Our natural health service

This April, I’m ‘locked down’ in my small house in Hexham with three adults, a two-year-old toddler and a seven-week-old baby.

Apart from the anxiety we all share about our worlds being turned upside down by the coronavirus, there are obvious stresses and strains with us all living together in a confined and restricted space.

What is amazing is how each of us seems to naturally turn to nature to help us support our physical and mental wellbeing.

My wife spends her precious “own” time gardening, enjoying the physical work involved and the satisfaction of bringing together nature’s beauty; my daughter walks up the road to enjoy the birds and the beautiful views towards the Cheviot Hills to give herself a break from the demands of childcare, while her partner walks and runs with a freedom he could not imagine in the city he normally lives in.

For me, the chance to walk or run along High Yarridge Road in Hexham, is a great time to enjoy hearing the curlews that arrive from the coast every spring to breed or try and catch the rare sighting of lapwings that used to be plentiful 20 years ago but which are now not so common.

Along the way, I may see a hare and even occasionally spy a number of them chasing each other in the corner of one of the uncultivated fields which always fills me with awe. Whilst on the move, I also marvel at the view of the Durham Fells to the south, and on a clear day, the Cheviots, roughly 70 miles away to the north.

Hare - Bertie Gregory/2020VISION

Image by: Bertie Gregory/2020VISION

It’s fantastic what a short break in a natural environment can do to reduce stress and anxiety, but it seems that, however much we are careless about the damage we do to nature around the world, it still offers the best way to help our wellbeing and support our mental health.

It’s Mental Health Week next month (18 - 24 May) and if I could have one wish, it would be that people recognise that there is a second NHS… the natural health service which is free to access, doesn’t have any waiting lists, the bed is a patch of grass under the stars and great for everybody’s health and well-being.

Hopefully, at the end of this crisis we will all recognise much more than we have in the past, the value of the natural environment for both our physical and mental wellbeing.

In the meantime, I’m signing up for the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild Campaign which starts on 1st June and runs for a whole month with the aim of getting as many people in the UK involved with nature.