Nature is food for your soul

Spending just two hours per week immersed in the wonders of nature can have a positive and restorative effect on your mental and physical health. Unfortunately, many people don’t have ready access to open spaces or find them threatening, so the great thing is you don’t have to be in the countryside to feel the benefits of nature. Time spent in a garden, a walk by a canal or along a tree lined street, a view of nature from a window and even watching a nature documentary have been proven to help with our wellbeing. It is the quality of the experience that counts and the feeling of connectedness to nature that brings.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to live on the League’s Baronsdown sanctuary with nature all around me. As I lay on my back in the fields, I watched the swallows as they skimmed low overhead and wondered at their aerial prowess. They had timed their arrival perfectly to coincide with the emergence of St Mark’s flies, those gangly looking black insects that appear on-masse around the start of May, and they were enjoying a feast. Pied flycatchers have already been busy laying pale blue eggs in the Barlynch Wood bird boxes and I heard my first cuckoo of the year during an evening walk through Brockhole Wood. Although it has been unseasonably cold, signs that summer is on the way are all around, and birds and other animals do not have time to wait for better weather.

Trail cameras have revealed that this year’s badger cubs have made their first forays above ground on the League’s sanctuaries. Perfect miniatures of their parents, they aren’t straying far from their homes yet and race back underground at the slightest sound. Their mothers, laden down with milk, have been taking armfuls of bedding into the sett to keep the young cubs warm and cosy. Fox cubs are also out and about, and on sunny days it is a joy to watch these little balls of fur, as they leap and tumble over each other on a carpet of bluebells….and by the way, what a great display the bluebells have put on this year, forming a soothing blue haze across the woodland floor.

Hazel dormice are waking from their winter slumber on the woodland floor and moving into their summer residences in the nest boxes on Baronsdown and other sanctuaries to breed. They will be desperate to replace the weight they have lost over the past six months and totally oblivious to the human dramas they have missed. There is something to be said for sleeping half of the year.

The next big event on the sanctuaries will be the arrival of red deer calves, when we will see the results of the autumn rut. How many of the calves will grow into magnificent stags and sire calves of their own no one can say. At least they can be sure that the peaceful surroundings of the League’s wildlife sanctuaries will be here for them.

Taking a little time to appreciate what nature has to offer in all its forms costs nothing and can bring great rewards. I spend considerably more than two hours per week on the League’s wildlife sanctuaries and I think I might be addicted.

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