The #30dayswild challenge has been amazing. I already thought I was fairly wild, loving being outdoors, walking in the countryside, volunteering with the National Trust, enjoying nature reserves and watching wildlife. Being involved in 30dayswild has made me realise how much I don’t know, how many amazing things there are in the natural world even within our own country that I know nothing about, so, for me, staying wild will be about learning more, improving my ID skills, getting out there and seeing more wildlife spectacles. I’m aiming to carry on for 365 days wild.
Last year I also took part in 30dayswild during June and have carried on through the year, more wild than I was before. During the year since last June until the start of June this year there was plenty of volunteering, weekends and days spent with the National Trust in various places around the country, a whole week volunteering in the Lake District, lots of walks in the countryside, time spent watching the birds in our garden and other small random acts of wildness. In the long, dark days of winter I found it harder to stay wild and in all honesty I did not stay wild for the whole year, not on every single day, and on the days when I didn’t get outside, over the grey weeks of winter, I felt worse.
This year is going to be different, wilder, more in touch with nature, more time outside, more time learning about our wonderful natural world and helping to support its protection. I already have some things planned, a week in Devon later in the month, camping in a wonderful woodland site, visiting local nature reserves and enjoying the great outdoors; a couple of days by a lake in Gloucestershire on the way home; a week leading a volunteering holiday doing outdoor work with the National Trust in the Lake District in August; another week away, this time in Suffolk in September to visit Minsmere and other local reserves.
These breaks will form the backbone of a wild year, but how does someone stay wild for a whole year?
These are some of my ideas for things everyone can do to keep up the momentum to stay wild.
* Look out for campaigns run by conservation organisations. There are several things coming up this summer and over the course of the year to get involved in:
o Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count runs from 15th July to 7th August. Just get outside and spot butterflies and moths for 15 minutes and then submit your results. There’s a spotter chart and an app that can be used for this, and you can do as many butterfly counts as you like during the survey.
o The RSPB are running their Big Wild Sleep Out on the 30th-31st July, you can sign up to attend an event at one of their nature reserve’s or take part in your own garden, they’ll send you a pack with a passport full of activity ideas and bunting to decorate your camp.
o The Woodland Trust are encouraging everyone to invite a tree for tea this summer and will send you a pack of activities if you sign up for a tree party.
o Looking further into the future the Big Garden Birdwatch takes place every January, just spend an hour recording the birds that visit your garden during the Birdwatch weekend.
* Check out your local Wildlife Trust for events that they are running. There are lots of different interesting events happening near me in the next few months, from an apple day to guided walks.
* Look for volunteering opportunities. The Wildlife Trusts across the country have lots of volunteering groups you could get involved in, with volunteering parties taking place on every day of the week at different sites. There are also lots of other groups that also require conservation volunteers, see if your favourite local site could do with a hand. I volunteer with a National Trust group that travels to different areas around the country to volunteer and have had lots of amazing wild experiences as a result, the group I volunteer with can be found here, www.lwmntv.org.uk and we’re always looking for new people to join. I also have details of a local Wildlife Trust volunteer group, and this year I want to join them for some of their work parties.
* Record the wildlife you see. There are lots of apps available to download to help record and identify the wildlife you see. Irecord has several free apps, from grasshopppers to ladybirds and a general recording app. There’s a herptile ID app for recording reptiles and amphibians and many more. Focus on a species you’d like to record or learn more about and see if there is an app you can use to help you.
* Keep a nature diary. This could be as simple as notes of what you see in the garden or on your journey to work or school each day, great to look back on to see when you saw fledglings in the garden or the first swallow of the summer. You could also keep a list of all the species you’ve seen, a garden list, a UK list, even a life list of every species of bird or mammal or reptile etc you’ve ever spotted.
* Join a local interest group. What species or group are you most interested in? Badgers, bats, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, beetles, birds, butterflies? Have a look online and I’m sure you’ll find a like minded group of local enthusiasts you can join for meetings and events.
* Do you have a more general interest in wildlife? For kids the Wildlife Trusts run Wildlife Watch groups across the country, for adults you could look for a local natural history society to join.
