This year I have been taking part in the Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild Challenge which has had me completing 30 Random Acts of Wildness to improve my well being, health and for the planet. I have joined 130765 other people in 30 Days Wild 2020 and it’s been great, check out my 30 Random Acts of Wildness in this blog and take some inspiration for next Junes challenge or for your everyday life to get in touch with nature.
“In the current nature and climate emergency, we’re seeing more people affected by eco-anxiety – feeling overwhelmed by the damage to our environment and not knowing what to do to help. This, along with other stresses, aren’t good for us. But with 30 Days Wild from the Wildlife Trusts you can incorporate some simple nature-based activities into your daily life and feel the benefit. These activities can lower blood pressure, take our minds away from our day-to-day concerns and help us relax, as well as providing simple ways to help wildlife.”
– Dr Amir Khan, GP and Ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts
Day 1 was the first day and my first Random Act of Wildness but I didn’t really get that adventurous with my ideas. I visited my local Wildlife Trust site, Mickfield Meadow, which is within walking distance of my home. The meadow is 2 hectares of stunning wildflowers throughout the year. The rich flora is managed with a summer hay cut and grazing of the late summer growth, the field has never been sprayed or fertilised which has resulted in a host of wildflowers that includes many species that are very scarce in Suffolk. I love the meadow as it is different every day you visit, from a carpet of fritillaries in the spring months to goldilocks buttercup and the low growing wood anemone. It’s a lovely place to wander to from home and take a little bit of time away from the buzzing world, I often wander here in the evening with the dogs to see what we can spot or hear as a way to switch off from work.
Now this really was a Random Act of Wildness for me as I had only been fishing once previously I was taken back to the excitement of my childhood when we caught a 5lbs carp in our local pond. We are extremely lucky to live less that a 2 minute walk from Hoppit Wood & Lake where we are able to enjoy woodland, a wildflower meadow, an orchid and a lake. Our catches on this evening included tench, common carp, mirror carp, roach and even some goldfish, I was overly excited when the carp appeared as I had always thought fishing was a boring sport, now I’m keen to get out whenever we can. Fishing is my new escape as my other half is a keen fisherman he can sit all day waiting for a bite, I am quite happy with a good book in hand to join him now. This type of fishing is harmless and the fish are released back into the lake so it stays stocked for everyone to enjoy.
Day 3 was a different kind of random act of wildness that did not involve getting outside but reading a wild blog by Wildlife Kate, a fellow Get Outside Champion, about Colin the Robin. It was great to read about how Kate and Colin became friends with Kate offering food up to encourage him to be confident near her. Kate has taken some stunning photos and captured some fantastic videos of Colin even including a little photo shoot for VE Day. It was brilliant reading about Colin and seeing his fame grow through Kate’s blog, it was nice to read something positive to break up the negative news of late.
Day 4 had the best start to the day, dippy eggs with soldiers alfresco listening to the birds and the bees waking up for the day. I haven’t often sat out in the garden for my meals other than when we’ve had BBQs so this was another new experience for me and one I will definitely be doing more often, weather permitting of course. With the recent heat wave we have been experiencing I’ve been eating out a lot more since this Random Act of Wildness, it was a nice change to parking myself in front of the TV for every meal and definitely a good way of improving my mental well being.
Setting my feet free to tickle toes with nature. I’m often found wearing flip flops hence the horrendous flip flop tan lines shown here but I have under rated how lovely it is to go barefoot every so often as I usually shove my flip flops on for dog walks or to pop to the shop. There are so many benefits of going barefoot that many people don’t realise, firstly the fact it heightens your awareness with different surfaces and things to watch out for like rocks or thorns it’s almost impossible not to focus solely (excuse the pun) on where you are placing your feet. It’s a free yoga and reflexology session for your feet strengthening and stretching muscles, tendons and ligaments in your feet as well as stimulating the many reflex points in your feet. Walking barefoot in nature can in fact reduce depression and anxiety by up to 62% and release endorphins!
Day 6 included some outdoors yoga, I’m by no means an expert in yoga in fact I’m still a novice but I love the peace it can give you as well as the physical benefits. I first started yoga when I moved to Suffolk in 2018 where I found my local group Serenity Yoga Suffolk, here I made some life long friends and found my new love of yoga. I’ve previously suffered with lower back pain and have tried physio and had no success in relieving it until I started yoga. Yoga has improved my strength, balance, flexibility and improved my fitness levels, but the most important factor for me as been the mental side of the practice as it moves you from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system which means you can reduce anxiety and enter a more relaxed state which can help with work and home life. Practicing outside adds a whole new dimension to yoga with the sound of the wind, the sun on your skin and the smell of the grass, I would recommend it for everyone!
