Written by Ali Fisher
This Autumn let’s challenge ourselves to get outside more. It’s better for us and it’s better for the planet. Living in Surrey we are rich in opportunities to imbibe in the wonders of nature. So, what’s stopping us?
Better for Us: A 2018 report from the University of East Anglia analysed 140 studies involving 290 million people and concluded that nature really does provide a health boost. The health benefits of living close to nature and spending time outside include reducing the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.i
Getting back to nature, can even improve our work. The human brain can struggle to cope with the daily information overload of modern life. Being in nature restores depleted attention reserves and can help with our creativity and problem-solving.ii Definitely a nudge to leave our desks and head outside for a daily stroll and some natural inspiration.
Better for the Planet: As Sir David Attenborough has wisely put it, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” A deeper connectivity with nature will inspire more of us to take care of the precious environment that we inhabit.
When we look back at our (mostly) sunny summer, can we honestly say we made the most of our outdoors time, recharging on Vitamin D and connecting with the natural world around us? If you answered no, then you are not alone. 9 out of 10 of us are spending close to 22 hours inside every day, despite 39% of us recognising that daylight significantly affects our mood.iii
For many of our kids the lure of the screen is just too much, meaning the average child in Britain spends twice as much time in-front of a screen than they do outdoors, with 4 hours every day in-front of a screen versus just an hour and a half playing outside.iv
So, if you’re feeling inspired to spend a bit more time outdoors this autumn, here’s a taster of just a handful of the opportunities on our Surrey doorstep:
As Sir David Attenborough has wisely put it, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” A deeper connectivity with nature will inspire more of us to take care of the precious environment that we inhabit.
- Did you know Surrey is England’s most wooded county? Woodland makes up 23% of the county’s land area, more than double the UK average of 8.5%.v So why not make the most of our precious woodland treasures and give ‘forest bathing’ a whirl? Popular in Japan and recommended by the Woodland Trust, forest bathing (you don’t need to get wet, just spend time in a forest!) allows you to use all 5 senses to connect with the environment and clear the mind. Some have claimed it can boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, aid sleep and even counter illness.vi
- The Surrey Hills have been designated one of 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England. The AONB covers a quarter of our county and 40% of this area is wooded.vii Maybe you’ve spotted the campaign which launched this July #GetOutOut? 70 years on since the Government passed an Act of Parliament to establish National Parks & AONB, the campaign aims to connect a whole new generation of urban dwellers with the easy to access breath-taking countryside around us. Check out going-outout.co.uk for more inspiration.
- We are very fortunate to have 80 Wildlife Trust reserves in Surrey and one is right on our doorstep in Burpham. Autumn is a beautiful time to visit the Riverside Nature Reserve (can be accessed by Bowers Lane). Pad along the boardwalk and check out the wildlife in and around the lake, spot the ducks, dragonflies and even bats at sunset.
- Check out the surreyhills.org website or follow #mysurreyhills for some inspiration on what you can discover in the Surrey Hills. Each month @SurreyHillsAONB is releasing a new video interviewing local people and talking about what they love about the Surrey Hills, starting with James Giles, the National Nature Reserve Manager at Thursley.
- Want to get out and get your hands dirty, how about joining the Pewley Downs Volunteers. The volunteers meet on the first Saturday of every month 10am to 2pm and work together to cut down the scrub on the nature reserve and protect rare plants and insects found on the slopes of the chalk downland.
- Maybe pop along to the 10th Surrey Hills Wood Fair. The fair is on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th October at Fish Pond Copse in Cranleigh (GU6 7DW) to celebrate everything that is ‘good about wood’, including woodland demonstrations and activities. Please note this is a ticketed event.
- Leith Hill is impressively the 2nd highest point in southeast England. Exploring its trails takes you through woodland, heathland and farmland and offers the reward at the top of an extra climb up the impressive Leith Hill Tower. Hear more about this iconic Surrey landmark at the National Trust Heritage Open Day on Saturday 21st September or experience your first forest bath at Leith Hill on Sunday 20th October (booking required).
- Something a bit different: Try a day of mushroom foraging. Forage with expert John Wright, organised by Surrey Hills Yurts, running on the 7th and 8th of October.
- Consider getting involved in Seed Gathering Season. Organised by The Tree Council for the last 21 years, the campaign runs for a month from the 23rd September – the autumn equinox – and aims to inspire local communities to gather seeds, fruits and nuts and grow the trees of the future.
So challenge yourself and your family to more outdoor time this autumn. Think of it as ecotherapy – the practice of restoring health through contact with nature – which is becoming increasingly recognised and even prescribed by medical experts.viii Invest in your health & the planet with a commitment to more time out in the green. After all, it can be free of charge and, for as long as we look after it, remains in abundant supply.
i University of East Anglia / Science Daily (2018) It’s official – Spending time outside is good for you. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm
(Viewed: 5 August 2019)
ii Jill Suttie (2016) How nature can make you kinder, happier & more creative. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_nature_makes_you_kinder_happier_more_creative
(Viewed: 5 August 2019)
iii Stephanie Walden / USA Today (2018) The Indoor Generation. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/sponsor-story/velux/2018/05/15/indoor-generation-and-health-risks-spending-more-time-inside/610289002/ (Viewed: 1 August 2019)
iv Richard Jenkins / The Independent (2018) Children Spend Twice As Long Looking At Screens Than Playing Outside. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/children-screens-play-outside-computer-phone-time-healthy-games-a8603411.html (Viewed: 5 August 2018)
v Surrey Country Council (2008) Surrey Woodland Study 2008. https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/96735/Surrey-Woodland-Study-2008.pdf (Viewed: 5 August 2019)
vi Harriet Sherwood / The Guardian (2019) Getting back to nature: how forest bathing can make us feel better. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/08/forest-bathing-japanese-practice-in-west-wellbeing
(Viewed: 1 August 2019)
vii Surrey Country Council (2008) Surrey Woodland Study 2008. https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/96735/Surrey-Woodland-Study-2008.pdf (Viewed: 5 August 2019)
viii British Medical Journal (2005) Getting Close to Nature is Good For You. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051124220320.htm (Viewed: 1 August 2019)