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How to Get In Touch with Nature

Updated on October 20, 2012

With busy lives and jobs which keep us indoors for much of the day it can be hard for us to know how to get in touch with nature. Perhaps you are thinking about it because you've read that nature is an excellent antidote to stress or because you just feel in your heart that having a closer link to nature will be rewarding. I can assure you it will be worthwhile and enjoyable and you won't have to travel far or spend lots of money to do it. Why not pick one of the following activities to do this weekend. It will help you get in touch with nature and enhance your life.

Cemeteries and churchyards can be good places to get in touch with nature
Cemeteries and churchyards can be good places to get in touch with nature | Source

Finding Nature

You might feel the best places for getting in touch with nature are exotic destinations which you can't really afford to visit. Of course these can provide you with marvelous experiences, but the cost is off putting and your expectations are going to be correspondingly high which can lead to disappointment Luckily there is another option - the easiest place to start looking for nature is actually on your doorstep. You just need to look for smaller slightly less glamorous creatures and for native wildflowers and trees. Don't despair if you live in a town or city either. There will be parks you can visit and brownfield sites which are reverting to nature; cemeteries and churchyards are often wildlife oases too. Many towns have built up around canals or rivers which can be another good place for you to visit.

Sounds of Nature

Activity 1 - Close Your Eyes and Listen

Woodland is an ideal place to do this activity because there is usually bird life chirruping away in the tree canopy. Listen out for different types of call which may be different species of bird, or the same species calling for a different purpose - lots of birds have a stacatto 'ticking' alarm call as well as calls advertising their prowess as mate for example. You will also become aware of rustling leaves which may be the wind or may be small rodents scrabbling about in the undergrowth or squirrels in the trees.

Whilst your eyes are closed you might want to take note of the scents too, there could be the mushroomy scent of decaying wood and leaves, a waft of wild garlic or the rank aroma of fox droppings!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Spring bluebellsSummer buttercup meadowAutumn earthball fungusWinter grasses
Spring bluebells
Spring bluebells | Source
Summer buttercup meadow
Summer buttercup meadow | Source
Autumn earthball fungus
Autumn earthball fungus | Source
Winter grasses
Winter grasses | Source

Seasonal Changes

Activity 2 - Keep a Diary of Seasonal or Cyclical Events - become a phenologist.

Watching the changing seasons is one of the joys of living in a temperate climate, but even in a tropical environment there will be cyclical events such as fruiting trees and birds nesting which you can observe and record.

You could choose to keep a series of records in your diary. Popular ones include the arrival and departure dates for the first and last swallows, the date of the first oak tree buds bursting into leaf and the first bluebells in flower. This activity is both interesting and potentially useful and is known as phenology. You may decide to contribute your data to a national project, such as the one run in the UK by the Woodland Trust which is looking into how plants and animals are adapting to climate change.

Even if you don't want to make a formal record of what you see it is worth selecting a short walk of perhaps a mile and aiming to walk it once a week. You can take a mental or photographic note of things changing as the seasons progress and you will discover that even the most familiar places can spring surprises on you with weird and wonderful nature.

How Will You Get in Touch with Nature this Weekend?

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Minibeasts

Activity 3 - Look for minibeasts

Minibeasts is just another name for creepy crawleys, invertebrates or bugs. There is an infinite variety of them. You could just pick a tiny subsection of invertebrates and be endlessly entertained. Take hoverflies for example; there are around 270 species in the UK (Buglife - the invertebrate conservation trust). This summer I started to notice the different types of hoverfly that visited my small front garden. There were bee like ones, lime green ones, humbug striped ones, tiny ones. A fascinating array in fact, so I began to photograph them and try and identify some of the different species. Most UK hoverflies don't have a common name - only a Latin one, so the English names I've given them in the photographs below are my own invention.

Minibeasts live even in the smallest and least wild looking green space and can be found year round, although more species are active in the warmer months. So for this activity pop out into your garden or to the nearest churchyard, park or riverside and look for invertebrates, see what sorts of insects are landing on the flowers, for more variety turn over logs and stones to see what is living underneath (replace them where you found them once you've had a nosy). You are likely to find species from several of the invertebrate groups such as worms, slugs, centipedes, millipedes, woodlice You might want to take some photographs so you can have a go at identifying the different species once you get home.

Hoverfly Species in my Garden

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bee like hoverfly - Arctophila superbiensLime green hoverfly - Chrysotoxum festivumHoverfly - Eristalis pertinaxWasplike hoverfly - Eupeodes corollaeHumbug striped hoverfly - Helophilus pendulusChunky hoverfly - Helophilus pendulusSlender hoverfly - Eupeodes luniger
Bee like hoverfly - Arctophila superbiens
Bee like hoverfly - Arctophila superbiens | Source
Lime green hoverfly - Chrysotoxum festivum
Lime green hoverfly - Chrysotoxum festivum | Source
Hoverfly - Eristalis pertinax
Hoverfly - Eristalis pertinax | Source
Wasplike hoverfly - Eupeodes corollae
Wasplike hoverfly - Eupeodes corollae | Source
Humbug striped hoverfly - Helophilus pendulus
Humbug striped hoverfly - Helophilus pendulus | Source
Chunky hoverfly - Helophilus pendulus
Chunky hoverfly - Helophilus pendulus | Source
Slender hoverfly - Eupeodes luniger
Slender hoverfly - Eupeodes luniger | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wild garlic (ramsons)Bilberry bushesShaggy inkcaps
Wild garlic (ramsons)
Wild garlic (ramsons) | Source
Bilberry bushes
Bilberry bushes | Source
Shaggy inkcaps
Shaggy inkcaps | Source

Foraging

Activity 4 - Go Foraging

Finding wild food is a satisfying way to get in touch with nature. It forces you to appreciate the changing seasons, makes you vigilant as you look out for edible foods on your walks and because it takes more effort than going to the shops and buying what you want there is extra enjoyment in eating what you've found.

