THE summer holidays are here and that means only one thing – planning days out.
The school holidays can be a time of unadulterated bliss for children with all the exam pressures and academic worries out of the way.
Instead of being cooped up inside playing on computer games or watching TV, children would benefit from being outside in the open and making the most of the sunshine.
There are lots of opportunities in the Forest and the nearby Wye Valley for children to get in touch with nature.
Swings, zip wires and mountain biking will all light their fires.
Some youngsters might even take to the idea of fruit picking and jam making.
Blackcurrants and raspberries should have ripened in the garden and picking them is a great way of making children aware of where their fruit comes from.
Other outdoor activities, such as building a treehouse or a fort in the garden, can prove really creative, while teaching them about wildlife can boost their knowledge.
Many garden centres now stock bee boxes, squirrel feeders, ladybird houses and dormouse boxes as well as traditional birdfeeders. Kids get very enthused by wildlife, even if it is collecting beetles from under stones or searching for newts or slowworms.
Feeding the ducks is a good option for the youngsters while nature walks are a great way of getting children to explore.
Try giving them a list of things they need to find along the way like feathers or seeds or leaves from different types of trees.
For busy working parents, leisure centres and nurseries are offering packages where children can meet and play with others their age.
This is a perfect opportunity for them to interact as well as learn new skills.
Many centres will offer swimming lessons for beginners and those practising their skills.
Cross country running is also an option as well as mountain biking – always feasible in the Forest.
Finally, why not camp? Ig- nore the groans – camping can be a real bonding exercise when there are no distractions like TV or mobile phones.
Choose somewhere remote with no broadband connections, or mobile accessibility and see what happens.
You, and they, might be surprised.
Alternatively, there are plenty of attractions around the Forest area for simple days out.
What about a trip to the popular Dean Forest Railway?
It now has five stations along the line - with great walks and local pubs accessible from many.They regularly have special events - such as visits from Thomas the Tank engine, Bygone Branchline days and Sanata Specials for Christmas.
At Norchard there is a large free car-park, a well stocked shop selling a vast array of books, toys and gifts - as well as a fascinating museum transporting you back in history!
The southern terminus at Lydney Junction is only a two minute walk from the mainline Lydney station - and through ticketing is available - so you can buy a ticket from Birmingham to Parkend!
Every penny spent goes towards restoring heritage rail travel.
Team lovely riverside walks, a little code cracking and PLENTY of intrigue on the Ross-on-Wye Mystery Treasure Trail. It’s the best way to see the sights.
Get started by instantly downloading your trail PDF. It’s stuffed to the brim with clues of all shapes and sizes and these will lead you to landmarks all over town.
You’ll need the nose of a bloodhound to sniff out the truth though, and teamwork is essential.
The route should take around two hours to complete which means plenty of time to get a bit of sightseeing under your belt, that is after you’ve worked out whodunnit of course!
Tiptoe through the churchyard, follow the river and take in some pretty impressive countryside views. Plus if you fancy it, stop off for a well-earned picnic.