Tag Archive | outdoors

Acting wild!

20151231_105913Heck it was wild out there at times this weekend. I keep up my daily walk in the wilds even when it’s blowing fit to knock me over.

Yesterday I got a ducking. And the day before I got my cheeks bitten with the stinging cold.

There will be a time I go out there and it’s all soft and gentle and hanging sweet with birdsong.

Doesn’t matter what the weather I always go. Because with all these years of going I’ve learnt the importance; it changes my mood, it gives me inspiration, it keeps my mind and my muscles fit – the heart being the most important one. And besides, despite my complaining and not always wanting to go when it’s a real challenge out there, I know it’s the answer to a sense of holistic wellbeing. You see articles like this about it all the time.

Even though we’ve tried to tidy it all away and ignore it, being out in the natural world is something we naturally need.

We all need it. Me, you, families, kids especially, young, old. Everyone does. We need it to be regular and ongoing. Only then will we reap the benefits. Being shut away from it is affecting our overall and longer term health dramatically.

Which is why the Wildlife Trusts have started a 30 days wild campaign. To get people, especially families, to reconnect with nature. Doesn’t matter where you live, there’s ways to do it even in urban areas.

Check out the link – and sign up for the inspirational pack. And go act a little wild for yourself, each day, and see if it puts you and the children in a healthier frame of mind. You might also find that, not only do you reconnect with nature, you reconnect with each other better too.

Singing of holidays

spring16 003I’ve been editing my new Home Ed book; one just for all those wobbly days when you wonder what the hell you’re doing! It’s to reassure you you’re doing good, because I remember what it’s like when your mind turns deceitful and messes with your confidence. This book is to get it back on track.

I’ve been determined to get it done, it’s a lot of work and I’m that stuck to keyboard I think my fingers now have square ends. And I also get slightly loony when I’ve been shut inside, too still, for too long.

So I’m just a bit desperate to prise bum off chair and get outside; enjoy the Spring delights this weekend even if it is in the rain.

Delights like:

– Rippling Lark song as they sing over their territories and show off to a mate. When did singing stop being a way to show off to a mate? Have you sung to a mate lately? The blackbird is the best at it; I hear him morning and evenings on branches and rooves and TV aerials.

– The perfume of the soil. I guess you don’t often hear soil described as having perfume. But the scent of it turned under the harrows, drying in the Spring winds, is as delectable as the smell of the shore when you roll up at the seaside. I drink it in.

– More light than dark hours in each twenty four, increasing every day till the solstice – fair makes my sap rise! When my sap rises I feel I can achieve anything – bit like the Lark. Even singing.

– The beginnings of buds, blooms and blossom that decorate all natural spaces wherever I go – rural or urban, from the tiniest green jewels on the hawthorn hedges to the blousy buds of the magnolia in town gardens.

This is how I’ll be celebrating this Spring weekend – hope you find some delights too and enjoy yours whatever you’re doing.

Happy holidays!

Do you listen to your own advice?

Last weekend I listened to my own advice and got out of my comfort zone. spring15 005

I’d posted a blog about the benefits of doing so a little while ago and then ignored myself. Hypocrite or what?

I’ve set that right now. I had a meeting in town last weekend and the others needed the transport. I could have messed about with lifts but everyone else would have had to change their timings. I could have walked the three miles up to the main road and caught the bus. Or I could push beyond those comfortable alternatives and get the bike out.

I can’t say that I didn’t teeter on the edge of comfort and indecision for a while. After all it was ten miles. But conditions were good – the wind was blowing in the right direction and it was dry, even if only just above freezing. Then there was the problem of what to wear in order to combat the cold but not turn up in all weather gear for a meeting. And did I really want to arrive with a weather ruddy face and a sniffy nose?

I gave myself a kick up the comfortable and got over all that. And I’m SO glad I did. I would have missed so much that I actually delight in.

The morning fields were full of Lark song and the occasional gardens I passed full of Spring chorus. I surprised a Munkjac deer who scuttled across the lane and squeezed through a hole in a hedge but not before I got a good look at it. Chaffinches piped their distinctive call from various perches along the route. And even the town gardens when I finally got there were bursting with signs of Spring; birdsong, blossom and blooms.

I have to admit cycling through town was a bit of a culture shock, but that was counteracted by the fact that most of the miles were done and it looked like I was actually going to make it. And in good time. Time enough for the eyes to stop watering, the nose runs to abate, the face to stop glowing quite so beacon like and my legs to recover enough to walk normally.

