As a boy, Adam Dove loved playing outdoors. As a man, he runs woodland adventure courses for young York children. And now he's written a book of his ten best adventure activities. STEPHEN LEWIS spoke to him AS a little boy growing up in Elvington, Adam Dove loved playing outdoors.

It was the start of the 1990s ...and a different age. Playstation had yet to be introduced: smartphones, texting and social media were still years in the future. Adam wasn't even particularly bookish. "I just wanted to be outside!" he says.

Luckily, in a village like Elvington, that wasn't difficult. "I was always down by the river or in the woods."

As he grew older Adam, now 34, never lost that sense of adventure. After leaving school, he went travelling - backpacking around South Africa, Australia, South East Asia and Morocco. He became an adrenaline junkie. He'd taken up kayaking when he was 9; but he added skydiving and bungee-jumping to his list of adventure sports.

Then, his thirst for travel satisfied for a while, he began to look around for something to do next. He discovered a three-year degree course offered by Buckingham Chilterns University which looked perfect. The subject? Outdoor Adventure.

He spent the next three years where just where he wanted to be: outdoors. There wasn't a whole lot of written work, he admits. Instead, he studied mountain leadership and outdoor survival skills. At one point, he found himself on the Russian/ Finnish border for two weeks, sleeping outdoors in temperatures of minus 20 degrees. He quickly learned how to build a temporary survival shelter. "You dig a trench, put your skis on top, put a tarpaulin over that, and cover it all with snow..."

It was a great way for a young man who loved the outdoors to spend three years. But then, in 2005, he graduated.

"And I realised it was a completely useless degree!" he says. To get work as an outdoor adventure trainer - or even to teach people how to go kayaking - you needed teaching qualifications: and his degree course hadn't included any.

Undeterred, he got work with an outdoor activity centre. The pay was poor - just £600 a month - but he could study for his qualifications free.

York Press:

Adam Dove teaching a young woodland adventurer to brew up a 'magic potion' in the woods

A few years ago, now back in York, he put those qualifications to use by setting up his own business.

He'd long been interested in the Forest Schools movement - which advocates getting young children out in the fresh air to learn through adventure activities in local woods.

He set up Bush Babies, which offers woodland learning activities for children aged 6-8 in local woods and parks around York - everywhere from Rowntree Park to West Bank Park, Moorlands nature reserve and even Skipwith Common.

At first, he ran the courses just one day a week, on a Sunday.

"But it just got busier and busier!" he says.

Now trading as the Woodland Adventure Company, he's gone full time, his wife Marie has given up her job as a social worker to join the business - and they have two other members of staff too.

They even have their own small leased woodland near Stamford Bridge.

The secret of their success?

Offering woodland activities that appeal to children's imaginations - and which parents can join in on too.

A typical adventure might involve getting children to make a woodland 'magic potion'. They have to follow a woodland trail to collect the ingredients: everything from leaves, bark and moss to grass and pine cones. The children mix their ingredients with specially prepared 'troll juice' (red cabbage soup) or 'green goblin juice' (vinegar mixed with green food colouring) in plastic bowls right there in the middle of the woods - and use it to anoint wands made of green wooden sticks.

It is searching for the ingredients that's the real fun for the children, though. Adam lays a trail beforehand; making sure there are plenty of large footprints (trolls', of course), fairy dust (liberally scattered flour) and arrows made from sticks that the children can follow. He stresses it is essential the children go quietly: there are elves and trolls around, he tells them - and they have excellent hearing. He often says they can hear a pin drop at 20 paces. and then he paces off 20 steps into the woods, drops a pin, and asks the children if they could hear it. That's how good the trolls hearing is, he tells his young charges.

York Press:

Discovering the magic of tree bark on a woodland adventure

Adam and his team now have 15 different adventure activities like this that they can do with groups of children aged 2-6.

The kids love them - and get totally caught up in the stories, he says.

If you think they sound like fun, you can now try out some of them with your own children yourselves.

Because Adam has included 10 of the best in a new book published by Frances Lincoln.

The Woodland Adventure Handbook is written as a practical guide. There are ten sections, each devoted to a different adventure, and each is structured almost like a recipe.

So Adam tells you what you'll need, goes through step by step how to set up the adventure, gives instructions for what the children have to do - and even has a section at the end about what the children learned.

There's a lot of woodcraft they will pick up along the way, he says - how to follow tracks; the importance of being quiet in proper woodcraft; how to tell different trees and plants apart. And best of all, they're out and about, getting fresh air and healthy exercise while doing something they love with a responsible adult on hand to supervise them.

What's not to like?

York Press:

  • The Woodland Adventure Handbook by Adam Dove is published by Francis Lincoln, priced £9.99.

To find out more about activities offered by the Woodland Adventure Company, visit, email or call 07788 713393|