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October 2017 Issue
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The young ones

Karen Griffiths, centre photo, has led kids and their parents - and grandparents - on more than 50 tramps
When Karen Griffiths introduced a ‘Take a kid tramping’ day to her club, the idea was to grow membership and ensure valuable knowledge about routes and locations was passed to a new generation of New Plymouth trampers. It worked.

When you move to a new town, making friends is high on the list of things to do. For Karen Griffiths, the easiest way to do that when she moved to New Plymouth in 2012 was to join the local tramping club.

A keen tramper all her life, she knew she’d find camaraderie and people she could lace up her boots with on the weekend.

But what she didn’t expect when she signed up to the New Plymouth Tramping Club, was to be treated like a novelty. “I’m in my 50s, and they were saying ‘Oh great, a young one’,” Griffiths recalls. The club had nearly 400 members and, according to Griffiths, an average age somewhere north of 70. They were also vastly experienced trampers who knew every nook and cranny of the district.

“It’s just amazing, the tramps they know around this area that aren’t on the map,” says Griffiths. “But my concern was it wouldn’t be too long before they all dropped off the radar and we’d lose all that knowledge.”

Griffiths’ solution was to introduce some young blood to the club – children and their parents. But even then she faced resistance. “It did take a couple of years of persistently bringing it up to get buy-in from the club,” she says. “They were quite happy the way it was; they felt young people wouldn’t be interested in the same tramps they were.”

Never deterred, Griffiths’ persistence paid off. “Let’s just do one tramp and see how it goes,” she told the club.

She advertised the first ‘Take a kid tramping’ event in the local paper and on the council website. “I marketed it as a good way of getting away from screens and doing something for the day with your kids, your family,” Griffiths says.

The message resonated: around 50 people turned up and the club stalwarts who had been so opposed to the idea suddenly supported it.

Since that first trip in late 2015, Griffiths estimates more than 500 people have gone on her monthly tramps.

And because she insists on keeping it a family outing – “I’m not having people just drop their kids off” – the club has grown as many attendees signed up.

Griffiths is pleased to say she’s no longer the youngest: “We’ve had families join, and we’ve got younger ones coming in.”

The mix of people coming along means she has to keep the once-a-month outings easy. Parents have turned up with babies in a child carrier and on more than one occasion she’s had girls as young as three show up in their tutus and gumboots.

Griffiths mixes up the trips as much as possible and includes an overnighter to a hut every few months. She has her favourites though. “Over summer we’ll do a beach tramp, and I’ve got a regular one that’s not on any map – it’s a waterfall that the kids can swim under.”

She’s also tapped into the knowledge of her club mates to organise tramps in search of downed aeroplanes – there are about 20 in Egmont National Park. “Kids are interested in wrecked planes – they think it’s amazing,” says Griffiths. “We have people in the club who know where to find them. I get them to take me there and now I’m taking the kids so we won’t lose that knowledge.”

Resistance within the club has completely melted away – the older members are joining Griffiths and her troupe of parents and kids. “People in the club are bringing their grandchildren when the kids are visiting during the holidays,” she says, then adds with a smile: “Then they ask to come with us when they don’t have any kids because our trips are so good.”