Let’s Explore..!

People these days spend much of their lives indoors.  Whether it’s working, watching television or hiding from the rain, survey after survey tells us to get outside more and get some exercise.  Many surveys spill doom and gloom across the media, telling horror stories of overweight, unfit people suffering in their lives.  As an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion for 2017, I’m showing people how to enjoy the outdoors, even when you have a full-time job, work shifts and have serious injuries.  Society fails when we sit on our ever-widening backsides, eating processed food and assaulting our eyes with the world of digital media, but it’s not all bad news…

Let’s be honest, in this time of Brexit, Elections and Trump, there’s plenty of bad news to report.  The media is full of it and I’ve switched off.  There are much better ways of spending my time that listening to overpaid people bicker on television like a bunch of four-year olds.  I’ve been travelling around in my 1977 VW Camper, and recently I was in the New Forest.  Life had been quite stressful and I needed some time out.   I’d met up with fellow champion Kate Jameson and explored the forest during the day, putting what’s left of my feet up under the late afternoon sun.  A large family group pulled up behind me later on and built a camp.  There were three families, encompassing at least nine young children.  The parents were soon apologising to me about the noise and disruption of their camp creating, but I was overjoyed to see them all enjoying the outdoors.  What I was about to experience filled my heart and soul with joy.  For the next couple of days, everyone camped together, worked together, cooked together, sang together  and played together.  I never saw a mobile phone between them and one morning all the children sat outside and sang their little hearts out.  I now know at least 20 more verses to the ‘Wheels on the Bus..!  It was only 7am when their lungs burst out, but I didn’t care.  Everyone was polite, thoughtful and always said hello.  The parents lit a barbecue and breakfast was enjoyed by all as a group.  I walked during the day returning to camp later on.

As darkness fell, radios and torches came out and the little explorers sallied forth through the trees and onto the common.  They weren’t out late as bed called, but I heard squeals of delight as they played together in the twilight.  As soon as they were in bed, not a sound was to be heard as I suspect they were all exhausted.  Before anyone mentions health and safety, being irresponsible, or going out on your own, the children were supervised, but from a distance.  Here, they could learn together with open eyes, without interference or hindrance.  The older children held their little brothers and sisters hands, leading them to explore as much with their minds as with their bodies.  It was wonderful.

One day it rained, so they just put coats on and went out.  As the weather cleared, a little girl came and said hello.  I was sitting next to my van, reading a book.  She was wearing pink wellies, pyjamas, a coat and had roses in her hair.  She was full of life and we chatted for quite a while, before she ran off through the trees.  She felt safe, her parents had been watching and the interaction was wonderful.  The little girl had been called when a boy of around 8 ran forward, brandished a stick and a radio, and screamed ‘Let’s Explore..!’ at the top of his voice.  A crowd of excited adventurers followed him into the woods with great gusto.  That’s what children should be doing, not over exercising their thumbs on a games console.

There’s always bad news, but shouldn’t we concentrate on the good in the world..?  Rather than barracking people for not getting outside, surely we should be making examples of people who do (a role that we champions are a small part of).  Shouldn’t we stop criticizing people for letting their children explore..?  Yes, there are horror stories, but there’s also paranoia.  Yes, there’s a time and a place, and the camp site was safe, but allowed sufficient room for young eyes to explore and learn.  As we get older, we should never lose the ability to look through the eyes of a child.  We all had them once, no matter how many years have passed.  The danger is that we become blinkered (I have at times), when we should have our eyes open wide.

Let the children play, and then we can all explore together…

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