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Connecting To The Natural World

  • Sun 24th May, 2020

I often find myself directing my children in the same way that my parents did, as I am sure that we all do. The commonest piece of advice is to tell them to get outside and get some fresh air, the all-encompassing remedy to a multitude of ailments.

Wild scenes of water and woods in North Yorkshire © Margaret BoydWild scenes of water and woods in North Yorkshire © Margaret Boyd

But getting outside is more than just taking in some fresh air, it is a chance to get some space, either from the confinements of indoors or perhaps from other people. Getting outside is a vital way of preserving and encouraging positive mental health and so is some of the best advice that I received growing up and vital advice to pass on to my children.

Blue Tit © Richard BainesBlue Tit © Richard Baines

We all get outside in different ways, and we will probably all experience the outside world in a different way too. To take a walk, a run or a cycle ride is not just a way of getting to places, or to exercise, it is a chance to spend essential time being surrounded by the natural environment. Outside, your senses take in the smells, the sounds, the sights and the textures of a truly different environment; a totally different experience.

 Eurasian Sky Lark © Richard BainesEurasian Sky Lark © Richard Baines

Hopefully the majority of us have some access to an outdoor space. In these current times those places have become sanctuaries. Whether it has been to lie down and feel the softness of the grass, to sit and absorb the wonderful bird song or to look up and marvel at the wider universe on a cloudless night. These experiences can take our minds to a more peaceful and calmer place, giving ourselves a break from the sometimes chaotic and uncertain nature of our busy lives. For me a gentle stroll in the early evening, watching the swallows chase after food, listening to the lovely song of skylarks and admiring those delicate white flowers of the dead nettle in the hedgerow will always lift my spirit.

White Dead Nettle © Richard BainesWhite Dead Nettle © Richard Baines

I was once told that there were perhaps two sorts of people, those that look out and those that look in. I work a lot with young people, showing, inspiring and enthusing them about the natural world. Encouraging them to look outwards, to find things new around themselves; woodlice under logs, ladybirds climbing stems, wrens darting into dense undergrowth. If we look out then we can see what surrounds us, the beauty of our wildlife, not just the stunning colours, the prolific sounds but the diversity of our birdlife, our wildflowers, our invertebrates.

Eurasian Wren © Richard BainesEurasian Wren © Richard Baines

I enjoy spending time just standing in a habitat and observing the wildlife that supports it, I look outwards and I notice things. Sometimes I experiment with my camera, to share later with others, hoping to lift their spirits as well as my own, to convey to them some of that awe that has touched me in some small way. Enjoying these moments allows me to put other worries and concerns to one side, even for a short time, to escape and to refresh, stronger to face those problems or conflicts that I left inside when I walked out of the door to get that very needed fresh air.

Margaret Boyd

YCN Wildlife Guide