My father gifted my brothers and I a lifetime of treasured memories immersed in nature. He taught me how to hunt for agates and discover the magic– hidden in a chrysalis. He shared with me the names of trees and which ones were best to climb. He instilled in me, a deep love and repsect for the natural world which led me on this sacred journey of helping others rediscover the deep-rooted connection we all have with nature.
I believe every child deserves to have easy access to opportunities to engage with nature…. As our world becomes dominated by technology and green spaces disappear, it is undoubtedly a different world to when my father grew up as a boy and we cannot go back. However, Mother Nature has stayed constant, she is always there for us, nurturing and giving, and providing endless possibilities for exploring and discovering her wonder and magic.
I invite you to read my father’s recollection of part of his childhood….
When I was a boy
Lying on my back, watching the distant clouds sail majestically across the blue dome of the sky; lying amongst the smells and noise of a close at hand nature; alone in communion. The suns warmth, caressing the breeze as it gently moved the grasses and flowers around my lower vision. A myriad of shapes and colours, so rich and vibrant, pulsing with life, the home and complete world for the bugs and crawlies, themselves as variable as their surroundings. Everywhere alive. Pretty, tiny blue butterflies with delightfully speckled under wings came in three different sizes! Huge, dark red admirals contrasting with white and yellow, and meadow browns, and peacock, and various fritillaries. Yes, somehow, we knew some of their names. Same with the birds, some of whose nests we explored and found, secreted deep within bushes, shrubs and jagged hedges, the Red ‘lintie’, Green ‘lintie’, skylark – an amazing bird that seemed to rise vertically into the high sky singing its trilly song all the way – and ‘Scots Canary’, Pee Witt and even the odd Bullfinch and many, many, more.
How had we acquired the knowledge? Parents, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Pals, Older Friends, and Teachers – No Google, no television, no national geographic. News papers were for adults. Education was multi layered. Formal at school. Free, universal and informal was OUTSIDE. In the wood; in the fields, along the country roads and the railway embankment – where we learned to hunt out the fattest, juiciest wild strawberries, sometimes even enough for mum to make jam. Prize finds were albino raspberries in woods near Milldean Farm, hours from home.
Our main learning playground was in the ‘Den’, a steep side, wooded valley with a fish bearing stream, tumbling and twisting from Denhead to Kennoway Burn, alongside the western outskirts of the village.
The den was full of wondrous experiences. A world of textures, patterns, colours; of hard rocks and soft mosses, of rough or smooth bark, or sharp grass and water, tumbled pebbles. There were trees that stayed green and many that gave us fantastic seeds; materials for creative crafts work at home. Accidents happened, clothes got torn, dirtied – beyond cleaning sometimes- and lost, when building dams in the stream and paddling or shoes off to “guddle” for trout, wandering upstream throughout the length of the ‘Den’ and forgetting where we’d left them. Skin was scraped, sometimes even cut; bleeding occurred but not often and even once in awhile bones were broken. All the events occurred away from home, often at a distance measured in miles, not yards, and while away for hours, not minutes.
The trees, now felled for timber, were mixed from Scots Pine and Horse chestnut to Beech and Oaks with others sprinkled around the edges. They camouflaged quarries with tons leaves and thus provided us with soft landings for our daring dives form the quarry rim and over-hanging branches. There were two caves carried into the cliff faces. A square one (actually a rectangle) and a round one. The square one we later learned was but a dovecot carved but a few generations ago but the round one however was more generous in mystery and size providing rich material for fertile imaginations, some tales linking it with royalty and nearby castles. One winter, alone in the Den, I visited the ‘round’ cave. I sat far inside facing the entrance which became a large porthole to the outside while I was surrounded with darkness, devoid of sound and movement. Snowflakes started to fall. The outside scene became lost in a haze of falling snow with only the nearest flakes remaining in focus. Soon my only perception was snowflakes drifting slowly past my “window” causing me to feel the sensation of floating upwards. A truly mesmerizing effect.
Wishing you all a beautiful day, love and peace Marghanita x
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” – Rachel Carson