North Wales has so much rugged and refined beauty to offer its visitors. It is one of the best places to explore outdoors – be it the rustic countryside, the mountains, or the seaside. COVID-19 put the breaks on travel for everyone and many of us missed the opportunity to see the wonders of nature and the natural beauty of wildlife that North Wales is known for – be it for day trips, holidays, or just because we live here.
Lockdown taught us to open our eyes and hearts to all the beauty nature and wildlife offer us wherever we happen to be. It gave us an opportunity to slow down, take stock and enjoy the little things in life when the going got tough, which it did for so many in different ways.
Here Anita shares her story and well-being lifelines during lockdown when she couldn’t travel to North Wales to recharge her batteries – somewhere she would have loved to have been to immerse herself in the natural beauty of her go to holiday spot.
“There is something to be wondered at in all of Nature”
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we live and interact with the World around us, as well as our neighbours and the people we meet. During the lockdown down days (which at times felt endless with our focus often becoming frayed around the edges), technology took over to support our human connections.
Home working, Zoom meetings and Face Time/What’s App video calls seem to become the new norm which at times felt tiring and stressful and for others isolating, as they did not have resources or access or comprehension and understanding of the newway to communicate! Barriers become more defined and the differences between age groups became more pronounced.
This catapulted people into discovering, or rediscovering simple pleasures to support their individual and collective mental and physical wellbeing.
A daily walk outside in a park, or just a walk around the block, helped break the feeling of “another ground hog day”. Simple opportunities to ‘get outside’ gave us valuable time to take notice of nature, actually hear the birds singing, see the clear skies and smell the flowers or freshly cut grass. For those living in more densely populated areas, particularly flats and other accommodation with shared communal areas, people struggled to find safe open spaces to ‘breathe’ and escape to.
However, a positive outcome from COVID-19 will hopefully be our appreciation of nature and the natural World that coexists around us. Open spaces are key to supporting our healthy well-being and widely accessible studies have shown that being outdoors can significantly reduce the effects of stress on our bodies and that ‘being’ in nature is restorative – helping us to relax and recharge.
Many of us looked forward but more often than not, we were lost in the moment and needed to find solace in little things that once may have gone unnoticed.
My personal reflections on the benefits of outdoor spaces
During the first lockdown my friend and her Mother (aged 87) were both on the vulnerable list and decided to isolate together for those first 12 weeks. Together they found peace and harmony and every afternoon they would make a cup of tea and take it into the garden, where they started to notice a special visitor arriving every day at around 4 pm. One routine led to another and without fail Mr. Robin would visit.
Their new little friend gave extra focus to their day and something to look forward to, a joy that could so easily have been missed. This simple act of nature helped to lift their spirits.
Other stories reached the media, one of the most famous, being the story of the Kashmir mountain goats that walked down into Llandudno town centre from their rugged home on The Great Orme, to take advantage of the quiet roads and extra green vegetation!
Their visits certainly brought a lot of smiles to local residents and they became internet celebrities over night, the power of IT and wild life together had a very profound connection and offered a feel good lifeline to those who could find a smile in the humour and irony of the situation.
Walking became a national mantra. For the lucky ones who could still work in an office environment, walking or cycling to work was a blessing. For others, making the effort to get out and about brought a change of scenery, exercise and a sense of ‘carrying’ on in the face of adversity. ‘Keep Calm and Carry on Walking’ was the new way to live and Sir Tom Moore at 99 was our leader!
People with gardens rediscovered a new found appreciation of them and gardening skills which had perhaps lain dominate for years, like seedlings started to resurface. Before lockdown I considered gardening a chore, especially the endless cycle of cutting the grass. I am now converted! After my home working shift I am thankful that come rain or sunshine, I can pop outside and take in a few deep breaths which always seems to do the trick to disconnect me from work and settle me down for my ‘off-work’ time zone within my home space.
Over the last 12 months I have experimented in my garden, growing some vegetables for the first time, the majority of which started on my kitchen window sill. I quickly learnt that once established, I could transfer my seedlings to bigger pots before moving them to their final destination outside.
Where outdoor space was limited, growing a tray of radish on the windowsill was fast and required no specific skill (my type of gardening). Seeing the little red/pink tops of the radish plants as they start to grow and develop cheers up my kitchen for sure.
My reward for time and patience came with a bountiful crop of tomatoes, delicious with summer salads. When some of my tomatoes would not ripen, I got out the cookery books and turned them into scrumptious relish and donated it to my friends and neighbours. My new potatoes, cooked with fresh mint and butter, were yummy. The runner beans I grew in pots would have seen “Jack” enjoying his climb up into the clouds and my sun flowers reached for the skies and beyond.
This simple act of being in nature and nurturing something wholesome, gave me focus and joy, as it did for so many.
Lockdown saw me learn some new skills and as I start my growing season this year, I am better prepared, understanding which pots work best, what compost suits my vegetables and how to explore new ideas.
Do I talk to my little plants? Yes, absolutely every day and when the late frosts came suddenly in April and May this year, I have covered them with fleece blankets to keep them safe.
As for many others, it has not been about producing the perfect cucumber or hanging basket, it has been about noticing the seasons, working together with nature and enjoying myself in a new found freedom that is far less stressful.
Being outdoors, discovering the wilds of ourselves with nature, be it another walk or a spot of weeding, we quickly learn to adapt, chatting over the fence to neighbours, sharing tips on gardening, finding something to laugh about, sharing stories and connecting from afar in real time rather than on the internet has all been positive and has added to our overall happy feelings of wellbeing. The community spirit reborn!
As we get back to the new norm, we mustn’t forget the nurturing power of nature, plenty of which is available to enjoy, experience, discover and see in North Wales.
As society starts the process of coming out of its COVID-19 hibernation, we are lucky to have been able to witness and experience nature’s protective shield that has helped support our well-being in a time of crisis that has affected everyone globally.
It’s time to unlock the powers of nature’s life support by nurturing and treasuring it in equal measure. Beauty is everywhere, all we have to do, is stop, stand and stare, something Welsh poet, W.H. Davies stated in his poem Leisure in 1911 We need to appreciate the recharging qualities nature offers our mental and physical well-being, something North Wales offers in abundance – all you need to do is explore, be inspired and with a leap of faith find what suits you best.
What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?-
No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.
I am so excited to be able to travel back in to North Wales to enjoy it’s beautiful scenery and nature. I feel alive again and hope you will too.
Be inspired by nature and discover new beginnings on how you wish to spend your free time now that we are regaining our freedoms once more. Enjoy life exploring North Wales, just as I am.
“Stop to listen to the birdsong, smell the freshly cut grass, take care of a house plant, notice any trees, flowers or animals nearby. Take a moment to appreciate those connections” (MARK ROWLAND of the Mental Health Foundation). It really is easy when you know how, all you need to do is take the first step.
Siwrne dda. Bon voyage. Good travels.
North Wales is a great place to lay your hat for a holiday home. It is an amazing day trip region and there are many wonderful places for overnight stays. There are plenty of places to see and ample of opportunities to explore the great outdoors. So why don’t you embrace the new you now that lockdown is easing and tread the natural wonders of the North Wales region to recharge your batteries and improve your mental and physical well-being in this new slower pace of living we have come to appreciate.