RAMBLING FREE

A recent report from St Thomas's Hospital revealed that 10-year- old boys in England are 17 per cent fatter than they were 20 years ago, with lack of exercise cited as a major contributory factor. But help is afoot for worried parents of half-formed Billy and Bessie Bunters in the shapely form of the 10th annual Family Rambling Day. Organised by The Ramblers (formerly The Ramblers' Association), the event gets into its stride tomorrow, with 200 walks of between one and six miles planned for strollers nationwide, many featuring picnics, wildlife-spotting and games. In a valiant attempt to prise pre-pubescents from their playstations, all children taking part on Sunday will receive colourful badges, pencils and balloons, and have the chance to win a week-long family break in a Country Holidays cottage in a Make-a-Map competition.

Broadcaster and veteran foot-slogger Janet Street Porter is vice-president of The Ramblers. She is dismayed by the decline in youthful yomps: "All too frequently children stay at home watching TV," she sighs. "The Ramblers are particularly concerned that up to a third of 10-year-olds do not even walk continuously for 10 minutes a week." Families all over the country can remedy that situation on Sunday with a walk in West Lothian or a perambulation in Pembrokeshire. On the same day last year, more than 6,000 people took part in the UK's most popular sporting activity. What's more, Family Rambling Day is free and you don't have to be one of the 200,000 members of The Ramblers to participate.

Support on the day comes from a group of people more used to talking than walking. Approximately a dozen MPs (all expert ramblers of a sort) across the nation - including Labour's Stephen Timms, member for East Ham and Lib Dem Jackie Ballard, who can be seen in Taunton - will be rubbing backpacks with their constituents. Those in the wilds of Longparish, Hants, may even be rewarded with a sighting of that increasingly endangered species, the Conservative MP, with Michael Colvin escaping Westminster for the day to promote family values.

For details of walks in your area call: 0171-339 8555 from 9.30am-5.30pm today and 9.30am -12.30pm Sun

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