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#OutdoorPeople, Charlie, Diary, E8, exploring, graffiti, Hackney Wild Walks, HackneyWildWalks, London Fields, Outdoor People, parks, playing, shops, streetplay, streets, urban exploring -

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
I built my long term love of just being outdoors simply playing around the the places where I was growing up. Climbing trees, roller skating, den making, breaking into building sites... More distant adventures were had, but they were special. This blog is about the everyday adventures that start just outside your front door. And be warned this is a bit more of a personal blog - but I do include a good few references to thinkers and researchers too, to bring it back to I hope something useful if you are trying to make the case to increase walking with children or families where you live or work. We moved quite a lot through my childhood and teenage years - Yorkshire, N Wales, Liverpool, Cheshire and Baghdad*. Then post college (in London), I had eight more addresses from the Highlands of Scotland to Exeter before I was 32 and finally 'settled' here in Hackney. Moving so often, playing and exploring outdoors was an important way for me to get to know my neighborhood, to put down roots quickly, to feel safe and known, to make friends with both other children (and later adults!) and the lady that ran the corner shop (insert coffee shop!). Research from a number of sources** shows children and families are safer and feel far more 'connected' where they are outdoors in their own places more and know their neighbours. Living in relatively car free areas massively increases connectivity. Whatever, from experience I'd agree that the more time you spend meandering and really looking at your neighbourhood, the more connected and safer you feel. And that still holds however old you are. In the course of the last few months developing the Hackney Wild Walks with the good folks of Hackney's Public Health team, and taking professionals for workshops and treasure hunts around some of the secret spaces across the borough has reminded me so strongly how very, very important it is for all of us to simply walk where we live. to feel it in all its seasons. Yesterday I needed to visit a shop in Haggerston, about a mile from my flat, so instead of zipping there on my bike and decided to go in a #HackneyWildWalk headspace and see what I could find... One of my favourite pastimes in Hackney is spotting new graffiti. The world is constantly changing. It doesn't matter how often you go down a path, it is always different. That applies just as much to the built as the growing environment. That's one of the many benefits parents and educators mention about simply going outdoors - there is simply so much more to talk about! IMG_4878 Stik is a famous local graffiti artist - but this is the biggest piece of his I've seen. IMG_4883 Even walking along side streets of an inner city borough on a dull October day you can find beautiful flowers, and I was happy to spot this cornflower, one of my favourites. IMG_4885 Growing up partly in the Middle East, it makes me very happy to see trees like this so close to home! When I'm doing the walk with children these provide a great talking point too. IMG_4886 And curious signs! The British sense of humour is visible in so many tucked away spaces, always nice to see! IMG_4887 Urban walks always have a bench to sit, drink your coffee, and watch the world go by. IMG_4892 Then homeward bound... IMG_4889 There are so many trees to see, plants of all shapes and sizes, animals and birds to both see and hear.  This morning - on the way to early yoga - I think I heard a nightingale. Need to check that on my app... but not until I've smelt the earth a little longer. Playing, exploring and simply observing where we live - and chatting to folks on the way, something most people seem to welcome if done with a smile, though the dog helps! - are critical not just to our health, but to our sense of who we are in the place we live. So do try and make space for a wild walk in the next week...

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Campaigns, Children's Play Policy Forum, education, health, housing, Play England, Play Scotland, Play Wales, Playboard Northern Ireland, Playday, playtime, policy, politicians, schools, streetplay, The Play Return -

Today is PLAYDAY!!!

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Today children and young people from across the UK will be taking part in community events to celebrate Playday – the national day for play. A report published in support of the campaign - The Play Return (pdf) - highlights the impact play can have, including the increase in physical activity rates for children where their schools and communities support play. TPlay Return Coverhis in turn leads to better results in education and improved health.

In particular free play in school break times, where children and teenagers are encouraged to do what they want to in their own free time, leads to greater physical activity than organised sport, and to better social skills and  academic outcomes.

This may seem self-evident - and indeed to many it is irrelevant, play is important in and of itself. But in a world of ever dwindling resources and competing demands, where the philosophical underpinnings of resource allocation is on 'merit', then some good hard facts come in handy. Especially in a world where children are regularly threatened with 'ASBOs' for playing football in the street or climbing trees.

Commissioned by the Children’s Play Policy Forum, the report is aimed at politicians and policy makers, and as a tool for campaigners in support of ensuring children have the time, space and opportunity to play outdoors. It was written following a round table last November, hosted by Play England, that brought together Nick Hurd - then Minister for Civil Society - and leaders from health, education, play, housing and the private sector. At the meeting Nick backed 100% the motion that Government should support play, supporting the strong statements made by representatives from organisations such as the Local Government Association, Wilmott Dixon and Public Health England. Author of the report, Tim Gill said
[caption id="attachment_666" align="alignright" width="158"]130812 Claudia Draper b Randal Cremer School Haggerston Credit: Hackney Playing Out[/caption] “Outdoor play impact(s) significantly on the lives of children and young people, it also in many cases can provide a basis for the transformation of wider communities. "From the perspective of politicians and policy makers, the report highlights that investing in play can, and does lead to multiple benefits including improved educational attainment, a healthier society and increased levels of tolerance within and between communities”.
As the former Director of Play England who organised that meeting with Nick Hurd, and now the founder of Outdoor People, I say to politicians and policy makers:
It makes no sense to close playgrounds, to reduce school playtimes or to put up 'No Ball Games' signs in a world where a fifth of 5 year olds are overweight or obese, where mental health issues amongst young people are massively on the rise, and where we have to raise a generation ready and willing to fight for the environment. Invest in outdoor play, and you invest in both the present and the future.
This year the Playday coordinating organisations across the UK challenge everyone to respond to the statement:

‘Play is…’

Outdoor People is responding by saying:IMG_3743
Play is health Play is happiness Play is hope 
And I ask you: what would the world be like if Play is...not? Now in its 27th year, Playday provides an opportunity for children, young people, parents and communities to come together to highlight and celebrate the positive impact play has on the everyday lives of children and young people. Outdoor People welcomes this report, and encourages everyone to use it where arguments are necessary. Where those in charge of making play happen - in schools, hospitals, housing estates and shopping areas, in parks and green spaces and in streets - need the case made. In Wales that means ensuring Play Wales secures futureIMG_3847 funding as well as continuing to support the play duty placed on every local authority. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it means lending more support to the Play Strategies that are protecting and encouraging local investment in play. And in England that means everyone pulling together to reinvest in the national strategic body for play, Play England, and communities everywhere fighting back against the encroaching ennui that sees traffic, academic results and 'elf'n'safety as insurmountable barriers, that encourages parents to feel guilty if their kids are playing out and that makes schools reduce the time and space children have to play. You can find a Playday celebration near you on the Playday website: http://playday.org.uk/playday-events/events-near-you.aspx And you can get involved in...

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