I have always loved being outside. I like the window down in the car, I prefer to work outside if I can, I like the windows open in the house whenever possible, I like to just sit in the garden or by the sea or in a field or at a park, I love a gentle breeze (turning in to an old person as I write this it would seem!) I have just always loved the feeling of air, of being outside in space, free as a bird, sunshine, if at all possible, to warm the soul.
I just crave fresh air. I don’t love the Winter – not because I don’t like the cold – actually I love snow, and cold sunny days…But I hate the wet and the lack of sunlight…. and the fact that more often than not I am forced to be indoors more than I would like. It’s a bit oppressive for me.
Maybe part of that is growing up by the sea… We were lucky enough to be outside a lot as children, more often than not on a beach or enjoying the beautiful terrain of Dartmoor in Devon (I will never forget those Dartmoor picnics with fondant fancies if you ate your sandwiches…what a life!)
I used to teach in Nottingham, and I can remember trying to explain to my students how much I missed just being able to sit by the sea (it took quite a while to drive to the seaside from Nottingham!) – they thought I was mad I am sure, but just sitting by the sea is still one of my absolute most favourite things to do. Outside, cool sea air, sounds of the water. What’s not to love? Plus sometimes it involves chips.
I am not a massive walker, runner, climber, or action junky… that is just not who I am – but I do love to be outside, finding new places, ambling around, walking in the sunshine, playing with the children, visiting National Trust properties, I love flowers (although I do not seem to be able to grow them successfully at all), I would happily visit every beach, big or small, going, and I love exploring forests and woodlands with the boys.
Being cooped up inside just doesn’t work for me… I get grumpy. Ask my Husband.
And the boys are definitely taking very much after Mummy – the eldest in particular. Truth be told he goes a bit loopy if we stay indoors too long – he is definitely a ‘needs activity and adventure’ kind of child and he loves being outside… doesn’t even matter what the weather is like to that one. He’d wear shorts and go bare-foot on the beach in February. I have evidence to attest to this. Littlest bean at just One seems to love outdoors best too – although he loves busying himself at home with his toys (and actually, mainly, the recycling) the minute the door is open to the garden he is out like a shot. And given some wide open space outside he is off like a rocket. Perhaps I should actually do more running and general fitness…Keeping up with two is definitely harder than I thought it would be…
Anyway the sun is shining today and I have the patio doors wide open as I type, and it just made me think of how lovely it is when you’re outside and on an adventure, with no restraints and the possibility of pretty much anything at your feet.
I have loved seeing the videos and photos of The Duchess of Cambridge’s garden and the 3 little Royals enjoying it this week. Whatever your thoughts on the Royal family, actually it doesn’t matter, because what was just gorgeous to see was their genuine excitement and joy at exploring something new and different and exciting. Her Royal Highness spoke in an interview about the positive impact on future mental health and physical well being, of lots of time outdoors, and a connection with the natural world, from an early age. Here’s to that I say. We try to get outside with the boys as much as possible – to be honest I couldn’t have it any other way – and I know for sure it has a positive effect – on their mood, on my mood, on our time as a family, on their behaviour, on their awareness of the world around them, on their creativity, on our mental health.
With so much in the press about growing levels of anxiety and stress amongst our young people (which just breaks my heart to be honest – both as a former teacher and now mother), the insanity that is SATs at such a young age (I just cannot begin to comprehend why this is necessary at 7 or even 11), and the massive importance of us all really just looking after ourselves, and each other, here is to being outdoors as much as we can. Here is to small faces full of awe and wonderment, and possibility. The games they play, the ideas they come up with, the things they find and collect on their ambles, that is all so much more important when they are young than, well, anything else. I know I learn more about our wonderfully adventurous 7 year old on a day in the outdoors than I do from the results of an arithmetic paper.
I am certain being outdoors has always been an important element in my own mental health and wellbeing – if I am ever down or in a rut or need to clear my head, you will find me walking near the sea. It is a natural calling and it always helps. I hope being outdoors is one thing my boys will continue to love too.
Here’s to time outside x
In case you are local or on a visit to Devon, here are some of our favourite local outside spots:
- Killerton House and Gardens It is absolutely beautiful here in all seasons (although Spring and Summer are very special). Loads of space and lovely walks through the trees…it is our absolute favourite spot for a picnic, and really easy even when it is just me and the littlest bean
- Bicton Gardens I don’t think I knew they existed until I had Henry and someone mentioned it in a kind of throw away comment. Well we have loved it ever since… fabulous parkland, lovely little streams, a train ride, places to feed ducks, and ginormous trees. Plus the boys think the Gruffalo lives there. Winner.
- Haldon Forest Busy at weekends, but glorious in the week! Lovely trails, walk-able with children, and lots of opportunities for den building, exploring in the woods, climbing and general merriment – and the current Zog trail is very sweet
- The beach… to be honest any beach really but we particularly love… Firstly, Shaldon – it is often quiet and the view of the boats and Teignmouth is just gorgeous. And secondly Branscombe – this place is absolutely beautiful, and you can walk through lovely farmland to the beach, so you get a bit of everything
- Knightshayes House and Gardens, National Trust. The outside space is incredible here, and our particular favourite is the park they have created just as you turn in to the estate… it is all built using some fallen tress, totally natural and a wonderful opportunity for children to explore the environment, without a bit of plastic in sight
- Ashclyst Forest, Nr Killerton. These woods are really lovely. Quiet and beautiful… loads of different paths you can take and some gorgeous views. Some open spaces too, which are fab for picnics and games. This is a really big hit with our boys
- Woodbury Common – just to the East of Exeter this is a really lovely spot that we have only recently explored. Wide open space and amazing views over East Devon. What is not to love?
- The Orange Elephant. Just outside Exeter and un-missable if you like ice cream. This is a really lovely little local spot, and fabulous for smaller children. They have animals, a fab maize maze in season, and lots of slides, swings and sand pits. A really nice way to spend a couple of hours outdoors – with the promise of an ice cream at the end in their award-winning ice cream parlour. All made by the team there – and totally delicious.
- Sidmouth – I have always loved it here. It has a real nostalgia about it… we love walking along the seafront past all the regency buildings – even better when it is really windy. You cannot beat that fresh feeling! And lovely to spend time building little towers with the stones and throwing them in the sea. There are a couple of nice parks too, and you can walk further along to Jacobs Ladder, which is sandy and great for children
- Darts Farm and Topsham. We adore Topsham – and can easily spend a day exploring outside here. There is a fantastic large park with all the regular equipment plus a zip wire, basketball hoop, football goals and masses of open space. We love walking along from there, past the houses and boats at the waterfront, feeding the ducks and then heading for some food. Darts Farm, just outside Topsham is a bit of a go-to for us. Good food and drink and lovely outside space – some really nice wooden play equipment and walks around all of the growing crops. The highlight for us is the ‘pick your own sunflowers’ each year and the awesome Maize Maze. Hours of fun.
So, actually, the list is endless! Outside? We are there.