While you may be staying at home at the moment, there’s no need to miss out on the beauty of nature. A new book released by the National Trust claims you don’t need to go any further than your doorstep.
Every Day Nature features 365 entries that provide readers with inspiration on how to engage with nature and wildlife wherever they may be, all year round.
As the nation becomes accustomed to spending more time indoors, the book focuses on the rich array that can be seen through a window or in your back garden. And no need to worry if you don’t have a garden, as these stunning sightings can be captured on a hedgerow or roadside verge too!
Image credit: Emily Roe/National Trust.
Author and National Trust nature expert, Andy Beer is passionate about nature and helping others to feel connected to the natural world around them.
‘Noticing nature can really help lift our spirits. I find a daily dose of nature to be essential for my wellbeing,’ he says, ‘actively noticing and taking delight in things can be a great antidote and I would love for others to share in that feeling, which is why I decided to write the book.’
He believes the first step is noticing nature followed by engaging with it to develop a deeper connection – something which he encourages people to do in the book.
‘We are still in the peak of blossom and it's looking incredible this year,’ Andy continues, ‘I encourage people to find the blossom tree that means something to them, whether it’s a tree on their street or a tree that they remember. I like the idea of making something yours.
‘Once you begin to think like this, you experience a much closer connection between what you do and what happens around you. For us to value the natural world in this way, it becomes a much richer part of our lives.’
References, in the book, to 18th century Reverend Gilbert White, are particularly relevant to the current lockdown we are facing.
‘He didn’t travel a huge amount,’ explains Andy, ‘he explored his local area on foot and this is curiously timely as we aren’t traveling far either. His diary illustrates that there’s so much to see around where you are.
Image credit: John Millar/National Trust.
‘We are always looking for rare things in nature, but I wanted to write a list of things that you can see anywhere you live. For instance, [the wildlife] in the cracks in the pavement and on every hedgerow. When things are commonplace, we disregard them.
‘I also had to learn again to notice the common things that I took for granted,’ adds Andy.
His book takes readers on a day-by-day journey through the seasons describing what to look and listen out for — from daisies in gardens and cow parsley along verges to the laughing call of a green woodpecker and the clouds above us.
Image credit: Rob Coleman/National Trust.
Andy’s observations for April are what he calls ‘the second true butterfly of spring’ – the Orange-tip – and magnolia blossom as well as the whitethroat bird which is noted on 26th April and bluebells on the 28th.
The book release follows recent research, conducted by the National Trust and the University of Derby, which found that nature connectedness and simple everyday acts of noticing nature are linked with higher wellbeing.
The study revealed having a better connection to nature, is associated with reduced depression and anxiety. Further, the most nature-connected adults reported higher levels of happiness (15 per cent more than the rest of the population).
This is definitely something Andy can relate to.
He explains: ‘My job is quite busy and hectic, so in order to keep on top form and keep cheerful I need to spend enough time outside and see and appreciate nature. I recently realised that spending five minutes to stop, switch my phone off, observe something and slow down is really important to keep me at my best at work.’
One thing Andy tries to emphasise in his book is that there isn’t a right or wrong way to do this.
‘You don’t have to be an expert, know the correct names, have special equipment or, more importantly at this time, you don’t have to travel. Every Day Nature is about finding the joy in what is around you – wherever that may be,’ he says.
‘If we take one thing away [from our lockdown experience] it’s to appreciate that there’s so much to see within a small space, all we need to do is pay more attention to what is around us.’
Andy’s formative memories of being in nature were exploring the insides of overgrown hawthorn hedgerows in the fields across the road, trying to catch speckled wood butterflies and sitting on gates listening to yellowhammers as a child.
He joined the National Trust in 2008 and was involved with developing a nature campaign called ’50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾,’ before becoming the director of the Midlands for the charity in 2015.
Here is an extract from Every Day Nature for this month: ‘April has always been marked for arrivals and rebirth. The days are edged with song: a chorus of new birds as the dawn appears and a sunset reprise of thrush and blackbird song from rooftops and trees. Nestlings hatch and take wing. Each day a new insect appears on flowers. Butterflies sketch yellow – and orange – tipped paths across the scene. Parks and lawns are candied with daisies and decked with dandelions. It feels as though spring is rushing to delight. Each day there is something new to note and something not to miss.’