The sun on my back, walking and me

It’s been a pretty horrible six months and I’ve let lots of things fall by the wayside. Now I’ve started to feel a bit better I’ve been trying to slowly start doing the things I’ve enjoyed previously. I find group activities really difficult, but if the focus is on something which interests me it can be easier. This weekend there was a nature walk Badocks Wood, Bristol – a lovely nature reserve in inner city Bristol, looked after by the Friends of Badocks wood. The space is special to me as I’ve dipped in and out of volunteering there over the last few years, taking part in litter picks, native bluebell planting and conservation tasks. I met one of the leaders of the volunteering when I did my river fly training which I mention in my previous blog about volunteering. There is a beautiful stream which meanders it’s way through the woodland, and despite the pollution it is subjected to by the run off from the surrounding houses, things amazingly still survive. You often see Dippers and Grey Wag Tails feeding from the brook.

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I woke up on Saturday morning not wanting to go, the fear of there possibly being people there I didn’t know was griping me. I also realised at the last minute that I had the wrong meeting point which would make me a few minutes late to arrive. Despite all the barriers I started to build up in my head I managed to rationalise them by telling myself it wouldn’t matter if I was late, as it was an informal walk and I should know at least two people in the group (CBT actually working for once!). The sun was blazing away and it felt like the first day of spring. As I headed through the woods to meet everyone I was distracted by a fantastic display of wood anemones which were lit by the sun.

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I’d taken both my cameras, so stopped to take photos of them. As I met with the group I felt relaxed as I’d calmed my mind by taking photos. I spent most of the walk taking photos of things, but joining in conversation intermittently when I felt I had something to add. The group had a nice dynamic as everyone had the opportunity to share interesting facts about what they knew or could see. At one point someone pointed out a Nuthatch which was clearing out a nesting hole, and time stood still as we all stopped, still and silent, to watch it going about it’s spring clean. It was the first time I’d actively noticed a Nuthatch bird before, and it was great someone was there to help me identify it. Later in the walk I was able to show people what I could find and identify in the stream and it felt good to be able to share my limited knowledge. I was also able to point out the first bluebell seen of the spring to the group and someone else was able to help me understand how to identify the difference between a native and non native version.

I was able to end the walk in a positive frame of mind without the constant shout of recriminations about what I had done wrong, which made a nice, positive change.

The following day I woke up, tired out from the previous day as I’d also been out on my allotment in the afternoon. My head was shouting at me to have a day in my PJ’s on the sofa, but I knew I’d regret it the following day. I often find that if I don’t make plans in advance I won’t get anything done, as the decision making on the spur of the moment can feel overwhelming. My partner brought up a load of walking maps into our room whilst I was struggling to get up and I managed to decide on a walk up a hill in Bath called Kelston Round Hill. We parked at Swineford, but most walks start further along the river at Saltford. If you struggle with making decisions as I often do I’d definitely recommend making plans the night before and also preparing everything you need to take with you, eg rucksack, sandwiches etc. We spent the walk looking at all the signs of spring around us, I love the detail of things so spent most the walk playing with different views of close up plants and buds.

We saw and heard our first skylark bird of the year, which was magical, the drum and bass style intricate song, it seems impossible that a small bird can make such a loud crescendo of sound. From the top of the hill we could see the views of our entire city, and it was so nice to sit in the warm sun just doing and thinking nothing. It was the first time in a long time that my mind had been without worries, quiet and at peace, I was the moment to last forever. We both commented how much sunshine and day light you miss whilst working, and even though I walk to work and back lately the sun has felt pretty sparse.

It can be really hard to get back to doing things when you have stopped and retreated into your shell. The best way forwards, when you feel able to, seems to be to plan things in small steps and in advance, with support if possible. Even just 10 minutes to the park and back to take a photo can be a big achievement, every small step getting closer to a more restful mine.Hopefully this blog will have inspired a few people to take a peek out there.

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