Nature Study

I have always tried to incorporate more time outdoors into our lives - at some times more successfully than at others. When my older boys were small, I used to say - and I still believe - "Small boys should be exercised outdoors daily!" and getting out of the house felt necessary for our wellbeing. There seems to have been a lot of publicity in the last few years around children's disconnect with the natural world, and a focus on trying to get them out into the wild.

My boys generally enjoy being out of doors, and spend a great deal of time playing in our garden. My second son used to walk in the countryside with his grandma, and from her he learnt a great many of the names of our native trees and wildflowers. My own knowledge of these things remains somewhat patchy, and I would really like us to develop our ability to identify different trees, birds and flowers. So I am very thankful this year for a new resource, "Exploring Nature with Children" by Lynn Seddon.

Lynn has laid out a focus for nature walks each week through the seasons of the year, and I love this idea of picking up the rhythms of the natural world and becoming more aware and attuned to seasonal changes. She has incorporated ideas for books linking to each week's theme, and to related art and poetry - as well as giving extra ideas for extending the topic throughout the week. The book, which is available to download at a very reasonable cost, has inspired me to get out and get on with the nature walks I have long wanted and intended to do.

This week we enjoyed a familiar walk around our local park, but were amazed how many 'treasures' we had spotted before we'd even gone 10m from the car park. Many berries and seeds were picked and pocketed by my interested troupe of the three younger boys - aged 12, 9 and 3 - and brought home to adorn our nature table. We managed to identify several of our finds using a selection of field guides, and also The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, which I have so enjoyed discovering - and which has inspired my own intention to keep a nature journal, though I am more of a photographer than an artist. The author, Edith Holden, lived in our area, and so the places to which she cycles and walks are familiar names to me. I love the simplicity of her observations and note-takings, her beautiful handwriting and lovely paintings.

Followjng our walk, issued with notebooks, pencils and watercolours, the boys drew and painted some of their finds. To my astonishment, my third son was so inspired, he wrote some lines of his own poetry - completely unprompted by me. What a delight!