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Diary, Hackney, high tech high nature, walks, wild walks -

This evening I walked home from Kings Cross along a canal. There were ducks and coots. It was cool but not cold. There were many lush plants and grassy areas and some great smells. Also lots of nice people left curtains open and lights on so I could indulge a favourite pastime of checking out their living rooms. My phone was nearly out of power so I neither listened to music, called anyone nor took photos for Instagram...

It was a little over three miles, and because I went slowly I saw things I wouldn't normally notice.

I got home feeling great. 

I then had tea and thought I'd check Twitter. And Facebook. And post a couple of articles I think interesting on my two facebook pages. Oh and Instagram. And then best check personal email accounts. And just one scoot through Instagram. 

Whilst I did see some interesting stuff - especially the research on why America vilifies mum's that leave children alone for a few minutes (scheduled to appear on Outdoor People's Facebook page in the morning) - did it make me FEEL good?


I feel like it undid the peace and quiet of that lovely walk. I wish I'd gone to sleep early instead.  And yet I felt compelled to write it down.  Because this is why I campaign to get kids outdoors.

High tech high nature is a phrase coined by The Wild Network. I might not have noticed how edgy I felt after an hour of skimming social media without that hour of wandering to compare it too.  I love social media. But I love not being engaged too. 

How to balance the two?  Best leave it there and turn off the phone!

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Event, Forest School, Free Range Urban Kids, Hackney, Millfields, Wildtime -

If you go down to the woods today... Well in the woods in Millfields Park, Hackney on Wednesdays and Fridays what you'll find is Free Range Urban Kids - the borough's first 100% outdoor nursery for 2-5 year olds! Run on Forest School principles,  the emphasis is on fun and play, some learning through nature and lots of simple enjoyment. And being outdoors. every day. Come rain or shine. Despite the fact these children live in the heart of urban East London. Well if they can do it in Sweden, and even in Scotland, surely we can do it here in Hackney?! FRUK12 Yesterday Free Range Urban Kids ran their first 'taster' session with about 13 kids dropping in with their parents to see what it would be like to be outdoors. It couldn't have been a better first day - crisp autumn sunshine, lots of leaves and sticks to play with and parents quickly discarded as the kids just had fun. One of the founding partners, Hayley Mitchell said "It was fascinating to watch the child who arrived and refused to put waterproofs on, demanding to go home, and then by the end of the session joining in and having a great time. A true Forest School transformation." Children who are unaccustomed to getting their hands dirty tentatively - with no doubt some peeking at parents - began to enjoy the mud. Serendipitous findings of mushrooms and spiders, cue awe and wonder at what can be discovered just a short walk from their own front doors. This was very different to the usual childcare rooms, despite commitments to 50% outdoor time and 'freeflow'. This was ALL about the outdoors. FRUK5 As well as simple free play, Hayley described how the children could choose to do art, this time using the leaves around them for pictures. The session was led by Henry, an experienced teacher and forest school leader, who will also mange the volunteers who are all experienced childcare professionals currently studying the Forest School approach. There was an area with musical instruments that the children could pick up and play, and big fat brushes so they could 'paint' the trees with water. They made flags for their boundary fence out of sticks and old fabric decorated with mud and leaves. These children will know, despite the fact they will need to clear up every night, that during Free Range Urban Kids school this is their place. Snack time soup was served and hands could be washed using piping hot water from flasks kept for that purpose (flasks provided by Outdoor People :-)) At the end of the session, fed and watered, there was just time for a story - appropriately 'We Are Going on a Bear Hunt'. FRUK9 Hayley, who is undertaking her Forest School training here in Hackney, finished up by saying "It was wonderful to see the small transformations over the morning, it was truly magical". Every single one of the children that came to the taster sessions has now been signed up to come regularly, and there are a few places left across the autumn term (running up to the 19th December). Drop in sessions are £18, or £16 per session for a block of 6. e-mail info@freerangeurbankids.com. FRUK15 FRUK6 FRUK7 FRUK2

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consultancy, Exhale, Hackney, Hackney Wild Walks, Market, newsletter, Project Wild Thing, Teach First, The Wild Network, Treasure Hunt -

