October. Halloween, wild encounters and wet play

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 We’re on the hunt for….. a pick-your-own pumpkin

Hallowe’en is nearly here. Whatever your take on the macabre marketing of this festival of the dead to little people, it’s hard to ignore. Even if you don’t want to go down the party route (Wildmum’s fingers got burnt last year when ours ended in wailing), everybody loves a spot of artistic carvery. Last year, we picked our own pumpkin from Garson’s Farm (www.garsons.co.uk), which added to the ceremonial feel, and the gathering of it was a welcome reminder of the time and energy involved in growing these beautiful veggies. We opted for a smiley face, rather than a scary one and called him Pete. This year, we’re admiring quirky creations like these beautiful owls (below) at www.marthastewart.com  (not that there’s the time to create anything quite this complex, but still). Last year, a neighbour created one so intricate, it looked like a Rob Ryan papercut. She explained such delicate carvings are traditional in her native Poland.

 

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Wild wisdom on: Natural encounters

Filmmaker David Bond @wearewildthing has created a moving, persuasive and inspiring polemic with his film, being released on 27 October. Get tickets at projectwildthing.com if you haven’t already. We caught up with him on Skype to pick his brain on outdoor play. 

 

Do you think ‘wildness’ is key to the quality of children’s experience and play? Is a forest always better than the park?

“No, I think it’s really important not to think hierarchically about the outdoors. There’s no such thing as ‘good’ outdoors and ‘bad’ outdoors. Even a small patch of grass with a few trees on it can provide an exciting, enriching and liberating experience for children. If you start to put limits on wild play, it becomes exclusive. The most urban of environments can contain precious outdoor havens and even if they’re mini-ones, there’s plenty these natural spaces can offer. Just stopping to rifle through the leaves in a roadside hedgerow, or scrabble in the mud beneath it can engross children. The simplest natural wonders: tunnelling worms, rain-choked spiders webs and strange berries can spark fascinating conversations.”

 

Why do you think families have lost touch with the ‘wilderness’? 

“There’s so much to distract us and we’ve become fearful of traffic, wary of stranger-danger and reluctant to get messy and muddy, because we’re out of the habit. There’s so much to be said for exposing children to environments where they can have wild encounters. The other day, I took my children out for a walk in Nunhead cemetery. Albie, my youngest, found a severed crow’s wing. He was fascinated by it: it was so light when he picked it up and this triggered a brilliant discussion about aerodynamics and the mechanics of birds’ skeletons. It’s wonderful how unpredictable and wide-ranging these explorations can be.”

 

Lots of parents would have stopped him from picking that wing up…

‘Yes, and I think that we’re now so fixated on hygiene and so reliant on ‘designated’ play spaces and experiences, that we’re losing out on the value of these elemental, everyday miracles. I was talking to the naturalist Chris Packham the other day and he told me that his passion for wildlife began as a boy, when he kept dead foxes in a box in his shed and studied them as they decomposed. There is no substitute for the observation of nature when it comes to learning about the way the world works.’

 

 

This month’s most coveted

A fruit press. Maybe it’s because of the long summer, but apple trees everywhere seem to be especially bounteous this autumn. It’s making us crave a proper fruit press, for making juice for the kids and cider for grown ups. This one from Amazon, is under £50, too, and there are lots more on Ebay….

 
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