We had a kite in the cupboard under the stairs for months, in its packaging, cooped up in the dark. Every time I opened the cupboard door I could see this kite, staring at me accusingly: why had I bought this kite if it was never going to see the light of day or feel the wind in its wings? So, one beautifully sunny and only slightly breezy morning at the end of the school holidays, when I was running out of ideas, I announced that we were going to go kite flying! ‘Do you know how to fly a kite Mum?’ said Mr 6. ‘Of course I do,’ I lied.
So off we went to Dunstable Downs, a stunning area of outstanding natural beauty managed by the National Trust. Dunstable Downs lifts my soul and fills it up with fresh air and perspective. There’s also a great café in the Chilterns Gateway Centre which serves hot chocolate, so I can keep the children’s enthusiasm up in return for the promise of a warm drink at the end of the visit – but only if no-one whinges!
After we had completed the trail and collected the treat, I couldn’t stall any longer. I was starting to regret telling Mr 6 and Mr 2 that we were going to fly a kite as my memories of kite flying are filled with great hopes, followed by dismal failure. Questions ran through my mind. Did we have the right kind of kite? How do we get it started? Will the promise of hot chocolate be enough to stop the tears when the kite will only fly as high as I can enthusiastically chuck it into the air?
We got the kite out of car and found a spot where there seemed to be a breeze, was it enough breeze? I unravelled the string, all the time pretending to the boys that I knew exactly what I was doing.
In my limited childhood experiences of kite flying my Dad would unwind the string and instruct me to run away from him until the string was taught, then he would throw the kite into the air and it would crash to the ground. All my previous experience told me that this was a terrible way to launch a kite, but it was the only way I knew, so that’s the technique we went for. String unwound, I instructed Mr 6 to run away from me into the wind and then I used my best overarm to rocket the kite into the air… and it flew!
First time, second time, third… our bat-shaped kite soared up towards the clouds, tails dancing in the wind. I could hardly believe it. Once Mr 6 really got the hang of it I wasn’t needed anymore and the kite danced in the air and stayed in the sky!
It actually flew!
Dunstable Downs really is a fantastic place for kite flying if a novice like myself and two children aged 6 and 2 years old can have success. I was surprised at how much fun it was too. After the initial thrill (relief) of getting the kite flying, then there is the challenge of letting out more string to see how high the kite can go and walking around to catch the wind. Mr 2 enjoyed chasing the shadows and shouting instructions. Before we knew it a whole hour had passed, just following the wind and watching the kite. There is something hypnotic, mesmerising about watching a kite. We became lost in the moment, in the sunshine, rosy cheeks buffeted by the cold wind.
It was time to warm up with the promised hot chocolate and then head home but we’ll definitely be back for more very soon.
TOP TIPS FOR KITE FLYING AT DUNSTABLE DOWNS
- We visited in October 2017 and the car park charge was £3 if you’re not a member of the National Trust.
- The Chilterns Gateway Centre sell a range of kites, so you can buy one there.
- There are picnic tables outside if you want to bring a packed lunch/snacks or the Chilterns Gateway Centre has a café with floor-to-ceiling windows and views across the Downs.
- Find out more on the National Trust Dunstable Downs website.