The heatwave came to an end and by Day 7 of 30 Days Wild the rain had arrived. Whilst on a walk in between rain showers I decided to take a closer look at what was around me. It’s amazing what is there in front of you when you are whirring round in everyday life that you don’t even notice. Whilst out for my daily dog walk I began to notice the smaller things amongst the rain drops on the hedgerows. I saw several bees wet from the rain with nectar clinging to their hair and ladybird larvae chomping on aphids. I was amazed at how much I had been walking by on my daily walks and how much the world is buzzing around me when I have been caught up in my own little bubble.
Getting green fingered in the garden was a lot of fun, I have a small cottage garden and have loved creating a little haven to spend my lunchtimes and evenings. Day 8 included making our own planter to grow some veg in so we could be a little more self sufficient, we planted some peas, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers and strawberries. I’ve always loved home produce as I grew up with my parents growing as much at home as they could with a huge allotment at the top of the garden. We also potted some wildflowers to encourage the bees and pollinators into the garden, wildflowers have so many benefits we can all do our bit no matter what sort of garden you have from country estate to high rise balcony a small pot of wild flowers can provide pollinators food.
Throwing it back to my childhood days playing as part of my own grass brass band. As a child I spent hours trying to perfect my grass blowing technique trying to copy my dad, it’s great fun for all the family.
I have spent hours and hours over the years watching wildlife webcams from otters to ospreys and home webcams for blue tits. This time it was watching the Osprey nest at Rutland Wildlife Trust to see Maya and 33(11) and their chicks. It’s lovely to see the Osprey pairs successfully breeding as they are a bird that has come back from the brink; due to intensive habitat loss and persecution the birds became extinct in England in 1847 only surviving in remote areas of Scotland. Over the last 70 years the Ospreys have made an incredible conservation success story and there are breeding pairs throughout the UK. These webcams give a brilliant insight, whilst not disturbing the animals, into the live goings on of these birds and many other species, it’s a great way to enjoy some wildness from home.
We are very lucky to have another pearl of nature within a five minute walk from home, the Woodland Trust Hoggs Kiss Wood is a lovely mixed broad leaf woodland and wildflower meadow. The woodland was made as part of the Millennium commemorations, planted by local residents in 1998 and was created as part of the ‘Woods on Your Doorstep’ woodlands, how fitting with the recent coronavirus lockdown restrictions. It’s fabulous to have such a variety of landscapes to explore close to home with the woodland providing a whole new sensory experience with the sound of the birds, the protection from the elements and different fauna to watch.
Reading a book about the wild whilst sat out in the wild, can you think of a better way to spend an evening? I would highly recommend this particular book ‘Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field’, John Lewis-Stempel gives an intimate account of a meadow from January to December. John Lewis-Stempel records the passage of the seasons from cowslips in spring to the hay-cutting of summer and grazing in autumn, and includes the biographies of the animals that inhabit the grass and the soil beneath: the badger clan, the fox family, the rabbit warren,the skylark brood and the curlew pair, among others.
Following a nature trail. Nature trails are a great way to make local walks fun for all the family, they can be fun, educational and benefit your physical well being.
A bike ride on the local bridleway network was the best way to blow the cobwebs away and clear my head. I recently bought a new hybrid bike from Micks Cycles and it’s brilliant for pootling about on the road and on the rougher terrain of the bridleways and byways we venture onto. I am not the most confident biker but love this as a form of exercise getting to see new places and from a new perspective. It has become key to commuting and in green/active travel, it’s good to see the UK using this mode of transport to get to work as well as for recreation.
I love bird watching, I’m not a true twitcher and I’m not that great with my bird ID but I enjoy watching the feeders full of life. This time of year is wonderful for watching the fledglings as they take their first flight and watching them grow everyday. I would recommend the RSPB’s hand book of British birds to anyone wanting learn about their garden birds and to help you identify them, it’s also great to take on holiday to spot the unfamiliar birds.
Day 16 involved an early morning to get out spotting some very special wildlife. We set up on the shore with cameras, spotting scopes and binoculars in the hope of catching a glimpse of the otter family we know are in the area. After an hour or so we were treated to an otter dipping in and out of the water, as well as being treated to an osprey feeding on the water and giving us a flying display as it dodged a mobbing crow. Wildlife photography is one of my favourite hobbies and the hours of sitting in hides, getting soggy on moors or freezing on the coast are always worth it even for a 30 second spectacle of rare animals.
As the scorching sun got us hot and bothered as we walked, I couldn’t resist a dip in a tarn at the top of our climb. It was so refreshing and revitalising with the water being fresh and cold. Wild swimming is one of the most invigorating activities in the outdoors in my opinion, I’m not brave enough to do it year round and I am certainly a fair weather wild swimmer, it brings back childhood memories of summers swimming in rivers in Borrowdale and gives me a funny feeling of being part of nature.
