- Lauren Holt
Getting Closer with Nature in Lockdown
Member Lauren Holt, a ranger for the Mendip Hills AONB, shares her tips for bringing nature indoors or getting the most of your outdoor time.
1. You don't have to 'exercise' when you're outdoors
It feels like nowadays your outdoor time must be squeezed dry to make sure it's your exercise for the day. Personally, I find exercising at home to do the actual exercise bit, much easier. There are so many YouTubers now that do apartment friendly workouts catering to your every need. Whether it's boxercise, Pilates, yoga, jump rope, weights - whatever you want to get the blood pumping, it's there. That way, my outdoor time really is outdoor time, space for my head and space for my thoughts to pay attention to my surroundings. Even on the rare occasion I might go running, I'll often run an extra km than I need so I can walk back, and just appreciate the time outdoors without the pressure to exercise. It leaves you free to go and sit and watch the birds or just meander without purpose.
2. Feed your curiosity
Nature is for everyone, but it can be intimidating when you want to learn, but don't know where to start. If something peaks your interest such as birds or wildflowers then pursue it and go for it. Take some photos, go home and then have a stab at identifying it. The Seek app is really good or there's always a local wildlife group online that will be happy to help. Even if you think what you've found is basic, everyone has to start somewhere. Looking for something you're interested in makes your time outdoors an experience and you'll enjoy the challenge of having something to focus on, that is new and interesting. Eventually you'll start being able to name things, and recognise things and that's really exciting. Even if it's just a little pied wagtail in the city, or the song of a blackbird.
3. Use your senses.
Take your headphones out and listen. Often, when you're walking along you'll hear birds in the trees above, or the scurrying of something in the bushes. Just stop for a minute, listen and watch. Or if there's some really lovely moss or fungus, touch it and see what it feels like. Sensory experiences are more memorable and soothing. For example, jelly fungus like witches butter, it looks slimy but it's actually quite rubbery when you touch it! It's about adding different dimensions to your outdoor time and having that mind-nature connection.
4. Nature is everywhere
You don't need to go to the countryside to find nature. Urban spaces are full of amazing pioneers and curious plants that survive in weird and interesting places. You can even go flowerpot spotting and have a nose at what other people are growing in their front gardens, or window sill. Urban plants – More than Weeds talks about the variety of plants that have been found in the middle of London and some of the common ones you might expect to find in urban areas. You could even get artsy and start a bit of an urban wildlife photo blog of your lockdown adventures. Urban plants are in some ways more impressive and when you start looking for them you might think 'how did that manage to grow THERE?'.
5. Know your local habitat
This is one that I have really harnessed in the last year. I would never want to do the same walk over and over, I always wanted to go somewhere new that I hadn't explored before. However, there's something so cathartic about visiting the same place and watching it change. You are aware on a more micro level of the seasons changing and even the times of day. You come to know it so well it's like having your own garden and start to develop a personal relationship with it. Like any relationship, the level of connection is dependant on how much you invest in it. Investing a little bit of your time into visiting the same corner of nature is so valuable in developing a connection.
6. Bring nature indoors
Alice Vincent @noughticulture is amazing for giving no fuss beginner friendly tips on growing plants indoors from a holistic perspective. She has two books and lots of articles / podcasts on ways to bring nature indoors if you live in an urban area. Urban gardening expert Alice Vincent shares her top tips - The Glossary (theglossarymagazine.com)
7. Attend an online event
Not all your nature connection needs to be outdoors. Grow Wilder set up by Avon Wildlife Trust in Bristol have a really interesting social media pages and online events as have lots of other organisations. I'll leave a list of some useful organisation pages below where you can go browsing for events or courses.
8. Do a random Act of Wildness
This was inspired by Lucy McRobert's 365 Days wild book. The idea is that every day you complete a random act of wildness. It can be something really small such as collecting some leaves, photographing a cloud or smelling a wildflower. It's all about feeling better and using nature as a tool to bring the wild into your daily routine. Lucy McRobert (365dayswild.com) You could even make you and your friends a lockdown challenge such as 30 days wild and make a calendar of one random act of wildness each day you will all complete, then share it with each other online.
9. Nature crafts
If you're crafty then you could collect some twigs or fallen leaves to create something. Or if you're really hands on make a bug house or a bird box. If you're like me and am not handy with DIY or crafts then you could draw your favourite place to visit or even write about it. There's no need to show it to anyone but it's a process that allows you to connect to that place, or think about what it means to you. It doesn't even need to be somewhere that you've been recently, it could be a favourite holiday spot or a place in nature that holds a special memory.
10. Do some planning
When I'm lacking motivation to feel connected to nature I like to plan. It feels productive and helps reorganise those chaotic thoughts. You could spend time making plans for a project in your garden, planning what you might grow this year or some places you'd like to visit after lockdown. Taking the time out to plan what you want to do and where you want to go always releases some pressure for me. Having a plan of what I want to do with my garden stops me stressing out about it! The RHS have a monthly to do list in your garden too so if you're struggling to know where to start that's always a safe bet Read our RHS monthly gardening tips & advice - January / RHS Gardening gardening even if it's on a really small scale is so rewarding, especially planting from seed. Even if all you grow is some herbs there's still something really joyful about it. If you're not sure where to begin with supporting wildlife in your outdoor space then check out this handy little blog by Lily Harris for Butterfly Conservation 7 Ways to Nurture Nature in Your Garden this Winter (butterfly-conservation.org)
Links to websites and organisations:
City Nature Challenge 2020: Bristol & Bath · iNaturalist
Nature reserves - bristol.gov.uk
Home page | Butterfly Conservation (butterfly-conservation.org)
The Wildlife Trusts | The Wildlife Trusts
Grow Wilder | Avon Wildlife Trust
RHS - Inspiring everyone to grow / RHS Gardening
Urban wildlife | The Wildlife Trusts
Gardening Advice and Inspiration - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine
UK's Largest Woodland Conservation Charity - Woodland Trust
The RSPB Wildlife Charity: Nature Reserves & Wildlife Conservation