There was not a cloud in the sky over Mabley Green, as ten families from around Hackney appeared from all directions to meet at the Big Rock for our first Wild Walk of the season. Many parents mentioned that they rarely visit Mabley Green as, in the past, they had been perturbed by the desert-like, boring expanse of grass hemmed by loud traffic and a skyline of cranes and development - not inspiring! They were pleasantly surprised to find that Mabley Green is now rich with dynamic landscaping, wild plants, an orchard and a new accessible playground. There was still the sound of traffic but that wasn’t enough to stop the children hurtling off over the mounds in glee or for parents to slow down, take a breath and shake off their stress.
This Wild Walk followed one of the original Wild Walk routes, tried and tested many times before by Outdoor People founder Cath Prisk. We joined the River Lea at Homerton Road and weaved in and out of the woodland between the tow path and the pitches. Imaginations ignited as children explored the ancient Yew woodland. There was even a sighting of the Gruffalo (who had gobbled up all the trees)! We broke through the undergrowth on to the pitches and the children split off in every direction; some sprinting across the pitch to the goal posts, others cartwheeling round and round and round before collapsing on to the grass in a pile. Freedom emanated across the pitches in a powerful wave of screams and laughter. For a short time, this wide green expanse, which moments before had been silent and empty, was ours.
It’s easy to forget to notice the little things when we are running at a hundred miles an hour and invariably playing catch up with one thing or another. Wild Walks are a time to just walk, play, chat and appreciate. We move slow. We pause occasionally to gaze in silence at the river lined with canal boats in the light of the setting sun or to identify a tree or plant. One child impressed everyone by identifying Yarrow and sharing with the group it’s medicinal properties; “put it in your tea when you’ve got a cold”, she said. A personal favourite was chatting to two mothers that had grown up in the area and hadn’t visited these parks since they were children. They both took a trip down memory lane, noticing the changes and reminiscing about learning to skateboard. “It’s like stepping through a portal”, they said.
Walking together we are a community. Our children are safe. They are learning from one another; testing out their strength, their balance, their humour. As we hold hands to balance along the low rails and walls lining the pavement, the walk drawing to an end, the only word that comes to my mind is ‘wholesome’.
Next walk: Tuesday 23rd October. 11am, Victoria Park. Event details here.