In the woods


Today, we’ve been in the woods. My son, like many modern children, doesn’t spend enough time outside. His childhood is more supervised by adults than mine was. With fewer distractions to keep us ‘in-doors’, my early memories are of being in the garden. Out of sight of adults, digging holes or dressing the cat up in dolls clothes. My mother brought ‘squash’ or called us in for lunch. My son hasn’t had the luxury of a proper garden, we used to have a small, shared, paved yard. Now we have a bigger paved space, it’s uninviting. It will have to do until we have our ‘own’ home again.

By primary school age, I walked the mile to school with friends. Summer holidays were spent with gangs of local children roaming in the woods, I have brilliant memories of the sense freedom and exploration. We felt as if the local woodland was ours and in some ways it was, it was our playground. We’d  returned to our parents at tea-time, tired.

It wasn’t perfect, my Dad always seemed to be at work and my Mum never had much time to play with us. Housework took longer then, clothes got washed in a twin tub, it wasn’t a machine that you just loaded and pressed a button. Meals made from scratch, seemed to take hours to prepare.

More time outside, more fresh air, more walking, more running. We were more lost in our own imagination, rather than lost in a lap top.


The amount of time my son doesn’t spend outside, niggles at me. He has the opportunity to play in the street, once a month. The council supports a scheme to close roads to cars. Children have the road to play in. Of course, I supervise him, sitting on the kerb. It is an opportunity to get to know local parents and neighbours. Sometimes, he mixes in with the other children, sometimes a couple of months pass, we miss playing out and he is out of the loop and sticks by me.

A while ago, I came across this trailer for a documentary: Project Wild Thing.


It’s about reconnecting children with nature, getting them outside. Finally, a week ago I saw the whole film at a screening at Yeo Valley (the lovely yoghurt people). It made me laugh and I wanted to cry.  There’s a line which basically says: “My children’s generation is going to be the first in history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents”. That chills me.  Having seen Project Wild Thing I want to try my best to spend more time outside with my son. He won’t have the childhood I had, but the childhood he does have is in my hands.




  1. HELEN

    thats a great idea closing the street off, although we live in a quiet no through road the cars still fly down our street so the kids really have to watch their backs! We went on a muddy walk yesterday too & the kids loved it!

    1. helloitsgemma

      Muddy walks are brilliant, that’s how childhood should be – covered in mud.
      The street closing thing is great, it actually is really easy to organise, more councils should do it.

  2. claire

    I totally agree. It is SO depressing. We have a Play Out in our street every week and it’s literally the highlight of my week. There’s cake, chat, tea. My kids love it too. It’s the closest they get to my childhood – a supervised 3 hours a week. But it’s better than nothing. I want to get my whole street closed off to cars permanently (I think cars have a lot to answer for – without them we’d all be much freer) but most people think I’m nuts when I say that. Sigh. It’s better to have a god-given right to drive than let our children roam free – I’m much more worried about cars than paedophiles.

    1. helloitsgemma

      I don’t think you are nuts, totally agree. I love this comment because it made me think a bit more about this, and I think cars probably have a bigger part to play than screens. Cars are too fast, there are too many and we don’t feel our children are safe outside because of them, we keep them in and then we need to entertain them and the TV makes that easy. There are some ‘home zones’ in Bristol, streets which are designed for people rather than cars – of course they are expensive and much sought after. It’s the way forward.

  3. Amelia Appletree

    I try to get my daughter out of the house as much as possible. We have no outdoor space at home at all so regular trips to the local parks have become vital really. Such a good point you’ve made about the difference between childhoods we knew and the childhoods of our children. 

  4. Emma

    By freedom I mean it’s natural for them to play outside on their on in public spaces.   You often see them walking to school from the age of 5 or 6 and home again afterwards… I didn’t mean that we UK parents don’t allow our children freedom by not letting them out.  Hope you know what I mean! 😀

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