This post was originally published on the Huffington Post lifestyle blog.
I’ve always been drawn to wildness. My infant days were filled with bluebell walks and mangled badger bones kept in jars, while rainy evenings found my little heart caught in the perils of Farthing Wood videos. I distinctly remember being part of a secret club at primary school where we found a bird’s claw and decided to worship it. As David Attenborough once said so soothingly, ‘every child on earth is fascinated by the natural world’, but as life goes on there are other things to distract young minds. The adolescence I experienced was a glorious hurricane of boys, Smirnoff Ice and terrible fashion choices, and while I never forgot my love for nature, it certainly lost its priority for a few years.
Fortunately for me it was rekindled while studying for my English degree, and I realised I wanted to write about nature professionally. But for many of my childhood friends with whom I explored forests and nurtured frogspawn, I have watched them drift off to the big cities and think only of tube times and spinning classes. Every day I meet adults and children who rarely visit green spaces, and with the pressures of modern society it is easy to see why. Busy schedules, working lives and the dazzle of gadgets means that outdoor time can be neglected, and in a world where profit and efficiency are valued so highly, it seems to be instilled in us that time spent wandering is time wasted. Consequently, we have lost touch with our primitive roots and our mental and physical health is paying the price.
Launched last year, The Wildlife Trusts’ new #30DaysWild challenge seems to have honed in on this absence of nature. The aim is to do something ‘wild’ every day in June, and to see if you feel the benefits of a little more exposure to nature. I participated in the scheme last summer and encouraged friends and family to do the same, and found my random acts of wildness carried me to places I wouldn’t usually encounter with a wholly different approach to observing the countryside. I watched stoats carrying their kits across the downland, identified a magpie moth, twitched an American shorebird, scattered wildflower seeds, and one rainy afternoon I watched a live osprey nest-cam in Cumbria. Although my lifestyle means I tend to spend lots of time outdoors, I found it motivated me to do something different every day and challenge myself, and it was also extremely fun! There’s nothing more tantalising than trying to guess if your elderflower champagne will explode or not.
The challenge gave me a few useful nuggets to take away, too. If I can find time to get outside or engage with nature at least once a day, my stress levels are massively reduced and I can manage the rest of my day with ease and clarity. As an amateur naturalist, I also found it a fantastic way to identify new species and learn about local ecosystems. I’ll certainly be joining in with the scheme again this year; it’s a wonderful way to get to know the countryside on your doorstep, find contentment in the great outdoors, and nurture the primordial soup in all of us.
To join in with the #30DaysWild challenge visit mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild