Eighteen months ago I had to sit and suffer a patronising meeting for parents at my daughter's school, they attempting to justify the decision to visit a farm in Devon for the Year 6 Venture Week. One of the comments suffered was 'we go for walks and one afternoon we identified 45 different types of plants'. My thought, unvoiced at that moment was if you went for a walk down the lanes towards Stonnall or along the canal and around Park Lime Pits you could probably identify just as many plants and it wouldn't cost me over £300.
We are all guilty of not appreciating what is on our own doorsteps. Twenty years in London and I never did get why Londoners do not appreciate the wonderful city that they live in. Back here in Walsall it's a little more difficult to get worked up about what the Borough has to offer but one thing is does offer in abundance is green space, parks and a little bit of countryside, yet so many of our young people know so little about it and what it can offer them or if they do know about it they have no appreciation or pride and treat it accordingly.
Walking around The Dingle, Cuckoo's Nook and Hayhead Wood or along the Beacon Way as often as I do, I know exactly where I am going, which is fortunate because many of the way-markers and public footpath signs have either been torn down, broken or vandalised to such an extent as to be unreadable. Without casting aspersions in the wrong direction I should imagine that much of this has been caused by the feral, let out unsupervised to drink and smoke and to vandalise their own doorsteps.
So why is there no programme between Walsall MBC and Serco providers of our Education Service in Walsall to introduce all the young people of the borough to the green spaces and wildlife on their doorsteps? Goodness knows our schools spend enough time and parents money visiting other green spaces far and wide but appear to spend no time at all discovering the abundance of flora, fauna and even beauty in their own locality. It saddens me that my daughter is the only child in her class to truly know the delights of these local places, the only one to run wild in the woods leaping on and off logs, getting muddy and wet and discovering that wildlife isn't just for far flung so called real countryside.
If a child is introduced to such things whilst at primary school with the programme extending well into secondary school then a sense of belonging is gained, inclusion is attained and it is less likely that those young people will then go on to vandalise because with a sense of pride comes ownership and if you know that the places around you belong to you and those who live in your neighbourhood, you're less likely to abuse.
It does work. I described how it can and did work in my last blog. Goodness knows there is enough scope within the national curriculum for something really exciting and innovative to be launched here in Walsall that would in the long term benefit the whole community and would also save money! And yes I would willingly volunteer time and trouble because I have the vision but not the capabilities on my own. Instead they're going to close my local youth club.......