But one thing that didn’t recover was the buzz it gave me from having pushed beyond my excuses and faced a challenge, from being out in the elements, from physical activity and achieving a long cycle I hadn’t managed for ages, and a change in my routine.

Sore bum and wobbly legs aside, it was absolutely worth it. The boost it gave me lasted for days.

It seems then I do give good advice sometimes. I should listen to myself more often. Do you listen to your advice – all that advice you’re imparting to your children? Or have you slipped, like me, into a little bit of hypocrisy!

Now, what shall I go for next?

Kids and comfort zones

The recent storms were challenging weren’t they!

And I don’t even have to work out in it like some of the people I see on the land.

I can go out in it if I wish – or not. My work is otherwise snug and comfy at the computer in the warm.

However, I did dash out in it at times, pushed myself out in the ripping storms and battalions of wet that blasted across the flatlands, one after the other. I ran from hedge to hedge whilst the worst passed over, coveting a bit of shelter for a while like the rabbits do judging by the droppings. The dog has got wise to this strategy and butts up to a bush with a miserable face, not understanding the value of pushing past the comfort line sometimes.

But I know it’s the best remedy for Indooritus. That disease which sludges up the soul when I’m shut inside, inactive, inert, for far too long.

Pushing beyond always being comfy develops so many parts of us we wouldn’t give it credit for, even confidence. It gives us different experiences, stimuli, sensations, which arouse parts of us which may go unused. You know what they say; use it or lose it. That goes for brain, muscles, heart, all organs and all senses.

And pushing ourselves through a bit of challenging discomfort is an example to the children that it is sometimes worth it. For, as parents, we spend quite a lot of our time following the opposite path.

It is the nature of our parenting to care and cherish. Feed and shelter. Protect and provide. Always look to their comfort, naturally, since they were babies, from their warm fed tummies to their shiny shod toes. We see to their needs, answer their demands, pander to their whims. Of course we do. Mums are genetically primed to do so; we almost can’t help it. We want them to be safe, happy, snug. Why on earth then, should we ever make them uncomfortable?

Well, the reason is that uncomfortable is going to be pushing their boundaries a bit, showing them parts of themselves that they maybe hadn’t known. Giving them opportunities for achieving things they never thought they could. And the consequence of achievement – whatever it is and however small – is feeling good. Building confidence.

It may not seem like it at the time. But sometimes we have to do the deeds for the feelings later.

It doesn’t have to be going out in a gale, although that’s very stimulating. It could be eating different

Nipped out at a time of day I'd usually be comfy indoors and was rewarded with a sight I normally miss - moonrise!

Nipped out in the descending dark when I’d usually be comfy indoors and was rewarded with a stirring sight that made it worth it – moonrise!

food, trying a new activity or exercise, meeting new people, going out at a time you wouldn’t normally, walking a different route, switching off the technology for a day! Examine your comfort routines and break out of them on occasion.

My cheeks were chilled and my clothes were wet by the time I got back in – and I was certainly glad to do so. But my soul was singing and excited. I rarely feel like that when I’m still. Or doing the same thing in the same way, day after day.

And it’s so worth showing your kids that pushing out from comfortable will on occasion make their soul sing too!

Nurture your kids with nature!

It’s the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend. 

This has nothing to do with big gardens so don’t think because you haven’t got one you can’t take part! It’s just an opportunity to bring the kids closer to nature and help wildlife out at the same time. Not to mention a day out at one of the events.

(Check out the details here)

But why bother?

Well, involving your children in activities like these not only helps the birds (or butterflies, or bees, or frogs, or bugs, or whatever – they have their own organisations too if you want to look them up), it helps the children as well.

Firstly, creatures are usually fascinating to children. So learning about them makes learning fascinating in itself. this will increase their skill of learning to learn and therefore their desire to do so. This enthusiasm and skill in learning will spread across to other subjects and activities so both their knowledge and ability to learn will snowball.

Secondly, as well as those benefits, this type or learning outdoors and about outdoors, makes the learning first-hand. First hand learning engages far more senses than doing it academically. Once these other senses are stimulated the children are stimulated. Stimulated brains develop into intelligent brains, so mental development increases. Physical activity promotes mental activity.

As if that wasn’t enough another benefit is that being outdoors has an added positive impact on well-being, on physical health and strength, and consequently self-confidence.

