It seems surreal to be here in the woods less than a fortnight before Christmas when the to-do list is still endless. But maybe that’s what the holiday season really should be, I think, as I roam the forest floor with one-year-old Edgar for my own contribution of sticks: being together, doing something that sticks out. of the ordinary. We are fortunate to be in Beaverbrook (beaverbrook.co.uk), a five star country hotel which is a family paradise 45 minutes from our home in London. He offers tailor-made adventures and survival courses throughout the winter, with the help of Sharky & George.
Not all smiles: The boys shed tears of frustration as they try – and fail – to create a spark big enough with a metal fire starter; the smoke from the fire makes us cough (dead leaves, Alex reminds us, are fire’s worst enemy). But sitting together on upturned logs under ancient evergreens, with toasted marshmallows in the flames and nowhere else, will remain one of the most magical moments of 2021.
The sun sets behind the Surrey Hills as we step out of the woods to see the distant lights of the rink. Screaming in excitement, the boys run the rest of the way and line up for ice skates, unfazed by the fact that they have no idea how to do it. As I slide behind a model penguin (I know my level), I finally feel steeped in the party spirit, only to lose it as the older boys attempt Dancing on Ice and end up on their backs. Then there’s hot chocolate, hot cinnamon donuts, cotton candy, and champagne (for adults), then we head back to the hotel, red cheeks, to watch Home Alone.
Can we do it every year? Hector asks, as we lie down under tartan blankets in the private cinema. Maybe not exactly that, I tell him, but we will certainly make winter adventure a new family tradition. Anna tyzack
Sea kayaking in Anglesey
Lord Nelson apparently considered the Menai Strait to be the most dangerous waters in Britain; so treacherous, he trained his sailors here, thinking that if they could navigate the straits they could navigate anything.
Since then, they are no less traitors. The section between the Britannia and Menai Bridges, which connect Anglesey with North West Wales, is known as the Swellies. As recently as 1953, HMS Conway, a naval training ship, ran aground here.
What better place to learn to sea kayak? Philip Clegg, 42, has been leading paddlers here for 18 years as the owner of Sea Kayaking Anglesey (seakayakinganglesey.co.uk). As we leave, he tells me that when things go wrong on rivers, “It goes fast and it gets better quickly. With sea kayaking things go so badly slowly and it takes a long time to sort them out.