Stand here, by the bridge. Listen to the water. Listen…what else can you hear? Can you hear the sound of birds in the trees? Do you know which birds are singing? Can you hear things rustling in the undergrowth?
It doesn’t matter what time of year you come here; this place is always full of life. Or at least, it is at the moment, but you know, as Mouse knows, that unless the name of the tree can be remembered, slowly life will seep from the place. No more birdsong. No more rustling in the bushes and trees. Imagine that. Silence.
The thought horrified Mouse. All the hair stood up on his back.
But he was also extremely nervous for another reason. He had never been this far from home before. You see, unlike some of the larger animals, Mouse tended to skitter and scurry about the same small square of land. He knew his bit of land like the back of his hand – or paw, in his case.
His tiny heart was beating very hard in his chest, but he just kept saying to himself, “Off I go, off I go, off I go.”
Now remember Mouse was a lot smaller than you. So anything you can see and hear and smell was a whole lot BIGGER for him. Which is why, when he reached this bridge, it sounded to him like a great big waterfall was crashing ahead of him, and when he reached the bank he saw, for the first time ever, the water of the canal.
It glimmered so brightly that it hurt Mouse’s eyes. And something else was glimmering too. Something small and blue, not much bigger than Mouse himself, was flashing this way and that across the surface of the water.
“Kingfisher!” Mouse cried, recognising the little bird suddenly. He knew Kingfisher was very secretive, like him, and didn’t often appear.
Kingfisher came flashing this way and that across the water towards him and landed on the bank. He was very smart in his bright blue and orange jacket.
“Well, how do you do, small Mouse,” said Kingfisher. “I didn’t expect to see you so very far from home.”
“I am on a journey,” said small Mouse proudly. “A journey, on behalf of all the other creatures of the forest. The green man has tasked me to discover the name of the old tree, because it has been forgotten, and without it, the old tree will die. And without the old tree, eventually, the forest will also die. Because we are all connected.”
Kingfisher bowed his head. “I knew that there was something wrong. I could feel it in the sprays of water that splashed up as I spun over the surface. When I dive down into its depths, there are less fish for me to eat. The balance of the world is wrong. Without the old tree, things will get worse and worse.”
Mouse said, “Do you have any idea where I should go, or who I should ask, to discover the name of the old tree?”
Kingfisher thought hard. “I don’t know,” he said eventually. “But I think if you go towards the great river, you may get some answers there. But it is a wilder place, a far more dangerous place than here. Be careful, small Mouse.”
And Kingfisher took off and flashed away down the canal and out of sight.
Mouse thought, “Oh no. Danger and wildness? It all feels too much for such a small Mouse as I. But I suppose I had better make the best of things.” He looked about him. It was so beautiful here by the canal bank. He thought of the old tree, so sad, bowing her old head, the green man trying his best to take care of her.
“I will collect some gifts for her along my way,” Mouse decided. And as you’re journeying alongside Mouse, perhaps you can help him gather these gifts. After all, you’re much bigger than him and you probably have pockets to carry them in!
So, the first gift is this. See if you can sit very quietly and record the sound of this place, so you can take it back to the old tree and remind her what it’s supposed to sound like when it’s so full of life here. You could record it on your phone, or you could draw a picture of all the different sounds you can hear.
And when you’re done you can follow Mouse on his adventure towards the great river. Can you hear the sound of it in the distance?
Don’t forget, as you go, to comfort Mouse. “Off I go. Off I go. Off I go.”