I don’t know how I’d have managed the past two years without our wood, but just because I think it’s wonderful doesn’t mean my children have to. Today is the start of the not-quite-Easter holidays for Melody and Amos, while Joe and Peta have another week before their Easter holidays begin. Melody and Amos will somehow have to be cajoled back into to school for a week before Easter, then everyone is off together again over Easter weekend. So chaos reigns, and I am trying to find activities for all to enjoy. Obviously, in my head, the wood features prominently in my holiday planning, but there is a little niggling feeling that perhaps I am pushing my love of the wood on to my children; perhaps the chore of motivating everyone to get out of the house and up to the wood has it’s root in their lack of enthusiasm for the trees, rather than them just being children, as I like to think.
So I asked my children:
“What do you like about the wood?”
Fortunately, not one of them said, “Nothing.”
“I like going on walks. I like metal detecting.” (We borrowed a metal detector to see if we could find any utilities around an old building base in the wood, but it is now Amos and Peta’s goal to find Orm’s Viking hoard). “I like the swings and going on the trampoline. And I like collecting sticks, oh, and exploring. I like jumping around on the bog.” (That’s the bit of land just beneath the wood where the boats used to come in to take away the charcoal – now it’s reclaimed, but too wet to be of agricultural use.)
“I find that if I feel like I do when I go on a plane (Melody hates flying), nature really helps. I like running around. FREEDOM! I like going on the trampoline, being happy and eating ‘wood fud.’” (Melody came up with this name for camp cooking.) “I like being warmed by the campfire and having fun with Amos and Peta.”
“I like having a wood. I like the freedom and the beautiful flowers. I like going on walks, playing on the rope swing. I like cooking and doing the fire and going down to the docks – it’s all squelchy and muddy and I like to jump around and hide in the long grass. I like climbing trees, climbing on fallen down trees, badger watching and seeing the butterflies. It’s all green and there are no buildings.”
“I can be outside without getting shouted at – that makes a change.” After a bit of digging, I think this can be roughly translated as ‘The wood is a place where there are fewer strict rules about what I can do, so I feel more able to enjoy being outside and taking part in outside activities without being asked to comply with conventions.” (Hope I got that right Joe! 😉 )
So hurray! The children do like the woods. I am so glad. They started to talk together about the wood and I made a quick list of some of the things we, or they, have done. It wasn’t exhaustive, but grew rapidly and included clearing a small quarry face to make a theatre, making dens with fireplaces and moss beds, watching birds, making a teepee. The children talked of the forks, wands, swords, tools, and toasting sticks they had whittled, of learning about trees, leaves, plants and footprints. They laughed about games of hide and seek, camping trips, meals, badger watching, shed building and the Easter Egg hunts (I think there was a huge hint dropped here: note to self to get organised).
It seems we all have good feelings about the wood, and that makes me even more grateful that it came along when it did. We all seem to derive a sense of freedom from being there, something we all struggle to find anywhere else. We aren’t the first people to experience the benefits nature has to offer, and we won’t be the last. But I am reminded of why we took the risk of buying the wood in the first place, and I am thankful that we did. The resilience the wood gives our family is invaluable. And I feel I have a friend. It’s strange, but somehow I am more confident knowing the wood has got my back.
So, children. What shall we do today? Fancy a trip up the woods?