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10 survival skills Olympic champion James Cracknell is teaching his daughters

Double gold rowing champion James Cracknell tells Lisa Salmon why he wants his daughters to learn how to read maps, make a fire and thrive in the wild

Great outdoors: James Cracknell with his daughters, Kiki and Trixie
Great outdoors: James Cracknell with his daughters, Kiki and Trixie

James Cracknell has won two Olympic gold rowing medals, raced across the Atlantic and the Sahara, and even made it to the South Pole. Now he's completed another huge challenge that many of us struggle with, too - teaching his two young daughters lost outdoor skills.

The Olympian took to adventuring after retiring from competitive rowing in 2006, and has recently been putting his outdoor skills to good use in Channel 4's Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls.

Cracknell believes it's a shame that many children have no outdoor nous, such as knowing how to light a campfire and map-read. So, the 46-year-old teamed up with Vauxhall Motors and got his two daughters, Kiki (9) and Trixie (7), to put down their tablets and get out with him, so he could help them master some of the skills.

Cracknell says: "We lead such busy lives. For us, as a family, it's important to get outside for some quality time together.

"It's been great to explore more of the outdoors with my girls. Showing them a few skills has shown them how much fun you can have when you go back to basics."

More than half of the parents questioned by Vauxhall said their children had no outdoor skills, yet 83% thought they were important. However, almost half admitted they wouldn't feel confident teaching children basics, like reading a map or identifying a flower.

Cracknell, who's married to TV presenter Beverley Turner, showed his daughters how to light a fire after collecting firewood, how to use a compass and read a map. Their older brother, Croyde (15), didn't join them, but his dad says: "My lad's really not afraid of anything that wriggles, jumps or crawls, and takes a lot less persuading to get into the outdoors, contrary to my wife!

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"In all honesty, all the kids are happy to be outdoors, though it's a bit trickier if it's raining - they'd much rather be out in the sun."

Some kids, of course, will take more than a little persuading to get off their phone or tablet and get outdoors to learn new skills. Simply telling kids to go outdoors won't work, and you can't tell them to come off playing Fortnite to go outside," Cracknell says.

"You might need to persuade them to go on a trip by bringing some gadgets with them, but once you're there, they'll realise how much fun it really is. After that, it's no problem getting them outdoors.

"But most children don't know how to light a fire or read a map, which I think is a shame."

Like many children of his generation, Cracknell learned to master outdoor skills at Cubs and Scouts, and on family camping trips.

"As a child, I enjoyed most outdoor activities," he admits. "My family would always drive to France to camp. We never stayed in hotels and I hadn't been on a plane until I was 18 for the World Championships.

"We also owned a canoe, so I've actually enjoyed rowing since childhood.

"To this day, I never travel without a map. With a satnav, you could be driving to anywhere and have no idea where you are."

Cracknell thinks parents should "definitely" learn outdoor skills themselves, noting: "Almost half of parents don't feel confident in teaching their kids outdoor skills.

"The majority have to actually resort to the internet to do so, even though they feel these skills are important."

This is why he wants to encourage more people to get outdoors. He points out that, as children spend so much time being taught how to do things, it's nice for them to learn skills and do activities that will still serve them well as grown-ups.

Finally, the dad and action man says that after his time on Celebrity Island, he wants to try living more simply and avoiding plastic when he can.

"I'm in no rush to eat coconuts, that's for sure," he adds.

"One thing you notice on the island is the amount of plastic in the oceans, which is actually horrendous, so I'll really avoid using single-use plastic.

"There's a lot of simple things I want to go back to doing. This campaign is all about going back to basics, and my time on the island made me realise the joys of simplicity.

"We go camping but, realistically, it's more like glamping. The beauty of camping is that you don't need to have much with you to enjoy it, so I'm really looking forward to enjoying more of that with the family."

Top 10 'lost' outdoor skills

1. Map-reading

2. Reading a compass

3. Identifying flowers

4. Lighting a campfire

5. Birdwatching

6. Foraging

7. Putting up a tent

8. Tying a knot

9. Fishing

10. Toasting marshmallows

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