When I was a kid, there were three things that I was absolutely obsessed about.
- Riding my bike
- Messing around in the local woods
- And in my teenage years, computers.
I probably spent the most time in the local woods up until I was around fourteen years of age.
I was a keen BP Scout and my friends and I were forever learning about fieldcraft and building temporary shelters in the woods near to where I lived. We all carried sheath knives for our trips to the woods, never imaging we would use them for anything than their intended application, but today, children carrying those knives (which we all knew how to sharpen and maintain) would end up being arrested. To us, they were just tools that we would use to build our ‘camps’. It was the norm. Nobody got arrested and nobody got the screaming ab-dabs that some kids had a knife on their belts.
Amongst my group of friends we had a basic rule. None of us were allowed to cut down a tree or snap living branches off trees. We very much regarded that as vandalism and a lack of respect for nature. We were quite the little wood-folk community.
As we got older, we finally managed to get our parents to allow us to stay in the woods overnight.
A lit torch under a red cagoule served as our version of a campfire and sitting on small rocks, the campfire stories began to flow.
There was one place that was scarier than any other place in the woods. It was a steep sided hollow in the ground that went down around 30 feet. It was a right of passage to ride your bike down one of the steep tracks and this was in the days long before mountain bikes came on the scene. This place was known as “The Witches Ditches” and as darkness descended, the trees surrounding us seemed to take on a more sinister form.
I can’t help but think today’s kids, with over-protective parents are missing out on so many outdoor adventures that made my generation so much more resilient than theirs.