30 days wild, fenland. Credit Kate Howlett

Reflections: Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild

Kate Howlett, NERC-funded PhD student says:

Back at the end of May, I set myself the challenge of taking part in the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild initiative, so for every day in June I chose a ‘random act of wildness’ to complete.

In a nutshell, I’m happy to report that all the hype and positive effects are true. I’ve spent a beautiful month, over which I developed a deeper sense of belonging and connection with my local green spaces. I succeeded in building a daily stroll through nature into my routine, and I feel happier and calmer as a result.

“I’ve spent time this month paying more attention to the life around me, feeling awe on an almost daily basis and learning more as I went along.”

Highlights for me were watching bats flit around a woodland glade at dusk, watching a pair of swans brood and hatch their eggs, spotting a lesser stag beetle, seeing a black-headed gull dive for fish, watching dragonflies laying eggs under the water, following bees on their meticulous path from thistle to thistle, and brewing my own elderflower cordial.

I even kept a nature journal for the first half of the month, and I was amazed at how easy I found writing about my daily nature walk. I soon realised this was because all my senses were engaged whilst outside – from the scent of honeysuckle, to the feathery touch of yarrow, to the taste of a wild elderflower, to the sound of skylarks twittering, and the pastel colour palettes of an evening sky, with salmon pink, lilacs and paprika orange.

But whilst the extent of the effects took me by surprise, I was only illustrating to myself what I already knew would happen if I made an active effort to spend more time in nature.

“What I didn’t expect to be so stark were the effects on my partner.”

He grew up in even-more urban London than I did, living in a terraced house on a busy London high road with no garden. His primary school had no greenery; the only outside space he had access to was a small concrete playground, where they weren’t allowed to run. He’s wanted a garden for as long as he can remember, and whilst we don’t have one at the moment, the 30 Days Wild challenge was a great excuse to make going outside and seeking nature on a daily basis the norm.

Image credit: Kate Howlett

The effects were beautiful. Particularly notable moments include ‘That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!’ when we saw a black-headed gull divebomb straight down into Byron’s Pool and pop up with a shining, silver fish. ‘Wow!’ when a large white butterfly bumbled straight under our noses.

Swans and cygnets. Credit S Steele

Calmness and amusement as we watched two male blackbirds bicker as the light faded. ‘I’m so happy we saw that. That’s made my day!’ when we saw the swan we’d been watching all month hatch her first two cygnets.

Peaceful gasps as we watched a drove of rabbits munching through an evening snack and bouncing around a hummocky field. All of these moments surprised me because he is not someone who has ever owned a field guide, taken part in a citizen science project or saved the life of a house spider. Now he always puts them in a cup and carries them outside. Now he’s identifying trees and birds and insects and flowers and wanting to learn more.

But I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by this. A report on the first five years of data from the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild found that those who took part reported feeling happier, healthier and having a stronger connection to nature at the end of their 30 days.

It also found that these effects were more pronounced in those with a weaker connection to nature to start with. But seeing these effects in the flesh is truly heart-warming and brings home just how transformative nature can be.

So why aren’t we all taking part?

Violet ground beetle. Credit S Steele

But there’s a problem. We are lucky enough to have access to a huge amount of nearby nature, and my partner had me to sign him up to the challenge. Those who live in intensely urbanised inner-city areas won’t be able to walk around the corner and watch a gull dive for its dinner, nor are they likely to sign up for this challenge of their own accord.

“What about the communities who have never heard of the Wildlife Trusts, let alone 30 Days Wild?”

How do we convince them that it’s a worthwhile challenge to take part in, especially when they stand to benefit the most?

So next June, I’m going to try and convince someone to sign up for 30 Days Wild who wouldn’t do so otherwise. If everyone reading this article were to make the same summer resolution, perhaps even more people could reap the benefits of getting in touch with their wild side.

Check out other’s experiences by searching for #30DaysWild:


More by Kate: Insects are animals too, why perceptions matter

Learn more about research from the Insect Ecology Group here.

For more information on insect and other invertebrate conservation projects see:

Buglife

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Butterfly Conservation

National Insect Week

RSPB on ladybird spiders

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