I’ve been away from my blog for a while. In fact I’ve been away from the UK for a while. I visited Thailand and Burma which was really interesting.
Back to my blog. This is a guest post from Sylva Fae who owns her own wood! (along with her family) http://sylvafae.co.uk/blog/
I have always loved writing but never had a reason to do so other than for studies or work. Not, that is, until two things changed in my life; I had children and we bought a small woodland. Many people thought we were crazy to buy a woodland just for fun, maybe we are slightly crazy, but it has been the best thing we have ever done. Kings Copse is hidden away in the Shropshire countryside, far far away from our real and sensible lives. It is our magical haven, a place for adventures and the inspiration for writing stories for my little children.
But how did it all begin?
So many times we have wished for things in life only for them to stay as dreams. It was after a disastrous camping holiday with a boisterous toddler that we mused about how nice it would be to have our own little woodland; a space to let our daughter run wild and enjoy the outdoors. Secretly we each went away and researched it and discovered this dream was actually within our reach. We spent an amazing summer pottering around woodlands for sale and eventually found our perfect place. Sometimes you just get a feeling that something is right. That feeling washed over us as we sat on a huge fallen tree and gazed at the sunbeams sparkling through the tree branches. We just knew that this was our wood.
Toasted Marshmallows and New Discoveries
My husband and I both have a love of the outdoors. We enjoy camping and pottering around but neither of us really knew what we were doing when we ventured in. What we did have was a vision. We wanted a safe place for our children to play, where they could roam off the path into the undergrowth and explore freely. We wanted to sit around a camp fire, toasting marshmallows and cooking our tea. We wanted to gather fuel for our log burner at home to keep us warm over winter. Most of all we wanted to share our little woodland with our friends and family.
We learnt quickly and slipped into roles. My husband busied himself doing ‘man-things’ with axes and making fires while I entertained our little one. We explored, creating new paths each time and discovering exciting places. Together we mapped out the wood, naming our special places as we stopped to play. Little toddler legs cannot wander far so we’d stop frequently for an adventure and all the while I drew upon my memories of beloved childhood stories and recounted them for my daughter. We found the tree throne where the fairy king of the wood sits, we made fairy gardens in Bluebell Bank and listened to the trees to hear what stories they had to tell. Remembered stories from The Faraway Tree and the Beatrix Potter animal antics gave way to made up ‘mummy stories’ about our magical adventures with the animals and fairies of the wood.
Now any parent will know how difficult it is to keep spirited children entertained on long car journeys! I discovered that my stories kept her engaged and content, in fact she preferred our ‘mummy stories’ because they were about her and the secret places we’d discovered and named together. Daughter number two came along shortly after and our stories grew to include her. They became my little woodland fairies and seeing the woodlands through their eyes was far more magical than I could ever have imagined. When my third little girl arrived I decided to start writing some of these stories down.
Introducing The Woodland Warriors
Those first couple of years were fun. We learnt a great deal about managing woodlands, my husband taught himself woodcraft skills and we made plans to develop our woodland paradise. At the end of the summer term, I happened to mention to other mums in the playground that we were off to the woods and they jumped at the chance to join us. The children had a glorious day charging round with sticks, making dens and playing on the rope swing. With my girls busy, I got to sit around the fire drinking camp fire coffee and cooked stew on the fire in a big cast iron pot – bliss! That initial group became our Woodland Warriors. The woods came alive with the sound of happy children making their own fun, and the only piece of technology for miles around, was the camera phone I used to record the muddy grins of happy children.
The Warriors left mucky, exhausted yet bubbling with excited ideas to create a woodland playground. My husband
was keen to oblige and used his new-found woodcraft skills to put up swings, climbing frames and most recently, a mud kitchen; all made from rope and logs from our own little woodland. Each time the Woodland Warriors joined us, the adventure playground grew and I planned craft activities and rambles of discovery. We started running theme days including a pirate adventure with a treasure hunt ending with buried treasure, and a Halloween adventure with pumpkin carving, witches brooms, a spooky trail and ending in a scary walk in the dark.
Secret Worlds and Magic Wishes
As little legs grew our rambles became longer and more adventurous. My favourite moment has to be discovering the Secret Field. My girls and I set off hunting for fairies and ended up at the bottom corner of the wood, a forest of ferns towering above the girls’ heads hides the world beyond. We decided to wade through to see what was on the other side. Imaginations ran wild as we carefully parted fern fronds – maybe a magical land like Narnia, would there be dragons, unicorns or talking animals? Of course I could see quite clearly over the top but watching the excitement of discovery through their eyes as we emerged on the other side was just magical. You get used to the shade under the trees so breaking through the dense ferns into the bright sunshine over a huge field was amazing. The girls ran and ran until exhausted then collapsed in the long grass of our Secret Field.
Discovering the world beyond the woods led to new adventures and the field has become a favourite place. It is a great place to view the woods and appreciate the changing of the seasons. In spring we found a magic clover patch and pick a four-leaf treasure every time we need a wish. In summer we lie in the grass searching for mystical creatures in the clouds chasing mermaids and cloud dragons across the sky while we feast on sorrel. Autumn is great for foraging, the hedges rich in blackberries and chestnuts (if you can beat the squirrels) and Winter is fabulous for stomping through muddy puddles.
Stories and Outdoor Learning
There are two things I’m passionate about, promoting early reading and getting children learning and playing outdoors.
Giving children the opportunities to read and develop their own love of books is such an fun way to start their education. It enhances their imaginative play and opens their little world up to one of fantasy, adventure and discovery. I love the bond formed when we snuggle up at bedtime to share a book. Fond memories of being read to by my mum come flooding back as I share my favourite childhood stories.
Playing outdoors is also essential to early education. I do believe technology is important and my children love watching TV like any others, but balance is the key. Children learn better outdoors. They develop problem solving skills, are exposed to moderate risks and create their own fun. My girls have grown up with a roaring campfire burning, even my littlest can toast her own marshmallows! They climb and fall out of trees, create new dishes in the mud kitchen and learn about construction as they build dens. My girls have a wealth of skills and experience they can take forward into the real world and are not afraid of getting dirty!
Back to the Real World
A few months ago I joined Twitter with a view to seeing how it all worked should I ever pluck up the courage to share my stories. Almost immediately I made contact with authors and was advised to start a blog. Sylvanian Ramblings was born and my woodlands have been the main source of inspiration for blog posts too. I’ve continued writing stories for my girls but now they are old enough to get involved and love sharing story ideas. I quickly scribble down their thoughts and observe their role play games every time we’re out having our adventures. I try to juggle being mum, Woodland Warrior, Sylva Fae, working and writing – it’s not easy but it is fun. Just so many stories to tell and not enough time to write them…
Sylvanian Dreaming for the Future
So far my girls have been the only ones to share my stories. They are stories of secret fields, magic clover patches and woodland creatures. I’ve been content simply to be a secret writer but maybe this year my stories will make their way into print. That’s the thing with dreams, they stay dreams unless you take action to make them happen. Five years ago we had a dream to own a woodland…
Age: Entering second childhood but old enough to know better.
Occupation: College lecturer – teaching English to adults with learning difficulties. Nemophilist dreamer at weekends!
Location: Cheshire, England
Blog: Sylvanian Ramblings – writing as Sylva Fae http://sylvafae.co.uk/blog/