing, camping, fishing, exploration and piracy. The children, John, Susan, Titty and Roger, are staying at a farm near the Lake District, during the school holidays. They sail a borrowed dinghy named Swallow and meet the Blackett children (Nancy and Peggy), who sail a dinghy named Amazon. The Walkers camp on an island in the lake while the Blacketts live in their house nearby.

I’m going to stop there because this isn’t a plot review. It’s meant to be a ‘how to’ guide.

So here’s how to do Swallows and Amazons – without driving to the Lake District, buy or borrow a boat and without other children to create war with! This guide focus’s on helping kids develop creative play, build confidence at managing themselves in wild place and have fun – without their parents 0r any phones or screens.


Find the right place to stay on holiday. Pick somewhere that suits your sense of boundaries.
– if you’re kids are little, they can still be independent in an enclosed, decent-sized garden. If that garden is well designed for children, with dens and play-places in it – then even better.
– if you’re kids are older, then pick somewhere that they can walk/bike to which has a sense of wildness. Beaches or forests are perfect.


Start the kids off with some preparation. Ideally months before their holiday. Watch Ray Mears type doco’s with them – discuss safety and ideas for adventures in the environment that you’ve booked for your summer holiday; beach/lake/forest – all different safety skills required. Book them on a first aid course too. Watch Help them visualise their games and plans. Please also be realistic about what they can achieve. Not managing to find unicorns in the forest or pirates on the beach might be one tragedy you could have avoided…. But finding golden hoof prints and/or buried treasure if something that you can create for them.


We suggest parents book a ‘teacher’ or role-model on the second day of their holiday to help the kids and parents learn the boundaries and helps build imagination and kids confidence to be creative. The New Forest Activities company do a great bushcraft day, wild cooking day, can do private kayaking trips and will pick up from Gins Barn. At The Ploughmans Cottage we can organise ‘Mrs Maker’ to do arts projects with kids in the gardens. Or perhaps a parent will do a skill share to the kids for a couple of hours to help them get started.

Fourth. (for older-ish kid)

When you arrive on holiday, fully checkout the area you’re going to give them independence in. Agree boundaries with them. And agree punishments/prizes for sticking to these boundary areas. Agree a list of stuff they’re going to do; bonfire on the beach, den building, wild swimming etc. Agree safety procedures. Agree timings and communication – i.e. when we (parents ring this bell – you have to come, if we ring it twice then you have to come urgently). Give them their packed lunches, some basic kit (string, blunt ish scissors, a small tarpaulin, a bell, and a basic first aid kit, water).

Go to the beach or forest early and hide something for them to find in a chest of buried treasure for the kids to find. Check out our Pinterest boards for ideas.


Let them get on with it. (Whilst watching thru your binoculars).

Forest Photo-Treks

Forest Photo-Treks

Art Addiction - Sally Mackness

Art Addiction - Sally Mackness