Children Imprisoned by Invisible Force-field!

22 04 2012

This is not a normal time for me to be writing a blog entry – I should be sleeping off nights. So why am I up? The answer is just one word – children! Not mine, I hasten to add, I don’t have any… Next door’s children and all their friends have been steadily keeping me awake for the last few hours until I’ve eventually given up on sleep and got up. While I was lying trying to sleep, however, this post kind of wrote itself in my head, so I’m putting it out hoping for some discussion – please feel free to leave comments below…

Next door’s children (probably around 10 years old) have many friends, in fact, they seem quite popular. They also seem to have lots of energy – I can tell this from the fact that they spend a lot of time thundering round the house, squealing loudly and slamming all the doors. When they are outside however, they seem bound by an invisible force-field…

They all have bicycles – but I’ve never seen one of them leave the end of our cul-de-sac on one… They also have legs which could propel them into our beautiful rural surroundings which lie all around the village. I often assume that their parents brought them to our village so that they could experience these wonderful surroundings – the moors, the woods, the footpaths through the fields… But it seems not to be the case. If any of the children approach the end of our very short street, they are suddenly turned back by this invisible force-field. How sad!

Life seems even worse for next door’s pets – they have a rabbit which never sees the outside of the garage. This is despite it having one of those cage-type runs on the lawn and the occasional nice weather we sometimes are blessed with in Britain. Life is harsher still for their sheepdog-type collie – it is allowed no further than the back yard, and then only for a couple of minutes twice a day. I have never seen the poor thing taken out for a walk – it must be going demented – those aren’t the kind of dogs to keep permanently indoors and they needs lots of exercise.

The force-field can seemingly only be broken by car… I’ve often seen the children leave the street cooped up inside the car (never the dog though unfortunately). Indeed, any visiting children from the next street or so, apparently must be driven back home in this way after playtime. The force-field seems not to even be deactivated on school days. Despite the school being around quarter of a mile away, and on safe footpaths (like the one illustrated below which is the final one by the school), they are not allowed to walk there – they must be driven.

Our village isn’t populated by paedophiles or maniacs (apart from perhaps harmless loonies like myself) so their safety isn’t threatened in this manner. Besides, as there is usually a gang of around 6 – 8 or so of them (a similar number to our gang in our day), I’m pretty sure there is safety in numbers.

Stravaiger John, who’s blog is linked from mine, used to have a childhood similar to the one we had in our day. This is an example of what he used to get up to locally in his youth:

Straivager John

“When I were a lass” (as we say in Yorkshire), we were never at home. My mother would confirm this and often still comments on it (with a smile). We were in this same village and we had the moors, the woods and the footpaths through the fields, just as we do now. Our days were spent in various ways, unless the weather was absolute teeming it down with rain…

We went beck-jumping – that was one of our favourite ‘sports’. We just basically worked our way through the fields finding wider and wider sections of beck to jump across. Of course, those who didn’t quite make it provided much entertainment for the others. No-one ever got hurt – just wet! The field below is one of the ones where we used to beck-jump – although the beck looks quite narrow, there are some sections which were probably about 8 feet wide. This made me particularly good at long jump at school so it had advantages outside of playtime…

We went up the woods… There are tracks all over the wood, I even used to make little maps of it at home if I was stuck in due to bad weather. There were lots of great trees to climb, scrambly, rocky sections to clamber up, a little cave in the limestone to hide in… We used to even go up one of the old quarry faces using ‘the vines’ – a strong ivy vine which took you just short of half-way up the quarry then you were on your own on steep slabs. By the time we reached the thorn bushes growing at the top of the cliff, we used to drag ourselves through them, not minding the scratches and thorns, just so long as we could get to the safe grass above (the quarry is probably at least 50 feet!)


Me on “The Apache” rock with my best friend’s dog Sandie


“The Haw” above the woods – a favourite of ours

Track into Woods – Winter (above) and Summer (below)

Still in the woods, we often took a frying pan and matches up to the little clearing in the photo below and, after making a safe fireplace banked round with rocks, used to use the dead-wood and fir-cones lying around to make a little fire and cooked ourselves little picnic meals. As we ran out of sensible ingredients we took to frying things like ‘biscuits in orange juice’ and ‘mashed potatoes in vinegar’!

Our local moors are quite extensive – there must be 100 square miles of moorland just above the village. These are gritstone moors and are very beautiful indeed – and again criss-crossed by tracks. There are grippy tors to climb on – one of the favourites was the fallen block below – the ‘Fairy Kist’ (or chest). There was a very easy route up the short side at the back and then a horrifying looking drop down the slab – all safe enough though and no-one ever got hurt clambering around up there.

We used to walk right across the moor to where there is a large wooden cross on an outcrop with a little cave in the crag below. We would then continue to the war memorial further on. There were several routes to the cross and war memorial – the one which went across the middle of the moor, visited two little cabins which we also used to play and picnic in. A typical walk on the moor was probably 10 to 15 miles but we never noticed and took all day about it.

Another long but pleasant walk was a couple of miles along a lane from the village and then across fields to more moorland. This took us to a set of lovely grassy hills which also had exciting rocky foothills which even had a little cave (see below).

We cycled to a popular local beauty spot on lovely little lanes (about a 10 mile round trip)…

We would set out on these sojourns after breakfast and wouldn’t return until tea-time. Our parents never worried as they knew we were countryside-savvy children (purely from being out there so much) and they also knew there was safety in numbers. All this, of course though, was before the advent of mobile phones, so there was literally no contact until we returned at tea-time (often late if the weather was nice).

