This is my second reflection on one year of boat-blogging and one thing it’s made us do is simply get outdoors. Now, that might sound a ludicrously bleedin’ obvious thing to say, but despite having the glory of Hampstead Heath on our doorstep, the reality of having a young family and living in the heart of London is often outdoors becomes limited to trips to the local park or walks to the local station to watch the ‘whoosh’ trains pass.

‘Even nature itself has become a commodity. Many believe they cannot experience it unless they are in a nature reserve, have the right pair of binoculars, or are wearing the correctly endorsed clothes… So often nature is seen as something to travel to – not something we are immersed in all the time and dependent on for our physical, emotional and spiritual health.’

Nick Baker Last of the Pond Dippers 2009.

The boat, and writing about the boat, has encouraged us to really embrace getting outdoors, in all weathers. We’ve got used to getting wet, we head out come rain or shine, and it’s lovely! The children are at their most relaxed when they’re outdoors. From the steaming of the ‘Kelly Kettle’ to boil water; to collecting sticks or blackberries; to fishing for tiddlers with a net; from camping out (and shivering on a frosty night or toasting on a summer evening) on the boat; to pumpkins and pub garden meals we’ve delighted in being outdoors.

 

We’ve even begun to tentatively raise the kids awareness of conservation and the wonders of our woodlands through membership of the Woodlane Trust; and, I got around to reading Stephen Moss’s provocative paper for the National Trust called Natural Childhood which warns of the perils of ‘nature deficit disorder’.

‘Climbing a tree – working out how to start, testing for strength, feeling how the breeze in your face also sways the branches underfoot, glimpsing the changing vista through the leaves, dreaming about being king or queen of the jungle, shouting to your friends below once you’ve got as high as you dare – is an immersive, 360-degree experience that virtual or indoor settings simply cannot compare with.’ Tim Gill

‘What we’ve done is we’ve put Nature over there – we’ve put a fence around it and said ‘That’s Nature’ – this is why we’re now strangers to each other.’ Dr. William Bird

Because of the boat, we’re working on removing the fence described by William Bird (great name!) – and it’s a great feeling as the barriers come down and the kids (and we adults too) immerse ourselves in an amazing more balanced world.

Canals – don’t you just love ’em???

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