This week’s depressing statistic is that 50% of children aged seven to 12 are not allowed to climb trees unsupervised. Half of children presumably the same half can’t identify an oak tree. It’s so bad that another national ‘day’, today’s Playday (August 6), has been created to urge children to cycle further than usual, swim in a stream and climb a tree. Parents have no idea what they’re missing.
Ours clearly negligent enjoyed hours of peace and saved money on outings by ignoring us. They were once disturbed when a tumble from an apple tree it’s the best vantage point from which to observe one’s guinea pigs having a run necessitated three stitches, and again when falling backwards out of a beech hedge at the shock of coming face to face with a nest of bawling baby thrushes caused mild concussion.
Obsessed with Arthur Ransome’s books, as children, we learned semaphore, said ‘gallumphing galoots’ and spent hours concealed in trees recording the (not very interesting) conversation of the harvesters below. It was free, fun, healthily exhausting and no one told you what to do. Even for adults, what is a walk, if not enhanced by assessing streams for their damming and fishing possibilities, or trees for climbing potential?