Opinion: Reconnecting with nature is so much more than a walk in the park
It used to be that visiting a wood was about connecting with nature and a blast of fresh air. A recent outing to Lough Key Forest Park and Activity Centre near Boyle, Co Roscommon revealed it can now also be about more.
Landing in the carpark in sunshine at 10.15am, we were gobsmacked to see hordes of people in running gear milling about. It turned out they were just finishing up the weekly 5K run, a free event organised by the park, which is a joint venture between Coillte and Roscommon County Council.
Before discovering that, we had time to take in the bucolic scenery, mature broadleaf woodland surrounding a millpond lake and, sitting on an island in its midst, a ruined castle.
A lot has changed since our last visit when our now 14-year-old was a toddler.
A new visitor centre opened in 2007 and a host of attractions have grown up around it. We had come Lough Key to do Zipit, Ireland's first high-wire aerial adventure activity.
We were delighted with every aspect of it, from the pleasant, enthusiastic, staff, the quality of the instruction and equipment, the length, variety and challenge of the courses. It was not cheap but there was value.
Lots of families, including teenage boys, were taking part. Anything that will get that age-group away from their game consoles is good.
Zipit was set up in 2011 by Eamonn Flynn and Chris Beattie after visiting a similar park in France. Locations in Tibradden Wood, Dublin 16 and Farran, Co Cork have followed.