By Casey Neill
Gumnut Trails are getting families outdoors and exploring Melbourne.
Flemington mum Christina Carter created the guides with help from her husband and 4-year-old daughter.
She brought characters Ellie and Felix to life in comic form to get kids aged 2 to 12 excited about nature and send them on mystery trails.
The project started as a quest to tap into the nature-filled childhood Christina experienced in country Victoria.
“Sustainability, the environment, and nature were part of my existence,” she said.
“I just took it for granted.”
She established a life in suburbia and when her own daughter reached age 2, she’d never been to the bush.
“I didn’t realise how much of a conscious effort you had to make to make these things happen,” Christina said.
“So I set out to make spending quality time in nature fun and easy for busy Melbourne families – using creative adventures, joyful illustrations and storytelling.
“I wanted to bring Melbourne’s green treasures to life and encourage families to get out into nature regularly.
“It’s so important for all of us, especially our kids.
“You spend so much of your life on a laptop.
“Absorbed in that work world, it can take me an hour for that fuzziness to disappear.
“Then when you actually have a really decent time outside and you’re feeling connected with your family, you come out of it really happy.”
Christina said that in other countries, doctors prescribed patients time in nature to lift their mood.
“There’s so much science now around how important it is,” she said.
“If you can look at greenery in your office you’ll be happier than someone who can’t.
“It’s hard to pick yourself up and get outside, but when you do, you feel so much better for it.”
It took Christina a year to create the first guide, from scoping out activities with her little family by her side to seeking feedback from test runs, writing, and illustrating.
“It would be so much easier to go to a place and walk the whole thing to find the spots alone,” she said.
“But you don’t realise what is achievable for a child until you have your child along.
“It really does add a different dimension.”
Two years on, Christina has produced four illustrated Adventure Guides – North, South, East, and West.
She researched locations on blogs and sought plenty of recommendations.
“Ultimately we go out and do lots of exploring,” she said.
Christina said exploring has had a huge impact on her daughter.
“She’s really active, she’s strong. She’s not the most out there, loud person, but how many leaps I’ve seen in her! I’m sure this has had a big part in that,” she said.
Christina has “so many plans” for the guides. She’s talking to a few regions about destination guides.
“I’d love to take it to Sydney but that’s going to take a bit of effort,” she said.
“It’s an idea that I could absolutely take to other areas.
“There’s lots of opportunities.”
Christina makes a donation to local conservation projects for every guide sold.
Visit gumnuttrails.com.au for more information.