We know a computer screen can’t conjure up the breeze blowing through your hair or the feel of the sun warming your vitamin D deprived face, but it can still lift the spirits, engage the brain and connect you to a community of similarly-stir-crazy outdoorsy types. From online birdwatching groups to classes for kids that are both entertaining and educational, we’ve selected 7 ways you can get your next nature fix without breaching lockdown rules.
Join an online nature book club
It’s fair to say we could all do with a bit of escapism right now, so if you’ve suddenly found yourself with time on your hands, why not join an online book club? Author Robert McFarlane launched the #CoReadingVirus book club as a way to build communities, start conversations and take our minds off Covid 19. The first read is The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, which McFarlane describes as “a beautiful, moving, wise meditation on landscape, love, nature & the nature of being.” Discussions of the first couple of chapters began on Saturday 28th March, but you can jump in at any time (so long as you’ve read the book).
Become a Twitter-twitcher
Swap your usual angst-ridden morning Twitter scroll with tweets of a more wholesome kind by joining in with the #BreakfastBirdwatch. The RSPB is encouraging early risers to share snaps and videos of birds on weekdays between 8am-9am. Don’t worry if you miss your alarm, you don’t have to contribute to the hashtag to take pleasure in scrolling through this symphony of birdsong from around the world. Are your feathered visitors the only thing keeping you sane in self-isolation? Join The Self-Isolating Bird Club (@SIBirdClub), launched by wildlife presenter Chris Packham, it’s a great way to share sightings, identify unknown species and bond with fellow birders.
Spot and snap new blooms
That warm fuzzy feeling you get when you receive a bunch of flowers doesn’t have to stop just because the florists are shut. Nature’s bouquet is awakening from its winter slumber and there’s plenty on show to lift the spirits. Inspired by Hanami, the Japanese custom of appreciating the beauty of flowers, the National Trust is encouraging us to share Spring blossom sightings on social media using the hashtag #BlossomWatch. The National Trust hopes these snaps will brighten up the day of someone who might not be able to get outside at the moment. Speaking to the Guardian, National Trust nature expert Andy Beer says, “It’s a moment many can enjoy by simply looking at trees in their garden, seeing it through windows, or on city streets when taking the permitted daily walk, cycle or run.” Got a penchant for pretty petals? Take a digital tumble into the #wildflowerhour hashtag or share your own blooms with the Candide community using the #21gardendays hashtag.
Treat your ears to houseplant chat while tending to your plants
Are you using quarantine as an excuse to spend quality time with your houseplants? Now could be a good time to give them some TLC. Candide is bursting with resources on how best to care for your pot-bound companions, from learning about the easiest house plants to grow and, crucially, how to water them to diagnosing plant problems with the Candide Leaf Doctor. While you’re at it podcasts can be a great companion – particularly if you’re self-isolating. Our heavy rotation list includes Gardens, Weeds & Words, On the Ledge, the RHS Gardening Podcast, the Organic Gardening podcast and, of course, Candide’s own Fresh from the Pod.
You can also find comfort in the communities these podcasts foster. On the Ledge podcast founder and house plant pro Jane Perrone also hosts Houseplant Hour (@houseplanthour) every Tuesday at 9pm. Great for anyone who’d rather lose themselves in the psychedelic leaves of a Macodes petola than lose hours trying to keep up with the unrelenting news cycle, the sessions are a great place to pick up plant-led interior design ideas for your home jungles. Perrone also encourages her listeners to have a go at growing houseplants from seed. Fire up your propagation station and share your results (or lack thereof) via the #OTLsowalong.
Contribute to a citizen science study
Luckily you don’t have to be a science whiz to take part in these experiments. The National Centre of Atmospheric Science is looking for spreadsheet-savvy volunteers to help digitise its handwritten records of the UK’s rainfall patterns. Just by sparing a few minutes a day you’re helping climate scientists understand our drastically changing climate. Use your computer break to count the butterflies, moths and mammals that frequent your own garden. Don’t forget to submit your results to the Garden Butterfly Survey and the Living with Mammals Survey, which will help to protect them for future generations.
You could also convert your compost bin into a lab by taking part in the Big Compost Experiment, which is looking into the effect of biodegradable & "home compostable" bioplastics on the UK’s compost heaps. No garden? You can still take part in a “socially distant bioblitz” on April 5th. The US-based initiative is encouraging people the world over to document the living creatures you share a home with. Kids in tow? We reckon you’ll allow them some screen time if they’re using Eco Explore, an app where little ones can earn rewards in exchange for completing nature-based challenges. Finally, there are plenty more activities to keep boredom at bay over on Zooniverse.
Taken from the Woddland Trust's wildlife live stream
Plug into a live nature cam
Nothing bats away the blues like cute videos of animals and as breeding season gets underway, wildlife webcams are flickering into life. We challenge your heart not to melt at the sight of badgers enjoying an evening meal or puffins perfecting their nest-building skills. Earlier this month a peregrine falcon laid her eggs on a windswept cathedral nest which is being monitored by a webcam set up by the Hawk and Owl Trust. Being able to track the hatchling’s progress in real-time is just the kind of drawn out suspense drama we need right now. Further afield, Monterey Bay Aquarium is bringing all the calm vibes with its coral reef and jellyfish streams. And there is a rolling supply of wholesome viewing to be found at explore.org.
Brush up on your knowledge of the natural world
If you’re quarantining with kids, you’ll be pleased to hear there are tonnes of fun online resources to help with homeschooling. Adventurer and naturalist presenter Steve Backshall is hosting free online wildlife Q&As across his social media pages. For engaging 20-minute tutorials involving cuddly toy animals as props, look out for Earth Life Lessons, the brainchild of wildlife broadcaster Lizzie Daly.
Adults looking to sharpen their creative writing skills should join Emergence Magazine’s free bi-weekly nature writing course starting in April. And if you want to up your brain training game, why not enrol in a free online course in conservation or environmental studies from Open Learn or FutureLearn?
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, museum visits are back on the cards. Virtual tours around the Natural History Museum in London and Washington DC will keep kids and big kids occupied for hours and best of all, there are no crowds.
We urge Candide users to stay safe and enjoy their garden where possible. For more tips on how to enjoy nature from home read our article on how to positively pass the time.
Candide’s community of plant enthusiasts can also help out with advice, plant identification and moral support while our marketplace remains open if you’ve got a bare windowsill that needs filling.