Author: Bryony Tuijl. This piece was originally published in the Eastern Daily Press.

We’re climbing higher and higher. I can’t see out of the windows and I’m not sure I want to. Over the noise of the engine I can see the instructors motioning to each other and we all begin to shuffle forward slowly. Before I know it I’m sat in the open doorway of the plane, my body leant forward. We’re thirty thousand feet in the air and a sea of clouds lies below me and beyond that, the very distant ground. We jump.

Skydiving was fun but it had been scheduled in my diary for months and I felt prepared. I knew exactly what I was going to be doing that day. There are easier and more effective ways to get in touch with your wild side than leaping out of a plane. The kind of wildness that thrives on spontaneity, the kind of wildness where anything can happen, the wildness that can only be found in nature.

I live and work as a Visitor Experience Intern on an RSPB nature reserve, Strumpshaw Fen, and every day is filled with the possibility of seeing something new and amazing. Just yesterday as I walked by a pond I saw the unmistakable dark and fluffy outline of a water vole perched amongst the reeds. I sat and looked at him; he looked back at me and then continued munching away. People often wait for hours by the pond hoping to catch a glimpse of this fuzzy little fellow. I felt very lucky, like I’d been let in on a well kept secret.

In my time here I’ve seen marsh harriers acrobating above the reeds, baby stoats darting around mischievously and bejewelled kingfishers skimming the surface of the broad. Swallowtail and silver wash fritillary butterflies have brushed my cheek on their fluttering journeys around the reserve and a hare has whisked past my legs in the wild flower meadows. I’ve watched the sun dip beneath the horizon and wash the sky moody purple and vibrant pink on warm summer evenings. I’ve stood in the woodland and immersed myself in the symphony of birdsong while watching a solitary treecreeper skip up the bark towards the canopy.

These precious moments have taken my breath away and I’ve felt my inner wildness roar in delight.

As a species we were once surrounded by nature but over the years we have become more isolated from our natural roots and this can have adverse effects on our health – both physically and mentally. It is estimated that one in four of us will experience mental health problems at some point in our lives. Fortunately, there is extensive evidence that spending time in nature can improve our mental health and general sense of wellbeing.

Becoming distant from the natural world means that precious moments like those I’ve experienced at Strumpshaw Fen are often out of our reach. It is time to rewild ourselves and reconnect with nature. Come and explore Strumpshaw Fen and rediscover your inner wildness and who knows, maybe the water vole will let you into his fascinating little world too?

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