20 Ways To Enjoy Nature

The National Trust for Jersey has come up with 20 ways we can discover and enjoy the beautiful open spaces in our neighbourhood.

1. Go on a blossom hunt

Although we are living in extraordinary times, blossom is a symbol of new life and a reassuring sign that nature will always be there to welcome us back. From the delicate tails of yellow catkin to the frothy pink puffs of cherry, blossom is a joyful sight and a welcome reminder that spring is truly on its way. Why not take a different route on your daily exercise to see if you can spot blossom in your neighbourhood - and if you have family self-isolating, capture a photo to share the moment with them?

2. Keep a nature diary

From the sight of cherry blossom when you’re out on your daily exercise to the sound of a sleepy bumblebee as you take your shopping out of the car, the first signs of spring offer promise of new life and warmer days. As colour returns to the natural landscape, now is a great time to start a daily journal. Whether it’s a simple log of which birds are visiting your bird feeder, a sketchbook of wildflowers painstakingly drawn by hand, or an illustrated journal inspired by Edith Holden’s Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady or Emma Mitchell’s The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us, keeping a regular diary inspires us to relish the natural beauty around us and keep looking ahead. Nature diaries are especially beneficial for children, making their time outdoors even more worthwhile. Whether they choose to draw a picture of a bumblebee, write a poem about a cloud or record a video of birdsong on their phone, a journal is a rewarding way to relieve anxiety and hopefully cultivate a life-long love of the environment.

3. Enjoy a Self-Guided Walk around your Parish

Jersey has an immense network of footpaths and green lanes, which enable us to enjoy dramatic coastal views and verdant hidden valleys. The Trust has created ten new self-guided walks, which are available to download free on its website. Whether you live in the North, South, East or West of the Island (or somewhere in between!), hopefully these will enable you to explore a new route in your neighbourhood when you’re out on your daily exercise.

4. Take to the Green Lanes on your Bicycle

Jersey’s network of green lanes criss-cross every Parish of the Island, covering a distance of more than 80 kilometres. While it is totally out of the question to cover the whole network during your daily exercise, the joy of taking to the green lanes on your bicycle enables you to explore so much further than on foot. Why not pump up your tyres and start exploring the green lanes in your neighbourhood today?

5. Capture Wildlife on Camera

The key to great wildlife photography is patience. Be prepared to wait, and wait, and wait. Now that many of us have more time on our hands, why not spend some a bit of extra time quietly observing nature and capturing its beauty - whether it’s the birds in your garden or the wild flowers you see while you’re out walking your dog. Even within a very small patch of land there is a plethora of things to discover, including a vast array of creepy crawly insects. Why not share your pictures with the National Trust for Jersey, who will post them on Facebook and hopefully inspire others to do the same? You can send them in by email to enquiries@nationaltrust.je – just don’t forget to include a date, time and location so their Conservation Officer can log the data.

6. Take a Dip in the Woods

If you’re looking to escape, but don’t know where to, why not have a go at forest bathing? In spite of its name, you definitely won’t need a swimming costume! According to the National Trust in the UK, listening to woodland sounds such as bird song, a running stream or rustling leaves increases relaxation by 30 per cent. The National Trust for Jersey is fortunate to care for several areas of woodland across the Island – including parts of St Peter’s Valley, Fern Valley, Waterworks Valley and Vallee de Vaux – and in order to take part all you need to do is slow down long enough to immerse yourself in nature. Just make sure you follow the latest government advice while you are out on your daily exercise and keep your distance from others who might be out enjoying the same thing.

7. Go on a Woodland Adventure

With trees to climb on, squelching mud to jump in and water to paddle through, the Island’s woods are a wonderful playground for children. If you are lucky enough to live near Waterworks Valley, why not download a free Toad Trail Handbook from the Trust's website and take your children to the Trust’s woodland below Hamptonne for their daily exercise? Don’t forget to wear your wellies!

8. Track down the Island’s most magnificent creatures

You don’t need to stray far from home on your daily exercise to track down some of the Island’s most magnificent creatures – and spring is a great time to seek them out. Here are some highlights you might hope to see in and around your Parish in spring: Red-Billed Choughs along Jersey’s North Coast (look out for their red feet and high-pitched ‘caw’); Puffins at Petit Portelet (occasionally seen bobbing on the water from April onwards); Marsh Harriers in St Ouen’s Bay (look out for their aerial courtship displays over the coming weeks); Swallows in farm buildings across the Island (definitely one of the most anticipated arrivals in nature’s calendar); Fulmars gliding along Jersey’s North Coast (beware their oily spit if you get too near their nests!); Green Lizards in the West of the Island (often found basking in the sun); Red Squirrels in woodland habitats across the Island.

9. Go star gazing in your back garden

The global shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak has led to big drops in air pollution across many parts of the British Isles, so now is a great time to take to the skies. Why not wrap up warm, grab a flask and discover the drama of the night sky from your garden or balcony as it unfolds before your eyes?

10. Go on a Mill Trail

St Peter’s Valley has recently undergone a complete transformation, with a new cycle path installed to link the valley with St Helier in the East and St Mary to the North. If you’re looking for educational activities to enjoy with children while they take their daily exercise, why not check out the Trust’s new Mill Trail? With two walks to choose from and plenty of things to spot along the route – from sluice gates and waterwheels to woodpeckers and dragonflies – there’s even an opportunity for a game of pooh sticks! Free to download from the Trust’s website, the trail also includes ideas for making woodland art at home.

