Winter - #TinyAdventuresProject
It occurs to me, that if you do what you would usually do in the Summer, on a cold winters day, that this can become a new experience or challenge and a tiny adventure possibility. Many people cook, camp and play outdoors in the summer but may stop for the winter. We have always carried our outdoor practice on through out the winter months, following a belief that experiencing all that the seasons could offer was in itself a good education, whatever activity you planned or took part in. I asked my own kids what they enjoyed about still going out in the winter. Jay said she enjoys the fresh sting of cold weather on her face and that it feels clean in a way that no other time of year does. Sunny said she loves the extra challenge for example dry fire wood is harder to find and fires harder to light and maintain. Rudy the youngest said she liked the fact that as it was colder and days shorter and that it made it acceptable to just go out for a short time. This makes winter then, the perfect set up for a Tiny Adventure.
I have been wanting to write about getting outdoors in winter for a while. I saw a post by a fellow outdoor practitioner, Deb Millar, stating that people are often surprised when she says they don’t stop their work for the winter and that their outdoor groups continue in all weather. I mentioned this to another practitioner friend of mine, Lizzy Webber, who has recently launched an outdoor pre-school, Outside Tribe, and we discussed the amazing benefits and tricky aspects of being outdoors all year round. 100% in agreement that being outdoors all year round was a valuable experience for children, Lizzy had just made a decision to provide all children at her pre-school with good outdoor all-in-ones to ensure all kids had the right kit for the weather and time of year. These are two examples of work that goes on all year round, lots of outdoor education work doesn’t stop for winter, but some find the cancellations due to bad weather or the seasonal difficulties at their specific sites too challenging to be useful or fun. I was beginning to get twitchy with our Adventurers group as I realised some of the newer members hadn’t really experienced a proper grotty day with the triple threat of wind, rain and cold. It seemed in my memory that our members who had been with us the longest had endured much more of this and that recently we just, by fluke, seemed to hit the window in the bad weather at every session. Then, the last session before the Christmas holiday, was pretty grim. The kids and young people all went home layered in mud and wet right down to the pants and socks. All was well!
This post is about the benefits of getting outside in winter and how you, your friends and family can use it as a way to have tiny adventures, just by the virtue of it being colder or darker. My personal favourite activity for winter days or nights is cooking outdoors. There is something about food cooked outside that means it somehow even seems to taste better, in fact this has been the subject of past and early blog posts. A hot cup of soup cooked outdoors is the most sustaining, comforting food you could have on a cold winter day. Roasted chestnuts in the street or in the woods in the latter part of the year is a favourite, as is mulled wine, mulled cider or spiced apple juice. Try a camembert baked on the fire, get out your summer barbeque and use it to cook amazing chilli instead of burgers. Barbeques on a winter beach are hard to beat. A friend of mine just bought a cheap gas stove and started taking her family out to cook, they had sausages in the woods and tea and bacon sarnies on the beach, she loves that stove. It has turned a family walk into an event or a tiny adventure, just by adding the cooking of simple food.
Darkness can become a big excitement in winter. I used to find the shorter days tricky and almost count down the days to spring, until I began to embrace the winter nights outdoors. Shorter days mean it it much easier to enjoy the stars and night skies. With our groups we consciously do work that involves being out in the dark. We explore the change of light, the behaviour of birds and animals and even had an October microadventure to watch the Orionoids while we camped in our bivvies overnight. One of the best things we ever did was go on a night time rock pool tiny adventure with uv torches. Very ordinary creatures and plants look amazing under u.v. light and some creature are more active at night. Check the tide times for safety and if you go with young children consider putting them in high vis kit. Maybe there is an organised event like this near you, often they are free through the wild life trust and other similar organisations. Find excuses or reasons to get out at night in the dark. Walk the dog, walk during the full moon, camp out, cook out, make a fire or take a flask of food or hearty soup or hot drink to a local green space or up a hill. Go for a walk at twilight and try out your night vision, let it get dark and don’t use a torch unless you really have to, to test how your eyes adjust naturally. Try an urban night time walk, cities and towns at night can be magical and strangely peaceful. Notice how the birds have a bed time routine as the sun goes down and feel how the temperature and colours change as it gets darker. Maybe there is an astronomy or stargazing group near you or you maybe live near a dark skies festival? If not, have a look at funky apps that help you i.d. constellations, work out where you can find the darkest place near you, where has the least light pollution?.
A BBC documentary exploring winter as depicted throughout art history, highlights that artists began to depict winter landscapes as the human race became less under threat from winter conditions and lack of food or freezing temperatures. As homes and communities evolved to be able to resist the dangers of winter, so our appreciation of the season evolved too. We now are able to see snowscapes as beautiful and not just as a threat. In the same way, we can enjoy the best things about the season through lots of tiny adventures, we no longer need to fear winter we can get out and enjoy it and then return to a warm and safe home.
Lucky for me, and relevant to this blog, today, I went to a meeting to discuss how I could work with communities in Bodmin on a Winter Wellbeing project. Funded by Cornwall housing and in collaboration with the local resident’s association we discussed ways in which we could create activity in the community to help people get through the winter in a healthy, social and nourishing way. Unsurprisingly, the discussion led to wanting to experience the calm of winter nature, cooking soups and stews and eating together and bracing walks followed by returning to a warm home for a warm meal. Following my #2020tinyadventuregoals we are doing our first full moon walk this evening and tomorrow is the first day of our Saturday Adventurers group, where we will be out whatever the weather and we are having a half term of jazzy winter soups cooked over the fire.
There is something about winter that means that the simple and the tiny is more than enough, it is a season that lends itself to the spirit of the tiny adventure. No need to wait for longer days and warmer weather, get out there now!