“Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs,
mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education.” – Luther Burbank
I’m not sure I’d recognise a wood chuck if I saw one and I certainly wouldn’t willingly expose my children to snakes in the wild or hornets but using the outdoors as a classroom is certainly something we embrace. We are lucky to have some fabulous areas of outstanding natural beauty in Gloucestershire and one of our favourites, Crickley Hill, is just 15 minutes away by car.
Whenever I take the boys up Crickley Hill I know it’s for my benefit as much as theirs to amble about the escarpment and meander through the woods. The National Trust manage the site and last year joined forces with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to encourage more wildlife onto Crickley Hill. All through the summer there were different nature trails on offer for young explorers and E enjoyed learning about different butterfly species as he raced around the escarpment.
I spent a lot of time at Crickley Hill as a child so for someone who’s a bit inept when it comes to map reading it’s nice not having to give any mental energy to staying on the right track. My internal sat nav at Crickley at least is finely tuned and I always know instinctively how to get back to the car park. It’s lovely to think that this will become a special place for E and L not only for the family time we spend here but the adventures we have with friends exploring dens and climbing on fallen trees.
I have a picture of 2 year old E emerging from a den in the woods at Crickley on the picture shelf in his room. It’s a only a simple A4 landscape size but I love it because it serves as a reminder to keep things simple when it comes to spending quality time with children. They don’t need lots of input when taken to places that fire their imagination, just warm, attentive interaction. The next time we visited Crickley Hill after taking this photo I felt sad to see this den had been dismantled where some other explorers had used the branches to fashion their own den elsewhere. So this snapshot of E’s childhood adventures also serves to remind me that the joy is in the journey not the destination and the memories live on long after the creation has fallen apart.
In case you’re wondering about baby L, he had a lovely time too. I only carried him for the last 20 minutes of a 3 hour bimble when he ran out of steam. He was a back-of-the-head blurr in the photos I snapped on my phone so here’s one of him receiving the best part of education from one of our cats. Billy has been teaching him that gentle downward strokes on the head are rewarded with purrs and hammer-like bops with scratches!