Nature Connection Useful Links

Here are links to a selection of useful websites and publications to help with ideas to increase nature connection and reading for interest. Let me know if you’d like to see a section on a particular topic – I’ll add more over time.

 

Useful resources for teachers and parents

Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Birds (RSPB)

RSPB give nature a home in your garden

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/

Here’s their YouTube channel for great videos on activities to help wildlife find a home near you (compassion pathway to nature connection!):

https://www.youtube.com/user/rspbvideo

 

Sensory Trust

For inclusive and sensory design, using nature and the outdoors for the health and wellbeing for people living with disability and health issues, their families and carers.

http://www.sensorytrust.org.uk/

For creative activities involving the senses and using the outdoors and nature.

http://www.sensorytrust.org.uk/information/creative-activities/index.htm

 

The Wildlife Trusts

For places, activities and information on nature and wildlife in the UK. They also run the annual nature connection scheme 30 Days Wild (check it out and take part, it’s great and proven to work!):

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/

Their pages for nature, health, and wellbeing:

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/living-landscape/nature-health-and-wild-wellbeing

David Suzuki Foundation

Canadian research, education and analysis organisation working to conserve and protect the environment.

https://davidsuzuki.org/

They have some great teachers resources for connecting children to nature:

https://davidsuzuki.org/take-action/connecting-with-nature-education-guide/

 

Selected scientific papers/reports on the benefits of nature and nature connection

Richardson et al. (2017), Journal of Ergonomics. Nature: a new paradigm for well-being and ergonomics.

Capaldi et al. (2014). Frontiers in Psychology. The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis.

Richardson et al. (2015), Report for the RPSB. The impact of children’s connection to nature.

Cox et al. (2017), BioScience. Doses of neighborhood nature: the benefits for mental health of living with nature.

Wood et al. (2014), PLOS One. A repeated measures experiment of school playing environment to increase physical activity and enhance self-esteem in UK school children.

Wooller et al. (2016). International Journal of Environmental Health Research. Occlusion of sight, sound and smell during Green Exercise influences mood, perceived exertion and heart rate.

 

30 Days Wild: Days 21 to 30 – baby in hospital

Absence

It has been along time since I last posted, I have missed writing. However, as you’ll see below, we have had a bit of a tough time and frankly, I have prioritised spending time with our little boy Archie. Sometimes, time and love are the only things you can focus on.

In hospital

It’s summer time and warm so you don’t expect to catch colds, let alone end up with baby in hospital with a cold for the third time in three months. Archie got bronchiolitis for the third time from a common cold and needed hospitalization for the third time. Anyone who has been in hospital even once with baby will know how harrowing it can be and this being the third time Jon and I felt ourselves being stretched thin emotionally. However, having been there before we were more prepared: we knew when to go, what to pack, and to an extent, what we should expect. Most importantly, we now knew how we had to care for ourselves during the experience so we could be our best for poor little Archie.

Archie in hospital
Archie in Bristol Children’s Hospital

Sharing the load

Last time we were in hospital for five nights. I stayed with Archie for the first four nights but I was so obliterated by lack of sleep and stress that when we knew we’d be in a fifth, Jon stayed with him and I went home to get some reasonable rest. This time we agreed we’d alternate staying in with him so we both could remain as strong as possible. This worked really well and I think helped show Archie that both his parents are there for him always, and reinforced that Daddy can provide snuggly comfort similar to Mummy, which is never a bad thing.

Cowboy Archie in hospital
He wears it well…

My mum came up to stay with us from Cornwall as soon as she knew Archie was ill which really helped me stay strong and provided some much needed practical assistance with things like meals. Being in hospital can prove to be extremely expensive when you’re only able to buy yourself ready meals. Her being with us also gave me more of a reason to get out and get fresh air. This, I have discovered, is SO INCREDIBLY important for my mental wellbeing when in hospital. Being part of 30 Days Wild, I did my best to seek out any form of nature that I could focus on and connect with, however seemingly insignificant, as I knew that it WOULD help me stay strong for my baby boy. This was my ultimate goal.

