A few years ago I was staying at one of my favourite camp sites in Wales. It’s about three miles from Betws-y-Coed with lovely views across woodland towards Cwm Penmachno. Beyond the far hills, down the other side, you find another area I love, the Dolwyddelan valley. There’s a glimpse of Moel Siabod if you pitch your tent in the right place. There’s a stream running through the site and a small rocky area in the middle. I sat in my chair with coffee enjoying the view, watching two small children playing around the rocks. The girl was making daisy chains and the boy liked them. Mum gave the girl a huge bubble blower and they amused themselves making bubbles which floated across the camp site, one towards me.

I wondered about the simplicity of childhood and how the smallest details entertain and delight. You are curious about whatever is in front of you, in the natural world, whether ant, leaf, flower or bee. You unfold it in your mind, embellish it with imaginative stories, absorbing and learning the details. I remember this myself. Sitting beside the garden pond in the sunshine, playing with friendly newts and watching the fish. The dragonflies were frightening but beautiful, the pupae vicious and cruel. We tried to catch and kill them, because they ate large holes in the fish who would eventually float to the surface, breathing hard and dying, or we found them among the weeds already dead.

Most poignant was a summer afternoon at school when the boys were playing cricket. I wasn’t interested. I was supposed to be fielding, ready to catch and run after the hard red ball, but it was a wonderful day and I laid on my back and gazed at the intense blue sky.

We have an easy communion with nature as children, and I sometimes connect this with my adult mountain walking. The peace and contentment is probably much the same. I lie on my back, dreaming upwards, watch the fish, enjoy the little newt sunning himself in the palm of my hand. I climb Scafell Pike, Snowdon, Cnicht, Pillar, Siabod, Mam Tor, Kinder Scout, Beinn Alligin, Beinn Eighe, Ben Lui, Posets, Grande Fache, Petit Vignemale, Monte Rotondo. I sleep in a little tent, walk, photograph, feeling as I did as a boy.


Chorlton Meadows: Outdoor Children

Monday February 8, 2016