Our last Tuesday talk was about learning how messages and learning can be shared through storytelling. Peter, one of our trustees is keen to explore storytelling and linking in with National Walk to School week, 21st to 26th May, he has written a short story which reminds us of the pleasures of a journey by foot, where we can explore the world and talk with friends and neighbours.

Walk to School?! By Peter Willcox

Euch! Said Ollie, “What’s that!”

That was a brown mess, crawling with tiny, white wormy things.

“Oh dear,” said Alice, Ollie’s Mum, “It’s a dead bird, a fledgling, by the look of it.”

“What’s a fledgling,” asked Sophie, “and what are those wormy things?”

“They’re maggots,” answered Alice, “and a fledgling is a young bird which doesn’t have its adult feathers yet. I wonder how it got here? If it fell from the nest, I don’t see anywhere a nest could be!”

They were walking to school – on a Saturday morning!

It was all down to Ms Dowling, their teacher. She was obsessed about something she called a ‘carbon footprint’. It seems that most of the energy we use comes from things called ‘fossil fuels’. Apparently trees and things from millions of years ago got crushed and cooked, and turned into coal and oil and gas – fossil fuels. But as we use them, burn, them, they make a gas called carbon dioxide, which acts a bit like the glass in a greenhouse, or a parked car, and is making the earth hotter.

Ollie didn’t really understand the science stuff, but he didunderstand that Ms Dowling was very concerned; it seemed to him to be important.

Ms Dowling reckoned that one thing school kids could do about this ‘carbon footprint’ was to walk to school, rather than being driven in their parents’ cars.

And Mr Fortescue, the PE teacher, was also keen on them walking to school; he reckoned it would keep them slim, and fit, and more ready to sit down and learn.

When Ollie had suggested this on the way home last night, Steve, his step-dad had thought this a ridiculous idea. And Sophie agreed.

“Who is going to have time to walk you to school, and then walk back and pick up the car to go to work” said Steve, at the same time that Sophie whined, “It’s miles to walk, and walking is so boring!”

“It’s less than one mile, especially if we go the back way.” protested Ollie, “and, Dad, you could walk from school to the station, and get a train to work.”

After Ollie had gone to bed, Alice and Steve talked about how to convince him that this was not a good idea, and eventually decided that Alice would walk them to school the following morning.

So, here they were looking at a dead bird, crawling with maggots.

Their route took them behind some back gardens.

“Oh look,” cried Sophie, “there’s Alfie”

Alfie was a classmate. “Hiya,” he called, “What are you lot up to?”

“We’re walking to school,” replied Ollie.

“What, on a Saturday! Why!”

“Just to see what it’s like.”

“And what is it like?” rejoined Alfie.

“Well,” said Sophie, “we’ve already found a dead bird, crawling with maggots, and we’ve seen you! Not sure which is more disgusting?”

“Huh” from Alfie, “for that I think I’ll join you. Mum,” he shouted, “Can I go with Ollie and Sophie and Alice”

“I suppose so,” from inside the house, “be back in time for lunch.”

“Hmm,” mused Ollie, “you could come with us each day, and your sister, and don’t Chloe and Cecelia live a couple of doors down? If we got organised, we’d only need one adult for loads of kids!”

“A sort of walking bus” mused Alice, beginning to come round to the idea.

And so it came to pass. A walking bus happened. They arranged a rota of parents, who accompanied ten kids to school. They saw all sorts of different things. Different people grew different flowers and vegetables in their gardens, and the kids saw them come and go over the seasons.

“D’ya know what,” mused Alice to Steve after unpacking the weekly shop several months later, “I’m not buying petrol as often as I was!”

The first day it rained they got rather wet and miserable. That night parents desperately searched for waterproof outer garments, which sort of did until the weekend, when each child was kitted out with proper wet weather gear. Ollie remembered his Grandad saying once “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing!”

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