Top Tips for getting to know your local patch

Hello, my name is Alex and I’m so pleased to join Avon Wildlife Trust as the new Learning Development Officer - just as the natural world is beginning to erupt for Spring and Summer, yippee! I’m looking forward to our paths coming together for wild play and raucous days under rays of sunshine and puddle-making raindrops! For now, here are some of my top tips for getting out and enjoying your local patch this Spring…

It’s nearly here! Signs of Spring are beginning to unfurl, grow and exit their wintery slumber. Snowdrops pop up in familiar places like old friends, and our local birds seem a little more curious about their potential new homes, you may even spot a honeybee on the hunt for an early nectar rich flower!

Spring is the time when we step into action and start getting our hands in the dirt. You may be surprised to discover that our interaction with soil can keep us healthy both mentally and physically. Have you ever watched babies and small children when they seem to have this inexplicable urge to plant their round, little faces in the soil? Or slap mud into their mouths as if it’s a delicious, juicy, slab of chocolate fudge cake? Well, they might have it right! Research by Doctor Christopher Lowry at the University of Bristol shows that humans have a deep connection to the soil for both physical and mental health. Interaction with soil bacteria particularly M.Vaccae helps all manner of healthy gut bacteria grow inside of us, sparking connections with the brain that builds serotonin – the happy hormone. Research also suggests these bacteria can reduce inflammation, and M. Vaccae has been used in research studies for the treatment of lung cancer, depression, and PTSD. Further research around the world is showing that those of us who are more connected to the land such as traditional farming communities, have better gut flora, and therefore improved physical and mental health. Is it any wonder that babies can’t wait to get down and dirty and wriggle in the soil like a little worm?! Maybe us ‘grown-ups’ should take note!

If you need to be tempted a little further to getting down in the dirt, or you have a little one who isn’t so keen on the mood boosting benefits of wallowing in the boggiest parts of your local park,  look no further than ‘Stan & Ted’. Created by Bristol based animation company Aardman you may remember that Stan and Ted are two baby birds that made their TV debut on ‘Creature Comforts’ in 2003.  Like little pink flumps, they gaze down to the garden below from their plasticine nest and remind us (in their hilarious lisping Bristolian accent) of what’s best about our green spaces – DiiiRtT, GraAssz and ComPosT! Who can resist the guidance of such adorable little creatures?

So with Stan and Ted in mind here’s some top tips for exploring Spring in your local patch, no matter where you are or who you’re with – there are nature treasures to be found, even in the soil.

  • Visit a local green space, or pop outside into your garden and see if you can do the 5-4-3-2-1 challenge. It’s sure to open your senses and help you get to know your animal and plant neighbours.
  • Start with listing 5 things you can see?

Then 4 things you can hear?

3 things you can feel?

2 things you can smell?

And finally, 1 thing you can taste (small children may have beaten you to it for this one!)

  • Make a note of how you feel and anything new you have discovered.

So until we meet again, may the ‘DirRt, GraAssz,and BirDs’ be with you! May Spring greet you with open branches, cheering blossoms, and a good dollop of mud pie! Because we’re never too old to say hello to our inner soil loving child or get in the dirt with our own baby birds. Our health might just depend on it.