mumsnetBack along, my family and I swapped a house for a three-acre field in Devon and a leaky caravan where we lived off-grid for two years. Sadly, we failed to get the planning permission we needed to stay. We are now back within four walls, with a proper loo and everything in a cottage in Dartmoor. So this is now a blog about living ethically amid a fabulous landscape with our home educated kids while we adjust to being 'normal' - for a while... and what we plan to do with our land next

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Less is moor

The sun has been shining - actually shining, mark you - and I have been venturing out with the dog sans plastic pants and windcheater.

At first, I confess, I felt veritably naked - but as the days passed and rain failed to appear, I became so confident, I even shed a woolly and left my hat at home.

Unfortunately, for the children this means I have become more insistent on getting them into the great outdoors. When the sun shines, I can't bear to see them, pale and transparent looking, hunched over a keyboard. I feel the need to invigorate them with fresh air and vitamin D. But sadly, we do not see eye to eye on this.

As if getting them out for a walk wasn't difficult enough already, I decided to combine it with a learning opportunity - which, catastrophically, I told them.

'I thought,' I said, in bright tones, having ambushed them on the trampoline, 'we could go out for a lovely walk on the moor and learn some map reading at the same time.'

They stopped bouncing and stared at me in silence. 'Yes,' I said, clearing my throat a little nervously. 'I thought it would be a bit of an adventure. We could go somewhere fabulous like Hound Tor (right) and then you
could navigate the walk with the, er, map and compass.'

The girl child eyed me. 'What's in it for us,' she asked.

'Well,' I said loftily. 'Firstly, we are blessed with living in the heart of one of the most beautiful landscapes in this country. So, you get to pop out for an afternoon's walk somewhere people actually pay to come on holiday.

'Secondly, you get to learn something jolly interesting and useful. Not only is being able to read a map interesting and fun - but it could actually save your life one day. It's the sort of thing they should give more priority on the national curriculum. Nowadays, people think all they have to do is switch on the sat nav or the GPS app on their i, bloody, Phone and...'

Well, you get the gist.

'Thirdly,' I continued 'it's a beautiful day and we've just had a long rainy winter and you need to let your nasty pallid little sunlight-starved bodies catch some rays while you frolic in the sunshine.'

I finally stopped talking at that point. The children were still staring at me, this was an unexpected bonus. Normally, they listen for five seconds and then continue bouncing while I speak.

I thought I had scored a point. After a short pause the girl child spoke. 'Yes,' she said, speaking slowly and distinctly as if to one for whom the English language was a mystery or whose grip on reality was delicate, 'but what's in it for us?'

Later, I and the dog were enjoying a walk together - just the two of us, unsurprisingly. A little out onto the moor I encountered two jovial and youthful Americans with tents and sleeping paraphernalia on their backs. We stopped for a chat during which I warmed to them considerably for their obvious instant affection for the dog. They were very enthusiastic about doing some wild camping - despite the fact it was early March and a cold night was on the cards. I wondered briefly about adopting them.

I couldn't wait to beast my children with the tale of my two new best friends. 'I just met,' I shouted as soon as they were within earshot, which was about 50 metres away, 'two American chaps who have come all this way just to camp on Dartmoor in the middle of winter!'

'Yes, but they're American,' said the girl enigmatically.

And then they carried on bouncing.

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