Learning to find magic in challenging times

Life at the moment is challenging for all of us in one way or another. We feel extremely grateful to escape to this little peaceful corner of the world and to spend the day experiencing life through the eyes of a child, as magical and extraordinary. There have been many special moments this half term but one in particular reminded me of how our children always seem to find the magic in challenging times. As we arrived in Hope Cove to lashing rain and gale force winds, we began the day with a little trepidation, wondering how the children would cope. We needn’t have worried. As we sat by the fire warming our toes and munching our snacks the children eagerly asked where we were headed for the day and after a little discussion about wind direction and tide times we decided that the woods would be our location for the morning. The children threw their bags onto their backs and headed out to find their names on the rope bus, which looked like a waterfall itself as the rain dripped from their name tags. We set off, embracing the wild weather. As the rain poured down, a stream of muddy water flowed down from the woods, providing the opportunity to discuss the steepness of the road and the speed of the flowing water. They listened to the rushing water in the drain and noticed that the water was higher than usual. Due to the beating rain the woodland gate was more slippery than usual but that didn’t stop them clambering over or sliding through the mud underneath. They felt the squidgy mud under their wellies and talked about how it was tricky to walk as it felt like their boots were being sucked into the mud. They jumped in puddles of muddy water and watched the splash of mud on their waterproofs, discovering that the harder they jump, the higher the mud will travel, even as high as their faces! They rolled balls of mud and put them onto the end of sticks as they pretended they were camping with a fire to toast their marshmallows. They practiced forming letters and drew pictures along the fence using mud, a little more interesting than just a pencil. They found bits of broken branches to stand on as ski’s to slide down the muddy hill, quite the balancing challenge! Throughout the day we heard screams of joy and laughter and shouts of “This is absolutely crazy good” and “It’s my greatest day ever!”

We understand that as parents you may question the positives of leaving your child in the woods with howling winds and a temperature of two degrees. We understand that playing outdoors in Winter gives our children the opportunity to learn that they can manage life when it gets challenging. We tell them that they can achieve anything and continuously build their self-esteem. They discover that they have the ability to persist and make the most of what life throws at them. We know that grit and resilience are two essential capacities that our children need for long term wellness. Most importantly we look forward to the reward of hot chocolate at the end of the day whilst reflecting on how much we have learnt and how proud we are of their achievements. 

Read the rest of the Venture Hope Cove newsletter for Spring 1 2021 here.

Zoe’s childhood memories

My affinity with the outdoors began amongst the beautiful Shropshire countryside where I grew up. My parents were keen to instill in their children an appreciation of the simple things in life and so family time was spent on long, rambling walks, bike rides and camping trips.

When my parents were busy I, like most children who grew up in the eighties, played outside. We were outside no matter what the time of year. The thick coats and boots of wintertime gave way to wellies and raincoat, then swimming suits and sandals to cardigans and ear muffs as our adventures outside continued through the seasons. We would leave the house in the morning with our ‘rations’ and spend our days climbing trees and singing as we gathered resources to make further improvements to our den.

One of my most vibrant memories is of a moment when I was alone outdoors at around the age of 5. As I was running along I came across a bird on the path. It was sitting absolutely still. I crept towards it feeling excited but knowing that I had to be slow and calm, and I remember thinking as I got closer and closer to it, that it would fly away soon but it didn’t. I managed to get right up close to the bird and see all of the detail in its tiny beak and its shiny eyes and the layers and layers of feathers along its back. It feels like I was looking at that bird for minutes, although looking back it was probably only seconds before it flew away, and the image of it is still vivid in my mind.

As a teenager I spent less time outdoors but I appreciate now the fact that it was my job to walk the family dog. My walks alone in the woods allowed me to balance the busyness of teenage life with a continued peaceful connection to the earth.
As an adult when I revisit the destinations of my childhood play, I feel as though I have returned to my true home. The memories I made there and the lessons I learned will always stay with me.

I now have five lively, inquisitive children of my own; Jacob, Casper, Scarlett, Gabriel and Luca and the natural world has played an enormous role in their upbringing. They have given me so many opportunities to relive some of those precious childhood moments and as they grow up I find immense joy in seeing them all connect with the outdoors in their own way, creating their own future memories of special times and places. It is not always easy as the lure of tv and technology threatens to keep them indoors, but it is something that my husband and I feel passionate about.

I feel extremely privileged that through Venture Outdoor Kindergarten I am able to combine my love of spending time outdoors with working with young children, to spend my working days slowing down to a child’s pace and seeing the magic of the world through their eyes.




Jenny’s childhood memories

Jenny’s Childhood Memories

Jenny grew up in Sussex and spent her early days playing by the stream next to her house, making camps and mud pies with friends and riding her bike to a nearby farm to ride the horses. Camping and caravaning were the family holidays in Dorset and the New Forest where Jenny and her two brothers would scramble around playing in trees and streams, drinking fresh goat’s milk from old lemonade bottles, fishing and scrumping until it got dark.

When Jenny was 8 they moved to a beautiful house in the countryside where she would stay until she left home and here her and her brothers made the woods their own and felt they could have happily lived in some of the camps they built together. Jenny enjoyed making them homely and once covered an entire camp in layers of bright green moss. Treasure was buried in various spots around the garden (mostly their mother’s jewellery!) and they ate whatever they could find in the greenhouse, vegetable plot and orchard rather than stopping for lunch.

In 1985 Jenny went to a boarding school in the Sussex countryside which prided itself on a dangerous assault course (until it blew down in the 1987 storms) with a leap of faith where some had broken a bone. Occasionally at night after lights out the children would be called to get out of bed and go outside for a midnight swim. The school also organised ‘D’ day where the children spent the term building a camp in teams until, one surprise evening, a secret password would be spoken to announce the night when they would spend the night in their camp, responsible for lighting a fire and cooking their own food for the day.

The outdoor life continued with frequent trips to the Isle of Wight where Jenny learnt to sail and had a Swallows and Amazons existence with her cousins and brothers. Jenny’s next school brought more memories of exploring outside when they discovered they could escape through the dormitory window and camp out all night. Making swings and dens and enjoying the freedom of sailing in and out of nooks within the nearby reservoir.

After school, Jenny bought a round the world ticket and became immersed in different cultures, one of her best memories being staring out of a train window in India watching miles of shanty towns and countryside roll by. Returning home to study at University in London and spending some time staying on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe, Jenny then met her husband and they decided to leave the Home Counties and move to Devon for the quality of life. After twenty years in Devon, they love it more than anywhere else and are still discovering new places to explore with their own children, who have spent their entire childhoods in the fresh air!