St. James Park is a small urban park in the center of the city. I'd walked past it many times yet I don't recall ever having visited. It gave us some much-needed green respite from the endless grey and clamour of hospital and city.
St. James Park is a small urban park in the center of the city. I’d walked past it many times yet I don’t recall ever having visited. It gave us some much-needed green respite from the endless grey and clamour of hospital and city.
A beautiful patch of midsummer colour outside St. James' Priory refreshes the eye of the passerby, if they should look up.
A beautiful patch of midsummer colour outside St. James’ Priory refreshes the eye of the passerby, if they should look up.

The 30 Days Wild Community

The day we were in A&E when we first arrived at the hospital with Archie, I went out to get a breath and phone my mum. In the midst of the concrete cloisters of the hospital ambulance bays I found a couple of thin trees and some bamboo so I attached myself to them, trying to block out the sense of grey and crisis around me. I took a picture and added it to the 30 Days Wild Facebook group that I’d joined, writing a little about what was going on. Over the course of the next few days, we were utterly overwhelmed by the support, and kindness expressed by so many members of that group. So many similar stories of babies ill with this same condition, parents offering strength and understanding; so many well wishes for a speedy recovery. Quite simply so much LOVE. I’m so glad I joined that group as it gave me such a sense of solidarity and support during that awful time. If 30 Days Wild attracts a kind and caring character of person, they seem to be concentrated within that group.

My post to the 30 Days Wild FaceBook page, with the amazing response from that community.
My post to the 30 Days Wild FaceBook page, with the amazing response from that community.

30 Days Wild: looking back

Throughout the month of June, I consciously endevoured to get a daily fix of nature: I enjoyed my Random Acts of Wildness, I’m certain they benefitted me physically (lots of walking!).  See my other accounts here, here, and here. I’m also certain they benefitted me mentally at least in the short term: some days you don’t feel like doing anything, whether that’s because of sleep deprivation, a low mood, or just sheer laziness! But whenever I had to MAKE myself do something, i.e. I was not in my (I was going to say usual but more honestly I’m going to say) preferred light mood, I felt refreshed, happier and more energised afterwards. During the two dark stints we were with baby in hospital in June, I particularly noticed how connecting to nature helped me be more rational and balanced amid the torturous emotional heights of those times. Thanks to 30 Days Wild, I know that (1) regular, even if not always daily, nature fixes make me feel better and keep me fitter, (2) even a few short minutes engaging with nature will make a noticeable positive impact on my wellbeing.

365 Days Wild

So, I WILL be continuing with the conscious nature connection ethos that 30 Days Wild has instilled in me – 365 Days Wild! For instance, as I write this, it is 6.52am and I am sitting in my parents’ lounge looking out the patio windows over their beautiful garden. There are so many birds flitting hither and thither within the trees and to the bird feeders; I am consciously looking at the birds, noticing their species (if I know it), their behaviour (are they feeding, washing, preening), and the patterns of their movements. Before 30 Days Wild, I may have similarly enjoyed the scene but I would not have necessarily paid such close attention to the finer details. This way, the habits I cultivated during 30 Days Wild are now helping me to stay connected to nature, stay wild and bring nature that bit further in my daily life.

How did you find 30 Days Wild? Have you noticed an impact on your physical and mental health? What did you enjoy the most? Stay wild, people!

30 Days Wild: Days 9 to 20 – struggles to maintain momentum

Maintain momentum

I made a commitment to complete 30 Days Wild and that’s what I’m going to do. For me, a key part of the scheme is to get oneself into the habit of connecting to nature daily. However, when it’s a conscious thing to do initially, you have to maintain momentum to get that habit established. Additionally, I’ve started the Wild Happy Well blog with a view to this becoming a small business, so I’ve wanted to carve out time to do this and again get into the habit of writing and posting regularly. I’ll be honest, over the last 12 days I have struggled with both of these.

