Lessons from Nature; Nature Journalling

9th December 2021

Like many people, my connection with nature grew stronger during last year’s lockdowns.  As we couldn’t go anywhere or do very much, I really began to notice the nature on my doorstep in that bright, sunny and terrible spring of 2020.  Day by day I watched the trees come into leaf, a succession of spring flowers bloom and the ongoing battle for food, mates and territory playing out amongst the surprising range of birds that visited our garden.  This nature connection both thrilled and calmed me at a time when the world felt full of uncertainty and fear.

At the end of last year, with the pandemic dragging on and the third and worst lockdown looming, I decided to try and sustain myself through 2021 by keeping a nature diary and make daily observations from just one field behind my house.  Each day this year I have let myself be drawn to whatever caught my attention, photographed it and wrote a short paragraph into an app on my phone.  Often my observations were just questions as I wondered what something was or why something occurred.  Looking it up, building up my knowledge and then being able to use it to make discoveries or predict behaviour was exciting and gratifying.  Nature has been a great teacher this last year:

Daily noticing has tuned me into annual markers in nature that signal the changes of the seasons; the first appearance of the shoots of snowdrops, the subtle change in the colour of the grass or the sound of the curlew that announce that spring is coming.  Even in the gloomiest of winter days or gloriously hot summer evenings, I realised the signs of the next season were already appearing, that nature was not standing still, always moving on.


Paying attention to wind and clouds as they presented themselves to me outdoors sharpened my awareness of the weather and its patterns.  It is one thing to know that cold winds come from the north and east, it is another to feel direction from the sharpness of the wind on your face.  It is helpful to know whether a cloud is a cumulus or cirrus, it feels almost like a superpower to be able use that to predict that a storm is on its way.


With the help of books and apps I have learnt to recognise many more species; the musical call of goldfinches, the almost luminous blobs of the yellow brain fungi and the oversized daisy-like heads of the beautifully named sneezewort.  With this increased awareness came some discoveries that felt like I was able to reach back into the nature lore of our ancestors.  For example during one week in May I heard a cuckoo, saw cuckoo spit in the grass and found a patch of cuckooflower, realising that the latter two were named for their appearance at the same time that the former returns to our shores.


I was surprised at some of the wildlife sightings;  a barn owl came every evening in early summer and a pair of buzzards have started to appear circling above mobbed by crows.  But mostly I got to know more common species and learnt about their behaviour.  If I see one wood pigeon, I can predict I’ll see another.  This species mate for life and the romantic resident pair seem inseparable.  The deer are elusive, but I know they visit regularly as I now recognise the difference between rabbit and deer poo and the noticeable browsing line they have created under the trees.  Queen wasps will come out as early as February if the weather is warm enough and bird song goes quiet in August as they focus their energies on moulting.  These are all things I never would have known without takingt the time to be curious.


I’m coming to the end of the year and don’t know if I will carry on my nature diary in 2022. But I do know that the habit of taking time out even in the busiest of days to just look, listen and be in the moment has contributed to my knowledge, my awareness and most importantly my sense of wellbeing through some difficult days, so I’ll continue the habit of noticing, because in nature, there is always something to discover.


By Annie Berrington

Managing Director