Twin schools with farms, nature writer Robert Macfarlane suggests

·2 min read

Nature writer Robert Macfarlane has said primary schools should be twinned with farms.

The Old Ways author told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs that the UK is “getting so much wrong” with its relationship with nature.

However he said he thinks people are “slowly” beginning to see how that relationship should change.

“I would love to see every primary school in this country twinned with a farm,” he told the programme.

“I would love to see every primary school planting trees in the cities and the countryside around them.

“Why not bind the people of the country into the trees of the country by getting them out digging the holes?”

Macfarlane said cities should “get loads more urban canopy cover” through tree planting.

“I think it’s good for people, it’s good for shade, it’s good for pollution, so I’d like to build that up,” he said.

“There’s a huge will for tree planting right now, but it’s got to be got right.”

He added that access rights in England and Wales should be “transformed to become a lot more like Scotland”.

“We have so much of this country that we can’t get to,” he said.

Macfarlane, who also works as an academic at Cambridge University, said students have had an “astonishingly hard time” during the pandemic.

Robert Macfarlane and Desert Island Discs host Lauren Laverne (BBC/PA)
Robert Macfarlane and Desert Island Discs host Lauren Laverne (BBC/PA)

“My final year students, they have had the best part of two years, some of the best years of their life, turned remote,” he said.

“So much of it has had to go online, but in other ways, when it’s been possible, its forced wonderful improvisation.

“Back in the autumn, I basically set up an outdoor teaching space under a tree.

“I would also walk and teach when I was seeing students one-on-one, PhD students or undergraduates, and so I remember thinking, ‘This isn’t an hour’s teach, this will be a three-mile teach’.”

Macfarlane’s episode of Desert Island Discs will be broadcast at 11am on Sunday.

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