Young People - Getting Out and Enjoying the Countryside
It seems most days we read about the inactivity of youngsters today, we are told they spend all their time sat in front of games consoles or tapping away on their mobile phones. They may spend far too long doing these activities (but don’t we all) but over the past week I have really had my eyes opened by the enthusiasm of youngsters wanting to get out and explore this wonderful countryside we have.
I spend many days a week working with schools, youth groups and young people in general and now I am starting to believe it is us, the adults, who are stopping these youngsters from exercising, with our molly coddled risk adverse society we are bringing them up in.
Just this week I spent two half days with a group of 15 year old youngsters who had based themselves at Wooler for a week.
The first evening when I tuned up you get all the usual banter and questions ‘what time will we be back’ and ‘I hope it’s not too far’ etc. The first evening I had them Geo-trailing (treasure hunt with a GPS unit) but off they went at a superb pace. Now tell me youngsters aren’t as fit as we used to be at their age. After ½ hour or so they were totally into the whole experience. Their confidence had grown and they wanted to go further including ‘can we climb a mountain’ they were totally enthused by the whole experience. When they got back what a change, not a iPhone in sight but plans for the next excursion into the Cheviot Hills were the talk of the night.
The following day we had a morning of map and compass work. This was a hot day so after 30 minutes planning routes we headed off. They did not want just a 5 mile walk, they wanted to achieve something and they all did. We all climbed Humbleton Hill and they stood on the top as if they had climbed Everest and why not. I was proud of every single one of them; they had totally got the walking bug and they stood tall. People had been telling them all their lives what they could not do and here they were proving them all wrong.
A couple of weeks earlier I also did some Geo-trailing with some youngsters who had come from troubled backgrounds (I don’t know if that is the politically correct way to say it or not). Again it started off with ‘urrr, we are not gooin for a walk’ but after a 1 ½ Geo-trail they wanted me to come back before their next morning activity and take them out again.
I suspect this time much of it came from a positive male role model stood in front of them who again showed them (maybe for the first time) that getting out and exercising and appreciating the outdoors is a brilliant thing to do. I could tell them tales of Shepherding in Australia and having to take my flat cap off and dipping my head to lord Carnarvon (when I was assistant shepherd on Highclere Estate, where Downton Abbey was filmed) and believe me I have not got a squeaky clean history, we were all young once so hopefully we can look back and draw on our own experiences.
So the next time some lazy journalist creates another article about obese, inactive youngsters I think we all need to look in the mirror at ourselves. We need to get these people out enjoying the countryside and believe me they are well up for it.
A final thing and I know this may not be politically correct. When the adults who come along and accompany the youngsters on these activities (with me or other providers) stop checking and texting/ tweeting/ facebooking on you dam iPhones. If that was the children you would rightly give them wrong.
We have to be role models and show them how great life is, they are after all the next generation and it is our duty to give every single one of them the best chance we can.