Over and under: children navigating terrain in the East Anglian fenlands
Drawing on fieldwork in three primary schools in East Cambridgeshire, UK, this paper explores children's relationship with the places where they live, and the ways in which those relationships are mediated by play, exploration, and narrative imagination. Challenging assumptions of a ‘bubble wrap generation’ which seem to discount the possibility that children today are able to experience the outdoor environment as a safe space with which they can build a living connection, we explored spaces which children deem particularly important in their lives. Through walks along routes planned by children, we look at how movement over the fens offers an opportunity to express how and why particular places mattered, what they see happening there, and what they expect to happen in the future. We reflect on the mutually constitutive relationship between kinship and experience of place, and argue that children’s sense of the stable and bounded landscape limits their sense of environmental variation in the fens. Yet this exploration leads to the question: what lies under the surface of the land we move across? We therefore consider the relationship between presentism in children’s lives and the imagination of what lies underfoot.
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/P006000/1)