If you love feeling the rush of your handmade kite swooshing above your head? Or want to get up close and personal with one of South England's most beautiful series of rolling downs... Then you might just find yourself heading for Dunstable Downs.... just like we were last weekend!
Lying within easy reach of London, it's easily accessible and close to Dunstable (via the M1) and offers plenty of parking (either within or outside of the National Trust area of Dunstable Downs. But be prepared to pack walking boots, as the fantastic ridge walks are worth every second of the hike along the chalky Chiltern Hills.
However this part of the English countryside is peppered with hidden National Trust gems like Ashridge or Whipsnade Tree Cathedral... but what better way to spend a lazy Sunday than making then learning how to fly your own kite under the late summer sun. Just don't forget to stick a blanket into your bag as you'll not find many better picnic slots (well perhaps Fryupdale on the North Yorks Moors might rival it especially after an afternoon of rock pooling...)
Having loved finding new opportunities to learn across our Roadschooling Adventures in Europe (including learning about the Science of Helicopters at Rio Alto or Creative Writing Opportunities at the Harry Potter Studios) we weren't going to miss the chance to join the National Trusts kite-making class (£2.50 per kite) at Dunstable.
Especially as flying a kite makes its way into the National Trust's suggested '50 Things To Do Before You're 11 ¾' which certainly inspired this particular visit. (click here for the downloadable pdf) So as this area is known as a mecca for gliders, paraglider and kite fliers it offered us the chance to discuss the science behind lift or the geometric precision needed to give the kite more flyability.... the learning possibilities seemed endless!
Making a kite was a fairly quick and easy process (click here for instructions on how to make your own one) and it seemed to be a fairly thrifty way to engage the children for an afternoon too... only costing us one ice cream each!! (you can't eat and fly!!!!)
Judging by the plentiful supply of other families flying their kites... it seemed we'd made the right decision as our simple yet effective kite soared out some 50ft above our heads whilst the expensive shop bought ones seemed harder to launch. For us, kite flying is not about how pretty but more about how high.... and there's no doubt the uplift caused by the ridge at Dunstable Downs does that brilliantly!
But here's a word of warning about a day at Dunstable Downs: its rather tempting to spend your entire day's stay just in the natural 'bowl' perched on top of the Chiltern Hills (243m). However it is very possible to do a circular walk from the village of Whipsnade by following the Icknield Way Path and Chiltern Way. Or if you prefer a bike ride, then check out our blog on our bike adventures across the Dunstable Downs too.
But on the other hand, it's just as easy to find a picnic spot and stare at the plentiful supply of gliders and paraglider who soar over your heads....
It really is not every day that you get to stare at over 50 miles of glorious uninterrupted English countryside in one fell swoop. So before you head off for home, it's worth pausing on the ridge. Sure, your eye might pick something up, but aside from the occasional village this view is pretty much as nature intended.... I wonder if you leave contemplating the financial outlay of a paragliding kit or the thought of purchasing a bigger kit....
Firstly, your motorhomes will fit into either of the top two car parks (£3 charge) but if you'd rather park down the hill (towards the A5) then there are smaller car parks to launch any bike ride from. In terms of places to stay, we've actually never stayed in this area, so can only offer this link and suggest you find something that suits (click here for campsites)
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