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

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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.

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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.

Braywick

There is something weird about Braywick Nature Reserve situated in the depths of the Thames Valley – it rather unnaturally undulates and looms over the surrounding area. That’s because there is something rather unnatural about Braywick, it’s a former landfill site.

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This weekend I decided to spend a rare Tiny-Overlord-free day with The Conservation Volunteers Berkshire, to put something back in to the natural environment that I so often mentally and physically take from. Our task at Braywick was a woodland management one, to cut down some Field Maple and to open up the woodland floor to increase the prevalence of wild flowers.

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Before I met The Conservation Volunteers (and subsequently took this brilliant course with The Open University) I didn’t really ‘get’ woodland management. I mean, because chopping trees down is bad, it goes against all my hippy instincts, right yeah man? But I’ve learnt that a lot of our ‘natural’ landscapes in the UK are actually created by human, and that by managing Braywick’s woodland and opening up the woodland floor we will actually increase biodiversity. And here in the grey airport and motorway dominated Thames Valley, here in Braywick on hills that are literally created by tonnes of human rubbish, that can only be a good thing?

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Fuelled by biscuits and tea we felled selected trees by hand for most of the day. And I my arms ached. And my heart ached from being away from the Tiny Overlord. And I got blisters on my hand from clutching the saw so tightly. But the satisfaction of doing something outdoors was so overwhelming, I came home to my boys buzzing and enthused. Vowing once again to give the Tiny one the ‘natural’ childhood that he deserves. Because there is so much nature for me to explore with him. So many things that are good and free and natural. Even here in the Thames Valley. Even on top of an old landfill.