Friday, 30 March 2012

Children Need Some Wildness

Children love wilder places where they can get away from grown ups. Much of my childhood was spent among trees and secret havens where no grown up was ever seen. Children were different to adults. Now we have people who only start to become children after they've reached physical maturity. To me part of the definition of a child was one who was free in a way that adults were not. Obviously not totally free. But the school holidays had many hours in the day when no parent ever knew where I was.

The report written for the National Trust and published today is widely quoted in the media, for example here and here.  It is stating what some of us have for long known and been horrified by. Those who grow up differently are almost in effect different species and with different values - an avoidable generation gap. It's easy to put the blame on one or other of the trends of the last 50 years. But as late as the 70s and 80s children between 9 and 11 were spending summer evenings in the wilder parts of their neighbourhoods. Parents will not go back to being less protective without some help from authority that limits other kinds of freedom (or, I might have said, indulgence). Despite a considerable number of green spaces all reachable from home parents understandably won't release their young onto streets where fast moving through traffic is the dominant feature.

But what can the National Trust do? My experience is that children are not keen on grouse moors of which there are several nearby. But give them some freedom in a wilder place like Blacka and they relish it. So why doesn't the local National Trust put some adventure and some excitement into their grouse moors and allow them to be more natural with trees and a landscape and wildlife that thrills?

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