Sleep, oh precious sleep

Archie is now 7 months old and up to this point he’s been an excellent sleeper (4 month sleep regression notwithstanding!). Over the last couple of weeks however his night-time sleeping has been more disrupted and as a result I’ve been decidedly more zombie-like. That’s an understatement: I find it extremely hard to function like a ‘normal’ human being when I’ve had either very little sleep (5 hours or less), or very broken sleep (1.5-2hr chunks – although managing around 7 hours in a few chunks isn’t too bad). I had planned to post every 4-5 days throughout 30 Days Wild with daily pictures and nice stories of what we’ve done. I was also planning to continue adding more informative posts about the science of how nature benefits our health and wellbeing. But, over the last 12 days I just have not had the brain power to think ahead and plan/seize those lovely pictures, or think more critically and read more academic papers.

A lovely sunshine walk in our local park: space, green, and peace
A lovely sunshine walk in our local park: space, green, and peace

Keep going

I have however made sure I did SOMETHING every day to connect me with the natural world, however short and however small. This, for me right now, is a win. I’ve missed a couple of daily pictures over this period but I’m taking part in 30 Days Wild to benefit me and not to produce an album for others to see so I figure this is actually fine! It’s funny, looking back through all the pictures I’ve taken over the last 12 days, I’ve forgotten how much I have done which is heartening – I mustn’t be so hard on myself!!!

Random Acts of Wildness (that I can remember)!

Day 9: In the evening I started reading a paper: Cox et al. 2017, ‘Doses of neighbourhood nature: the benefits for mental health of living with nature’. Honestly, I didn’t finish it, I was too tired and needed to go to bed, but what I did read was really interesting – I’ll include it in a post sometime.

Day 10: We visited a local garden centre as a family to buy a pot and some plants for our new deck – we settled on three different types of mint so that we can use them to make our own herbal tea as well as being a nice sensory experience as we brush past them. 

Day 11: We visited the Festival of Nature on Bristol Harbourside. We visited various tents including that of Avon Wildlife Trust where we chatted to volunteers about 30 Days Wild, picked up interesting leaflets, learned about planting for wildlife in your garden and enjoyed looking at plasticine insects and bats the children had made. I also met Steve Shepherd from Shepherd’s Way show on Bristol Nature Radio and we had an interesting conversation – you never know Wild Happy Well might be on air sometime!

Day 12: I went for a walk with Archie around our local park. I was happy to see a section of verge cordoned off as a ‘no mow’ zone to allow it to go wild, excellent!

No mow zone!
No mow zone!

Day 13: Out in our garden, I am still contemplating what to do with the olive tree, and how to hard prune it (as I think this is what I’ll end up doing). It is beautiful and Archie loves watching it wave around in the breeze so it would be a shame to lose this feature. After Archie went to bed I ate my dinner out on the deck in the last rays of sunlight – a good way to reset at the end of the day.

Dinner on the deck - yes that is a potatoe waffle!
Dinner on the deck – yes that is a potatoe waffle!

Day 14: I can’t remember…

Day 15: Baby in bed, dinner cooked and eaten, I stepped outside for a breath and to do something, anything in the garden (NB: I was in a foul mood…probably down to tiredness). As soon as I entered the garden my body took a deep breath, almost subconsciously showing me I needed this. It reminded me of when Archie was on hospital and I had been with him for four nights. I was so sleep deprived, so shaken by worry for him and the constant crying and screams from the ward. When Jon stayed with him on the fifth night and I went home to get some sleep, I stepped into our garden and stood. There was bird song, green, moisture. Nature. Rejuvenation. It was incredibly healing. I’ll write about that experience another time as it’s etched into my memory, particularly how the sudden presence of nature was a balm to my poor state of mind.

Day 16: A short walk around Castle Park near the river. We heard a peregrine falcon but didn’t manage to spot it, but we did see a cormorant diving for fish!

Day 17: Watched a beautiful rose chafer beetle that landed on our deck (see featured image). Luckily we get quite a few of these in our garden, bumbling around with their deep drone-like buzz. Their iridescence in the sunshine is simply stunning to behold.