Depending on the season you might find tasty leaves like wild garlic, edible fungi such as the shaggy inkcap, fruit such as bilberries or nuts such as hazelnuts. You might start looking at weeds in a different light when you discover that plants like nettles, chickweed, Jack by the hedge (garlic mustard) and dandelion leaves are a source of free food.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Don't be put of by rainGreenbottle fly and raindropsGo out in the rain and you might see a rainbow
Don't be put of by rain
Don't be put of by rain | Source
Greenbottle fly and raindrops
Greenbottle fly and raindrops | Source
Go out in the rain and you might see a rainbow
Go out in the rain and you might see a rainbow | Source

Weather Changes

Activity 5 - Go for a Walk in the Rain

Embrace weather changes and go out whatever the weather. It's easy to go out when the sun is shining and it's warm, but you will miss a lot of opportunities to get in touch with nature if you wait for the weather to be nice. This activity is very easy. Get yourself appropriately dressed for the weather and go out for a walk regardless. If it's raining enjoy the sounds of the rain on the foliage and look out for animals sheltering from the rain. Watch the clouds and the interplay of light, you might even see a rainbow. If it's cold you might find that animals are actually easier to approach than normal because they may be struggling to find enough food and can't afford to be as wary.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Salthill Quarry information boardGreen veined white butterfly at SalthillRinglet butterfly at SalthillScabious at SalthillBetony at Salthill
Salthill Quarry information board
Salthill Quarry information board | Source
Green veined white butterfly at Salthill
Green veined white butterfly at Salthill | Source
Ringlet butterfly at Salthill
Ringlet butterfly at Salthill | Source
Scabious at Salthill
Scabious at Salthill | Source
Betony at Salthill
Betony at Salthill | Source

Nature Reserves

Activity 6 - Visit a Local Nature Reserve

There are nature reserves in most countries. In the UK we are lucky to have a network of small local nature reserves most of which are free to visit. They are usually quite well supplied with information boards to give you an idea of what to look for at different times of year. So for this activity do a bit of internet research to find the nature reserve nearest to you and then go and visit. You might be amazed at what you find.

One of my nature highlights this year was visiting Salthill Quarry nature reserve which, sited in the middle of an industrial estate, doesn't sound very promising. But it had the widest variety of wildflowers and then I can remember seeing anywhere and these were accompanied by a host of butterflies, bees and other insects. Free to visit and completely captivating!

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    • Nettlemere profile image
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      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      59 is good going! I occasionally see deer round here, but no more than 3 or 4 in a day.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 4 years ago

      You are most welcome. Yes I do and they are special. I had a 7 mile bike ride 2 weeks ago & decided to count the deer on my journey, I counted 59... Wow, I am blessed.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thankyou so much for your generous comment mecheshier. You must have some amazing wildlife moments with all those species on your doorstep especially as you clearly get out and walk and cycle at every opportunity.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 4 years ago

      Fabulous Hub. I wish everyone understood this concept. Me, I intentionally do not drive and have never owned a license. Quite unheard in today's world. I am 55 years old. I love being close to nature. It is what grounds me. I walk or ride a bike everyday so I can touch and feel the outdoors. I live 1 1/2 miles from town by choice. The wildlife I see on my outdoor journeys is amazing. Deer, hawks, eagles, wild turkeys, moose, herons, grouse, bear and occasionally a mountain lion. The list is endless. I am blessed and live in beautiful country. To me, when I touch nature I feel closer to God.

      Thank you for the inspiring article. Voted up for beautiful and awesome.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you for reading Melovy, it is ironically easier to see some wildlife like foxes in the city than in the countryside and it sounds like you have lots more species to keep you entertained too.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 4 years ago from UK

      Walking in bitterly cold rain just does not appeal to me, so I'll stick to closing my eyes and listening!

      Actually you have some great ideas here, and I agree that you don't have to leave the city to experience nature. I live in the heart of a city and nature is right on our doorstep - literally - there are squirrels and various birds in trees over our garden wall and they often pop into the garden. At night we can hear an owl and in the spring a female fox had her babies in our neighbour's garden. We heard them (and sometimes saw them) all through the summer, but they seem to have gone quiet recently.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Is Bluebell a flavour or a brand? I'm trying to imagine what bluebell flavour would taste like! Thank you for your votes and positiveness Marcy.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 4 years ago from Planet Earth

      Nettlemere - we have a very famous ice cream in Texas called Blue Bell - your photo is a great example of why that name is so precious! It's great ice cream, too, by the way!

      I love your eye and ear for nature - voted up and up!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Aviannovice - you're right it is both an education and wonderful looking at wildlife.

      Ruby - I'm pleased you enjoyed Burnley's birdsong. I imagine in Washington the sound would be quite different, but equally lovely.

      neonhulk - nature really can take you back to your childhood. I think it is quite a rejuvenating pastime. Thank you for visiting and voting.

    • noenhulk profile image

      noenhulk 4 years ago

      Sometimes it is what you called communing with nature... thanks for sharing this nice hub. I love nature so much. It reminds me of so many wonderful thing when I was still a kid. Voted up!

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 4 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      What a sweet sounding video. Such lovely birds. I hear them all the time around me too. I get so focused on trying to see them, I forget how beautiful they sound. Thank you for the great reminder. Keeping a nature journal is a wonderful idea too, great hub.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, one can get a very good education doing all of these things. Nature is so wonderful to experience all of these wonderful things.