Remember when the summer holidays meant exploring?

Back in September, 1975, these two explorers were pictured hunting  for blackberries in the Cleadon Hills.
Back in September, 1975, these two explorers were pictured hunting for blackberries in the Cleadon Hills.

One time, the biggest headache parents (and without being sexist that usually meant mothers) had to contend with during the summer holidays, was how to keep the kids amused and out of mischief.

Not any more.

For according to a recent report, researched by Kellogs for YouGov, many parents are struggling to find the extra cash needed to feed their children during the six-or-so-week break, leading to them going hungry.

And just this week, the Christian charity Hospitality and Hope, now based at the former Hampden Street Day Centre, in South Shields, has reported a surge in demand for its services due to the summer holidays – a period when free meals and breakfast clubs provided at schools are no longer available.

It got me thinking, how it’s a real shame that children today can’t do what we used to do when we were younger (it’s just not safe any more) – which was to spend the summer holidays going off exploring.

No need for an extra meal in those days, we used to take it with us.

We were like the Secret Seven or the Famous Five, only without the dog. Up with the sun, and raring to go, we’d pack a haversack (who remembers them?) and then head off for the seaside, the countryside and all points in between.

Hang on, back to the haversack, and our “supplies” for the day. Between us, we’d have apples, meat paste sandwiches and water, usually carried in an old-style canteen (glass bottles were too heavy!)

My canteen came from a white hunter’s dressing-up set that I’d been bought for Christmas.

Along with the canteen, was a rifle, a knife, a bullet belt and a pith helmet (I probably looked like Lofty from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum when I had it on), all stored inside a box with a tiger on the front, presumably my intended prey (not very PC!).

Anyway, wherever we went, and there were usually a handful of us, it was always a journey of adventure.

Up here in the North-East, there are so many wild and wonderful places to explore: long grass to push through; streams to wade in; trees to climb and hills to scamper up and down.

And if we were lucky there would be blackberries – or if we were not so lucky – bitter goose-gobs to pick and eat.

Of course, exploring wasn’t without its risks.

There were stinging nettles everywhere. Yet even then, nature provided a remedy, with lots of dock leaves growing nearby, ready to be rubbed onto those bare legs (nobody wore jeans in those days).

We’d be like Colonel Hathi and his elephants, from Disney’s The Jungle Book, marching along in single file, while pulling up grass from which we’d make funny rasping noises with our lips.

Exploring at the seaside, meanwhile, was a far more delicate operation, and I’ll come back to that when I bring you some wonderful shots that I’ve unearthed of the sands at South Shields and Marsden.

Times, as we know, have changed, and kids can’t just wander off any more, which is a real pity. Not only would it get them out in the fresh air, it would also save their parents a small fortune.

Where did you used to play when you were younger?