People who exercise outdoors suffer less stress and depression than those who exercise in a gym, while a child will be bored by the wonders of the Sistine Chapel, but enthralled by a simple tree house in the woods.
It proves, says author Rob Cowen, that humans have an inborn affinity with nature – we’re drawn to it, inquisitive about it and feel better for being close to it.
“Think back to your own childhoods,” he told the audience at yesterday’s Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch in Harrogate. “I grew up in Ilkley. All my memories are of going out with my brother and spending days making dens, climbing trees, damming streams. We only went home when we heard our mum clanging a pan to let us know it was time for tea.
“Nowadays kids spend an average of four minutes a day outside – and six hours in front of a screen.”
Mr Cowen joined forces with fellow author Leo Critchley to write Skimming Stones, a book detailing simple skills to help people regain a deeper connection with nature. As well as techniques for activities such as kite-flying or den-building, it includes personal anecdotes and simple ways of understanding and discovering nature’s secrets.
“If you can do anything with your children or grandchildren to stop this increasing disconnect with our natural world, then please do,” he urged. “There are too many who can’t even tell you the difference between a sycamore and a daffodil.”
Also speaking was Louis Barfe, whose The Trials and Triumphs of Les Dawson was published earlier this month.
“There’s a myth that comedians are all tortured souls with a dark side – that simply didn’t exist with Les,” said Mr Barfe. “He was a thoroughly nice person. A lot of comedians are insecure about other people being funnier than they are, but if a joke was funnier delivered by Roy Barraclough, for example, then that was fine. Les knew that the more laughs a show got, the better it was – he wasn’t precious.”
The third guest was former primary school teacher Andy Seed. His book, All Teachers Great and Small, tells the story of his early career in the 1980s.