I love getting outside and spending an afternoon in the fresh air. It isn’t glamorous, it isn’t high tech and it isn’t always easy lol. Sometimes when it’s windy, cold or so grey that you don’t risk pegging your washing out…it takes a bit of self discipline to pull on your walking boots and actually leave the house! But when you do, it’s so worth it.
This weekend went walking/climbing/falling around White Coppice. Look at these gorgeous cottages 🙂 I’m not greedy…I only want one!
We took the dog, some vimto and a couple of snacks and went on an adventure. It isn’t the biggest hill we’ve ever reached the top of and it isn’t the first time we’ve been there, but every walk is different.
Our family used to do quite a bit of walking when I was growing up. There was a group organised by Father Stuart, our local priest, that would take on a different walk/climb every few weeks. Whole families would go! As one by one the younger ones and then the older ones, decided to call it a day and find a nice tea room, a core group would emerge. Either through ability or sheer determination, this group would always reach the summit. As I was the oldest, sometimes I would be allowed to carry on with this core group even after my parents had had to stop with my younger siblings.
I remember one weekend, as I stopped for a breather, turning to take a sneaky peak at the view that was to come. It was breath taking. I can’t remember the place now, but I can still remember the view. You could see for miles, all the way to the sea on the right and all the way into a town of some sort of the left. There were farmers fields like patchwork blankets and rolling hills that made me confused about where exactly I’d begun my walk. Father Stuart gave me a nudge to carry on and then seeing what I was gazing at, he stopped and took a deep breath.
“Just think Rachel….down there will be hundreds of people, wasting their days watching TV. They don’t even know what’s up here, or how it feels.”
I told him it felt like nothing else mattered when I was up in the hills and he said that we should try to hold onto that feeling when we went back down and remember it when we needed to. We turned and carried on our way, joining the rest of the group.
I was probably 13 or 14 that day and this weekend as Beth began to complain ever so slightly that the going was a little tough on this particular hill, I told her to turn around and see if she could see houses. She could, so I told her what Father Stuart had told me.
Beth said she’s much rather be out of breath up a mountain and be able to see lambs and caves and miles and miles of countryside. She said she did prefer going down though, not just because it was easier but because she could say “Hooray I’ve done it!” So not only is walking good for her health but it’s giving her a sense of achievement.
It started me thinking about the lessons that my childhood taught me and how different mine is to Beth’s. She is very lucky. She has parents who adore her, she has all the physical things she could possibly need and plenty of things that she doesn’t need at all(!), she has a great school, she has good friends, she’s travelled, she’s eaten at great restaurants….she leads a bloody good life!! Leading a good life is all very well, but how do you learn about struggle when for the most part, you don’t?
This is one of the reasons why I think getting outdoors and challenging children is so important and why I think the countryside can teach life lessons even now.
When Beth climbs to the very top of a hill and looks back at a view that (as it changes every second) is only hers…she learns about effort and reward.
When she has to jump across a stream, from one rock to another and she as can’t hold our hands and she has to have faith in herself….she learns that she is capable of more than she realises.
When she approaches a ewe with her lamb (because they are so cute!) and stops because she sees that the mother looks worried….she learns that she is kind and has good instincts.
When the ground becomes uneven and mud threatens to trip her up…she learns to be responsible for herself and to assess a situation before she ‘puts her foot in it’.
Being in the countryside for a day, she learns about the seasons, about eco systems and about social responsibility.
Caves and streams teach her to be curious; silence teaches her to think deeply; lonely trees, strange markings and piles of stones teach her to use her imagination.
Possibly the most important lesson of all is this: when she is so tired that she thinks she ‘can’t go any further’ and then somehow she does…..she learns to never ever give up.
I hope she remembers these and many more things that walking/climbing has taught her, including the cardinal rule: that all walks must be followed by tea and cake. I don’t make the rules……
PS. No, I didn’t realise she was wearing those shoes until we got there :-/ Haven’t got to the lesson on appropriate footwear yet lol