We are having a beautiful blue skied winter here in Galway. This is the first time since I moved here that there hasn’t been relentless rain, storms and winds that would literally knock you off your feet.
I am loving every second of this winter. Even more so since I am back on my feet and almost hitting the mile and half a day mark with my walks.
Today we visited Kilcornan woods which is a few miles away from us.
We love bringing Eppie, our tiny terrier there because we can go off the path and let her run without a lead on.
Whenever we take her to the woods she literally goes wild, running backwards and forwards at speeds you couldn’t imagine a tiny dog could achieve.
There is no doubt in my mind she is celebrating being free.
We didn’t meet a single other walker in the woods today and that reminds me why I invented my fictional town, Ballyyahoo and why I keep adding stories and information about nature to it.
I hope that if kids see how much fun there is to be had in the woodlands maybe they’ll use their ‘pester-power’ to get their parents to take them.
There are probably children out there who have never been in the woodlands or forests, never collected cockles or ferns, never felt that satisfying crunch of crisp dry leaves under their feet – never run free.
Each year we were sent to spend the summer school holidays with my dad’s mother, my granny.
Once there I teamed up with my cousin, Elaine, and the two of us set off on our bikes.
There were no limits set on where we could go – all we had to do was be back home in time for tea – six o’clock.
Our mothers gave us a sandwich and a beaker of orange juice and that was it. No dire warnings, or threats and no accompanying adults.
Elaine and I rode our bikes everywhere we could and discovered the secret trails and paths of Wicklow. We found streams and rivers and spent hours panning for gold.
Each day we searched for leprechauns, fairies and witches. Although we found plenty of clues to their existence those mysterious beings remained hidden.
What did that matter? The fun was in the search.
We collected leaves, branches, shells and stones and spent the evening hours gluing these together, producing all sorts of weird and wonderful collages and ornaments.
These are some of the best memories I have and that’s why I am sad to see so many of today’s kids confined to their houses.
I understand why parents don’t allow their kids to go roaming around on bikes. There’s a lot more traffic for one thing and much of it travels at great speed.
The fear of child predators is understandable too, but have their numbers increased?
Or, in these days of social media are we just more aware and therefore more afraid?
It’s children who pay the price for this fear.
They are missing the opportunity to connect with the earth, to explore nature, get dirty and work out how the world works – for themselves.
One way to counteract these fears would be for families to regularly visit to the parks, woodlands and forests and the rest of our beautiful countryside and when there – let the kids go.
A woodland or park filled with families and children is not a dangerous place – letting them experience even short bursts of unsupervised fun in nature will have untold benefits.
Freedom is the best present we can give and it doesn’t come in a box.
Bye for now.