Rewilding Early Parenthood: A review of 30 Days of Rewilding

I’d always regarded myself as an outdoorsy kind of person – walking, gardening, camping, an appreciation for the natural environment are huge parts of who I am. My spirit, my soul. But my outdoorsy life came to a juddering halt just over two years ago, with the birth of our wonderful son. For the first time in decades I was stuck inside with a tiny child, alone but not alone. 

That’s not to say we didn’t venture out, we did. To church halls and cafes, where kind people told us to sit and relax and to eat cake. In early parenthood you do need to sit, you spend a lot of time sitting. Sitting is good and necessary. But I didn’t feel nourished, I felt disconnected. The cake made me feel lethargic and stodgy. I longed to be outside. I started asking on social media if anyone knew of any carer and baby groups that were based outside, with no joy. I started trying to organise pushchair walks in my local area, but we were limited to suburban pavements. I just wanted to, needed to, do anything to get myself and my tiny child outside more.

  
Things have changed since those days, now I have a toddler we go to forest schools and adventurous walks. We are beginning to be outside nearly every single day. Rain or shine (mainly rain, this is Britain). We both love it. We both need it. And I have learnt that small people (and big people) thrive outside. We do not need to wait for an invitation. I do genuinely believe though, a lack of interaction with the natural environment in the early days of parenthood had a detrimental impact on my mental health. 

Which is one of the reasons why I am so pleased to see that one of my favourite bloggers (and friend) Lucy has written a new book, 30 Days of Rewilding. Her book, which is broken down in to 30 short chapters for the time-poor, includes inspirational stories about how people have reconnected with the natural environment, they have rewilded their lives. And each chapter ends with an idea of how you can get some more ‘wild’ in to your everyday lives. This is the beauty of Lucy’s book, the concept of rewilding is not just for those living alternative lifestyles, it is for those of us who’s lifestyles are rather more semi-detached. It’s for everyone. 

“Head into nature today and carve time out there each week, trusting, really trusting, that you will be changed for the better. The wilderness is in our DNA and we will come truly alive when surrounded by those ancient woods, earth underfoot and the canopy of the universe above us. We can begin to heal this deep split between ourselves and earth right now, this very moment, by taking our families by the hand and stepping into nature. The solace we discover there will restore us.”  – Lucy AitkenRead, 30 Days of Rewilding

Wild Town

Since becoming a parent I am guilty of often tutting about ‘things not being like they used to be‘ – toys, clothes, music… Middle age eh? It comes to get us all eventually. But when it comes to outside time for children, things really are not like they used to be. The roaming distance that children play from their home has shrunk by 90% in 30 years, with time spent playing outside down 50% in just one generation. It is not just my increasingly curmudgeonly nature, British kids have never been more disconnected from the natural world. And it is believed that this increasing disconnect with nature, a nature deficit disorder, could even contribute to why the UK ranks so poorly in childhood satisfaction surveys.

wild-reading-project-logo

Nature Nurture want to change that. They are on a mission to get children and their families back outside to have some wild time and they want to start here, in our home town of Reading. They want to provide free nature themed Family Wild Day events, workshops for schools, training for teachers, outdoor Playdays for children. Including things like building dens, hunting bugs, conker contests… Things we remember as children! As well as that, they want children to learn about nature, all in our local parks, woodlands and other wild spaces. And they want to map the green spaces and wild side of Reading and help people of all ages discover some of the amazing wildlife that live there too.

And if you are thinking “well that’s nice for Reading, but what is in this for us?” As part of the project they want to create ‘The Wild Town Toolkit’ to help towns all across the country go wild!

But they need our help. They are through to the final of ITV’s People’s Millions and need 10s of 1000s of telephone votes to be in with a chance of winning £50,000 to make our towns go wild. Please watch the video below and pledge your support to vote for the project on Monday 24th November. Please help our kids have the kind of wild childhood we remember. Just like things used to be.

Hardwick Squash and Pumpkin Festival

Welcome banner - Squash and Pumpkin FestivalAfter what felt like weeks of constant rain, the sun broke through and we made our way across the other side of the Thames Valley to feel the warmth on our faces and to visit Tolhurst Organic Produce’s annual Squash and Pumpkin Festival, set in their farm in the Victorian Walled Gardens of the Hardwick Estate.

