As you might expect from a PECT employee, I am fully on-board with the Wildlife Trust’s ‘30 Days Wild’ challenge that encourages us to get out into nature every day. I am entirely convinced that my environmental roots were grown and nurtured by a childhood spent largely outdoors, first in the USA and then in the UK- camping, hiking, skiing, sailing, cycling and of course a lot of playing in back gardens and parks. As a parent myself now, I am keen to pass on this love of nature to my own children.
It was somewhat easier to make time for nature when the children were smaller and I was a full-time parent. Although I needed to be well-prepared, and had to learn to adjust my standard ‘efficient’ brisk pace to a much slower toddler’s pace, we whiled away many hours exploring local woods and parks, walking slowly, examining snails and insects, building pretend fires, climbing under and over branches, sitting on logs snacking and stretching our creative muscles in imaginary worlds and making ephemeral art.
These days we work around jobs and school, hobbies and housework and most days it is not possible to take such a relaxed approach to exploring our natural world. These days ‘going wild’ is more likely to be a snatched moment here and there, saving a dehydrated bee found on the school run, planting and watering seeds or checking to see if the tadpoles in our pond have sprouted legs yet.
I find the ‘30 Days Wild’ challenge a good reminder to look out for more of those moments and also to try and find time for some bigger adventures when you can. During the week, this might mean going a slightly longer route home from school so that we can stop at a park or go through the woods.
When we go via the woods we often go foraging. I have been on a few foraging training courses, including one put on by the Nene Park Trust, and I think it’s a fantastic way to engage kids with nature. It appeals to their primal instincts to gather their own little addition to dinner and is a very tangible demonstration of the value of nature. We’ve managed to forage elderflowers, wild garlic and wild rose petals this month, some of which gets eaten raw, and we add anything that makes it home to dinners and baking – wild rose chocolate muffins were a huge hit.
Weekends present opportunities for longer adventures. My current aspiration is to have a micro-adventure and take the kids wild camping, but I haven’t yet been brave enough to try on my own and my husband thinks it’s a terrible idea! Sometimes plans need to be scaled back rather than given up on entirely.
Last weekend we managed a 10-mile bike ride on the Green Wheel over to the Millennium Bridge (commissioned by PECT in 2000). Our 5 year old impressed us by doing the entire route on her own bike and without complaining! I find frequent and longer stops (I took a book to read to them during one stop) and plenty of snacks helpful when attempting longer routes with children.
For the rest of our ‘30 Days Wild’ challenge I will be aiming to learn some traditional woodland skills at the brilliant Heritage Festival in town this weekend, lay on the grass and look at the clouds, make a natural dream-catcher using willow, spend lots of time in my garden, make a mud kitchen and visit Ferry Meadows. The two natural playgrounds are always popular with children, along with the open den-building area behind Badger Park.
Hopefully this has given you some inspiration for your own ‘30 Days Wild’ challenge and there are plenty more ideas here: http://www.mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild/.
Clare Watters is a Project Support Officer at Business Energy Efficiency Cambridge and Peterborough.