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Bunny Wood and thoughts about ‘not being religious’

Bunny Wood - 14


My daughter has been asking lots of big questions about religion and the universe. She has it all remarkably sorted in her head for an 8 year old, she navigates different beliefs in her close family deftly.

I remember navigating similar territory at her age. I went to a Church of England primary, my parents believed in secular education but when we moved house it wasn’t an available option. There was a lot of teasing about not being christened, and many afternoons of mixing enough paint to finish painting another picture of Jesus and the disciples, visits by a vicar who mumbled into his beard a lot, and much repeating of the lord’s prayer, ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’, always accompanied in my head by an image of a railway crossing picket fence with a ‘do not trespass sign’.

But there were good things too, less well known Christian festivals seemed especially magical  – I loved Christingle, symbols, rituals always appealed to me, probably why I went on to become a drama teacher. Getting your hands on a candle when you are 7 is exciting. Harvest, with its celebration of Autumn and growing things and giving to the poor, delivering hampers to old ladies – all this absolutely appealed and resonated. It was mainly just the God bit, the idea of a more powerful being, and especially him being a man, that I couldn’t grasp.

My home life was rich with love, culture, travel, adventure, rituals and beliefs (and lots of folk festivals), but it wasn’t until much later in life that I truly clicked they were my equivalent of religion, and as valid.

At secondary school I loved RE, probably because we got to have lots of debate and to discuss social and personal education too. But I still didn’t feel we really addressed what I had instead of religion. I had plenty, but somehow being an ‘atheist’ always took over and became a bit of a void in discussions – it took me a long time to see my bundle of beliefs and values and rituals as being on a par with having a religion, and that has stayed with me. I don’t want my children to feel that not having a religion is a void.

I was 21 and on teaching practice, sitting in on a school PSHE lesson about ‘spirituality’ when it finally hit me that spirituality was the word I was looking for, and that spirituality could mean nature. All those walks as a kid, pointing out of wild flowers and birds by my parents suddenly made sense. Being outdoors makes me feel absolutely at peace with the world.

I was reading a Grand Designs book, as we mull of the idea of moving to the country and a self build, when a chapter about living in the countryside, and a mention of the Romantic poets reminded me of studying them at University. They believed in imagination, in nature, in expressing authentic personal feelings. There was a dose of challenging the establishment and denouncing the exploitation of the poor too. Had I been born in the late 18th century, I would have been a romantic. Nature was their religion.

I was wandering through Bunny Wood, a lovely place for a Sunday walk, we didn’t see anyone, just lots of spring. I was trying to work out just why nature makes me feel happy, afterwards I had a look at my pictures and revisited the Romantics….these quotes remind me why nature is such a part of who I am. Bunny is in South Nottinghamshire by the way, it is an actual village, and as we drive past, I have always secretly thought it would be lovely to be at Bunny Primary School.


Bunny Wood Nature Walk - 5


If a thing loves, it is infinite.  Blake


Bunny Wood Nature Walk - 1


Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.  Keats


Bunny Wood - 06


Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.  Wordsworth


Bunny Wood - 03


To the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. Blake


Bunny Wood - 04


Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.  Wordsworth


Bunny Wood - 05


Great things are done when men and mountains meet.  Blake


Bunny Wood - 08Bunny Wood Nature Walk - 4Bunny Wood - 09


To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower.  Blake


Bunny Wood Nature Walk - 7Bunny Wood - 10 Bunny Wood - 11


Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.  Blake


Bunny Wood - 13 Bunny Wood - 14 Bunny Wood Nature Walk - 2Bunny Wood Nature Walk - 6



For I have learned to look on nature, not as in the hour of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes the still, sad music of humanity.  Wordsworth


Bunny Wood Nature Walk - 8 Bunny Wood Nature Walk - 9


As we left we spotted this sign which explains how old the wood is. Forests, where thousands of humans have been before, and experienced something similar, make me feel an amazing sense of being part of the universe.

I have my husband to thank for appreciating the universe, my days are peppered with facts about space which I seldom retain, but they will never cease to amaze me, or our kids.

Keep wondering kids!


