I am so pleased to be a part of this blog tour. I fell in love with the book and have written a review which I will post this weekend. After reading this guest post from Nicola, I took my children to the forest where we built a den, ran around and enjoyed the fresh air and time outside. It was wonderful!
A sentence from my future review- "A heart pounding adventure with danger, struggles and learning to fend for themselves in a wild forest. It beautifully highlights so many of our environmental issues and worries over conservation".
Rewilding yourself and your children
I’m writing a few thoughts about connecting with nature, as it’s so pertinent to my book, but I’m wary of trying to be an expert. I’m absolutely not – I’m a city dweller who’s learnt to seek out wild spaces because they make me feel better. Happier, calmer, stronger. Time seems to stretch out for me when I’m somewhere green. Or somewhere blue actually – I also love being by the sea!
I don’t want to write anything approaching an instruction manual either, because that defeats the purpose of ‘going wild’. There aren’t any rules. But maybe there are things we’ve forgotten, from our own childhoods. Maybe it’s helpful to remember:
Making mudpies. There’s growing evidence that there’s beneficial bacteria in the soil and exposing ourselves to it can help protect against certain illnesses and allergies. My kids and I all love mudpies, and I love thinking of the good bacteria we’re carrying home in our fingernails and on our clothing!
Sketching. In Where the World Turns Wild, thirteen year old Juniper draws. For much of her journey through the wild, there isn’t time to get out a sketchbook, but where she does, these are the parts of the journey she remembers most. Sketching makes you look at something properly. You can also take your art home and it’s like taking back a little piece of wild.
Playing with loose parts. There’s a whole theory about loose parts – that loose parts spark our imagination and creativity. There’s no better source of loose parts than the natural world. Shells, sand, pebbles, seaweed, driftwood, even washed up plastic on a beach (and you can put the plastic safely in a bin after you’ve played with it). Leaves, acorns, conkers, bark, pinecones in a forest.
Making nature art. This is an extension of above. A year or so ago, my kids and I spent the day on Shoeburyness beach in Essex, helping collect shells for my eldest daughter to make spirals in the style of artist Andy Goldsworthy, for a school art project. Mussels, cockles, periwinkles. It was the best day. We left the shells for the tide to take.
Noticing things through the seasons. A particular tree, through spring, summer, autumn, winter. A swan’s nest on a local river becoming a line of cygnets, then grey swan teenagers, which seem to stay with their parents for ages. The naturalist and artist Emma Mitchell has written an absolutely beautiful book called The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us, which is a hand-illustrated diary of observations of her local Cambridgeshire Fens. Reading it feels a bit like medicine. I have learned from Emma to look for cow parsley all year round. It flowers in May, but even in deep winter, the pretty green seedlings are visible on the ground – a promise of spring.
Nature tables. What tokens can you bring home? The era of picking wildflowers is over I think, but feathers, pinecones, acorns, shells. My children and I carry these things back like talismans. I love having a piece of nature in my pocket. Less can be more – pick your favourites! Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane’s Lost Words feels a bit like a nature table in book form. It’s a good substitute if you can’t get out to collect the real thing!
Taking photos. I love taking photos of wild things: trees, flowers (and mostly simple ones: daisies, dandelions, etc), ferns, beaches, shells. I put favourite photos on Instagram and I often scroll through it, so that even when I’m not in nature, I can look back at recent times I was.
Fossil hunting. One of my perfect mornings would be spent on Charmouth Beach down in Dorset, or Robin Hood’s Bay up in North Yorkshire, collecting fossils. I love imagining when the sea was swimming with ammonites and belemnites, and giant marine reptiles such as the porpoise-like ichthyosaur or the long-necked, Loch Ness monster-like plesiosaur. It’s a different kind of nature, but it’s just as magical and it gets you out next to the sea. It’s amazing how your eyes adjust to the shapes – the spiral of an ammonite, the star of a tiny crinoid – and I’ll go to bed dreaming of them. I’m sure it’s good for me.
So many other things, but I’m running out of space. Here are a few last favourites.
Deciding if you like butter with a buttercup under your chin.
Telling the time with a dandelion clock.