Day 18: Mega hot today so Jon and I went to B&Q early to get some form of shade for our new deck (all finished now, I must post an update following from this). Having a south-facing garden means it gets incredibly hot and with Archie no shade is a big no-no. We ended up buying an amazing ‘mega-sol’!!

The new finished deck with mega-sol which makes being outside in summer with baby sooo much easier and safer!
The new finished deck with mega-sol which makes being outside in summer with baby sooo much easier and safer!

Day 19: It was soooo hot again today and we were finally all set up for paddling pool action so Archie and I chilled out in there late in the afternoon and even had ‘bath time’ out there! He absolutely loved it, splashing around, looking at the trees waving in the breeze and flinging his squidgey fish around. I was in the pool too and it was lovely to share that experience with him – we shall be repeating this lots over the summer!

Day 20: We had a mini pool party today on the new deck! Mini in multiple senses: mini-pool, mini-people (babies), and only two of them! It’s such a great way for all of us to keep cool, be outside, and have fun.

Hopefully with the weather cooling down a bit we’ll all manage to get more sleep and then we can finish 30 Days Wild more in the manner with which we started! Here’s to maintaining momentum!

Have you struggled at all with maintaining your momentum with 30 Days Wild, or any other venture you’re going for at the moment? Let me know. How do you keep focus and re-energise your activities?

30 Days Wild, Days 3 to 8: our family focus on wellbeing

Delightful British summer

Well! What weather we’ve had this week… Not exactly the delightful British summer we always hope for, but then we’ve had some amazing days in the last couple of months. When the weather turns bad, it can be hard to think of ways to connect with nature when you have a young baby, without having to don the waterproofs and wellies, and wrapping baby up in all manner of layers (then CONSTANTLY worrying that baby is too hot/too cold/wet/etc.). For me, taking part in 30 Days Wild is not just about connecting myself more with the natural world, but also finding ways for Archie to also benefit from the goodness the wild has to offer, as we both focus on wellbeing (well, he kinda just focuses on milk and toys, but hey!).

 

Five ways to wellbeing

A report published in 2008 identified five actions to improve wellbeing:

  1. Connect
  2. Keep active
  3. Take notice
  4. Keep learning
  5. Give

Getting stuck into 30 Days Wild, I’ve had these in the back of my mind when deciding what Random Acts of Wildness to do each day. I’ll be going into more detail on these soon, looking at studies The Wildlife Trusts highlight that demonstrate how nature can contribute to each of these categories to improve wellbeing.

 

Our Random Acts of Wildness, Days 3-8

Day 3: Another visit to our favourite local National Trust property, Tyntesfield. My mum was staying with us and she loves the place too so it was a fun, easy excursion for all of us. It really has something for all the family: beauty in nature, architecture, and gardens, easy spots for feeding baby and play breaks from the buggy. This time, we got active and took notice: we explored further on foot and found parts we’d never visited before. I turned green with envy at the gorgeous kitchen garden. I’d absolutely love to have such an organised and productive area of our garden, however small!

Day 3: Another visit to our favourite local National Trust property, Tyntesfield. My mum was staying with us and she loves the place too so it was a fun, easy excursion for all of us. It really has something for all the family: beauty in nature, architecture, and gardens, easy spots for feeding baby and play breaks from the buggy. This time, we got active and took notice: we explored further on foot and found parts we’d never visited before. I turned green with envy at the gorgeous kitchen garden. I’d absolutely love to have such an organised and productive area of our garden, however small!
30 Days Wild day 3

Here’s a little gallery of our DSLR photos from the day – mostly taken by hubby on the Nikon D7100, post-processed in Photoshop.

