Thankfully, spring is once again upon us and, after a very difficult winter, many of us are appreciating the longer, warmer days and the emerging wildlife. Spring is a time of fresh starts, hope and new beginnings, which are even more welcome than usual after such a strange twelve months.
I’ve noticed that, with so many of our normal leisure activities restricted, people are walking more than ever before. Instead of going to the pub or the cinema, we are meeting our friends and family outdoors to get a dose of nature - or just to ‘get our steps in’. I hope that this will be a lockdown habit that will stay with us as restrictions start to ease. Not only will your liver and wallet thank you for less time down the pub, your physical and mental health will also be boosted by regular time in nature.
Walking is also an easy way to enjoy wildlife. Even living close to the city, I have had some amazing wildlife encounters over the past 12 months on my daily walks. On my local patch, all within a mile from my home in Bedminster, I have seen kestrels hovering at eye level, badgers nervously poking their heads out from cover, families of roe deer dashing through the woods, skylarks pouring out their continuous beautiful song from the clouds, slowworms basking in warm patches of sun, adorable spring bunnies, the cyan blur of a kingfisher, and woodpeckers drumming from the tree-tops. I have even enjoyed watching a barn owl hunting! Having the time to explore my local patch has allowed me to find the wildlife wonders on my doorstep.
“What’s this one?” a friend asked me on a walk a couple of weeks ago.
Working for the Wildlife Trust and being a known fan of nature, a lot of my friends assume I know the names of all the beasts and plants that we might stumble upon. I bent down to look at the pretty yellow wildflower that my friend had discovered. However, I am not great at identifying plants - I prefer birds to bushes, and feathers to ferns. This particular flower looked similar to a dandelion, but I had no idea what it was. To help find out, I got out my phone, loaded up an app called ‘iNaturalist’, quickly took a photo of the flower, and uploaded it to the app. Within a few seconds, I learned this was Colts-foot (Tussilago farfara). I was also treated to loads of information about the flower. It turns out the name ‘tussilago’ is derived from the Latin ‘tussis’, meaning ‘cough’. That’s because plant was previously used in traditional medicine to treat respiratory problems before it was discovered it could lead to liver damage. Within just a few moments I had identified the plant and was learning about it and discussing traditional medicine with my friend.