A day spent on a beach rock pooling is a day well spent. On this day we spent a morning playing ball with the dogs in the sea, enjoying a picnic on the beach and spent the afternoon watching wildlife on the coast line. We saw a number of moths and butterflies, a mole scurrying across the grass and plenty of crabs on the sand.
Ditching the disposables has felt much easier with my new job being based at home and the fact I don’t drink hot drinks. I used to find I reeled through a roll of tin foil far quicker than I’d like to admit when I made packed lunches for work every day, I had seen the bees was wrapping that is reusable but just never got round to buying one. I was also guilty of using one use plastics for my drinks, I can now be guilt free with my Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Hydroflask which keeps my drinks cold or hot. It’s much easier than I thought to ditch the disposables, it is something we can all get involved with whether you remember to take a thermos mug to the coffee shop with you or find an alternative to plastic bags for your shopping we can all play a small part in reducing the plastics damaging our environment and wildlife.
Day 20 was my most treasured day of my 30 days wild. I relished a day walking in the mountains with my mum, since moving to Suffolk I see a lot less of my parents who are the reason for my love of the outdoors. I spent my childhood outside exploring and learning about nature. So it was lovely to spend a day out and about enjoying the fells and being in the company of my loved ones which has become even more important with the recent lockdown events.
This was a new activity for me, watching sand martins feeding their young on the sandy cliffs. During the past 50 years the European population has crashed on two occasions as a result of drought in the birds’ African wintering grounds, luckily populations have recovered and they are currently doing well in the UK. Although they are a common bird around the UK it’s not a bird I was familiar with so I was entranced by they flying skills into such small nests on the cliff face.
Day 22 was a productive day practicing my chainsaw skills. After working on an RSPB reserve clearing holly trees for 6 months, two years had passed during which I hadn’t used chainsaws much since. It’s a skill that is not quite like riding a bike, it can be very dangerous if not using it regularly so I like to refresh these skills whenever I can.
A busy day at work meant that my day time was spent inside glued to the laptop. I’d been out with the dogs for their usual walk but felt the walk was more of a chore than pleasure. When my other half got home we went for a spontaneous ride on his motorbike to the coast where we enjoyed chips by the sea. It was lovely to feel the sea breeze and watch the insects on the flowers above the beach.
I like to enjoy a bit of down time whenever I can make time for it. I subscribe a number of outdoor magazines and love it at the end of each month when they appear in my letterbox. It’s great to keep up to date with the goings in in the agricultural, equestrian and outdoors industries. Not only is it informative but I genuinely enjoy the head space of sitting down to read a magazine about stories and issues I am passionate about.
Spending some time to think about the future, for adventures and PROW Explorer. You may have seen a change in the website lately, well there’s plenty more exciting things in the pipeline for this year so keep your eyes peeled. As lockdown is slowly lifted I’ve also started planning a head for the rest of the year, I find having things to look forward to very exciting and can really help motivate me whilst as work. We’re staying within the UK and hoping to do the North Coast 500 on the motorbike later in the year so watch out for that.
Doing something a little different, standing still. It’s amazing how much is going on around us in nature that we don’t even notice as we buzz around our own busy days. I took a moment to be still on a local byway which is enclosed by trees and hedgerows on each side within arable fields. I was amazed at the wildlife that surrounded me which I was blinkered to by my day to day stresses. Standing still for a moment allowed nature to become confident to carry on with it’s day, butterflies encircled me many landing on my colourful top, birds sang and fledglings flew by and I took in what I could see with the textured surfaces of flora and fauna. Standing still is under rated and I think we should all take some time even if it’s 30 seconds out of your morning madness to appreciate what is within touching distance if you just stand back and look.
Another day for the senses. The wind had picked up and was giving us a bashing, no matter what the weather I take the dogs out in rain, wind or shine. It was actually quite invigorating to blow the cobwebs away and I’m always entranced by the movement of the crops in the wind, it’s much like watching the sea.
Day 28 was a take it slow day, spending 4 hours watching the local ponds and photographing/videoing the lilies closing for the evening. The flowers open in the morning and close mid to late afternoon – a shame if you work during the day as you’ll only see them at weekends!
This is my day to day favourite activity, exploring the rights of way network. Exploring from home can be as exciting as exploring new areas, whilst lockdown has been in place I’ve discovered a whole ream of hidden gems and unknown corners that were sat on my doorstep. I love going out with a map in hand and just walking, finding all kinds of new places to explore and discovering where these routes end up.
Time to reflect on my 30 days wild and write a wild blog. I’ve really enjoyed completing the challenge of a random act of wildness each day and think it’s something that will continue way beyond June. There have been some discoveries, adventures and small revelations in the month and all of these have made me more aware of nature and my surrounding environment making me feel more passionate about protecting it and enjoying it.