'Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, Stay awhile.'

Mary Oliver

Last week I was feeling tired, exhausted and a bit low.  I tried to think of reasons why that might be and at first put it down to the cool, grey weather that had been trying to temper the bright flowers budding in May. And then I thought maybe it was to do with being fed up of the not-knowing-ness of Lockdown, the way each week you have to hold every plan and future thought lightly just in case this pandemic hangs around a bit longer. Another friend gravely sick. Another business closed. Holidays- a thing of the past.  More of the same. And on and on.

But even though those things contributed to how I was feeling, they were ongoing sadness’s. The thing that was different about last week was that somehow I wasn’t managing these things as well. I had been sleeping well, eating too well, I had supportive family around me. And then I realised what it was: I had not been outdoors very much. I was experiencing- what I’ve heard no doctor diagnose ever- a nature deficiency! I hadn’t been spending time digging and planting in the garden in the way I had been through April and early May: lovingly sowing and watering and willing seeds to grow with all the hope I could muster. I hadn’t been out on long walks, tramping across the fields, looking up at the changing sky. I hadn’t been out adventuring on my bike, wheeling furiously, fast down car-free roads. As a result, my mood changed. And I became more stressed, anxious and low.

Nature has a way of looking after our health and wellbeing so quietly and carefully that we don’t even realise it’s happening. My whole life, nature has been an important factor in curing me of whatever I was facing and yet I continue to forget this and don’t give it the attention, gratitude or praise it is due. Nature has given boldness to conversations I couldn’t have indoors, given me ideas for creative work, has helped me get out of my own selfish thoughts and remember how much bigger and wider the world is through its vast horizons and mountaintop views. And the quiet susurration of the sea and the rustling of leaves, have shushed and calmed my fears.

My Nature Journal, May 2020

And it seems that I am not the only one. According to the Mental Health Charity, Mind, nature has this effect on everyone. This mood-enhancing, confidence-inspiring, calming, spacious roominess to how you feel. 

Sadly, not everyone can access nature in the same way during this time*. Some of us don’t have gardens to dig, or parks to run through or a tree-lined view. This is unjust and wrong. We should all have the right to a safe nature cure. Especially as a study by the NHS revealed that green spaces can reduce the health inequality between rich and poor areas by more than half. The Government should be acting on this as a matter of urgency. There should be environmental justice (ready access to clean, safe, green spaces) for the wellbeing of all.

At Meadow Well Connected, we have a 5 acre garden that is for the community of North Shields. Over the next few years, we hope local people will help us shape and develop it so that it becomes an inspiring and beautiful green space that provides a nature cure for our community.  We would love you to be part of it. Please contact our gardener Andy to join us: [email protected], or me (Volunteer-Co-odinator): [email protected]

Geraniums in The Meadows Garden 

*If you are unable to leave home due to health reasons, there are other things you can do to access nature. Why not listen to this playlist by David Attenborough? You can also bring the outdoors in by adding houseplants to rooms in your house, make natural collections with seashells, leaves, etc., draw pictures of plants and flowers, ask a friend or family member to send you photos of favourite nature scenes and frame them to put on the wall, use nature prints for soft furnishings e.g curtains and cushions, position a chair in front of a view of a tree, field or other natural scene.