Dan Lloyd – Naturally Birmingham FPA Project Officer
For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of ‘rambling’ in the nearby nature reserve, stopping by the ponds to look at all the tadpoles swimming around, before stopping for a hot chocolate break on a bench overlooking the old claypit that is now designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (not that I knew what that meant back then!).
I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was incredibly lucky to have lived somewhere with access to such places (and to be around people who embraced them); despite living in a relatively deprived area, we were well serviced by green spaces and this really sparked an interest in the natural world that shaped my life and career. I spent my years in college and university honing this interest, with environmental science, geography, and geology, and eventually found myself moving into local government, where I really hoped to make a difference in people’s lives. When I saw an opening in the FPA team, I leapt at the chance to be part of a programme that aims to provide the opportunity for everyone to access what I was lucky enough to experience growing up.
Recently, I’ve really had chance to reconnect with nature in a way that I had started to drift away from in the past few years. During the national lockdown due to Covid-19, and the advent of homeworking, I became increasingly ‘stuck’ indoors – sometimes not leaving for extended periods of time, and not seeing friends and family, or even other people. Over time this seriously impacted on my mental health in a way that was difficult to spot at first, but I eventually I made the decision to incorporate walks in nature as much as I could into my week – I still remember ‘emerging’ from my house and popping to the local woods for the first time since lockdown; I’d forgotten how green everything could be, how pleasant the birdsong was in the still, early summer air. Simply spending time in nature has been proven to reduce the levels of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) in the body, and this was definitely my experience; I felt more relaxed, happier, and the ‘fog’ that had started to descend on me began to clear.
If there’s one thing I would recommend to people who found themselves in the same position I was in, it’s to spend as much time as you can outdoors. Admittedly I still find myself fighting the urge to just sit on the sofa and watch Netflix after a long workday, and I’m not the best at going out in the rain… but I’m trying to maximise my time outdoors where possible, and I don’t intend to lose the habit once the cold weather rolls in!