I have just read a blog post with a lovely photo of the Radnor Street Cemetery, in Swindon [^], that brought make a few memories.
This is a photo of the cemetery that I found, available for public use under the Attribution, Share Alike Creative Commons Licence by Brian Robert Marshall, showing what a good view the cemetery offers of the town centre.
Image Credit: Brian Robert Marshall, under this CC Licence.
For a while, the Radnor Str Cemetery was one of our regular detours on the way home from school, back when free-ranging kids were the norm [^] rather than the exception.
I don’t know why we went through here, it was definitely an out of the way route compared to the our usual walk down Clifton Street. I think that it was a bit of a thrill, all those creepy gravestones, and the risk of being locked in. And for some reason I can only remember going through there in the winter months, probably for the extra creepiness! But then again perhaps that is just my memory playing tricks on me.
Thank you June for the story, the Hidden Swindon blog [^], and for bringing back this almost forgotten memory. More information can be found on the Blunsdon Parish Council webpage about the cemetery [^], and there are more black & white photos [^] on the BBC Wiltshire site.
There is another let children be children article in the LA Times, by Rosa Brooks:
All in all, “going out to play” worked out well for kids. As the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg testified to Congress in 2006, “Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles. … Play helps children develop new competencies … and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.” But here’s the catch: Those benefits aren’t realized when some helpful adult is hovering over kids the whole time. Remember ‘go outside and play?’ – Los Angeles Times.
Sure there are risks, but as Rosa points out, what about the risk of heart attacks and other obesity related health problems in these house-bound children. The other thing that spring to mind is we have very vocal people in our society upset about cage-bound, battery farm chickens – but there is only a small a relatively unheard group speaking up for children!
Is this a sign that there is something wrong in society?
No Ball Games
About a year ago I posted a link to an article in Orion Magazine about getting children out into the great outdoors. Well I have just stumbled across a whole website devoted to the same topic, FreeRangeKids [^]. This site is written by another American, Lenore Skenazy, a New Yorker no less!
A furore erupted when Lenore wrote an article in The New York Sun about leaving her 9 year-old son in downtown New York to find his own way home in broad daylight:
Half the people I’ve told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It’s not. It’s debilitating — for us and for them. FreeRangeKids [^]
As Lenore points out that in 2006 115 children were abducted in America, out of a population of 300 million! Now don’t get me wrong, the fact that 115 kids were abducted is still 115 too high; but there is a greater chance of being struck by lightning.
With almost continuous media coverage of these events, like the Madeliene McCann disappearance, this very small possibility remains at the top of everyone’s minds. We take precautions to avoid being struck by lightning, and we should look after out kids – but don’t wrap them in bubble-wrap! There needs to be a point where parental responsibility and independent thinking by the child meet.
It seems as though someone has finally stumbled upon a really good idea – get kids outside. Instead of having kids constantly under their parents feet, or being chauffeur-driven around to organised sports and shopping malls get them out into the great outdoors! And all this from America!
Yes, there are risks outside our homes. But there are also risks in raising children under virtual protective house arrest: threats to their independent judgment and value of place, to their ability to feel awe and wonder, to their sense of stewardship for the Earth – and, most immediately, threats to their psychological and physical health. The rapid increase in childhood obesity leads many health-care leaders to worry that the current generation of children may be the first since World War II to die at an earlier age than their parents. Getting kids outdoors more, riding bikes, running, swimming – and, especially, experiencing nature directly – could serve as an antidote to much of what ails the young.
Source: Leave No Child Inside | by Richard Louv | Orion Magazine March-April 2007 [^]
I had a look at some of the place where I “experienced nature directly” in Swindon. In Rodbourne where there is now “Pasture Close” and “Meadow Road” [^] there used to be Meadow and Pasture – and cows, mud and newts. Where we used to slip and slide down the hill on the way home from school at Commonweal between Okus Rd and Hillside Ave(?) [^] looks like it is under houses now as well. It was fun, and probably worth the trouble that I used to get into. But the big question is do kids still do it?