Bored indoors in the school holidays?
It’s not easy to find a great activity suitable for the whole family. David Ritchie’s new leisure enterprise at Poole Park offers something for tots, teens and beyond...
The quest for quality time
We’re often told that our children are becoming increasingly obese, with sedentary lifestyles in front of the computer or games console to blame. A study last year by the Department for Work and Pensions showed that more than 60% of children in the 11 to 15 year-old age group watch TV for between 1 and 3 hours a day, with 20% of children glued to the box for 4 hours a day or more. In a quest to help improve family time, Hampshire man David Ritchie is on a mission to lure kids away from the TV to have fun outdoors. Just in time for the school holidays, his latest leisure concept has recently launched at Poole Park in Dorset, where his company Nautikidz operates a Mini Port - a complete marine environment in miniature. Children and adults of any age can learn to drive a high quality ship, just like the real thing - in complete safety. Having worked in the outdoor education industry all his life, both in the UK and overseas, David has a lifetime of boating and outdoor adventure behind him. Between 2000 and 2002, he worked for the Royal Yachting Association as their Chief Power Boat Instructor, with a stint as National Sailing Coach between 2000 and 2007.
Classic family moments
It was a family holiday in Brittany last year that led David to change course for a new career. He recalls; “My children came back from the beach one day, desperate to tell me about some miniature ships which they could drive on a giant boating lake. They were almost breathless with excitement, and dragged me down to the water’s edge. After few Euros spent and 15 minutes afloat, one of those classic family holiday moments was developing before my eyes.”
His background in the outdoor industry meant that David knew that these would provide an ideal attraction back home. “It got me wondering - why weren’t these Mini Ports available elsewhere? Watching so many children (and adults!) having fun in these little boats, and learning that they had become a popular family leisure attraction at over 80 locations throughout France, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so I set up Nautikidz Ltd to bring the Mini Port concept to the UK.”
The fleet of little ships, based on traditional designs, includes a ferry, tugs, a fishing trawler, a fire boat and a Mississippi paddle steamer. The boats, beautifully hand-crafted by French company SaviBoat, are impressively detailed. The detailing is also replicated in the miniature harbour surroundings, which add to the fun with marker buoys, a lighthouse and a light ship. And to the relief of parents, even pedalling isn’t required – each boat is electrically powered, so tiny or tired legs are no problem! The boats accommodate up to two adults and two children, and – the Holy Grail – they’re suitable for all ages, including those with no experience of boating.
It’s clear to see the delight on the faces of families enjoying a day in the great outdoors, and David’s excitement is palpable.
“Encouraging outdoor adventure in safe environments has always been really important to me. Seeing children have so much fun while they safely build their confidence on the water is priceless.”
Since opening his first centre this year, David is on course to establish a number of Mini Ports across the country at family leisure attractions, holiday centres, boating lakes, and public parks.
"Its been so popular that at times we’ve had to work fast to keep the queues down. I knew it was the right decision to bring Mini Ports to the UK, but our success since launching at Poole Park has taken even me by surprise.”
To join in the fun this summer, visit the UK’s first Mini Port at Poole Park in Dorset. The site also offers a number of watersports facilities, courses, summer camps and activity parties.
Editor's Note: David Ritchie established Nautikidz Ltd in 2010 following a successful career in the outdoor education industry, notably in high profile roles with the RYA. David has exclusive UK distribution rights to the SaviBoat products, and is offering Mini Port franchise opportunities across the UK.
For full details visit www.nautikidz.uk.com