This week is World Mental Health Week, with this year’s them being nature and the power it holds to help improve people’s wellbeing. Now we know how vital nature and wellbeing are every week of the year, but it’s also a good opportunity to share some ways to get more involved, to help others and to point out some key resources.
There’s an awful lot of research into people’s health being improved by immersion into natural environments, to hearing birdsong or access to green spaces. (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/nature/nature-research)
To be able to be here for spring at Minsmere is something we sorely missed last year – to be able to just sit and lose time listening for the different birdsongs that fill the woodlands surrounded by carpets of ground ivy and bluebells, to watch the avocets return to the calm water among the rowdy black headed gulls squabbling on the scrape or just letting your mind drift as you enjoy a warm cheese scone outside in the sunshine.
Nature is a great healer, and even the tiniest wonder carries enormous value for us all in a time of great loss and anxiety. When I first came back to begin the process of reopening the reserve in May 2020 one of my first moments was the first green-eyed flower bee (photo above) landing on my finger having just emerged from a year in a burrow. The size of a fingernail, this tiny insect with massive emerald eyes is not only a beautiful creature to behold (there’s a pun there!) but a vital part of the network of pollinators that help the thriving habitats here. More than that, to hold something that is wild and living in a time when we haven’t been able to have contact with friends and relatives, is something very precious.
I’m not suggesting everyone runs outside to cuddle the nearest bee (which could be painful for all involved), rather that this was my direct connection to nature, it was a focus on something unique when I had a mind swirling with the tasks of how to reopen the site and keep everyone safe, along with all the weight of keeping myself and my family safe, plus the anxiety of being around people outside my bubble again.
Minsmere attracts a lot of different visitors who use the reserve in different ways, and what has always made it so popular is not just the wildlife but the atmosphere created by people relaxing and exploring habitats, finding new things and sharing knowledge with others. Last week on a walk through the woods I saw one person sketching, another reading a book, while a family were peering under logs for woodlice and millipedes, all the while being serenaded by the distinctive calls of a cuckoo. People sharing a wild space and each getting their own enjoyment from being there.
We’ll soon be reopening hides, and while it will be great to use them again to see closer views of bitterns and otters we’re also mindful that it will still be a different experience for visitors with the continuing restrictions. You can help us by following the signs and guidance when you arrive and wander the reserve, wear a face mask when inside any of our buildings and maintain social distancing from others.
Read: There are so many wonderful books out there but some of our favourite inspirational wildlife authors are Joe Harkness, Emma Mitchell, Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin, Stephen Moss, Melissa Harrison, Dara McAnulty and Simon Barnes.
Listen: download the RSPB’s own BirdSong radio app or listen here https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/let-nature-sing/birdsong-radio/ as well as podcasts such as Into The Wild, Get Birding, UK Wildlife and BBC Earth.
Watch: The RSPB has it’s own Youtube channel featuring some beautiful films and guides to birdwatching and wildlife gardening https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFQByOoeG8M
Get involved: We hope to resume guided walks and other events very soon, including Forest Bathing sessions and Health Walks so do look out for updates on our website and our Twitter or Facebook pages.
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