If you've been around here for a while, you'll surely know by now that TJ and I both love to be outdoors, especially in nature. I can't explain what exactly it is about this that I love so much, but needless to say I never feel more at peace than I do when I get out of the house and away from all the stresses of everyday life.
I've done this for many years now and I remember during my second pseudo-menopause when I was hit with depression and signed off work for a month, we would take midnight walks from the village we were living in at the time to the neighbouring village whenever TJ had worked a late shift and neither of us were ready for sleep! Walking down an unlit country road, with fields either side, the stars above us and only the light from the two churchyards in either village signalling our path, was a truly magical experience and I miss that sometimes.
Although we no longer live in a rural village, we are very lucky that the town we now live in has several wonderful woodlands dotted around and about for us to explore. Woodland areas are my absolute favourite places to be. I think that's pretty evident by the fact that the theme of our wedding was "autumn leaves" and Little Man's bedroom is also a woodland themed room, complete with 26 individual watercolour pictures my mum drew at my request, one for each letter of the alphabet.
And we try to get out as often as we can. I love how getting out and about can really take you away from everything that has been bugging you and transport you to a very simple activity of just walking and drinking in every bit of your surroundings. In fact I often feel a very intense sense of longing to remain outdoors as long as possible because I know that as soon as I go home everything will suddeny speed up and I will need to keep up with a million things again.
There is a place near to us which has this fantastic folly right at the top of the hill and at the edge of a beautiful wooded area. Whenever I walk up to and through the archway I feel like I am almost passing into another world, and it just feels so special. The woodland beyond is a popular place with families and dog walkers, but it is never crowded and so Little Man can run around in freedom as we wander behind him at a slower pace. It's here that he first discovered that nettles can sting you, because he tried to "tickle" them. And it's here where he met a very friendly dog who danced around his feet and made him squeal in delight!
It's also where I introduced him to the idea of a "kissing gate". (A kissing gate is one of those gates which allow people through but not livestock). I don't know exactly why they are called kissing gates, but my family have a tradition of letting one person go through the gate and then they have to turn and the next person has to give them a kiss before going through the gate. And then that person has to receive a kiss from the next person before they pass through. Does anyone else do this or is it just my family?
Little Man, has taken this to also mean he needs to kiss the gate itself, which is both adorable and amusing in equal measure!
The only problem with this beautiful woodland (and all the others in our area) is that we have to drive a short distance to get there. It is just too far to walk there and back. And this means that we don't go out nearly as often as we would like to. I crave going outdoors so much, and if you remember my posts about Little Man you will know he does too!
We go out in our garden as much as we possibly can, and actually one of the things I love most about our garden is that we have gradually allowed it to just grow a little bit wild and free. We've been here for 4 years now and in that time we have planted rose bushes, climbers and trees that we've found for just a couple of pounds each and they have taken over in a beautiful way. And out herb patch is a crazy mingle of rosemary, thyme, sage, chives and mint that spread into each other and right across the garden (the feverfew really has taken over the garden!)
We even have a small tree which I found as a tiny seedling growing right next to our old house (we lived opposite an old churchyard and it must have found its way over the road somehow) and a Buddleia that planted itself randomly in another pot. I cannot tell you how much joy this natural process brings me. And the fact we're also growing a variety of fruit and veg this year again also pleases me immensely.
But despite the garden being a lovely place to be, it just isn't a place that Little Man can run around in freely and explore. There isn't much room. And as we live on a major road, it will also be many years before I feel safe letting him out to play on his own (because, after all, cars in this area don't even seem to stop at the crossings!)
And this makes me sad as I remember playing in my parents' garden a lot as a child. And as I grew older I went out and about. My sister even used to go with friends to the local Arboretum to climb trees. It was fun and it was wild. That's not to say there weren't times when I didn't appreciate it - there were many days when my parents would ask me why I was holed up in my bedroom, with my curtains closed, instead of outside in the sunshine (I enjoyed reading in private a lot of my teen years!) but on the whole my memories of childhood were that I had the chance to explore, even if I didn't take the opportunity given to me every single time.
And this is what I want for Little Man. Especially as our world becomes more and more dependent on technology. It is so easy to spend so much time reading about life or watching it on a screen rather than actually experiencing it. As a blogger I see this very clearly even in my own life, and so I want to guide Little Man in the best way I can to find a good balance between the two. I see only positives in technology, if and when it is used alongside other means and experiences.
Which is why I am so excited to tell you all about Project Wild Thing. Have you heard about it? My mum brought us the DVD to watch the other day and we found the time to watch it yesterday. If you don't know what it's all about, the easiest way to find out would be to watch the film trailer. However, if you want a quick overview, here it is:
Project Wild Thing is a movement to get more kids (and their parents) out into nature.
It's that simple! And yet it is so big it seems wrong to call it "simple". Honestly, I cannot do it justice, you really should just watch the film!!
You can join the movement by visiting the website and clicking "join". You can then pledge a certain amount of time each day that you will swap "screen time" for "wild time". You can start from as little as 10 minutes per day. And depending on which time commitment you make, you will be able to find activity ideas that you can try in that time frame.
I signed up earlier in the week (before even watching the film - I knew I would love it!) and pledged to spend 30 minutes outdoors everyday. At first I thought this felt like a lot - we can't go to the woods every single day. But what I found really interesting when watching the film was that going outdoors doesn't have to mean going out in nature... not everyone has easy access to that option! What it does mean, however, is that you are simply getting away from the confines of being indoors and allowing yourself freedom to explore the world outside.
No matter where you are, you can always look up at the sky!
Yesterday evening, however, TJ and I decided we needed to get into nature. We needed to rebalance as this week has been really tough for us. And so we decided to take advantage of a public footpath just a few minutes walk from our house which leads up a hill and then around a massive field. We had only ever been up there once before and never at this time of year, so I was stunned by the sheer beauty of fields full of wheat, glistening so brightly in the early evening sunshine.
Walking around the edge of the field I was reminded of how we used to take our niece for a walk around the local farm of an evening when we stayed with my in-laws. It was always such a pleasant way to spend an evening and our niece looked forward to it every night. I want that for Little Man. He had a fantastic time running his hand along the edge of the wheat, picking bits of tall wavy grass (which led to us reciting parts of "We're going on a Bear Hunt") and sniffing at the Elderflower we picked (we will be returning to do some foraging soon). He even decided we should all have a sit down by the side of the field at one point and just enjoy each others' company.
We brought his Elderflower home and it is now a lovely reminder of the time we spent together as a family, outside having "wild time" instead of "screen time". So how about it - do you fancy joining us and pledging some "wild time" of your own? If so, visit the Project Wild Thing website for more details.