……And like some boys who, unaware,
Ranging the woods to start a hare,
Come to the mouth of the dark lair
Where, growling low, a fierce old bear
Lies amongst bones and blood. Lord Macaulay
Well, the bears are long gone and now, within a generation, the boys have gone too. I spent my childhood exploring the fields and woods around Melbourne, my children did much the same, but now everything is changed.
Yes, the roads are much busier and no pleasure to walk beside, but we have a network of footpaths second to none. Media coverage is largely to blame, but there are other factors. Boredom drove us out to explore, where now there is the X box, television and the like. I might have said that mothers were the protective ones, but I’m finding that fathers are just as concerned about their children’s whereabouts.
One result here at Staunton is a burgeoning of ‘survival courses’ and ‘forest schools’. We already have five in different parts of our widespread woodlands, and more in prospect. Their leaders carry millions of pounds worth of insurance and are bound by ‘elf and safety’ considerations. It is a very different world to the one I grew up in. Maybe it’s time to bring back the bears.