N is for Nature

Sam Bowen's avatar

by Sam Bowen

I was lucky enough to grow up in an age and location where freedom to explore the great outdoors was given and nature was my playground.

Weekends would be long expanses of time spent climbing trees with my best friend and riding our bikes off into the green wilderness.

We’d pore over maps when it rained, planning our next adventures. 

Then learn about distance when reality showed us what ten inches on a map looks like on the ground!

Our parents never knew about our failed attempts to milk cows in a field or how for one long summer we rode someone’s horse around their paddock.

One of us sat bare back clutching the fence in one hand and a handful of mane in the other, whist the other would run around the outside of the field waving an apple.

It worked every time, until we were caught by the horse’s owners!

My friend’s parents had what they creatively called a ‘natural garden’ untouched by a mower and a haven for wildlife.

It had a large circular pond in the middle edged with stones.

Lying on our bellies neck deep in grass, we’d dip our hands into the tepid water and let newts swim onto our palms, giggling as their tiny feet tickled..

The garden also had an eclectic mix of fruit trees and bushes and we’d pick bucket loads of gooseberries, red currents and apples and smell the perfumed quince, although no one knew what to do with those!

One magical week in summer, the tiny wild strawberries would ripen and if you could get to them before the birds did, their taste explosions were amazing.

Experiencing nature like this was an immersive, multi sensory journey and far more educational than anything learnt at school.

It is sad that today in a world of health and safety and horror stories in the media, parents seldom allow their children this level of freedom.

Perhaps if I had had a non disabled child I might have felt the same.  

There is a movement to try and re-connect kids with nature and seek out the kind of learning only hands on experience can give.

The National Trust’s “50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾” is one example and happily I can tick every one of them off (number 48 is learn to ride a horse, but I wouldn’t suggest copying the way I did it!).

These things might be more difficult for my disabled daughter to achieve, but we’ll have a good go and she was up on a horse (albeit with a saddle and reins!) by the age of 3.

I am passionate about helping her to engage with nature.

I think it’s important to remind us that we are all animals and part of nature just as much as the birds in the sky, horses and cows in their fields and newts in their ponds.

We were lucky enough to get funding from New Life to buy a Delichon Delta all terrain buggy which can literally go anywhere.

Now every walk is a tactile experience of touching bark, leaves and shells, dipping toes into the sea nearby and smelling fresh air.

I am genuinely happy when I have to clean the mud off of the bottom of her shoes as it is testament to her having stood up, if only for a few moments and with help, in nature.  

I urge you to get out into your garden, park or wild space and sit on the ground.

Touch a tree.

Really look at the sky.

You and your child are part of this, part of nature’s jigsaw puzzle.

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