I’m very pleased to say that I’m now blogging for the Wildlife Trusts’ #EveryChildWild campaign on the Hampshire Wildlife Trust website here! It’s a great campaign about getting children outside and exploring the natural world – you can read my first post below…
It’s only been a decade since my childhood came to a close. The most magical memories are infused with conker trees, riverbanks, pet woodlice and blackbird song, roaming the South Downs and beyond with my big dog and even bigger family. My grandparents once lived within five acres of ancient woodland, and every weekend after tea and battenburg we would concoct mud pies oozing with beetles, feed finches, build dens and explore gardens speckled with derelict statues abandoned years before. I particularly remember my first birding notebook, in which I can proudly recall recording my riveting first twitch – a potbellied woodpigeon.
In the time that’s passed, the lives of children have changed dramatically. I was one of the last generation not to have the technology overlords come to power; we were allowed a few offline PC games and I think we inherited a PlayStation at one point, but we didn’t have Minecraft and it still cost a bomb to use dial-up. But it isn’t just the digital age that’s caused the shocking statistic that a quarter of 8-15 year olds have never played outside their garden by themselves. The school curriculum neglects natural history and outdoor learning, the media panics us with horror stories of lost children, and as busy parents have to cope with the tribulations of modern life, a child’s right to roam can lay forgotten.
I now work on an educational farm, where we meet children from an array of different backgrounds every day. And while it’s true that many are accustomed to fresh air and mud, there are even more from particularly urban areas who seem to visit green spaces about once a year. In September, one child informed me with excitement that a ‘sheep’ had escaped! It turned out to be Millie, the farm’s border terrier… Despite such a range of visitors, the most rewarding aspect of my job is that by the end of each day, every child has forgotten their fear of germs and dirt, and has rekindled their natural desire to play outdoors, explore the world, stroke animals and be marinated in mud.
My eldest sister is about to have her first baby, and I’ve been designated as the one to ‘teach it about birds and stuff’. While I am of course very happy to do this, I hope that in the future my children will be able to discover this for themselves; not only in the playground and classroom, but by being allowed to embrace their natural instinct to explore and love the wild world around them.
Edit: The baby has now been born – she’s called Meredith!