Saturday, 21 November 2015

If You Go Down in the Woods......







It was a lovely day in the forest, the soft mulch of fallen leaves, the deep patches of rich mud tugging at the boots, the sunlight sparkling through the over-arching trees. We followed the trail of coloured ribbons; round the bushes, through the thickets, under the straggling brambles, over the mossy fallen logs, until we arrived at the cluster of Hobbit houses.
There was the smell of wood-smoke, mingled with dampness in the clearing as small gnomes staggered and scampered in their Mini-Boden sweaters and Scandinavian salopettes. Little Luciens and Berties, Rubies and Aramintas, attended by their Eco-friendly Mummies explored the dangling wind chimes, the percussion instruments made from empty plastic milk cartons (plastic!), old tin lids and chunks of bamboo.
Sheltered beneath a massive well-used parachute they were encouraged to paint and print their little hands on to a giant Anti Global-Warming banner, and the Mummies were urged to come and march with the banner and the little gnomes.
The hand-prints were all in the most natural of colours, shades of raw earth: beige, olive green, sludge and mustard.The paints had been hand-made, ground up from earth and bark and berries, totally, utterly natural.

For this is one of the many Forest Schools, earnestly run, carefully giving their little middle-class patrons the chance to get down and dirty in the name of saving the planet.

There were other things to do, of course. Drawing with locally made charcoal and pieces of genuine chalk rock seemed popular. There were paint brushes and a jar of water, and one small Bertie mashed up some charcoal into the water and took a deep and obviously satisfying swig of the mixture while his Mummy was talking about bamboo fibre nappies. ("Tell me, Chloe, have you ever, ever, used a disposable nappy?")
There is the opportunity to paint stones, peel fruits, finger paint, jump along stepping stones, walk through a tunnel, and to generally have an awfully big adventure in the forest.

Then there is a real live fire, lots of flaring twigs in a real fire pit, and things can be toasted and spread with home-made jam or even peanut butter out of a jar (just like at home). There is tea, disappointingly ordinary, bog standard tea for the Mummies and the one attendant Granny, and fresh water for the little gnomes.

The Mummies and the gnomes (and even the Granny) all get frightfully dirty and have to get changed and cleaned up before getting back into the Volvo.
And then it's a bit of a chore, getting through the school-rush traffic and the city centre in time for tea.

13 comments:

Zhoen said...

That got me laughing. So much earnest!

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: me too! And even more so when I think of the charcoal effect on those expensive bamboo fibre nappies.

Zhoen said...

Ah, Idealism.

Elephant's Child said...

Snickering loudly here too. And if bamboo fibre nappies are anything like bamboo fibre towels, they are NOT hardy. And, in effect, become disposable as they wear thin quickly.

Marigold Jam said...

What fun - will it have the desired effect I wonder? I do hope so and that the little Aramintas and Berties grow up to eschew consumerism and fossil fuels (all that oil for the Volvos) and all such things and will remember how life could be down in the forest when they are all working in the City one day! As always a beautifully written post I could almost feel the chill and the mud beneath my feet! If the bamboo nappies take as long to dry as my bamboo socks they will need a huge pile of them. And even this grannie (metaphorically speaking as I am not a granny just old enough to be one) didn't use disposable nappies either.

Relatively Retiring said...

EC: I often think that I should start a Pick-Your-Own Bamboo business as I have so many varieties in the garden. I'm not too sure about creating the fibres though. Interesting that they wear through quickly as the bamboo itself is so very tough.

Marigold: I'm sure the experiences create memories - they certainly did for me in just one session! My infant sons waddled around in terry towelling nappies, sometimes with muslin ones inside, and with an outer casing of plastic pants. It's a wonder they learned to walk, but at least if they fell over they bounced. The house was usually strewn with steaming washing in the winter.
There's a lot to be said for the occasional use of disposables, but I don't think any of the Eco mummies would be brave enough to admit it within that group.

Jee said...

How many Mummies send their nappies off to a nappy service to be washed - all that energy used by collection vans😊. You've captured the essence perfectly- must have a banner of course.
My daughter ran around a small-holding at that age - but she hated being really dirty except for filling her wellies with water from the hose! The children of the most ecowarrier family I know have all grown up to be ardent consumers with jobs in big business. You can lead a child to forest school but can you make the ethos stick?

Jee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gz said...

sounds like they are copying the Woodcraft Folk...but not as good!!

Relatively Retiring said...

Jee: an interesting thought about the infant eco-warriors. The only one I've known throughout the process of Steiner schooling, home tutoring etc is forging ahead with his career in the army.

gz: I'll google the Woodcraft Folk. I guess the schemes, including Baden Powell's, are similar and similarly admirable. I've only had one afternoon of experience at the pre-school/toddler level, and it was the Mummies and their earnestness who most interested me. The little gnomes were just plain happy.

Jenny Woolf said...

It does, indeed, sound a bit rarified. But I know a teenager who did all this kind of thing, and in junior and then in secondary school has gone on to eco camps where Mummy camps too and they both cook everything on their campfire every day - and she has got a huge amount out of it and is a nice girl living a normal London life, helping wildlife and getting on rather well with her mother.

I suppose one subtext of my comment is that as they get older, Mummy has to show commitment to the eco-life, too. (And of course the good news is that grannies aren't expected to go camping with teenagers!)

Jenny Woolf said...

PS We have always found youth hostels do the trick of getting kids out into the countryside and mixing with others, in a moderately clean and comfortable way.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jenny: yes, I'm sure the family commitment is of great importance for the long-term prospects. It's not so valid to sit on a damp log in the forest, worrying about your nails and your new pale cream suede boots.
This particular granny would not be so agile on the camp-site, but is very good at cooking just about anything anywhere.
Youth hostels are great for families, especially now that you can even arrive by car.