If ever there were someone who knew how to make getting outdoors fun no matter the weather, it’s Sian Anna Lewis, also known as The Girl Outdoors. Author, editor and a keen outdoor swimmer, Sian has shared some of her favourite (and different) ideas for making the most of nature.
“When you think of adventure and connecting to nature, your mind might flit straight to far-off islands and mountain ranges, but don’t let that blind you to the joys and discoveries to be found far closer to home. Stay local, be mindful and you’ll be surprised how exciting the places you might take for granted can be – here are six ways to practise looking at them with new eyes.”
If you’re exploring closer to home at the moment, you’ve probably found that you start to take the local green spaces you visit again and again for granted. Reconnect with the wonder of wild places by slowing down and getting down low to appreciate the wonderful detail to be found in the first wild hyacinths of spring, the footsteps left by a bird or the bizarre beauty of frogspawn. Beachcombing is also a wonderful way to learn to appreciate the minutiae – try finding tiny shells, dipping into rock pools or seeking out translucent jewels of sea glass.
Have you ever heard of ‘grounding’? Also known as earthing, it’s a therapy based on the idea that walking barefoot outdoors can help relieve stress. Whether or not you believe that grounding is a proper therapy, going barefoot is definitely a great way to relax your body, reconnect with the natural world around you and feel like a kid again.
Whether you have a big garden or just a little patio, cooking outside always makes supper feel special. Build a campfire, cook on a grill placed over a fire pit or, if you have a bit more space, have a go at making a cooking tripod using three logs. When your fire has burned for long enough to leave you with glowing embers try burying potatoes wrapped in foil among the embers to bake. Or have a go at making my favourite campfire meal for spring – grill white fish wrapped in foil in a skillet pan over the fire, then top with wild garlic.
Get to know your Andromeda from your Cassiopeia by spending a clear evening in your back garden spotting some of the most common constellations. Online guides, smartphone apps and traditional star maps will help you work out what you can see above you.
Set your alarm early and catch the sunrise. Pick a day with a clear weather forecast, check what time sunrise will be in your local area and look for a location facing east – climbing a hill or heading to a beach are both ideal for an uninterrupted view, but your local park or even your back garden might also be perfect. Take a blanket and a thermos of coffee, and watch the world waking up in colour.
Did you know that oak bark will dye white fabric a warm brown, or that sorrel roots give a vivid green? You don’t even need to leave home to have a go at using natural dyes, as scraps from your compost heap often work well, too – avocado pits are my favourites, as they dye a wonderful dusky pink, or try onion skins to create a delicate orange. Most vegetable dyes are simple to make and involve boiling and then simmering your main ingredient in water, then using salt or vinegar to ‘fix’ the dye to your fabric.