 

Day 4: Getting to know my fruit trees, learning about when and how to prune them (bad weather again). When we bought out house, it already had a fig tree, olive tree, and what I thought was a peach tree in the back garden. It turns out the peach is an apricot tree – big oops! from the supposed biologist…!!! The apricot was never trained and is now out of control and not fruiting well, and the olive has become rather unruly where I would prefer it provided some form of screen, so both of these need attention. I’ve never pruned a tree and the last thing I want to do is do them any harm…so learning was in order. Now I feel much more confident and informed as to what is required and when 🙂

(I was bought the book below as a present – you can buy it here)

Day 4: Getting to know my fruit trees, learning about when and how to prune them (bad weather again). When we bought out house, it already had a fig tree, olive tree, and what I thought was a peach tree in the back garden. It turns out the peach is an apricot tree – big oops! from the supposed biologist…!!! The apricot was never trained and is now out of control and not fruiting well, and the olive has become rather unruly where I would prefer it provided some form of screen, so both of these need attention. I’ve never pruned a tree and the last thing I want to do is do them any harm…so learning was in order. Now I feel much more confident and informed as to what is required and when
30 Days Wild day 4

Day 5: Learning about native and tropical marine life at Bristol Aquarium, as it was STILL raining. It turns out my mum had never been to an aquarium before (Archie has already been several times – annual membership oh yes!). She loved it and as Archie gets older he notices and enjoys more of it which is lovely to share. We were lucky to be near the seahorses when they were fed. They rose towards the surface all together in a beautiful display, and you could hear them eating with loud POPs as they took mouthfuls.

Day 5: Learning about native and tropical marine life at Bristol Aquarium, as it was STILL raining. It turns out my mum had never been to an aquarium before (Archie has already been several times – annual membership oh yes!). She loved it and as Archie gets older he notices and enjoys more of it which is lovely to share. We were lucky to be near the seahorses when they were fed. They rose towards the surface all together in a beautiful display, and you could hear them eating with loud POPs as they took mouthfuls.
30 Days Wild day 5

Day 6: A brief nature fix today in between breaks in yet more rain… I seized the opportunity to dead-head my roses and create a small home-grown bouquet for our living room, bringing the outdoors in. Both these activities felt almost meditative so although brief, they were good for heart and mind.

Day 6: A brief nature fix today in between breaks in yet more rain… I seized the opportunity to dead-head my roses and create a small home-grown bouquet for our living room, bringing the outdoors in. Both these activities felt almost meditative so although brief, they were good for heart and mind.
30 Days Wild day 6

Day 7: As we’ve had a bit of a learning theme this week, Archie and I continued this today with a learning walk around Clifton and Durdham Downs. It was a sunny but blustery afternoon, so we were certainly connected to the elements (hello windburn…)! There was a lot of wildlife out: we saw four grey squirrels and many different bird species. Swifts wheeled in the sky above us; their elegant scythe-shaped wings giving them incredible manoeuvrability. A pied wagtail flitted and hovered over patches of grass presumably nibbling tasty insects. Only in the last few weeks have I noticed their flight pattern – it’s actually very pretty. They flutter and change direction in a delicate way that reminds me a little of a hummingbird (humour me slightly!), with their long tail waving behind. Around the city you tend to see them in car parks or the edges of pavements; if you see one in a garden or park do take the time to notice how they move. We also saw butterflies in the meadows that now fill a number of areas around the Downs.

Day 7: As we’ve had a bit of a learning theme this week, Archie and I continued this today with a learning walk around Clifton and Durdham Downs. It was a sunny but blustery afternoon, so we were certainly connected to the elements (hello windburn…)! There was a lot of wildlife out: we saw four grey squirrels and many different bird species. Swifts wheeled in the sky above us; their elegant scythe-shaped wings giving them incredible manoeuvrability. A pied wagtail flitted and hovered over patches of grass presumably nibbling tasty insects. Only in the last few weeks have I noticed their flight pattern – it’s actually very pretty. They flutter and change direction in a delicate way that reminds me a little of a hummingbird (humour me slightly!), with their long tail waving behind. Around the city you tend to see them in car parks or the edges of pavements; if you see one in a garden or park do take the time to notice how they move. We also saw butterflies in the meadows that now fill a number of areas around the Downs.
30 Days Wild day 7

Day 8: An odd day with random naps, a Dr’s appointment, and many household chores so my act of wildness today was to write some poetry when I had some space and time while Archie napped. I’m happy with the beginning, but we’ll see how it progresses. Whatever it turns out like I will share – you’ve got to just get these things out there sometimes, don’t you?! I’m not sure which of the Five Ways this might incorporate, I think mostly taking notice as I was imagining what sensing nature for the very first time might feel like.