In winter, we even went sledging on our own! That doesn’t seem to happen nowadays…

So… what has gone wrong? Are parents too restrictive and paranoid about their children, even when in a largish gang, getting attacked? Or are children nowadays totally lacking in imagination? I can’t imagine why, when living in such a superb rural area, they confine themselves (or are confined) to their street. I honestly don’t believe, in reality, that there are more dangers out there than there were in our day.

Here’s more photos of what they’re missing…

Comments invited please…

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15 responses

11 01 2014
Vernon

Funny, I’m reading this early in the morning, getting ready to take my boys out to a place called Avis Dam…for exactly the reasons you mention.

We live in a city, in Africa, and so letting my kids walk down the street is a real safety concern, but we have a big yard, and my kids are outside most of the time.

As they’re growing up now, I’m making more and more effort to take them out and about.

I think it’s important for the kids – being out in nature is just so much more mentally stimulating. I think it even goes beyond that, without kids experiencing the wild outdoors, what are they going to care when it comes to nature conservations?

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11 01 2014
mountaincoward

There are so many reasons to be in the outdoors – you make a good point about them learning about nature conservation – also it’s just about the best thing for your health (mental and physical) to be in the outdoors.

I have to say that we’re lucky in our area that there is little violent crime and it is very rural.

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12 01 2014
Vernon

I totally agree with you. I’ve seen the difference in my own kids – when kids are just watching TV you can see it in behavior and in school work.

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12 01 2014
mountaincoward

Totally agree – I’m glad you’re bringing your children up properly. I wish people around here would – they have so much opportunity to do so but are probably too busy watching TV themselves!

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22 04 2012
fedupofuserids

Carol, its duplicated in our village and no doubt throughout the whole country. Some parents walk their children to school – others drive them the grand distance of 100 yards – surely it must be quicker to walk ?

We took our kids sledging when we had snow and also took one of my daughters friends (aged 11) – it was her first time on a sledge !?!

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22 04 2012
mountaincoward

I find it really sad – but I don’t suppose they realise what they’re missing out on seeing as they’ve never experienced anything that we did as kids.

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22 04 2012
Paul Shorrock

I suspect that your are going to have a long list of readers agreeing, Carol.

Like yourself and Chrissie, I used to wander for miles as a kid. I got my first decent bike at ten, and used to take off on my own, exploring the lanes around where I lived.

The bit about you taking frying pans and matches struck a chord as well! We used to climb trees, jump becks (or brooks as they called them in Lancashire) and get up to all sorts of scrapes.

You would have thought my parents might have been worried – they were both nurses, and we lived in the grounds of what was (at the time) one of the biggest mental hospitals in the country. Mum and dad must have done a risk assessment (!!) because my sister and I were given one clear instruction – “Don’t go anywhere with someone you don’t know”. Having been warned, we were off, enjoying ourselves and learning about life on the way.

And it’s a bl**dy good job I don’t know where your neighbours live, keeping a Border Collie cooped up like that!

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22 04 2012
mountaincoward

Hi Paul,
Yeah, I’m sure we were given a bit of rudimentary advice about strangers and, although we always said hello to strangers around the village, we avoided them when we were out and about away from it.

I often wonder whether I should offer to walk next door’s dog – I can’t believe the poor thing has never had a walk! I do worry about it quite a bit really,
Carol.

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22 04 2012
chrissiedixie

Hi Paul, that wasn’t Winwick Hospital was it?

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22 04 2012
mountaincoward

We had the famous Menston not too far from us!

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22 04 2012
Paul Shorrock

Hi Chrissie, not a million miles away – it was Whittingham, near Preston.

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22 04 2012
lanceleuven

That reminds me of this post I read the other day:

http://siskinbob.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/3250/

But it is certainly a shame that children are not allowed out like they used to be. To be honest my childhood adventures didn’t have quite the idyllic surroundings that you describe but we certainly had a great deal of fun and I recognise much of what you describe. We would disappear for hours, often all day, going miles away without our parents having any idea where we were. Not because they were reckless but because they knew they didn’t need to worry. We never got (seriously) hurt and were never in any real danger. But we had a great deal of fun and learnt a lot about the world, about friendships, and gained great experiences. It’s such a shame that many children seem to miss out on those experiences today.

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22 04 2012
mountaincoward

Hell! I’m glad you left that link Lance – I can’t believe that blog post – completely outrageous. Really does illustrate how bad things have got and what I’m trying to say. Thanks for the link,
Carol.

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22 04 2012
chrissiedixie

Your childhood sounds pretty much like mine! I wasn’t allowed to spend days inside unless I was ill, I was expected to be out in all weathers getting up to mischief. Like you said there were no mobiles, but I was taught to tell the time very young and given a watch so that I knew what time I had to be back home for. That was the only constraint that was laid on me. I echo everything you say and as a primary school teacher I am constantly amazed at what children don’t/are not allowed to do these days. I have heard that statistically children are no more at risk these days, people just think they are because stuff hits national headlines now, whereas when I was young you often only heard about the local stuff. I have had my own little campaign going for years now, where I keep telling parents that their children should be out climbing trees etc, but I don’t think anyone really takes any notice of me!

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22 04 2012
mountaincoward

Hi Chrissie, well you can certainly add my blog post and my voice to your campaign! Also, the gentleman above, in his comment, has left a link to a blog post on a similar subject – I’m just about to go and check that out now…
Carol.

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