Your challenge this week: To go for a walk and absorb the new season in every way you can.
This challenge encourages the following values:
Responsibility, Gratitude, Resourcefulness, Compassion, Optimism, Patience, Serenity.
What you need to complete your challenge this week:
- To find a suitable place where you can immerse yourself in nature
- A map or knowledge of a local area
- A phone with charge (switched on silent so as not to disturb your peace)
- A bottle of water
- Binoculars or a camera if you have either but not necessary
- Your eyes, your ears, your nose, your hands, and your open mind
If all else fails…
Sit out in the garden or in a park during your lunch break and soak up the flavour of the season. See the colours, listen to the birds, smell the rain, the flowers, the grass or the sea and feel the spring season around you.
Food for thought for the grown-ups:
Spring, according to our UK meteorologists, is defined as a three-month period which includes March, April and May with the equinox falling on the date when the day and night are of equal length. It is the season which follows winter and is associated with growth, the end of hibernation and the start of new life. For us adults it is often a time when we feel the need to throw open our windows and give our homes a good clean at the end of what feels like a long dark winter.
In this country, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding somewhere to go for a walk. We have ancient woodlands, dramatic coasts, moors, parks, footpaths and gardens all often cared for and managed for us to enjoy. As a nation of pub garden lovers, dog walkers and campers this country of ours offers so much whatever the season but in spring when the roadsides are lined with daffodils, snowdrops are popping up in garden borders and lambs are frolicking in the fields, the feelgood factor shoots up a notch. It entices us to venture out optimistically after the cold spell of winter to see the landscape and it’s occupants burst into life again. (For the record by the way you may not be ‘feeling it’ like others around you but believe me when I say you aren’t alone. There are those who can be affected by a seasonal affective disorder (SAD) of sorts whereby the beginning of Spring can cause a kind of depression. There almost feels a pressure to bloom along with the colours and life that Spring brings and that pressure can be almost overwhelming. Many are affected and suffer this reverse form of SAD, so if this sounds familiar you’re amongst friends and a top tip is to let Spring into your life slowly, don’t throw yourself into the great outdoors if you don’t feel ready – take your time and follow the ‘if all else fails’ option above’).
If you are ready to absorb some spring fever a walk in the woods is a wonderful way to literally see Spring springing into action. Looking for blossom, the new bright green curly shoots of fern emerging from the moss, listening to the cuckoos or the buzzing of a lone bumblebee or smelling the damp leaf litter and moss in the shade are all ways to enjoy the woodland in Spring. A mindful walk, one where you observe and listen to the environment around you is a very therapeutic experience lifting one’s spirits with a dose of feel-good endorphins.
One of the most well-recognised signs of Spring in a British woodland is the bluebell. I adore this flower and I, of course, am speaking only of the true native bluebell (Hyacinthpides non-scripta) as opposed to the invading Spanish bluebells! To find out more about what our British woodlands can offer visit the enormously invaluable Woodland Trust website here.
And for the children:
If you haven’t done so already introduce and accustom your children to the woods, try to leave your fear of mud, dirt and the critters which lurk in the log piles behind and encourage them to explore and play. Being outdoors in nature and away from the city streets teaches children about responsibility for the environment, they learn to look after the countryside by becoming aware of what plants, animals and insects live there. Children are losing touch with nature these days. It is an unfortunate truth and given that this treasure will soon be in their hands to take over caring for it is important more children understand the importance of protecting the natural environment. Not only this but there are huge health benefits to be had from venturing outdoors too. Spending more time outdoors has positive impacts on education, social and personal skills, physical and mental wellbeing. Talking about how lucky we are to have places we can enjoy away from the busy high streets and our school classrooms is a way of introducing children to the serenity that can be experienced in wild places. The peaceful glades of a wood, the quiet of a deserted beach, the vast expansive views at the top of a hill can all be literally felt if you just stop for a moment. Get your children to close their eyes and imagine their feet have roots into the ground, that they are connected to the earth. Tell them to listen and absorb the sounds, feel the breeze or sun on their skin, be in the moment.
“There is a large body of research that illustrates the importance of environmental experience and contact with nature in childhood to promote children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.”
(DCSF (2010) Evidence of the Impact of Sustainable Schools. London: Department for Children, Schools and Families)
Do a little research ahead of time or download a little plant or insect identification sheet from the Internet and see if you can spot signs of Spring together. These amazing websites, National Trust and Woodland Trust, will help guide you through ideas for how to explore and enjoy our countryside whatever age category your child or children fall into. In addition to the ideas these websites (and others) provide I cannot recommend the Nature Detectives Family Trail App highly enough if you have primary school aged children.
So go for it, dig out your old trainers or wellies, your rucksack and a map and go out for a day looking for signs of spring. Whether you go to the park, the beach, the woods or your back garden, enjoy the space and really see what is happening now that winter is behind us.
Walking is a safe activity for families with young children but it’s important to follow the Countryside Code (in England and Wales) and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code in countryside areas and green spaces and the Highway Code when using roads.