This is something I wrote for the Annual Report; a look back at 2013 and as we can’t afford to print a copy for every member, here it is.
Walking south, the low winter sun was bright enough for me to regret not bringing sunglasses. In the festival hinterland nestled between Christmas and New Year this glorious morning was a respite from the storms which bracketed it; one of those perfect days which come as such a surprise and, like a priceless jewel, are precious because of their rarity.
This is why Britain is such a special place and why we should take every opportunity to appreciate its beauty.
On my way down to the promenade I passed the monument marking the point where the Greenwich Meridian enters the sea dividing the world by zero.
Using faulty logic rather than empiricism I had dressed appropriately for post solstice temperatures but within a couple of minutes I was removing layers until I was down to my t shirt. There was not a cloud in the turquoise, winter sky and the sun began to warm my bones. Large blocks of milky chalk had been plucked from the impending cliffs by the towering, wall breaching, waves in the last couple of days and lay strewn across the concrete like a giant’s molars.
As well as soaking up the beauty I indulged in the traditional, end of year, introspection; what had Craggers achieved in 3013 and how can we top it in 2014; why do we do what we do and why is it so important.
The Christmas period often produces good radio and I had just listened to a programme about the book, ‘Stig of the Dump’ and this had stimulated my thoughts about Craggers. I read the book to my two older sons years ago and the life of the young protagonist was very similar to my own. Growing up in a semi rural area I, along with most of my peers, was a free range kid; we roamed the fields searching for treasure, climbed the trees and generally evaded adult supervision during the hours of daylight (and often later). Non of this seemed to worry our parents; maybe they were just happy not to have us hanging around during the long summer holidays. Some of my happiest memories are of sleeping in an old canvas tent in our garden.
The ‘Stig’ discussion broadened out with, almost without exception, the contributors bemoaning the lack of unsupervised adventures for modern children. Apart from the psychological advantages of self esteem and confidence conferred on kids by a childhood where self reliance is the norm, there are also the obvious health benefits which accrue.
I valued the freedom of my own childhood and tried to enable self reliance in my kids; encouraging them to take as much freedom as possible; but in an urban environment, with its rushing traffic and the unjustified fear of other people, I couldn’t just let them disappear for the day. The birth of my second son coincided with the birth of Craggers and with the Adventure Camp I think we are able to create something analogous to my free range childhood where children can safely roam the woods and appreciate nature up close.