Reconnecting with nature

Experiences of awe - a New Forest sunset
                   Experiences of awe – a New Forest sunset

A great way to truly experience and understand the natural world is to slow down, take a break from our busy lives and reconnect with nature. We often look but don’t see – we forget how to listen to nature and enjoy the beauty of the moment. Here are my top ten New Forest ‘rewilding’ experiences to help you reconnect, relax and savour the magic of the New Forest.

  • Smell the gorse and stop for a kiss: The yellow flowers of the gorse were especially vibrant this spring. According to folklore ‘when gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion’ – luckily gorse flowers throughout the year! For the full gorse sensory experience, wait for a still hot day to walk amongst the blooms and smell their wonderful coconut aroma. It’s also fun to listen out for their ‘popping’ seed cases.
  • Exotic visitors: Step out onto the heathland at dusk and listen for the unforgettable ‘churring’ call of a male nightjar. Their call, which contains up to 40 notes per second, can be heard several kilometres away on a still evening. These ground nesting birds are summer visitors from Africa and so this experience must be taken before they leave at the end of August.
  • Go ‘still hunting’: Find a special quiet spot, blend into your surroundings and go ‘still hunting’ – watching for wildlife. Sit still, wait for nature to come back to life around you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the names of the creatures and plants around you. Enjoy this deeper calmness and refocus if your mind begins to wonder.
  • Dawn encounters: Many of the Forests inhabitants are best seen and heard at dawn. Listening to the rutting calls of deer on a misty autumn dawn is a powerful experience. The male deer’s bellowing call is different for each species. Red deer stags roar, fallow bucks groan and the sika stags eerie, high pitched whistle will definitely give you goose bumps.
  • Go fishing for a dragon: Sit quietly by the edge of a pond or small stream with a short stick held out. It won’t be long before an inquisitive dragonfly will dart by to check you out and if you’re patient enough it might even perch on your stick. You’ll then be able to appreciate their beautiful colours and enormous eyes up close!
  • Creatures of the twilight: Tune in with nature’s rhythms and experience the Forest at dusk. On a still summer evening a secret world of fluttering bats, hooting owls, ‘roding’ woodcock and flickering glow worms reveal themselves to a patient observer.
  • Spider spying: Spiders often make a new web every day. Most activity takes place at sundown during September and October when spiders are more numerous. Make time to find a spider beginning to weave its web and observe these wonderful silk creations being made. If you’re lucky the web will be glistening with dew in the early morning sun – a visual masterpiece.
  • Make friends with an ancient tree: Take a moment and sit under a gnarly old tree. They all have their own character, with their own stories to tell, and the New Forest has hundreds and hundreds of old trees to meet. Think about what your tree might have seen and who has sat in this same spot. Make sure you ‘thank’ the tree before leaving by giving it a hug and wish it well for another 100 years or more.
  • Listen to the Forest awaking: Awaken with the dawn chorus. Leave the comfort of your warm bed, half-an-hour before sunrise, to appreciate this exhilarating experience – you won’t be disappointed. Spring and early summer is a busy, noisy time of day when songbirds sing to defend their territories and to attract a mate. A very tuneful wake-up call!
  • Make time for a sunset: The sun sets every day – how often do you stop to watch that beautiful, calming moment when time seems to slow down? There is something inherently powerful and spiritual about a sunset. What better way to be aware of the present moment than by watching the passing of time as the sun sinks below the horizon? Hatchett Pond is a great place to watch the sun disappear behind the still water and heather moor.

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