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Molly enjoying a mug full of pasta as we chug south towards Banbury…

For ‘city’ children like Molly, Joe and Fin, Nature comes in many forms – and happily not all of it is mediated by the likes of David Attenborough.

It comes in a family trip to Derbyshire and spotting a newborn calf; from a hamster called ‘Russell’ (geddit? ‘rustle’???) that lived and died; or from a well-trod (yet surprisingly ‘wild’) path on Hampstead Heath: it comes with the happy reintroduction of ‘nature tables’ in schools, and learning about sustainability and life cycles: it comes from growing sunflowers or nasturtiums; from the sting of stinging nettles or the insistent buzz of a wasp; from the ladybirds that have hibernated in our sash windows over Winter and are now sluggishly starting to move: and it comes from collecting twigs and sticks and confidently stating “it’s not just a stick! – whatever shape Nature takes, it opens up to them an older, larger ‘elemental’ and very real world – a vital and rebalancing tick to technologies virtual tock.

Unlike television (or computers), nature does not steal time; it amplifies it. (…) it serves as a blank slate upon which a child draws and reinterprets the culture’s fantasies.

From page 7 Last Child in The Woods by Richard Louv

Since the kids were babies we’ve consciously ensured that we point out, ask them about, talk about and share the experience of the natural world around us; and we’ve seen again and again that direct experience of the natural world has the capacity to inspire in them both awe and companionable silence; it helps to promote inquisitiveness, imagination, creativity and importantly a deep inner calm in our often frazzled city children. Nature demands nothing of them but to make full use of all the senses, and for them to enjoy the freedom it provides, for free.

Now we have our Eileen there’s a new dimension to that freedom that in our first year afloat we barely touched. In the coming year I’m looking forward to bunks, campfires, barbecues, night walks and torches, star-filled evenings, bats, the warmth of the sun, swimming, blackberrying all accompanied by the softer sounds of the water…

And doesn’t food always taste so much better outdoors?

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