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Connecting with nature from home

Monday 30 March 2020

First it was self-isolation, then social distancing and now lockdown. These phrases probably hadn’t crossed your mind just a few weeks ago, and now as the Government imposes the strictest strategies in order to control the spread of COVID 19, self-isolation is a very stark reality. With current guidance stating that you should only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work, and to stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people – there is no denying that these are very unusual and for most, worrying times.

As a Conservation Board it goes against our very nature to have to tell people not to travel to or visit our beautiful Chilterns countryside or green spaces, but we must follow the Government’s advice and stay indoors. As much as it saddens us to say it, the sooner we all adhere to these rules the sooner we can get back to enjoying them again.

Whatever your personal circumstances the idea of self-isolating can be a daunting one, especially if you live alone, are unable to work, are looking after a young family or trying to keep disruption to a minimum. It probably won’t shock anyone to anyone to learn that self-isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, and as spending time in nature has been proven to contribute to relieving stress and easing mental illness, we’ve been looking at ways that you can responsibly use nature to boost your wellbeing from the safety of your own home. 

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IN THE HOME

  • Bird Watching – why not order yourself a bird feeder online and use it attract birds into your garden? You can watch from the comfort of your sofa! The RSPB’s top 10 tips to attracting birds into your garden is jam-packed with information to get you started
  • Become a Citizen Scientist – Beacons of the Past, a project to discover more about the Chilterns Iron Age Hillforts, is looking for people to help identify potentially thousands of newly revealed archaeological features in the Chilterns AONB. You get to learn new skills all for free and from the comfort of your own home! Simply register on the portal to get yourself started.
  • Watch – Tune into 20 minutes of daily earth lessons LIVE from around the world brought to you by some the most inspiring scientists, conservationists, wildlife filmmakers and more. Broadcast LIVE every single day in March and April you can watch here
  • Create – the Chilterns is a special place to many people for different reasons. Why not think about what makes the Chilterns special to you and show it in a creative way? You could write a poem, paint a picture, make a nature collage, write a story, share stories of old times with friends on social media.
  • Give your mind a workout – checkout: https://quiz.natureid.no/bird/quiz where you can take a quiz of your choice on birds! You can also compete against other people and your friends in competition groups.
  • Read – The Chilterns has a fascinating history and A Country of Larks is a great place to start –Travel writer and journalist Gail Simmons follows in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson as she walks from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire to Tring in Hertfordshire via Great Missenden and Wendover speaking to those she meets along the way.
  • Listen – Birdsong Radio is a rather lovely station playing out natural birdsong, with Chris Packham hosting live and interactive broadcasts each day. 

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GARDEN ACTIVITIES

  • No matter whether you have a few flowerpots, a balcony or a big garden, the RSPB has a fantastic resource of activities to try. From bird spotting or building a bug hotel to planting a wildflower meadow there are plenty of ways that you can give nature a home in your garden – you even get a badge for every activity you complete! Try it out here.
  • Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust has put together a huge selection of activities to keep the whole family busy and engaged with nature. Visit: https://www.bbowt.org.uk/actions 
  • Become a butterfly monitor – Butterfly Conservation holds an annual Garden Butterfly Survey which allows you to record and report the butterflies that visit your garden over the course of a year. Download their handy identification guide and sign up to participate here
  • Say No to the Mow – create a wildflower patch in your garden by leaving an area “unmowed” – this blog by Butterfly Conservation gives some great tips and advice for other things you can do to help butterflies and bees too.
  • Get Growing – whether it’s in pots on your windowsill or in a patch in your garden, you feel a real sense of achievement from growing your own fruit and vegetables. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a regular Alan Titchmarsh, the RHS has a fantastic guide to getting started. (remember to buy your supplies online!)
  • Give wildlife watching in your garden a purpose:
    • BTO run a National tracking trends of garden birds – Garden Bird Watch is a formal survey and people can sign up here
    • Bucks Bird Club also run a similar project and people can get more information here
    • CEH run a great entry level invertebrate survey programme too. The pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS) is a great way of getting families involved in recording and has various levels depending on ID skill levels. Find out more here
    • Irecord is a fantastic website for people get ID tips on a range of species and they can also record what they see. This all gets used by CEH to monitor national trends. Find out more here
  • Record sounds of your garden – Our project Echoed Locations is creating the first ever sonic map of the Chilterns and it is looking for people to record the natural sounds around them. All you need to do is record the sounds in your garden on your smartphone and send them in by completing our form

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FOR CHILDREN

  • Paint a rainbow – now that schools are closed children can no longer see their friends or play in playgrounds, some people have been painting pictures of rainbows to display in their windows so that children can spot as many as they can as whilst taking their daily exercise. It’s been described as “a giant neighbourhood i-spy”
  • The Chilterns Rangers has been streaming Forest School Live sessions on their Facebook page with daily activities to make and do. From bug hunting to making a mini bug hotel, they’re very entertaining and lots of fun
  • Get the kids to experience #TheGreatIndoors – The Scouts have compiled a huge list of inspired indoor activities to keep your kids learning new skills and having fun: https://www.scouts.org.uk/the-great-indoors/
  • For something a little closer to home, why not print out this lovely colouring sheet of the Chilterns, created by the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs team?
  • Attend a wildlife Q & A – Steve Backshall streamed a live Wildlife Q&A session that can be viewed on YouTube or his Facebook page. You can watch again here
  • Enter a competition – IF Oxford Science + Ideas Festival are running a scientific poetry competition for under 16-year olds who live in Oxfordshire or Buckinghamshire. Enter for free here

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SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY

We’re already seeing some amazing community spirit during these unprecedented times. Communities are coming together more than ever, and even when in isolation you can contribute:

  • Shop local – many local shops and businesses are now offering delivery services for people in isolation, they need your business more than ever right now. Please help them so they can help you
  • Join a Facebook group – many local villages and towns have residents only private Facebook groups where people can share news, experiences, photographs of walks, the first flowers or butterflies, offer (or ask for) help and more. We’re living in a digital world and this is a great way to keep in contact with those in your community
  • If you’re able to, HELP – many local authorities are calling out for people to volunteer in this time of crisis. Many information pages have been set up to list organisations/groups that are looking for volunteers to support local people and communities during the current coronavirus situation:

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Whatever you choose to do just remember, you do not have to leave your house to connect with nature, nature is FREE and nature CAN help us through these unprecedented times. Like Chris Packham said in a recent interview: "It's an opportunity - it's spring, learn about birdsong, flowers are coming up – we know it’s good for our physical and mental health."

We’re all in this together – if you’ve discovered another way to connect with nature whilst self-isolating please get in touch and share your experiences on Facebook or Twitter – but please always follow government advice and stay at home. Look after yourself and each other and we will get through this. 

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