I hope you got to enjoy some of the lovely autumn sunshine in the last week? And maybe collected some conkers and leaves? Hello to the large number of emails I just added to the list – sorry it took a while! And hello to all of you that have been with me since the start! Outdoor People is building as a social enterprise, and I’ve just been doing a lot of reflecting on the last six months and am very much looking forward to the next few months – quite a lot to be getting on with! Breaking news is I’ve been invited to write a series of blogs for Children and Young People Now and my first will be published in the next week or two. I’ll let you know when it is. Pretty excited about this, CYPN goes out to pretty much every organisation in the children and youth sectors and every local authority! “Hackney’s own adventure shop” (a lovely customer just recently said!) If you get a chance to come down to the stall you’ll see some great new stock – rucksacks, rocket stoves, backpacking stoves and hammocks. I’ve been putting one of the new Boreas rucksacks through its paces and it is just brilliant. Got a last minute restock of the fantastic Klean Kanteens this eve, thankful as only had two small flasks left! You can see lots of photos on the Instagram site – and you don’t have to me signed up to check them out. I have sold well over a hundred of the small flasks since I set up now, and just had my first couple of returns because of faults. I’m glad to say the supplier is brilliant and totally honours the lifetime guarantee as long as it is a genuine fault. Another reason why I love them so much! That and because I love hot tea and they are so pretty… Next year I’m glad to say we will be taking the shop, and hiring out tents again at Exhale Festival, in 2015 in TWO venues! At Easter a boutique festival, mainly targeted at adults though children welcomed, in the beautiful mountains above Seville in the South of Spain. And then in August we’ll be teaming up with the fantastic Sylvan Adventures to provide bushcraft and kids outdoor play for the main festival on a site at least double the size of last year’s! Buy early bird tickets – only available for the next few days – here. If you think you’d like a tent just email, the web page will be up next week. Check out the Exhale 2014 video to pick up the vibe here. The film screening of Project Wild Thing with Urban Free Range Kids was fantastic, very well attended and raised funds to help make the five-day-a week outdoor nursery a reality. They are startring their sessions properly on the 5th November so if you have small kids do check them out! As a trustee of The Wild Network I was on the panel appointing Mark Sears as the new Director and Nick Stace as Chair. We are very excited about both appointments, and about the next steps on the journey for the charity. Please do join the Wild Network if you haven’t yet – over 10,000 members and rising! We are particularly seeking folks that might be interested in being part of the advisory council who are from BME communities or are disabled, so if you or anyone you know fits that bill please do email. I’ll be doing a press release with Gift Your Gear in the run up to Christmas, and we’ve already collected a pretty large crate of stuff! If you have outdoors gear to donate you can drop it at the stall or email me, so I can either pick up or arrange for them to pick up direct. I’ve done four professional development sessions for people working with families in Hackney to help them promote #HackneyWildWalks and feedback has been fantastic. Two of the walks involved early years children, one was adults only and another, with Laburnum boat club, involved a lovely group of young people who were just brilliant at map reading. Some photos are up on Flikr, there are more to come. Out of these I’ve developed a booklet of useful resources, do let me know if you’d like a copy. A resource pack of posters and stickers will be available shortly too, free to organisations that have been part of the project or who are in Hackney and work with families. There are two, possibly three more sessions to come, one on the 12th November, others tbc. Do sign up if you work with families and...

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community, dock leaves, Hackney, Hackney Wild Walks, Love Outdoor Play, Lubavitch, nettles, outdoor play, risk:benefit, Stamford Hill -

"I've lived here for years but didn't know this was here!” So said one of the first people to join the first Outdoor People Hackney Wild Walk Workshop.
image It was a sunny, warm morning and we’d set out from the lovely Lubavitch Children’s Centre in Stamford Hill. Our workshop was focused on building confidence in taking groups of families out to explore their neighbourhood and in encouraging families and older children to explore them by themselves. We were looking for those secret spaces, unexpected wild and the great places to play. IMG_1700 The first big knowledge share was when we talked about risk, and specifically risk:benefit. We discussed possible serious risks – falling in the canal, road crossings, sunburn. And of course the benefits – greater confidence, more likely to walk further, finding new places to play (and play actively) and for fun. IMG_1782 Then as we set off along the path by the reservoir we came across the frankly most likely risk – nettles. IMG_1705 Everyone said they’d known children who had been stung, and what a worry it was. Then young Fred found us some dock leaves. IMG_1719 As several of the group simply hadn’t grown up here, they didn’t know about dock leaves. And on further discussion with a youth worker it became clear that this simple bit of knowledge – that dock leaf sap can reduce nettle inflammation – is simply not known by Hackney kids, at least not the ones we are all targeting. It's simply a bit of useful folklore that’s got missed. So everyone picked samples to take back and share. We had a great time, everyone gained something and all enthusiastically committed to taking at least ten more Hackney kids out on the walk. And that’s 80 odd children from this walk - over 500 by the time we've done all the workshops - who will now know about nettles, and will hopefully feel a bit more confident about playing outside where they live. [gallery type="slideshow" ids="927,926,925,924,920,919,916,892,901"] The Hackney Wild Walks Workshops are being sponsored by Hackney’s GREY SQUIRRELPublic Health Team as part of Healthy Hackney’s ambitions to reduce obesity and get young children in the borough more active through playing outdoors.

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