When we were kids, in the far-distant past, we lived out in the fens of Lincolnshire. Our village was small and everybody knew everybody. When we were not in school we were out and about.
We used to build dens in the hedge and cadge bits of 'furniture' like old orange boxes to make our dens habitable. We used to climb trees - there was one
particular tree which had a flat top and we would sit up there surveying the scene for hours. At a certain time of the year we would go to the old railway embankment and pick violets - hundreds of them - tie them with thread and take them to various old ladies in the village. We would go down to the river (although we could not necessarily swim) at the time of year when little frogs were everywhere - or we would collect them as tadpoles and take them back to their stamping ground when they developed into frogs.
We would pick bluebells by the thousand and carry them home on our bike carriers, put them in jars where they would droop about for a day or two.
Once I read in a book that cowslip 'juice' (got by boiling the cowslips) was good for eliminating freckles (the bane of my life) so I picked loads of cowslips and tried it (it didn't work).
We knew what time dinner was and we would be there - all that activity made us hungry. If we weren't there dinner would go ahead without us and we would go hungry until tea time. Oh goodness me, those were the days - although maybe they are more exciting in the telling than they were in fact - although I doubt it.
Recently I saw where a group of mums in the U S had got together to form a society urging parents to let children go to the park on their own rather than accompanied - and to let them roam a bit - and to let them walk to school alone. Why have things changed so much in our society that this is necessary?
Sir David Attenborough argued last week that the law stopping people picking up fossils or even common wild flowers was wrong. He argued that it would breed a nation of adults not interested in natural history.
The farmer, who has lived in this house for the whole of his life, had a free-range childhood but of course it was on his own land. I am not sure what other land-owners would have thought if he had gone damming up their streams and climbing their trees, but I suspect they would have tolerated it and said 'boys will be boys' which seemed to be a popular saying when I was young.
Today in The Times Libby Purves speaks up for the generation of children who sit at home playing video games, who have their whole playing time arranged for them, who are ferried everywhere and who rarely go out alone or with their friends.
So, readers, where do you stand on this? Has our society and our way of life changed so much that we cannot/dare not let our children out of our sight? Purves says that we are in danger of losing the powers of creative thinking in our children if we don't allow them that freedom. An example she quotes is of making your own bow and arrow from a piece of wood - doing that she says teaches you about the 'qualities of flexibility, straightness, texture and weight.
I would like to think that if I were a young mum today I would allow my child freedom to roam - but then I remember that when we moved in the city when our child was five, we kept a much tighter rein on where he went. And then I wonder if the village children here where I now live rambled freely across our fields and dammed up our beck and climbed our trees - would the farmer tolerate that - and what about the dangers of the cattle in the fields?
What has changed? Why are things so different? I would like to hear your views on it.
On a fun note, and speaking of 'free range' - at breakfast this morning the farmer and I were talking about our favourite foods and what we would choose if we had to limit our choices of food to only three items. I chose free range eggs (hard boiled); bananas and cheese. I hardly dare to tell you what the farmer chose - Yorkshire pudding, bread and jam and cake!!! Need I say more?