Parenting in the wild #10

Parenting in the wild interview blog series how to raise children using outdoor nature


What a treat we have this week for our final 'Parenting in the Wild' Interview. Debs is a friend and personal hero of mine! She rowed across the Atlantic Ocean solo and her book 'The Journey: How to achieve against the odds' highlights some practical life lessons from that experience, its incredible! You can watch her every Monday night at 8:30pm GMT on Instagram and Facebook live on 'The Choose your Attitude show', which are very helpful coaching sessions. Make sure you check it out! Also, watch her TEDx talk here. OK, I'll shut up now, Enjoy the interview!

1) What is your most treasured childhood memory of being in nature?

I grew up on a small farm in Devon with my twin sister and our brothers.  My father was a businessman who only bought the farm because he wanted us to have the kind of childhood he never had growing up in a two-bedroom council house with 6 people. He was always trying to create magical moments for us.  My favourite was when he put my twin and I in the old grey Fergusson tractor bucket on the front and hoisted us way up high to the hazelnut tree so we could pick handfuls of nuts. I remember breaking them open with my teeth and the way the smooth pale green shell felt against my tongue.  The nut was so sweet compared to the dried out hard brown hazelnuts we would crack open at Christmas.

2)Who has inspired you the most to take your kids into the outdoors?

I’m pretty self-motivated!  I was a professional adventurer for over 15 years so being outdoors and having adventures in nature is at my very core.  Years before I had children of my own, I was climbing in Chamonix and a family with two small girls were climbing on the pitch next to me.  I remember thinking, ‘one day that will be me’. I now have two girls of my own and last summer I took them climbing in the French Alps for the first time and wept while I was belaying them.  My dream had finally become a reality. They probably thought that Mummy was going crazy, but I had waited a very long time for that moment!

3) Where is your favourite place to take your little wild ones?  

We love taking the girls wild camping on Dartmoor.  We pick a spot overlooking Burrator Reservoir and all snuggle up together in a two-person tent.  I love waking them up early, lifting the tent flaps and watching the sunrise together. We have to diarise a family adventure once a month to stop the busyness of life getting in the way of our time in nature.

4) What is your dream adventure if money wasn’t a barrier?

I would absolutely love to row the Atlantic with one or both of my daughters!  I rowed the Atlantic solo many years ago and had such a life-changing experience that I would love to share that with them.  I’ve got a few years to wait though as they are only 8 and 10 years old at the moment! My biggest fear is that they’ll hate the great outdoors and will one day say to me, “Go away Mum, I just want to sit inside and read my book”!

5) What’s your top tip for taking kids into the wild?

Don’t be too ambitious.  Their little legs won’t carry them as far as you would like.  Keep everything short and sweet so you don’t put them off for life.  I was far too ambitious when mine were little. I’ve learnt to make wild play anywhere and everywhere and to integrate it into daily life. One of our favourite games is ‘Outdoor Junior Masterchef’.  I send them into the garden with small scissors and plastic bowls and plates and they have to prepare what looks like a beautiful three-course meal made out of dirt, leaves, petals (only the ones that have fallen or are dying) and berries.  They have to give each course a name and explain to me, as the judge, what the nature food is. It’s a great way to get mud under their fingernails and get them interacting with nature. You can see a video of the chefs here.  I now realise that you don’t have to take them to the Alps to have an experience with nature!

6)What’s your next planned mini adventure with your kids?  

Next week we are taking them Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Mallorca.  SUP is such a great sport to do with children as they can go on the front of your board.  They love diving off and climbing back on. It’s great to see them build their confidence at jumping into deep, dark water – all good training for when they row the Atlantic with me *wink*!

7) What’s the most useful item you take on an adventure?

A change of clothes for the kids as one of them inevitably falls into the water, even when the only water in sight is the tiniest puddle.  I also always take a camera. The girls love flicking through photos and videos of our adventures and it enthuses them to want to go again.  

8) Any book recommendations? 

  • The Wild Weather Book – loads of things to do outside in the rain, wind and snow. By Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield.
  • The Wild City Book – loads of things to do outdoors in towns and cities.  By the same authors.
  • The Gutsy Girl – Escapades of your life of epic adventure by Caroline Paul (If you are parents of daughters you should also watch her TED talk).
  • Get Out! – 150 ways for kids and Grown-ups to get into nature and build a greener future. By Judy Molland.

9) Forest or beach?

Can I have both please?!

Subscribe below for more cracking venturesome content!


1 comment

  • Great idea and inspiring.

    Ollie Stopp

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published