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How children lost the right to roam in four generations

When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.

It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.

Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas's eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.

He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home.

Even if he wanted to play outdoors, none of his friends strays from their home or garden unsupervised.
The contrast between Edward and George's childhoods is highlighted in a report which warns that the mental health of 21st-century children is at risk because they are missing out on the exposure to the natural world enjoyed by past generations.

The report says the change in attitudes is reflected in four generations of the Thomas family in Sheffield.

The oldest member, George, was allowed to roam for six miles from home unaccompanied when he was eight.

His home was tiny and crowded and he spent most of his time outside, playing games and making dens.

Mr Thomas, who went on to become a carpenter, has never lost some of the habits picked up as a child and, aged 88, is still a keen walker.…
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