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Spring’s the Time to Shake off Nature-Deficit Disorder

ANOTHER LIFE : IF IT WEREN’T for the early whizz-by of the school bus, dashing to the furthest tendril of its morning round-up, I might suppose that children had vanished from all the houses between me and the mountain.

I mean child-size children, swinging satchels, not pushchair infants being taken out for a bit of occasional sunshine, of whom, I am delighted to say, there seem to be a few new ones.

What I’ve never seen, of course, is kids walking to school, though long ago there were many who did it barefoot, just like in the old photographs. That’s in the past, and well gone. But what surprised me early on, as a blow-in, was the lack of much sign that countryside kids enjoyed their natural landscape for play, adventure or imagining.

On the out-of-season strand there are all sorts of tracks – of seabirds, foxes, dogs and tractors – but never the spoor of junior boots. No one plays in the dunes or such scrubby woods as we have. Between the shore and the mountain most of the land is a warren of fences and other people’s fields; you don’t wander off the road.

Land means different things to town kids and country kids. To the first it’s “countryside”, a place apart, highly spoken of and pleasingly unknown. To the farmer’s son it is a workplace, best viewed from a tractor seat once puberty sets in.

All this seems far from the worries…
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