Day 8: An odd day with random naps, a Dr’s appointment, and many household chores so my act of wildness today was to write some poetry when I had some space and time while Archie napped. I’m happy with the beginning, but we’ll see how it progresses. Whatever it turns out like I will share – you’ve got to just get these things out there sometimes, don’t you?! I'm not sure which of the Five Ways this might incorporate, I think mostly taking notice as I was imagining what sensing nature for the very first time might feel like.
30 Days Wild day 8

That’s it for now, keep sharing your Random Acts and think about the Five Ways to Wellbeing – how do you focus on wellbeing?

Taking part in 30 Days Wild 2017

Wild Happy Well is taking part in 30 Days Wild!

The Wild Happy Well family is taking part in 30 Days Wild! Here on the blog I’ll be writing about our wild adventures – our Random Acts of Wildness – and how I think it’s improving our nature connection. See Part 1 of my post on how Nature improves our health and wellbeing if you’d like an introduction to the evidence. I’ll share our photographs so you can get an idea of what we’ve been up to and the nature we’ve seen in our local area, plus tips on simple easy ways to connect with your nearby nature.

The Wildlife Trusts’ scheme

30 Days Wild is a scheme run by The Wildlife Trusts that aims to get people more connected to nature in order to benefit from the health and wellbeing boosts that science shows us nature provides. It also helps people and families learn about the nature around them which will hopefully help the next generation care for the world around us, protecting and preserving our biodiversity. By signing up to and taking part in 30 Days Wild, you can be inspired by the many ‘random acts of wildness’ they suggest and get your paws on some fun materials to make taking part even more fun for all the family!

Peony at Tyntesfield, taking part in 30 Days Wild
Day 1: A stunning display of flowers at Tyntesfield, like this gorgeous peony.

Getting into your wild swing!

I think the key with really engaging with this scheme is consistency – achieving regular exposure and connection with nature, even if only for a short duration. After all, we know that the first 5 minutes or so in nature can give the greatest benefits. This is why I’m not going to be putting pressure on us to go on enormous expeditions, but instead carve out quality moments in which we can really be present. With a young baby some days you are just too tired to even get out of the house, let alone go on a long walk or pack us all up to go somewhere further afield. So, whether it’s meditating in the garden, arranging some flowers, or even just a quick walk around the block noticing the trees, flowers, birds and bugs, taking part in 30 Days Wild we’ll do SOMETHING to connect with our nearby nature.

WHW’s first few days

On Day 1 of taking part in 30 Days Wild, my mum, Archie and I visited the National Trusts’ property Tyntesfield near Bristol. It was a beeeeautiful sunny day and we saw many stunning displays of flowers, walked around the grounds, and rested beneath lush leafy canopies provided by the mature trees. Day 2 was a tired day for me and it was quite rainy so we stayed in until both the weather and I had perked up when went for a walk around our village for Archie’s late afternoon nap. We admired flowers in people’s gardens and walked through a local community park where my mum searched for four-leaf clovers. She has a gift of being able to spot these genetic rarities and enjoys peering over the green leafy spread. Having not found any for over a year, she found five in about 10 minutes!!! She believes that they bring good luck, and she found one for each member of our immediate family, so hopefully it’ll be a healthy, happy and well summer for all of us!

Four-leaf clovers, taking part in 30 Days Wild
Four-leaf clovers my mum found during a walk in the park.
Under the leafy canopy at Tyntesfield.
Resting under the leafy canopy at Tyntesfield.

 

If you’re new to Wild Happy Well, find out what I’m about here.

Today’s task: We’re a few days in but it’s still not too late to sign up to 30 Days Wild! Will you go for it? Have you done it before, and if so did it benefit you in some way?