Conservation Work at Running Deer School in Devon

“Solitude is a state of seclusion or isolation, i.e., lack of contact with people. It may stem from bad relationships, loss of loved ones, deliberate choice, infectious disease, mental disorders, neurological disorders or circumstances of employment or situation.” Wikipedia.

The above definition taken from the internets favourite information source frames it in a peculiarly negative light. And indeed, society does seem to consider the need to be alone less than favourably. It is a selfish need – me time, to be indulged at the expense of others, the ultimate decadence. A sign of inflated self-esteem – aloof. Or worse a symptom of a damaged or dangerous psyche – loner, recluse. But time alone is important, more to some than others, and often a neglected and unacknowledged need.

With this in mind I keep track of the whereabouts of an RD youngster without imposing my presence. A delicate balance, to oversee the location and safety of an individual while allowing autonomous exploration, experimentation and freedom from scrutiny. We have, above all, a duty to keep those in our care safe from harm, tranquil as it is here in the woods, there are still dangers and risks. Not currently engaged in an activity, driven by an inner compulsion to move outside the clamour and hustle of the campfire he moves away from the group. In the confines of main camp, or the further woods that provide our rich and vibrant ‘classroom’, I am satisfied of his safety but a lapse in attention and the blinking of an eye and the road, the field of cattle, cows with calves at foot and even a magnificent bull to round out the herd could easily pose an immediate danger. And the remoteness and beauty of our location also brings the very real risk that the wanderer may truly become the lost.

So I watch from a polite distance and try to be unobtrusive in my supervision.

On occasion, drawn by some thought, impulse or trigger that may ever remain a mystery he slips from view, over the hedge or into the road. I call him back but he has other ideas, ideas that take him further away. My duty now is to persuade him to return, I must keep track of his whereabouts, attempt to re-engage him, use all my powers of persuasion to encourage him to return and when he does show the right balance of disapproval and appreciation.

In this instance, I speculate the trigger may have been a squirrel. Herbert, of course, is stretching his limits, testing boundaries and seeking a sort of solitude for himself. I just wish he could do it a bit closer to the fire!


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