14th June 2023 – Spending time in nature

There’s a saying that goes “If you can’t find ten minutes to spend in nature, spend a day.” We need nature; it’s as important as food and water. Without access to nature our mental health suffers and the air we breath is less healthy.

Immersing in nature and observing nature will help to reinforce the importance of greening your life. The importance of nature sadly seems to be lost on many of those who make decisions about our public spaces; my daughter was bemoaning recent developments in Central Park in Plymouth, that made it impossible to find somewhere green for a photographic backdrop. “What we want” she sagely commented “is just for things to be left alone. It was perfectly good as it was.”

She is right. Too much time is spent tinkering in the name of progress. We have an obsession for tidiness. What we need is simply green spaces. Some trees. Some grass. Some flowers. A space for nature and people to coexist, without sweeping boulevards of tarmac. A place just to be.

Last weekend I took part in a nature connection walk, where participants were encouraged to hug trees. Although often dismissed as somewhat wacky, the science behind tree hugging is sound. Hugging a tree gives a not dissimilar experience to hugging a person; a sense of grounding, a feeling of reassurance. The air around trees is naturally very clean, and the scent of bark and moss a pleasant one that can be refreshing.

The leader of the walk made a very good suggestion; find somewhere in nature you can spend fifteen minutes in, ideally every day, but at least a few times a week. This can be in a garden, a park, a woodland, on the moors, or on the coast. It needs to be somewhere accessible by a short walk from home, somewhere you can be comfortable returning. There are some excellent public wild spaces in our neighbourhood; the extensive Churchtown Farm Wildlife Reserve in Saltash, Kilminorth woods in Looe, Mount Edgecombe, Maker, Golitha falls, to name just a few. 

When you sit, observe the changes different seasons bring. Notice how the branches of once weedy tree whips start to fill a space. Observe the different flora and fauna coming and going. Get out a sketchbook and draw or write, or simply breathe and enjoy.

I hope you followed my advice last year and adopted a tree to look after in your neighbourhood. If you didn’t, it’s not too late to do so now; drought, pollution and disease is making trees stressed, and if we can all protect just one by looking after it, then we are doing a good thing. For small trees this might involve offering water when the weather is dry (always go for a bucketful once a week, rather than a regular daily sprinkling, as this encourages roots to go downwards); for larger trees this might involve championing their causes and fighting for them should they come under attack through development. 

Trees are important at all ages; young trees in their fast growing phase will rapidly reach a size where they can meaningfully absorb carbon and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. As trees age, dead limbs offer a feast for invertebrates that feed birds.

A friend of mine once said “the best thing we can do is do nothing.” Left alone nature is more than capable of healing itself, but we need to let it. Nature at its best is wild, scruffy, unkempt, out of control. We are too used to believing in neat and tidy, but to let nature regenerate we must learn to love its anarchistic character. To understand this we need to make time to appreciate what we have, but the rewards of that time will be more than worth it. Enjoy!

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