* Garden for wildlife. Even if you only have a small patch, a windowbox or a balcony, there are opportunities to be wildlife friendly. A windowbox planted with pollinator friendly plants provides a resource for bees and butterflies where there wouldn’t otherwise be one, bird feeders are available that can stick to a window with suckers, and will attract birds. Even the smallest garden can support wildlife, from a bucket pond to plants for pollinators, bird boxes, log piles, insect houses and hotels, there are lots of guides online as to how to make your space a home for nature.
* Visit local nature reserves. The Wildlife Trust’s nature finder app is great for finding information on reserves to visit wherever you are, at home or on holiday.
* Find local green areas, parks and wild spaces. Look at a map of the area around your home, you may be surprised at what you find is nearby. Scanning a map recently I came across a very local small nature reserve on the edge of some playing fields that I did not know existed, it’s on my list to visit soon.
* Check out what activities your council’s countryside or parks and gardens service offers. In my area there are regular walks, activities and events happening from evening walks to see creatures of the night, to litter picks, health walks and even a scything workshop on a local meadow (gutted that I am on holiday when that one is happening!)
* Feed your garden birds. We’ve been feeding the birds regularly since we moved in to our house as a new build four years ago, it took a while to attract birds to the garden, as there was not much cover for them, but as our tree and shrubs, and those of nearby gardens, have grown, the birds have increased. We have birds visiting every day, at this time of year we have lots of fledglings in the garden, from blue tits and great tits to young starlings and magpies. In the winter a flock of long tailed tits visited, bringing a goldcrest with them. I never fail to be cheered up by taking a few minutes to look out of the window and watch what’s going on.
* Put up nest boxes for the birds and provide nesting material for them. Last year we put out a nesting bundle and some wool in a terracotta pot designed for the purpose and watched great tits tugging material out and flying to and fro the nest box in the garden with it. Robins and blue tits also came to take material away for their nests. Right now our two rabbits are moulting, so we are collecting their fur ready to put out for the birds in late winter, early spring next year, those chicks are going to have the softest nest lining!
* Go wild on holiday. Check out what green space, wild areas, rivers, mountains, nature reserves there are where you’re going, and check them out. Camp, swim in a river, lake or the sea, have fun outdoors without the normal work, school, everyday chores to limit you.
* Take a trip to the beach. Go rockpooling, watch out to sea to spot dolphins, whales or even a basking shark, play on the sand, do a 2 minute beach clean.
* Learn something new. There’s never been more easily accessible information out there about nature.
o Sign up for a Wildlife Trust course, I’m looking to do a one day course on worms later in the year. Check out your local Wildlife Trust website to find out what they have coming up.
o Enrol on a MOOC (a massive open online course), I’ve signed up for one on ecosystems, which I need to get stuck into and have seen an interesting one on soils which starts soon, both on Futurelearn. Over on EdX an Introduction to Animal Behaviour course starts in August. Have a look on FutureLearn or EdX for free online courses.
o Visit your local library and see what they have in their natural history section, I’ve found lots of really interesting books in my library that I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I’ve also been able to order new books to read, like Chris Packham’s ‘Fingers in the Sparkle Jar’ and Amy Liptrot’s ‘The Outrun’, free of charge, to read in the first few weeks after they’ve been published.
* Start a nature table, scrapbook or board in your home. I was a child whose Mum was called into school in infants by a teacher concerned about the stones in my pocket, who collected fossils on a holiday in Dorset and upset an aunt by displaying them proudly in my room, which they stayed in when visiting, to make them feel at home, as she took it that I was implying she was old. In short I have always been a collector, a scavenger. So, it won’t surprise you to find out that we have a nature table, with skulls, birds nests, feathers, a snake skin, egg shells, chewed nuts, interesting rocks and other random nature finds displayed. I love it, it brings back happy memories of the places and times where all the items were found. Start your own, see what treasure you can find.
* Finally and most importantly, get outside, stay wild, feel the sun, rain, snow and wind against your face, watch summer reach its height, colours change as nature blazes into glorious autumn, notice the solemn stark beauty of bare trees in winter, frost and snows, mists and fog, seasons of mellow fruitfulness, the first shoots of spring, migrant birds leaving, others arriving, on dark nights and bright days, spend just a few minutes outside every day, whatever the weather.
Enjoy staying wild, I know I will!