Children who are outside frequently, who are physically active, are reported to be less stressed, less hyper, and to have more self confidence than those who are not. It also counteracts the sad fact that these days too many children spend far too much time indoors becoming frightened and ill at ease once outside and with physical activity. They lack confidence in the natural world if it is unfamiliar to them. Which is not at all healthy for them, or healthy for the natural world, as we need contact to build understanding; understanding the way in which we relate to it.

Birds are one small part of the bigger picture of the natural world in all its forms. But this is a great opportunity to get your kids connected and acquainted with it in a way that both the birds and the children benefit.

A great way to nurture your children with nature!

A time for Peace surely!

The sun was out and the sky winter blue. Time to get out and chase away blues of another kind!

I walked round the edges of the ploughed earth where a flock of Fieldfares rested, turned through the tunnel of treessnow geese 003 and just saw the back end of a deer disappearing. Then out onto the open marshland where a flock of wild geese grazing there took to the wing with a gush of wind and gabbling. As they went quiet again, snippets of Larksong serenaded me as I walked back under the blue.

And seeing this tranquillity laid out before me I couldn’t help but think of all the terrible things that are happening in the world and feel incredibly lucky for these moments of peace around me.

Even if the blues were making me suffer I know it is nothing compared to the suffering of thousands of others right now. Despite what we have to confront sometimes, most of us are incredibly lucky.

So I am also incredibly grateful to be back here in front of the computer again,  in a country that is at peace, and find it bewildering to think of the mindless slaughter that is being inflicted elsewhere.

If there was one sole purpose of education that overrides all others it must surely be for children to learn how to live with others with tolerance, understanding and compassion, and be educated for the perpetuation of peace.

May peace be with you this season.

Wild in the UK

Ben Fogle; ‘Lives In The Wild UK’

I’m totally loving the new Ben Fogle programmes; Lives in the Wild UK on channel 5.

I’m not especially an admirer of his but I love what the people featured in the programme are trying to do; trying to live their lives a little differently and not bow to mainstream pressure to do it the same as everyone else.

When you listen to the interviews with them during the programmes their heartfelt values and principles come shining through and I always admire anyone living by their values, even if it’s going to be challenging. For many of them it certainly is.

As a former home educator I know all about challenging. And I also get to meet some incredibly courageous people also living by their independent values, courageous because they have to step away from mainstream thinking and other mainstream lives, as home schoolers do.

Looking at these programmes it is comforting to see others, not necessarily home educators, but others who are upholding values outside the mainstream thinking of a heavily consumerist society, that tends to judge people by what they have rather than what they do or what values they uphold.

People who are finding that others ways of living, that are not to do with the treadmill of wealth adulation, are turning out to be more fulfilling than even that. Who are returning to their connection to the earth, in fact to ways in which we all must have first lived, living as much with their hands as with their computers, in order to restore something that modernity tends to be neglecting; our need for something other than big wealth, technology and a consumerist treadmill.

Collecting fuel for warmth, raising crops, farming and feeding and keeping a physical roof over your head can be just as much a treadmill as the commute to work to earn enough to buy it. But these people are finding that doing it for yourself sometimes, instead of always buying it in, can be satisfying in ways that buying cannot.

It’s making me look at my life and see if I can think more creatively and find little ways and changes that help me do the same, rather than always opting for the mainstream way, which so often seduces us by default. And the more we do this as parents, the more we encourage our children to question and examine their own ways of living, rather than always opting for the norm without questioning if it’s right for them or the damage it may be doing them.

Sometimes her mother’s right!

Charley's shot Snipe DalesHad such a lovely walk with Charley this weekend. It’s rare I manage to drag her out with me now. She’s her own woman and no longer a child under the control of a parent saying ‘let’s get out for a nice walk’!

I lured her with the promise of a visit to an old haunt we frequented when we were home educating. Plus hot chocolate and biscuits to follow, of course!

It’s a long time since we visited this site. Everything seemed to have grown. She’s grown too, but still remembers the pathways through the tress, the dens they made as children and the stream they paddled, dammed, and fell in! We walked in the shelter of the trees, talked and took photos. – she’s lent me hers to post here. And I think those happy memories reconnected her with good feelings that can easily plummet when stuck in front of a screen all day, however appealing it feels at the time, or when you’re battered by life.

We were all rosy and content when we got back, proving again what an important impact on our wellbeing fresh air, natural spaces and movement has. It even worked when they were teens.

