Walking, wellbeing and wildlife

Kat Woolley shares her top tips for tuning into wildlife wherever you take a stroll, using nature’s stunning backdrop to invigorate the senses with each step

Ever wondered why being out in the fresh air leaves you so exhilarated but exhausted? Walking in the countryside, or even through a concrete jungle, doesn’t just stretch our legs but our minds too.

Taking notice of nature around us provides stimulus and distraction, helping to relieve stress and anxiety. There’s a natural world on your doorstep to explore and it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the names of the trees or birds that you spot – they can still be enjoyed and appreciated.

Whether you are walking around the block or escaping to your nearest wild patch, follow the steps below to escape the everyday and immerse yourself in nature.

Look for five different ‘wild’ things around you
As you step outside and breathe in the fresh air, begin to take notice of what's around you. Keep your eyes peeled for different shaped leaves, gnarly branches or birds flitting between trees, Once you consciously start to look, it's amazing how much you see. On our nature reserves, I look for mesmerising ripples of sunlight on water or bright spots of colourful fungi or secret wildlife footprints on the forest floor. 

Listen out for four different sounds 
Different habitats, from treelined pathways to open meadows, provide different experiences. When exploring wild places, tuning into the sound of the plants or trees swaying in the wind always helps me focus and the squelching of mud underfoot will never be tiresome! When listening, I’m much more aware of wildlife all around me. I can hear ducks landing on the water, different bird song or the call from buzzards way up high. 

Find three things that you can touch
Being in nature is an experience for all the senses - and you can feel it! There are so many contrasting textures to be discovered, from prickly leaves to soft squishy moss and the rough bark of ancient trees. Each season boasts different encounters - In the autumn, the slimy caps of waxcup fungi both attract and repel!

Sniff the air for two different scents 
Throughout the seasons as different wildflowers bloom and different animals leave their mark, the scents of nature change quite dramatically. I particularly love the earthy aroma of rain after a period of dry weather (known as petrichor). 

By focusing fully on our immediate surroundings, we can feel calmer and more relaxed. Nature is good for us and our increased appreciation enhances our empathy for our environment and the wildlife we share it with.

Walking, wellbeing and wildlife is a winning combination!