Last weekend I made a discovery.
I was stuck, halfway up a tree in the Cotswolds, when I found it.
Legs wrapped around the tree trunk, hands scrabbling at branches, bark grazing my calves, I spotted a deer hoof.
It was not, I’ll freely admit, something I expected to find in the tree. But there it was: crammed into the hollow where the trunk split into higher branches. An inch of bone poked out above a brown, furry foot.
Blinking a couple of times and vaguely recalling something similar happening in a long-forgotten horror film scene, I hurriedly hoofed it back to the ground.
Morbid discoveries aside, climbing a tree is one of my favourite things to do outdoors. It’s also the nation’s favourite thing to do outdoors – as voted for by kids across the country. That’s why it takes pride of place as the first activity on the National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 11¾, a list of mini outdoor adventures to spark kids’ interest in nature and the outdoors.
There’s no better time to get outside and try some of these 50 outdoor adventures than the summer holidays, which is why the National Trust is today launching the Wild Time Challenge.
Over six weeks of the summer holidays we’re challenging children across the UK to attempt 25 of our 50 things, letting us know which activities they’ve done via our website . Kids who complete the Wild Time Challenge will bag themselves a free National Trust family visit pass! They’ll also be entered into a prize draw to win a special day spent producing their very own nature film.
The Wild Time Challenge is part of the National Trust’s drive to get children outdoors and interacting with nature.
Building upon our work on Natural Childhood last year, we’re helping to establish The Wild Network, a partnership of organisations committed making a positive change to children’s relationship with nature and the outdoors in the UK.
The Network’s first initiative is Project Wild Thing, a film-led social change campaign that aims to reconnect children with nature. You can find out more and join the Project Wild Thing movement here.
The campaign will launch on 27th October, alongside the cinema release the feature-length documentary Project Wild Thing. Described as ‘funny, alarming and uplifting’ by the Guardian’s Patrick Barkham, the film follows David Bond as he attempts to sell the benefits of nature to children – including his own.
The film-led campaign is a reaction to fears that children are becoming disconnected from the natural environment. According to one study, half of children regularly played in wild spaces a generation ago. Today it’s fewer than 1 in 10.
Children aren’t spending enough time in nature. That’s a real cause for concern.
Spending time in nature has a huge range of benefits for children: from reducing symptoms in kids with ADHD to reducing the likelihood of developing myopia. It’s been shown to improve well-being. The Good Childhood report, released today by the Children’s Society, reveals that British children’s well-being is on the decline. It makes the need to reconnect kids with nature all the more urgent.
Children need nature. But nature needs children, too. Some are concerned that if people don’t have hands on, mud-squelchingly fun experience of nature as children, then they won’t fight to conserve the natural environment as adults. ‘If a generation becomes detached from the natural world’, claims naturalist Chris Packham, ‘it is in danger of becoming indifferent and whilst some skills are learnt in the classroom, others only come from being knee deep in mud and elbow deep in frog spawn.’
Reconnecting children and nature is a priority. This summer, we hope the Wild Time Challenge will get more children outdoors, making their own fun in nature.
Tom Seaward is the intern working on Project Wild Thing. Discover more about the film-led campaign at www.projectwildthing.com.