11. Go on a Bug Safari in your Garden

A ‘bug safari’ is a great way to encourage children outdoors to explore the world around them - and the good news is that when you go on a bug safari you don’t even need to pack a suitcase! Just lay out a picnic rug in the garden and see how many insects you can discover in the plants, soil and grasses around you. A great activity to encourage children out of doors, you can either encourage them to keep a log book with a short description of each mini beast (i.e. what colour is it; does it have wings, how many legs does it have, etc.), or draw a picture or even write a poem. For further details, download a Free Bug Safari Handbook from the Trust’s website.

12. Create some Wild Art

Pausing to draw, sketch or paint your surroundings is a wonderful way to slow down, and take in the world around you. Whether you’re inspired by the cherry blossom on your daily exercise or the sun setting at night, there are so many fantastic sights in Jersey to inspire your creativity. Another great activity to enjoy with children, why not create a pop-up studio when they return from their daily exercise? From a finger printed blossom card for Granny or papa, who are self-isolating, to a pressed flower bookmark, the options are endless.

13. Create a pollinator patch

The middle of April is a great time of year to begin work on a flower patch in your garden – and thankfully some local garden centres are still open to purchase the seed. Creating your own pollinator patch isn't difficult and can be adapted to suit whatever space you have – the only rule when growing wildflowers is to ensure your patch has some sunshine throughout the day. Whether you have the space to convert an area of lawn into a wildflower patch, or you just have room for a small container, wildflowers are guaranteed to bring colour and wildlife to your doorstep even in the most urban environments. For further information and advice, download a Pollinator Patch leaflet from this link.

14. Go foraging for Three-cornered Leek

The relationship between people and plants for medicine and food goes back hundreds of years. While some plants on the Island are protected, certain things such as wild garlic – or three-corned leek to give it its correct name – are bountiful and widely recognised for their medicinal properties. One of the easiest ways to identify wild garlic is by its pungent aroma and delicate white flowers, which make a delicious garnish for risottos and salads. Just make sure you use your nose to identify the plants, as well as your eyes, as wild garlic can look similar to poisonous plants like Lily of the Valley. Always forage responsibly: never harvest more than ⅓ of the leaves off an individual plant and don’t dig up the bulbs. If you live in the countryside and have wild garlic on your doorstep or garden, why not try this quick recipe for wild garlic pesto. Collect 75g young tender wild garlic leaves and wash thoroughly in a sink of cold water. Pat dry on kitchen paper and roughly chop. In a blender, combine the wild garlic leaves with 50g shelled walnuts (or other nuts), 35g grated Parmesan (or other hard cheese), the finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon and 100-150ml olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and blitz until smooth. Delicious served with fish, or stirred into hot pasta for a simple lunch.

15. Go foraging for nettles

Next time you go for a walk in the garden or the countryside, pick up a free gift from nature. Foraged foods are an hyper-nutritious local food source that add diversity to our diet for no cost other than a stroll. The wonderful thing about nettles is they are abundant, easy to identify - and unbelievably rich in iron and vitamins. If you are lucky enough to have nettles in your garden, why not try this quick recipe for a fortifying soup. Wearing rubber gloves, collect 150g young nettle tops and wash them thoroughly in a sink of cold water. Heat a large knob of butter in a heavy-based pan, add 1 finely chopped onion, 1 finely chopped leek, 2 finely chopped celery sticks and 1 crushed garlic clove. Sweat over a medium low heat until the onions have softened but not coloured, approx. 10 minutes. Add 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, add the nettle tops and cook until tender, approx. 2-3 minutes. Blitz in a blender, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and enjoy al-fresco, garnished with a blob of natural yogurt and some freshly chopped chives.

16. Go wild for crafts

When it comes to wild crafts, the only limit is your imagination. Which of nature’s treasures will you choose to make your design and how will you combine them? Whether it’s a family of stick people, inspired by Julia Donaldson’s book ‘Stick Man’, a natural crown created from twigs and daisies, or a reproduction of a National Trust property in miniature, wild crafting is great fun for all ages. The only rule when you’re out foraging for materials is to make sure you're not making your art from another creature's home, and if you’re foraging on the beach be sure to collect your treasures from below the tide line.

17. Listen to the dawn chorus

Spring has well and truly sprung and those who are prepared to clamber out of bed early will be fortunate enough to witness one of nature’s greatest phenomenons, the dawn chorus. The RSPB has a great website, where you can learn to identify the different calls of probably every garden bird you are ever likely to hear here in Jersey. Why not set your alarm clock for 6.30am tomorrow and listen in? Why not set yourself a challenge and learn to identify every bird call in your garden?

18. Make a home for wildlife in your garden

Insects and minibeasts are an important and fascinating part of the wildlife in our gardens and they make their homes in all sorts of places. Why not create a multi-storey bug hotel in your garden to attract creatures galore? For ideas and instructions, visit the worldwide web where there are plenty of YouTube Videos on offer.

19. Have a garden picnic

When the whole family is working from home, squashed around the kitchen table together, there is a definite advantage to taking your meals outdoors! Drink in the wonders of the natural world by taking a picnic in your back yard – what better place to enjoy your meals than on a bench or a rug with a view!

20. Reduce, reuse, recycle

The coronavirus outbreak has forced an immediate scale-down of how we all travel and live. Many of us find ourselves shopping locally, working from home and limiting consumption to what we actually need. Our response to the coronavirus has been fast and furious, and yet when climate change was declared a global emergency many of us failed to act. We might be creatures of habit, but coronavirus has taught us that we are much more adaptable than we think. Please spare a special thought for the planet and consider all the small things you can do to reduce, reuse and recycle. Whether it’s covering your leftovers with a plate instead of cling film in the fridge, making an extra effort to hang your washing outdoors, switching off the TV or lights when you leave a room, there are plenty of small ways each of us can reduce our energy and plastic consumption.

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