conservation · Home Education · Plastic Free Living

30 Days Wild!

Yesterday was Day 1 of our 30 Days Wild challenge organised by The Wildlife Trust. It’s not too late to sign up online and download a pack if you want to get involved. We’ve been doing this for a few years now, although I’m not sure the kids think it’s that different to normal because by this time of year we tend to be outdoors a lot anyway.

This year we thought it would be fun to sprinkle in a few acts of random wildness that would make the challenge a little more memorable. During the course of this month I will be documenting our wild days here on the blog in weekly updates.

So yesterday, the 1st of June, L spent all day at her riding stables from 9-5pm, which is fast becoming a real passion for her, leaving myself and T to mark Day 1 together. We decided on one of our favourite walks with Legend around some nearby lakes; we call it our ‘cake walk’ because we start with a visit to the on-site café to refill my travel cup with tea (provoking the usual conversation about their disposable take-away cups) and for T to find the biggest, most chocolaty piece of cake to fuel our walk.


We don’t rush so the walk around the lake takes us about 1.5 hours and the views are beautiful all the way around. Mostly we love this walk though because we get to have a good old chat, with lots of little stop-offs to sit and let time pass, whilst eating cake of course!

Hmmm looks quite inviting!

We always meet lots of interesting people on our walks and yesterday was no exception. We met this lovely lady with her two rescue Lurchers whom we chatted to for a long while. T was asked the usual school question to which he quite happily stated that he’s home educated. At this point we usually face a rather strained conversation, which has most people politely moving on.

This lady was like a breath of fresh air! Her reply, after the tiniest pause, was: ‘Well of course not everything can be learned from a book, in fact I do believe nature is the greatest teacher of all’. I could see T kind of straighten himself up, tall and proud and I inwardly thanked the lady for understanding rather than subjecting my son to an awkward silence or questions about how he would ever get any GCSE’s (he’s 10………but incase you’re wondering yourself, home educators can still take any qualification they want, it’s just they have choice and freedom about what, when, how and even if they need them for what they want to pursue).

And so our conversation continued about nature and conservation. We talked about plastic and it’s use by big supermarket chains; we talked about getting involved in beach cleans. This lady said two things that struck me: she wondered whether my being involved in beach cleans really had any genuine impact; and she said, at age 71, she was too old to change the world. Aren’t these exactly the kind of negative things we all tell ourselves? That we cannot make a difference on our own? That we are too young, too old, too busy, too unknowledgeable, too unfit, too broke to make a difference? I know I have used many of those exact excuses myself.

I told her that her time was right now. That she wasn’t too old to save the world. That her actions alone could make a difference. ‘Do you know what?’ she stated boldly. ‘I am going to talk to Sainsbury’s today about how they wrap single vegetables in plastic, it’s been bugging me for ages!’

One person, whoever you are, can make all the difference.

I’ll just pretend I didn’t see that No Swimming sign.
conservation · Education in school · Home Education

Rewild Our Hearts

It’s funny how ideas just pop into your head at odd times. The phrase ‘Rewild Our Hearts’ sprang to mind as I walked the dog yesterday. I realised it encapsulates what I was trying to argue in my recent article Can Unschooling Save Our Planet?

I’m not sure I’m going to make this point very clearly but bear with me, since I have been trying to figure out what this blog’s real purpose is. It feels like such a mish-mash of ideas, and I think this rewilding hearts business is it, the true purpose.

“Rewilding is large-scale conservation aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and core wilderness areas, providing connectivity between such areas, and protecting or reintroducing apex predators and keystone species.”

What if we apply the idea of rewilding to ourselves? A focus on love, compassion and listening to our deeper human instincts? Connecting to each other in genuine ways, with honesty and kindness, and treating our earth and it’s myriad of species with that same kind of heartfelt connectivity.

I was proof reading an article yesterday on the use of isolation in UK state secondary schools. The barbaric practise of isolating children in rooms with partitioned areas with just a solitary desk for hours or days at a time. This punishment is used for a variety of behaviours from not conforming to the correct haircut or talking in class, to more serious breeches of the  school code.

These are children under the age of 16 who have no choice about whether they attend school for the majority of their waking hours. Instead of support, love, guidance, we put our most vulnerable young students, often with troubled home lives or SEN, in isolation rooms in more extreme conditions than some young offenders experience.

Why do we think this is OK? Why are we so unkind to each other?

I also attended a conservation educators course recently, and a part of the course centred on children’s behaviour in school and how to deal with it. Now in my past life as a teacher, I had 10 years of practise at this so I was familiar with some ‘teacher’ techniques, but I was blown away by the discussion that ensued; ‘Don’t give out information booklets if the kids are naughty’; ‘Shame we can’t give the naughty ones a smack, never did me any harm’.

WTF? My head was suddenly reeling and I felt frozen to the spot. I could see my warrior twin, my baser instinct, stand up and tell them how disgusted I was and all the reasons why in beautifully articulate language and then storm out of the building.

In reality I excused myself and went to the toilet to think about what to do.

It was a shock. That people still think of children like that. And talk about them like that. Like they are not human beings. These are people who are working to conserve our earth’s resources, yet they have not made the connection that respecting the earth starts with respecting our fellow humans, all of them.

My first mission is to rewild the course leader’s heart; one conversation, one meeting, one email at a time. It’s possible my warrior twin had the better course of action, but I am peacemaker twin, and I’ll try it my way first.

Let the rewilding begin.



3 Family Friendly Marine Conservation Projects

Marine Conservation Graphic

Here are 3 easy marine conservation projects to get involved in this summer, which require no previous training and are easy for children of any age to engage with:
1) Beach Babies Survey – Lots of animals are changing the time of year that they breed in response to warmer or cooler waters. ‘Capturing Our Coast’ are interested in how this varies around the UK. They have put together an activity pack that will help you spot a number of species and their signs of reproduction. You can find all the details here.
2) The Great Eggcase Hunt – With over 600 species of skate and ray worldwide, at least 16 species have been regularly recorded in UK coastal waters; most of these species reproduce by laying tough leathery eggcases on the seabed. Of more than 30 species of British sharks, only two species lay eggcases that are commonly found on our beaches; the Smallspotted Catshark and the Nursehound.
Each eggcase contains one embryo which will develop over several months into a miniature shark, skate or ray. Once empty, the eggcases often wash ashore and can be found among the strandline on beaches.
The Great Eggcase Hunt aims to get as many people as possible hunting for eggcases that have either been washed ashore, or are found by divers and snorkelers underwater. In recent decades, several species of shark, skate and ray around the British coast have dramatically declined in numbers. The empty eggcases (or mermaid’s purses) are an easily accessible source of information on the whereabouts of potential nursery grounds and will provide the Trust with a better understanding of species abundance and distribution.
3) Great British Beach Clean – The Great British Beach Clean is the Marine Conservation Society’s annual event on the 3rd weekend of September. It’s the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK and provides a valuable insight into the litter problems our seas and oceans are facing
MCSUK have been recording this information for over 25 years and lobbying governments to stop items getting there in the first place. With the publics help they’ve made great progress in helping to bring in a plastic bag charge, stopping microplastics in cosmetics being washed down the plug hole and getting the message out that wetwipes shouldn’t be flushed or contain plastic. Find out how to get involved in an existing beach clean, or how to organise your own, here.