Despite working as an ecologist, I spend the majority of my life tied to an office chair, with my eyes glued to a computer screen. When I am not there, it’s dusk (or dawn) and I have my eyes glued to a tree or building feature awaiting the emergence or re-entry of a tiny bat that may never appear…
Finding the time
Like most people, finding the time to enjoy the outdoors can be hard. Work consumes us. You allow yourself to fall into the routine of bed, work, eat, sleep and nothing much else. ‘I’m too busy’ becomes the typical response to our inactivity, our laziness and our stress-filled lives. Getting outside into the fresh air shouldn’t be a novelty, it should be a necessity. There has been so much research proving that exposure to nature is essential to our happiness, health and well-being. So why do we so quickly push it to the back of the priority list?
Book it in the diary
To stop myself and my partner falling into this rut, I began blocking out one weekend a month to simply getting outside and doing mini adventures in the countryside, something I have termed “Wild Weekends”.
We haven’t been doing it for long, but so far we have camped at the foot of the Malvern Hills, hiked over their undulating forms, whilst gazing at the phenomenal views. We have mountain biked along the Verderers Trail in the Forest of Dean, spotting wild boar and dodging the iridescent poop-munching Dor Beetle. I’ve spent an afternoon skill swapping with a friend, dog walking, bird watching and plant ID-ing. We’ve taken to the lost lanes of Wales on our road bikes, scaling the harsh valleys, jamming bike chains and bracing ourselves against the interchangeable Welsh weather.
Reaping the benefits
Just like the research has proven, I have found these “Wild Weekends” a great way to relieve stress, boost my health and well-being, help me to sleep better, get fitter and simply feel great! They are also a wonderful way to connect with my partner on a new level, an aerospace product engineer not remotely interested in botany or invertebrates, but does love skidding down a cliff on a mountain bike, starting campfires and getting the reward of an ice cream after a long, hot hike. My friends too, booking them in for a budget camping weekend is by far more fun than anything we can do in four solid walls.
Micro-adventures and mini challenges
There are always going to be excuses – the time and the money are the biggies – but you don’t need to go far or spend a fortune to do something wild. Both the Malvern’s and The Forest of Dean are a mere 45 minutes from my home and camping is peanuts!
If you want to start your wild adventures on a smaller scale, look into the fabulous initiative of #30DaysWild by The Wildlife Trusts. Throughout the month of June, you challenge yourself to do something wild every day for 30 days. This could be anything from choosing to walk through the park to work to hitting the hedgerow for a bit of wild food foraging. You could make a daisy chain or plant a wildflower meadow. It could be going on a bug hunt in your garden to reading your favourite book in your local nature reserve.
We don’t want you to give anything up this June. You don’t have to bake, grow a moustache or dress in funny clothes (although you can if you want, of course). We just want you to give yourself time in the wild: time for you, time your family, time to reconnect with nature.
I decided to tweet all my #30DaysWild activities. You can see them here: @jakjobes and for the first 12 days of June I have:
- Done a dusk bat survey on a twisted and gnarly dead tree positioned in a sea of golden buttercups
- Taken a break from the office by sitting outside in the staff garden at work to have my lunch
- Enjoyed the sunset over the welsh countryside
- Hung out with two ducks that came over for a chat
- Been to the seaside to breathe in the fresh sea air and gazed out to the horizon
- Sat in the park with my feet in the grass, picking daisies and soaking up the sunshine
- Said no to a lift and walked the 40 minutes home via the scenic Honeybourne line
- Been hunting for bats at night but all I saw were snails
- Done a wildlife hunt in my mini-garden (and found loads of bugs and new blooms!)
- Saved a snail from being squished
- Been on a 47-mile bike ride in the countryside
- Gawped at and dodged the Dor Beetles at the Forest of Dean whilst mountain biking
This campaign is merely for the month of June, but there is no reason why you can’t set yourself the challenge every single day of the year… working your way up to bigger adventures…
There are many books, blogs, tweeters, pinners and instagrammers out there that can inspire and assist you in planning your first Wild Weekend. I recently bought the book by Alastair Humphries, ‘Microadventures’ – Local discoveries for great escapes. He shares fantastic ideas of things to do outside of the 9-5, from long weekends to make the most of the 5-9; from adventuring up your commute just once a week, to catching your own fish and eating it for dinner. He shares the wild places near our biggest cities, the art of sleeping wild and provides a calendar to concoct your seasonal micro-adventures for the year. It’s a great first step to seeing all the possibilities out there and the excuses of being ‘too busy’ slowly diminish.
Wildlife and wild places are closer than you think
I’d love to hear about your wild escapes or any ideas you would like to share. Please post below!