Let's Get Every Child Outdoors

3 Jul 2018 | 0 comments

From forest bathing to forest schools getting people out into nature is an increasingly common theme in political speeches, press articles and scientific journals. In 2010, the RSPB’s Every Child Outdoors report stated that nature can have positive impacts on young people’s education, physical health, emotional well-being, personal and social skills, and that it helps them to become responsible citizens. It also concluded that children who are connected to nature will enjoy it and want to save it, both now and in the future. Thus nature needs children too!

Yet with only 17% of the UK population currently estimated to be living in rural locations (possibly only 10% by 2030!) access would seem to be the major factor in preventing everyone from enjoying outdoor spaces. Children are at a particular disadvantage here; unable to transport themselves, and with a culture shift away from allowing children the freedom to roam, they are becoming increasingly distanced from nature. In 2016 Natural England produced a report that highlighted the growing concern that at least 1 in 9 children under 16 had not set foot in a park, forest or other natural environment in over a year. In January this year Theresa May acknowledged the “social injustice” that “These young people are disproportionately from more deprived backgrounds and their effective exclusion from our countryside represents a social injustice...”

Coming from teaching at an inner-city secondary school I have worked on developing a number of educational opportunities to get pupils working outside of classrooms and into the British countryside. I have had many opportunities to see the culture shock and enjoyment of pupils as they develop a love of being in the great outdoors, particularly with children who have never had the opportunity to get out of the towers and estates of west London because it simply wasn’t something their family did. The Guardian has reported that “In households where adults were frequent visitors (to the natural environment), 82% of children followed their lead. In households where the adults rarely or never visited the natural environment, the proportion of children visiting fell to 39%.” Without family-led or even schools- led interaction with nature a child will struggle to develop any understanding or deep love of the natural world. Thus, remembering that nature needs children, the future of nature becomes more and more uncertain.

At Trill Farm we are working hard to make the countryside accessible to all ages. We want to create a space where people, young and old, can come and explore all the wonders and activities green spaces can hold. Our courses often involve large parts of time exploring the land around us, from yoga on our woodland platform to foraging in the hedgerow for herbal medicines, they are a great way to get out and enjoy time in nature. For families we have the amazing family camps, adventure-filled weekends camping and playing in the Trill landscape. And perhaps most importantly for children we have a number of school visits and activities such as young falconers hosted on the Farm already. Preparations for 2019 are well under way with new exciting opportunities to get out and about for all so watch this space; at Trill we want people of all ages to enjoy our land, to learn from it and love it.

Alex started at Trill in May to develop our courses and educational offering. Previously a secondary school teacher in London, he is passionate about inspiring sustainable change for people of all ages and from all backgrounds. 

Outdoor Heritage & Education

3 Jul 2018 | 0 comments

The origins of basket making are ancient. Although there is little archaeological evidence due to their organic nature, it would make sense that as soon as early humans started to make structures for shelter, vessels to hold, store, cook and carry with, mats and clothes, that they should utilise the readily available plant life around them.

Early humans would have held incredibly detailed mental maps of all the plants and trees growing in their landscape. Most cultures around the world used songs and art to ensure their families and friends knew where to find food, medicine, building materials and weaving materials. We can imagine families sitting together around a fire, sharing skills and knowledge; a vital element of survival.

In our present lives there are many children and adults who know little of the possibilities of the landscape we are all part of. We often find ourselves seeking short term, false gratifications, which seems to me an unfulfilling way to live our lives.

The more time that goes by and the more baskets, vessels, mats and art that Nick and I make from plant materials, and the more people we teach, certain truths and realisations come to settle in the mind.

Making objects by hand makes people feel good, particularly when they have harvested materials from the land themselves, processed them and turned them into a thing of purpose, beauty or both.

It uplifts the mind and heart, creates feelings of satisfaction and achievement, connects us with our ancestry and enables us to belong to a bigger global community.

We become part of the story of the human race on our planet. We tap into the immense global knowledge of skills and creativity which have brought us to where we are today. Sadly there are skills and knowledge that we were too slow to realise that we had lost, but we are surrounded by wonderful crafts people, artists, historians, archaeologists and anthropologists who have so much to teach us. We should all reach out with our hands and our hearts; honour our planet and our ancestors and take this knowledge forwards into our futures. We are sure to need them.

Mollie and Nick run the Field Farm Project in Hampshire, where they teach woodland crafts, field studies, farm life and horticulture. They are running basket weaving and bow making courses for us this summer and autumn.