Yesterday was meant to be a day of celebration and, whilst it started that way, something in the universe conspired against it ending that way too. It left me feeling low, upset and angry. As a result today I took some time out to recalibrate myself.

I had already planned to visit one of my favourite places today, the Knepp Estate which is situated in West Sussex about a half hour drive from where I live. It’s been a while since I last visited and I was craving the nature connection that some time on the land there offers me. As it turned out – I needed it more today than I initially thought I would.

If you’ve never heard of Knepp … you’re missing out! It’s 3,500 acres that is certainly the most ambitious rewilding project in the United Kingdom, possibly Europe too. Whilst I could give you a brief potted history of what they’ve done with the land – I’m not. Instead I encourage you to read Wilding by Isabella Tree which is the story of what they are doing with the land.

Whilst it isn’t a nature reserve – there are a number of walking routes that have been set out for the public to enjoy the land. Each are colour coded and way marked with splashes of the relevant colours on trees and posts. There was only one of the routes I hadn’t yet walked – and although I set out with the intention of walking one of my usual favoured routes today – seeing a mass of people (and children) heading in that direction – a sign pointing me to the way of the yellow path sent me off in this new direction.

Seeing that yellow marker felt like a gift from the more than human world. Directing me on a path away from the madding crowd. A path where I felt like I was the sole human being. Surrounded by the most beautiful bird song – including that of the chiffchaff. It’s a call that takes me back to being on the Somerset Levels with my old boss and friend, Simon King, one early April morning in 2015. 

Simon is an absolute master of identifying birds – any animal in fact. That morning on the Levels he was helping me learn some bird calls and the chiffchaff was one of the first. In fairness it’s one of the easiest to learn as they call their own name chiff chaff. Now when I hear that call I think of Simon. I think of his infectious enthusiasm and passion for the natural world. How when I was feeling low when I was around him he’d make bird call sounds to cheer me up (usually a kingfisher). It felt like this chiffchaff today was singing for me and reminding me to perk up.

This is where I could go into the science of why time spent in the natural world is good for both your mental and physical health. How it naturally triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, your rest and digest mode, into play. How it can help dissipate the feelings of stress that everyday life brings. If you want to know more about that … maybe I’ll do something on that another day.

Today Knepp offered me the tonic I needed. Watching the white storks circling overhead and resting in the nest they built last year (2020 was the first year white storks had successfully nested in the UK for over 600 years!!), the Tamworth sow and her seven piglets furrowing in the mud for something to eat, the fluffy longhorn cattle chewing the cud and the super quick scurrying of what I think was a stoat – surprised to see me standing by … all helped to reset my system and to recalibrate me. 

Invitation: the next time you’re feeling low – take yourself outside and just be with the natural world for a moment. Perhaps it will help reset you too.

If you feel moved to take this invitation, I invite you to share what you are noticing below.

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