Thames ValleyWe sat in the sun on the valley sides and drank locally brewed beer, ate locally grown foods, admired the most magnificent array of squashes and enjoyed some local bands.

Local beerThe Tiny Overlord practiced some serious toddling.

Toddling on the farmAnd we explored the farm. I often underestimate how much food is frown locally. Maybe I often mistakenly (or lazily) assume that we must rely on big supermarkets for our food. But these fields were bustling with tasty things to eat. I really want us to try to eat more seasonally, at least, and support more local growers like Tolhurst. Fresh, tasty and surely better for all of us? I am inspired.

Tolhurst Organic FarmThe festival was a real joy. I’m not too fond of commercial Halloween, but this festival felt like a proper celebration of the seasons – of truly appreciating what comes from the ground and the passing of that growing season to the winter. Do I sound like a hippy? Maybe. But good food, beer and music in a beautiful setting floats my boat far more than ‘trick or treat’.

Thanet

The late Summer is my favourite time of year, possibly, selfishly, because it coincides with my birthday. I prefer to spend as much time as possible by the seaside, but, living in the Thames Valley, our time on the coast is rare. This year my main present request was a day with just my Aussie, so we dropped the Tiny Overlord off with his East Kent dwelling grandparents and got the train to the Isle of Thanet.

First stop Broadstairs:

Broadstairs beach.

The Chapel, Broadstairs.

seagull.

Beautiful Broadstairs, with your picturesque sandy cove, your multitude of charity shops and your plethora of tasty treats. You are a fine sight for baby-weary eyes. We pottered in the sand, watched some paddle-boarding while sipping fortifying Bloody Marys in independent restaurant Wyatt & Jones (we will be back to try the cooked brunches, they looked amazing) and had a cheeky half in the amazing secondhand bookshop cum pub – The Chapel. But baby-free days are short, so we jumped back on the train…

Next stop Margate:

Dreamland Margate.

Kentish cider.

photo 5

Personally, my heart lies with a bit of faded seaside glory and from what I had been told Margate, one of the original Victorian Seaside towns, was pretty faded. We made stops at the wonderful Turner Contemporary Gallery (I even took part in the regular craft club). Took in the rather bewildering senses overload of cupcake and vintage fuelled gentrification in the old town, but found solace in the Greedy Cow and the Lifeboat. We also went to the famous weird and wonderful Shell Grotto (go, go, go!) and snaffled some real bargains for the Tiny Overlord in a reclamation yard. More on them in another post…

One of the things that got us really rather giddy was the Expo by the Dreamland Trust, a group trying to restore Margate’s rather infamous amusement park. The Aussie (who, despite the nickname, grew up in East Kent) loved the childhood nostalgia and memories of misspent youth. I (being from the other side of the Thames Estuary) admire the community tenacity that fuels such an ambitious project, when the town has clearly been through such a rough time. ‘Green shoots’, someone described Margate’s revival as, let’s hope they grow.

We keep being drawn to East Kent and our day in characterful Thanet has just fuelled my fascination with this piece of coast.

In Search of Big Skies…

Another new blog, really Roo? Well, yes.

Picture of new web page

Yes, I need to charge my iPad. But for those unfamiliar with my online story, I’ll give you a quick recap to explain how we got here to my latest blogosphere incarnation. Back in 2008, I made some tentative steps in to the world of fashion blogging. I love my clothes, I love vintage and I love a budget busting bargain. However, I HATE having my photo taken, I hate having to look at my photo even more. So my career as a style blogger was limited, I prefer writing personal posts. Which also included posts about some of my crafty creations.

One day I found myself described online as a craft blogger, I even got invited to a craft launch event. So, in a panic, I created a craft blog – and Little Stitch was born. But I was never that comfortable with the name – maybe a little twee? Maybe a little limiting? Maybe a little bit too much like everything else? I just wasn’t happy with it.

For a very long time my various online bios have simply said ‘continually searching for big skies’. Because I am. Literally and metaphorically. So here we are. A new blog, a new name and a new look. Maybe this will be my permanent internet home or maybe I’ll just keep wandering from URL to URL like an online Littlest Hobo… Either way, I hope both you and I enjoy.