Useful Stuff

To find Bunny Wood, managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, go here.

I wrote this a while back about teaching kids about non religious spirituality.



  1. 15/05/2015 / 7:49 am

    I love this post!! We’ve talked about this before, but I am very similar to you, in that I follow my own spirituality rather than a religion. My parents weren’t religious and my understanding of religion was limited to things from school (until I went to uni and then really had a crisis of faith!!) I’m not an atheist, I do believe in a God of sorts, just not like in the Judeochristian traditional way of thinking… My God is far more nature based and the essence of life itself. Think Great Spirit of the Native American tradition type of thing!

    I’m very much a firm believer in that we create our own faith and that no matter what form that takes it is as beautiful and valid as anyone else’s. Yours sounds very similar to mine in many ways, but the thing I love most is your storytelling of how you reached this understanding of your own spirituality and how it works alongside atheism and how things you see and hear reflect that and are reflected by it 🙂

    • parentshaped
      17/05/2015 / 9:25 am

      I think children make you think about it lots more, having to explain your beliefs makes them more tangible doesn’t it. Love the grasp you have on yours too.

  2. 15/05/2015 / 7:56 pm

    Great post. I feel the same about teaching my kids not only to make their own choice about faith, but also to understand that choosing not to believe in a particular religion doesn’t equal choosing not to believe in anything.

    You’re so right about spirituality and nature – really interesting that you remember it being instilled in you from childhood, hope I manage to have the same effect on my children.

    • parentshaped
      17/05/2015 / 9:27 am

      Yes, so true, it has to be about teaching them to find their own way. I think mine get a heavy dose of other religions via family and school, but ‘not being religious’ isn’t taught so well or finding your own way! I am sure you are doing it already, they are going to be very at home in nature!

  3. 16/05/2015 / 3:38 pm

    Wonderful post.
    I went to a CofE primary school, I was brought up CofE but it never sat right for me, despite all the time spent in church and learning about God. When I was a teen I started researching other religions and found Wicca, I I thought I fitted in that box but, as I’ve got older, I’ve realised I’m spiritual, an ‘eclectic Pagan,’ and that’s ok. I feel at peace with that now, and less pressure to put an exact label on my spirituality.

    • parentshaped
      17/05/2015 / 9:28 am

      It’s finding peace, I agree, absolutely how this feels to me. Thanks for that.

  4. 17/05/2015 / 8:37 am

    Lovely pictures looks like a fun place. We are christians but were not religious or dont plan to be, we have a way of life we want to live full of love and empowering people to be the best they can, we are living by our faith and hope that our children follow example but are not pushed into it. Sorry for the ramble

    There is something so wonderful about nature for me its the sea i could stay there for hours x

    • parentshaped
      17/05/2015 / 9:29 am

      Absolutely right, they have to navigate their own path, not a ramble at all, don’t apologise! The sea I miss hugely too, I used to live by it and it is incredible or giving you a sense of belonging and peace.

  5. 17/05/2015 / 9:51 am

    Hello, really good post. It really made me think about religion and how I want my children to understand our beliefs – although we are atheists we still have them! Thanks

    • parentshaped
      18/05/2015 / 4:57 pm

      Absolutely, I do think it needs stressing to kids, and to some grown ups!

  6. 17/05/2015 / 3:47 pm

    Lovely post Penny. Been thinking a lot about spirit and family and the afterlife lately, and have ongoing conversations with the kids about what I believe, what they think, and about how they can make sense of this life we’re given.

    I come from a Christian tradition too but my beliefs are much more open-ended, although I’m comfortable with and want my kids to feel that security of a loving force that surrounds us and is part of us and wants the best for us. Some have other words for this, I’m still happy with God 🙂

    I think it’s wonderful that you can embrace your spirituality so positively and share that with your kids. Because that’s always what made me sad about some hardcore atheists who are so busy denying the existence of God, it feels like they’re leaving not much but negative space to dwell on, especially for little ones who do need something bigger to latch onto. I do wish more of us could spend less time talking down each other’s ideas and more time celebrating what my husband (atheist) simply calls ‘the wonder’ of it all.

