The charm of the Halloween Horror Hunt and its sister event at Easter (to be held on Good Friday, 19th April next year) is that it’s an opportunity for families and friends to get together, have a catch up, enjoy the wonderful scenery and wildlife of the Broads, and hopefully have fun with the trail, games and arts and crafts. Those opportunities are so important for children and adults, and they’re increasingly precious in a world where many are less connected with both the natural world and their communities!
The reasons for this are complex, but one culprit is the ever increasing presence of technology in our lives. New home-pod-echo-hubs and snazzy watches are joining the smartphone to make it even easier to constantly check in case someone has liked our Instasnap photo. Gone are the days of a single desktop computer in the study, which was only switched on when in use. Having to get off the telephone because someone wanted to connect to the internet with dial-up is a distant memory. Nowadays, technology is all around us and it’s always on!
Don’t get me wrong: the internet is amazing! Having the ability to find and distribute information, learn, communicate, organise, and connect with people and places we could never hope to in the ‘real-world’ is an invaluable boon to society. But at the point when we become unable, or unwilling, to escape from it we have a major problem.
The term Nature Defecit Disorder, coined by the author Richard Louv in 2005 “describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.” This links to well established studies that note the importance of spending time outdoors for people’s mental, developmental, and physical health, and there is worrying research that time spent online is also detrimental to wellbeing.
Adults spend 92% of all their time indoors; weekly time spent on the internet has doubled in the past 10 years; 1 in 5 adults are always or often lonely. These figures are not coincidental. Amongst children and young people the situation is even worse: 75% of children spend less than an hour playing outside each day; 37% of 15 year olds spend over 6 hours a day online, and the age at which British children start using the internet is lower than the OECD average; 80% of children are not adequately “connected to nature” and less than 1 in 10 children regularly play in wild spaces, down from 50% a generation ago.
So what to do? How do we solve this problem of internet induced isolation, loneliness and apathy, and the disconnection from nature that follows?
Even litter picking can be fun when you’re on a boat, on a crisp winter’s day, black water lapping at slippery tree roots as you cleanse the Broad of crisp packets, beer bottles and all-pervading plastic. Or wading through wetland, washing your wellies in the water, clearing willow to restore a reedbed. Indeed there is no feeling quite as satisfying as looking at an area where once there was Himalayan balsam (an invasive species damaging to wetlands), but after a morning’s hard slog in the sunshine there is not one of those lime-green stems left. The sweat on your brow, nettle stings on your arms, bramble-scratches on your legs are trophies – a testament to your achievement!
As a volunteer you would also become a member of Friends of Salhouse Broad, though the amount of involvement is entirely up to you. Whether you just want to receive our volunteer newsletter, or plan on dropping in at our volunteer sessions, or wish to join the meetings where the direction and development of the Broad are discussed, it’s entirely up to you. To give you some context, Friends of Salhouse Broad raise money through their Halloween and Easter events, and this funding goes back into improving the access and education at Salhouse Broad. This year, for example, the Friends will be helping to fund new interpretive signage at the Broad. If you’d like to be involved, it’s easy to sign up at salhousebroad.org.uk/volunteer.
Even if you don’t want to volunteer, you can keep up to date with the goings on at Salhouse Broad by signing up to our visitor newsletter at salhousebroad.org.uk/email.