Spring is often considered to be a period of new life and fresh starts when things wake up. This makes it a perfect time to tune your senses to connect with nature. 

It’s well known that spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing and that nature can make us feel calm, joyful and help with concentration. You may well have heard of forest bathing, an ancient Japanese relaxation method of being calm and quiet in amongst the trees. Since we are surrounded by heaths around Whitehill and Bordon our heathland ranger team are encouraging a slight twist on forest bathing, go heathland basking this month!

Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes to feel the benefits, so we’ve come up with our top tips for slowing down and using your senses to connect with nature:

Stop and listen to the bird song. Research by the Natural History Museum has shown that listening to bird sounds can offer relief from mental fatigue and stress. This time of year the birds are at their most vocal. Listen out for the ‘teacher, teacher’ of the great tit, or the unmistakable sound of the Chiff chaff , a sure sign of spring! Out on the heaths, listen out for the musical notes of the woodlark as it sings on the wing, its latin name Lullula Arborea gives you an idea of the ‘lululu’ to listen out for.  The woodlark nests on the grounds on our heaths, so make sure to stick to the paths and stay out of the heather to enjoy their song without disturbing them.

Woodlark by Derek Middleton
A woodlark (Derek Middleton)

Touch can help us feel calm and balanced. Our native UK reptiles are starting to emerge from hibernation, and on a sunny day will begin to bask on bare sandy parts of our heaths. Why don’t you try the same, stop briefly and stand or sit to feel the warmth of the sun on a spring day or feel the rough bark of an old oak or birch tree?

Noticing the small things: our heathland habitat is often considered a rainforest in miniature, with all sorts of fascinating insects, and specialised plants lining the ground you might not necessarily notice at first glance. Devils matchsticks are a type of lichen that are commonly found on our heaths and grow close to the ground. One of our favourite insects to look out for is the beautiful Green Tiger Beetle, look out for a flash or iridescent green with yellow spots on their back on sandy tracks. They’re fierce hunters and one of the fastest running insects in the world. If they fly off, they will often come back and land a little further along the path.

Great tit by Nigel Symington
Great tit (Nigel Symington)

Whilst the heather isn’t in bloom yet, the gorse definitely is! Enjoy the bright yellow flowers of the gorse which often line paths. Not only does the gorse bring some springtime sunshine to the heaths, but the flowers also smell like coconut making it one for the senses, although we don’t recommend trying to touch it! As well as the bright yellow gorse, try to notice other colours, shapes and patterns out in nature.

Our team of heathland rangers are often out on site patrols, so why not stop to tell them what you’ve noticed, or send us photos at [email protected] and if you want a bit of help identifying plants and wildlife, why not join one of our ranger led walks? Check out www.southdowns.gov.uk/help-your-heaths/wealden-heaths-strategic-access-management-and-monitoring-samm-project/events-walks-and-activities/

Happy heathland basking!