Growing Up Wild - launch event at Mudchute Farm

Earlier on this month I received an invitation on Twitter from LaSER (London and South East Region, one of the Regions of Girlguiding) inviting me to the launch event of Growing Up Wild.  I readily accepted, and invited one of my best friends, N (a Guide leader), to come as my guest.

The event was held at Mudchute Farm, a place I'd never heard of before, but am now recommending to everyone!  N and I got the train to London, then the underground and DLR to an Asda car park, we walked through the car park to a foothpath and there was Mudchute Farm!  32 acres of accessible countryside, right in the city.  (On a side note, I do love it when venues have great, reliable directions on their website!)

There were over a hundred Guiding people on site, lots of Rainbows, Brownies and Guides doing activities (such as planting bulbs and pond dipping) with their leaders, and then our small group of adults who were there to learn about the initiative as a whole.  From looking at people's name badges I recognised a Brownie leader who I've been talking to on Twitter for about a year - was great to meet up and talk in person!

We had an introductory talk by the LaSER Chief Commissioner, who explained how she (and the team) developed the idea for these badges after reading the Natural Childhood report by Stephen Moss for the National Trust.  This report looked at the lives of children in Britain today, and how there is a general lack of engagement with nature, why this could be detrimental in a number of ways, and how this can be addressed (I really do recommend that you go and have a read of this report further).

Guiding is now 104 years old, and the outdoors and nature have always been a part of the wider Guiding programme as well as for the individual sections - for instance, Brownies have a Wildlife Explorer badge and a Seasons badge and a Stargazer badge, to name just three.  The main idea behind Growing Up Wild is to ensure the natural world is part of our everyday programme, and not just an 'additional' badge - these badges are not prescriptive, you don't have to do a certain number of things to earn them, it's up to the girls and leaders to decide what they want to do.  They're designed to be a welcome addition, another incentive, to get outside and do things.  The information on the website is clearly linked to badges and challenges for the different sections, so it's incredibly easy to see how I, as a Brownie leader, can use them with my unit.  There are also links to other websites run by organisations such as the RSPB, with helpful information and ideas.

We also had a little talk from Sally Kettle and Daniel Raven-Ellison, who respectively are an 'adventurer' and a 'guerilla geographer' - what great things to be called!  They are truly passionate about nature and getting children outside and into it, and it was interesting to hear about what they've been doing - admittedly, I hadn't heard about them or their adventures before yesterday, but I've done quite a lot of reading about them online since I got back, and they are fascinating people.  For example, Daniel's involved with a campaign to make Greater London a National Park and Sally has rowed across the Atlantic twice!

After our introductory talks, we split into smaller groups to have a wander round the farm and see what the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides were doing.  We got to learn all about some of the animals and there were several paintings on walls like this one (and lots in the toilets) which were really cute:

 There were also lots of signs about feeding the animals - you're free to feed any of the animals that come up to their fence, as long as you stick to carrots and not crisps.

Mudchute Farm is so much bigger than I thought it would be - we kept wandering down paths, round animal enclosures, through woods.  Whilst you can see Canary Wharf if you look in the right direction, other than that we really didn't feel as if we were in London at all.  Just look at these animals!

Not too sure if these are alpacas or llamas.  Alpacas/llamas in London!

I love this sign - great to see so many children running around and being outside.  As well as all the Guiding people on site there were lots of families with young children, as well as dog walkers and people running.

After we'd wandered round for a bit, we got our bearings and headed back to our area for lunch.  Look at these lovely badges and biscuits!

The biscuits were delicious. 

There were quite a lot of biscuits.  I took one for the journey home.

The lunch finished with another cup of tea, and a group of leaders sitting round a large picnic bench, perched on cut tree trunk seats, chatting about the initiative and sharing ideas for our units.

Having said our goodbyes, we left Mudchute and within minutes were back in the supermarket car park.  Before N and I headed off in different directions to do different things with our afternoon in London, we were full of ideas and enthusiasm for how we can encourage our Brownies and Guides to grow up wild.  We were so inspired by our morning at Mudchute, and I can't wait to tell my Brownies all about it, and see what they want to do first.  I really hope I'm able to convey this enthusiasm to them, although I think the ridiculously cute badge design might help me with that!

Thank you Girlguiding LaSER for inviting me - and thank you for the biscuits!


  1. What a lovely way to help encourage kids to connect and enjoy nature. I read that report when it came out and it made me really sad. We need more places where children can be free range, this place sounds fantastic.

    1. It's definitely worth a visit if you're ever in that end of London. I hope the initiative does encourage girls to get out and about more...the report does make for depressing reading, but there is always a bit of hope left!


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