June sees the launch of The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild challenge, encouraging thousands of people across the UK to help wildlife and to help their communities share the joy of nature.
Academics at the University of Derby have monitored the challenge since it began in 2015, and have discovered that spending time in the natural world makes us feel good. The University of Derby’s evaluation of 30 Days Wild, 2017 revealed that people’s perception of beauty in the natural world is a key ingredient to improving wellbeing and happiness.
Dr Miles Richardson, Director of Psychology, University of Derby, explains:
“Over the past three years we’ve repeatedly found that taking part in 30 Days Wild improves health, happiness, nature connection and conservation behaviours. Now we’ve discovered that engagement with the beauty of nature is part of that story…we respond to beauty; it restores us and balances our emotions. This, in turn, encourages people to do more to help wildlife and take action for nature.”
Lucy McRobert, Campaigns Manager for The Wildlife Trusts said:
“30 Days Wild is a lovely way to get closer to nature and marvel at the everyday wildlife that lives all around you. Sit quietly and enjoy watching dragonflies dance over a pond or take a moment to sow a window-box of wildflowers to help bees. Get together with your neighbours to create hedgehog highways or sow front-garden meadows along the length of your street. No matter how small the action, it all counts!”
The latest set of results from the study of 30 Days Wild also confirms that the benefits of the challenge last well after the month has ended, and there are indications that the beneficial impact of taking part could last an entire year.
Jo from the Forest of Dean is a shining example of how beneficial taking part can be to our health and wellbeing. 30 Days Wild has become part of her life, as has wildlife photography and exploring the woodland around her home. But four years ago, it was a different story.
In 2014, after experiencing a breakdown, Jo took early retirement due to ill health. She knew that physical exercise would help her, but was struggling to get motivated. In 2015 she heard about 30 Days Wild and it struck a chord with her.
Jo explains: “I wasn’t well, at home all the time, and had become quite agoraphobic; I was struggling even to open the door and go into the garden. Communicating with people was very difficult for me at this time.
“I wanted to be able to get outside in the fresh air but couldn’t find a reason to open the door…30 Days Wild sparked my interest again and gave me something to focus on – the reason I had been looking for to get me out of the house. It was a challenge, but gradually I found that I was able to spend time in the garden again.
“At first it was only small steps and for a short time. I avoided contact with people, and just concentrated on my immediate surroundings. In my compact world, I was able to really notice the small things – the amazing creatures that live in the stone garden walls; the tiny creatures in the pond; the butterflies in the garden in June. I really enjoyed recording my finds in photographs to include on my own, and the 30 Days Wild, Facebook page.
“After the first 14 days, I felt able to get out for walks, providing my partner was with me. At the end of 30 days, getting out into the garden on my own had become a habit, and one which I didn’t want to give up.”
Jo’s fascination with the wildlife around her had been reawakened and she wanted to see more.
“I realised that if I wanted to find different butterflies, for instance, I’d have to leave the garden. It wasn’t easy on my own, but I pushed myself to go into the woods close to the house. I struggled. It was physically and emotionally shattering, just in case I bumped into anyone. I found communicating with people outside my close family very difficult. Sometimes other walkers would say hello, and gradually I got the confidence to say hello back. Then I started using wildlife hides to take nature photos, and kept meeting the same people, and started to have conversations.“
By the time last year’s 30 Days Wild came around, life had completely changed for Jo. Invited to join the “Forest of Dean Wildlife Photography” Facebook page, she is now a regular contributor. Jo has become passionate about the forest’s birds and wild boar, walks miles each day, and even climbed a mountain for her 60th birthday.
Jo says; “Nature has worked its wonders on me and I can honestly say that 30 Days Wild was the catalyst that has been a bit of a life-saver for me. I have to thank 30 Days Wild for encouraging me to make the breakthrough that has allowed me to turn my life around…and hopefully leave depression behind for ever. I hope it does the same for other people, too. It’s not just for children. 30 Days Wild works for adults too!“
This year’s theme is all about helping wildlife in your neighbourhood and the pack has inspiring ideas for sharing the challenge locally. There are some great ideas to green up your street, from carving hedgehog holes in fences to putting up bird and bat boxes and doing a local litter pick. The free 30 Days Wild pack contains a booklet giving ideas for Random Acts of Wildness, a recipe for wild strawberry and thyme ice cream, wildflower seeded paper to sow, a wall chart to record your activities and wild stickers. The first Big Wild Weekend takes place this year on 16th – 17th June. Wildlife Trusts across the UK will hold over 100 special events, including night safaris, wild festivals, seashore safaris, bioblitzes, mammal tracking, bushcraft, family nature nights, big wild picnics and wild river dips.
So what are you waiting for? Let nature work its magic on you and let the natural world inspire you.
For more information on The Wildlife Trusts and 30 Days Wild, please visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/30DaysWild or call 01636 677711