Three go to Dorset

Cows in fieldTiny CamperPaddlingSundown at EweleazeSunset at EweleazeEweleaze Beach and PontoonEweleze Farm Campsite, Dorset

Those from the Ray Mears school of camping, who might balk at staying on an organic farm with a wood-fired pizza oven, may wish to look away now. But we have just returned from one of the most magical weekends at Eweleaze Farm, near Weymouth in Dorset. Nestled on top of the spectacular cliffs of the Jurassic Coast, we found everything we needed at Eweleaze for our second family camping trip.

I’m won’t lie to you Ray, there is no need for survival suits or bushcraft here. With our 10 month old in tow, we wanted somewhere with access to a beach, animals for the little guy to be amazed by, fantastic walks, plenty of fresh air for our lungs and beautiful sea views for our souls – but also somewhere where we could easily get some hot food on a rainy evening and grab a tasty beer to sip, after the little guy had gone to bed, watching the sunsets and putting the world to rights. Eweleaze has all that.

Granted, the site’s increasing popularity (since our first trip there in 2011) means the illusive sea views are a little harder to find, especially for those of us with camper vans. And yes, at the weekend particularly, it did feel very busy at times. The increasingly popularity of ‘glamping’ means Eweleaze is ticking a lot of nouveaux campers’ boxes. I have never seen so many bell tents and bunting in one place. However, it does still have its many charms – views, the beach, the access to the Jurrassic Coast path… Lovely Weymouth is just a couple of miles walk away and on the site itself, the quality of the food (the bakery, the farm shop, the pizza oven…) and friendliness of the staff are still superb.

And for our fledgling family, it is a really really wonderful and inspiring place. In a world where I worry about too many gadgets and too much CBeebies, it was fantastic to see so many older children (and adult ‘children’!) running free, swimming in the sea, petting animals, laughing on hay bales and flying kites… For the time being you can keep your Extreme Survival, thanks Ray. I just want to paddle in the sea with my baby and have a beer watching the sun go down.

 

Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum

“Let’s take the Tiny Overlord to the butterfly exhibit at the Natural History Museum”, he said. “Baby? Museum? London? Butterflies?!”, I stuttered. “The Tiny Overlord will love it”, said the Aussie. “Hmm…” I sceptically replied.

But with that our little family of three (myself, the Aussie and the 7 month old Tiny Overlord) headed off on the train to London to go to the world renowned Natural History Museum.

The Natural History Museum, London

The Natural History Museum, London

The beautiful Natural History Museum. The Sensational Butterflies exhibit is in the marquee on the lawn, however, we also had a sneaky peak at the diplodocus skeleton and the Earth Story while the little one snoozed in the sling.

Beautiful butterflies

The butterflies were beautiful and exotic. Not like anything I had ever seen in the UK before.

'owl' markings on the underside of butterfly wings

Though I was as equally fascinated by the stunning markings on the underside of their wings, coloured to help camouflage.

lemon tree

I was also rather taken by this lemon. I am easily pleased.

baby looking at butterflies

And what did the the Tiny Overlord think? Well, he was fascinated, genuinely and utterly fascinated – watching them land, take off and fly around the tent or just calmly observed them simply flutter their wings.

I’m not sure if this is a common occurrence in early motherhood, but I am sometimes hesitant to take the little guy to new and unusual places. Despite the fact that, if I am honest, I really don’t enjoy baby orientated events. Am I worried that he won’t enjoy it? Am I worried what other people might think if he cries? I couldn’t say for certain. But every time we do take a ‘brave’ step, we all have a wonderful time and I wonder why I do not step out of my comfort zone more often and find something that we all find stimulating and enjoyable?

It is really important to us to get the Tiny Overlord engaging with the outside world. I know it is very easy and ‘natural’ to want to keep our babies inside and safe. But even at such a young age he already seems to love nature and being outside. Seeing the world through his eyes is wonderful too, imagine what it must be like to see your first butterfly? Getting him outside I have little problem with, taking him to inside places I often need a little more convincing. However, Seeds and Stitches recently did a post about taking babies to art exhibitions. They also shared links to the fascinating Culture Babies in Manchester and the very interesting Kids in Museums initiative.

Buoyed by our weekend’s success, I am certainly going to try to think out of the [toy] box of places to take the tiny one. I just need to have a little more faith in all of us.