She doesn’t want to admit her mother’s right of course! But we both acknowledge that, as we lead our lives so much more virtually these days, we do still have to make an effort to connect to the real physical world too, the more natural the better.

And I’m telling you this in the hope that you’ll make that connection an important part of what you do with your children for you’ll see a change in them too. And if they taste and learn about the activities that support their wellbeing it will be a lesson valuable to them for life. Habits formed in childhood can last forever – even if they still need a bit of encouragement from time to time!

How tiny are we?

A bit blurred, but here she is glowing behind the earth's shadow - thanks to Charley for the pic!

A bit blurred, but here she is glowing behind the earth’s shadow – thanks to Charley for the pic!

There are times when I feel utterly lucky to live in a house so uniquely connected to the rhythms of the land. Last night was one of them.

I admit, there are also times when I bemoan it! Times of unstoppable draughts and exposure to freezing elements. Times of mud caked single track roads that are treacherous and slow. Times when I’d just like to dip into a bit of coffee culture nearer than an hour’s drive away! And times of threat from living so near to the sea.

But times like last night, watching the awesome lunar eclipse, with my lovely daughter also awake with the excitement of it, makes me realise it’s worth all that!

It’s worth the draughts to watch sunrises and sunsets as they pass seasonally round the windows. Windows that look out in every direction across a uniquely natural landscape which stretches as far as the eye can see. A house that sits with the rhythms of the turning earth as wild geese in winter or summer swallows call the seasonal changes.

The moon shine starts on our East facing bedroom window and works it’s way around to the South facing one as the night passes on. It lays ribbons of sheen upon the sea then upon the bed as I’ve left the curtains open a crack to watch it. Last night I couldn’t help but get up to watch the phenomenon of the eclipse.

At first the light was strong enough to cast shadow and illuminate the land as if it was daytime. Then as I watched it dull to bruise red, a mist came up on the land and blurred it all, yet up high the stars were still as clear. Finally the shadow on the moon moved over and the brightness returned and I returned to bed wondering how I’d manage living in a house where I couldn’t feel this connected to the earth. An earth which really matters more than tiny little me!

When I’m in the city a commercial culture rules all and it’s easy to believe that is all that matters. I can become entrapped in the cosmopolitan and the superiority it breeds over those that live and work rurally, day after day, far from a man-made culture or a froth topped coffee.

When I’m here and able to witness such incredible phenomenon, that leave me more shaky with excitement and awe than with tiredness, it brings my mind home again to the things that truly matter.

 

Searching out wild spaces for the good of the children

My friend has a wild weedy bit with overgrown trees, ivy and stumps at the bottom of her small narrow town garden. This only leaves a bit by the house in which she can have beloved flowers and plants and bit of lawn to lie upon.

A wild playground

A wild playground

This was originally left for the four boys she raised there to build dens, go hide in a jungle, hunt for creepy-crawlies, or collect snails or acorns, bits of bark or other such treasures down among the roots.

Now the boys have been replaced by four grown up young men who no longer live there and she could reclaim some of that jungle for her garden again. But both her and they still want it left, for they all feel it wouldn’t be the same without that bit of wildness to hide in. Something in their souls tell them they still need it.

She did good!

According to George Monbiot‘s book ‘Feral. Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding’, all children need this bit of wildness in which to play. And it is something that is denied most of today’s children. They are denied the innate need to explore in unstructured places in unstructured ways, as we used to. The woods, streams, logs, uncultivated fields many of us played in, provided imaginative kids with the chance to build physical skills, a connection to nature, and confidence as they improvised dens, climbing ‘frames’, had contact with mud and mini-beasts. It has now all either replicated in plastic or in controlled tarmacked and manicured environments.

It’s not the same. And it doesn’t have the same impact on our children either. Apparently the lack of freedom to play in wild places, now mostly claimed in the name of housing, agriculture, farming or misguided attempts at conservation (according to Monbiot), has been linked with the increase in disorders in children like hyperactivity or inability to concentrate. Playing among trees and plants helps settle children down where playing on concrete or indoors has the opposite effect.

It’s actually the same for me. The same for most people, I suspect, if they just recognised it.

Monbiot acknowledges the need for housing and for food and farming and battles rage constantly over the political issues which balance these against the preservation of wild spaces.

But whilst these battles and political agendas continue, the children are increasingly denied health giving opportunities to be really wild.

So us parents are going to have to work harder not only to get the children outside away from insidious indoor comforts, but also to find the wild spaces where they can return to something like their roots.