    Some of my fave poets too x

    • parentshaped
      18/05/2015 / 5:03 pm

      Such wise words from a wise woman, lovely description, a loving force. The Christians I have met in life who have taken the time to explain rather than inflict their beliefs about a life force have helped to unravel the clunky teachings I experienced at school, which were over simplistic and patronising looking back. I too feel sometimes those with an organised religion spend so much time on believing in a God that they alienate me, as you feel Athiests negating God do. I really like your husband’s take on it. My husband always distracts me by talking about whether aliens exist instead 😉 So much to wonder about!

  7. 17/05/2015 / 5:49 pm

    Love going for nature walks like this. Spirituality and nature go hand in hand and I find myself also pondering these thoughts while I’m out there with my family.

    Thanks for sharing Penny

    • parentshaped
      18/05/2015 / 5:03 pm

      Tis great to have the space to ponder isn’t it?!

  8. 18/05/2015 / 4:49 pm

    Bunny Woods looks fab and I am now lucky to live somewhere that looks very much like that but of course for me I enjoy it so much as I appreciate it as God’s awesome creation.

    I don’t consider myself to be religious at all but I suspect by most peoples defintions I am, as I am a devout Christian but I do not like the word religion as it reminds me to much of rules and people dictating and all the bad stuff that comes associated with a word like religion, rather than the faith I have, which is completely spirtitual. I have a post in drafts titled ‘why I hate religion’ – need to write it really to explain more. Mich x

  9. parentshaped
    18/05/2015 / 5:09 pm

    So much gets in the way Mich you are right, I have been bullied as a child and a grown up by people dictating religion to me, and it has made it very tough at particular times, I know I have to be extra careful when I talk about it, not to let that spill over – this post took a lot of drafts! Interested that you don’t like the word religion either, and look forward to that post. I think spirituality is probably taught a lot better than it was too.

  10. 20/05/2015 / 10:43 am

    I just love this post, it really does resonate with me, having felt as though I was missing something by not following a particular religion.
    Nature is definitely my religion of choice.
    I rather envy my children and the vast amount they are being taught about various faiths at school, where as my education was hardcore Roman Catholic they are learning all about faiths from around the world, which I hope will give them a firm base on which to build their own life choices.

    • parentshaped
      20/05/2015 / 10:30 pm

      I loved this sentence – it is absolutely right here: ‘a firm base on which to build their own life choices’. That’s all we all want I think isn’t it!

  11. 20/05/2015 / 8:05 pm

    This post completely resonates with me, I myself am a atheist but very in touch with my spirituality, and think that here is nothing more important than being connected to the world around us, the true natural beauty all around. I especially love the inclusion of the Wordsworth quote ‘Nature never did betray the heart that loved her’. Your post was added to #sundaysharefest, it’s been lovely to read 🙂 x

    • parentshaped
      20/05/2015 / 10:31 pm

      I love your share fest – it is such a lovely idea 🙂 Yep, exactly that I think – we all just need to feel connected somehow, however that is.

  12. 20/05/2015 / 9:27 pm

    Such a deep post Penny, I could spend hours debating on this subject which is a real favourite of mine. I went to a Catholic school but my parents weren’t great followers and so I always had to stand up on Monday morning when they called out ‘Stand up who wasn’t in church on Sunday.’ It led me to really detest the Catholic teachings for all the wrong reasons.
    However I never lost faith, I knew and still know that there is something I just can’t put into words what it is.

    On our trip years back to Washington DC I visited the museum of the Native Indian American, a population that has always fascinated me and I found the thought pattern that is inline with what I have been searching for.

    On a second visit I met Tiger Moth, a native American Indian in the Everglades and his company felt so special it was unreal. It’s a faith and way of living I wish I could take up full time.

    • parentshaped
      20/05/2015 / 10:34 pm

      What a humiliating ritual! I know I am guilty of letting some bad experiences cloud my judgement . I am lucky to have made some wonderful friends who make me see Christianity and Catholism in a more positive light now. Your travels sound amazing, you should write about those experiences! Thanks for sharing it with me x

I'd love to know your thoughts!