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Nature and mental health

Nature and mental health

I hope you all, like me, enjoyed the spring Mental Health newsletter that was circulated during Mental Health Awareness Week by our Mental Health First Aider team.  If you missed it, here is a link –  It’s a great read, so do have a look.

How pretty are these eggs?

I really do appreciate the benefit of nature to mental health.  As I write this, I can hear the outdoors, with all the noise in the garden from the birds.  The sparrows and the starlings who have been nesting next door are now bringing their young here every day for a feed, and they make a right racket – they really are quite entertaining, as you see the wee ones squabbling over any food being provided.  I’ve had quite a few goldfinches with their young appearing over the past few days too.  Last year, the blue-tit chicks came to visit too, so hopefully they will be back this year.

On Monday, I accidentally discovered a blackbird’s nest with five eggs in a bush in my garden.  I was cutting back an overgrown shrub when I found it, so the nest is now a little more air-conditioned than it was.  Needless to say, the pruning was immediately stopped.  However, fortuitously, by having cut back the shrub, I can now see into the nest from my house with my binoculars, so am able to keep an eye.  Fortunately the mum wasn’t too traumatised by my activities, as she has been back on the nest.  Can’t wait to see the chicks, which I believe hatch after about two weeks.  But I don’t know when the eggs were laid, so it could be any day!  Watch this space!

It’s been great to see things in the garden coming into leaf and flower as spring has arrived.  After my first foray into growing my own veg last year, I’ve managed to make a wee bit more space this year, so have planted more garden peas (since they’re my favourite!), as well as shallots, potatoes, garlic, plus a couple of raspberry canes, a strawberry plant and some rhubarb.  I still have a little space, so will need to decide what else I can squeeze in.  I also replanted an old Belfast sink I had, that was rescued from an old school, and have made it into a herb garden.  I’ve used old slates from my roof and from a quarry to create separate areas and have built it up to have herbs that like better drained soil (rosemary and thyme) on the higher slopes, and those that like more moist soil (chives, oregano, lemon balm) on the lower bits.  I’m really pleased with it, and still have space for more herbs, so it’s still a work in progress.  If you’re like me, you dislike having to buy a whole packet (wrapped in plastic) of a herb, just to use a wee sprig, so it’s really nice just to be able to step outside and pick some fresh from the herb garden.  Much fresher and tastier, and less plastic to add to landfill.  You don’t need a garden either – you can grow herbs on a window sill or in small pots outside.

At the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, my friend and I took advantage of the relaxation of Covid rules and completed a section of the Fife Coastal Path that we hadn’t done before.  On Saturday, we walked from St Andrews to Wormit and on Sunday continued on to the end of the path at Newburgh.  It was a huge 44 miles over the two days – I still have the blisters to prove it!  We had beautiful sunny, warm weather with blue skies the whole time.  With the exception of a couple of small stretches, we were away from roads and

Tentsmuir lunch spot

traffic the whole time, so were really able to appreciate the variety of nature.  On day one, we saw beautiful beaches, dunes and forest at Tentsmuir, plus lovely bogland and countryside with bright yellow gorse and Scots pine.

Day two was much tougher, as the path actually leaves the coast after Balmerino and climbs up to near the summit of Norman’s Law and only reaches the coast again as it reaches Newburgh.  After day one’s walking, it was hard work, and we were hirpling by the time we reached the marker at the end of the path – frustratingly at the far end of Newburgh!  That was a tough mile or so extra, just when we thought we were there!  However, day two had lots of beautiful nature to enjoy too, particularly the fabulous woodland just after Balmerino, which was carpeted with bluebells, primroses and wild garlic, and the countryside views over towards Tayside as we climbed towards Norman’s Law.  We picked some of the wild garlic and stuck it in our rucksacks, which meant we kept getting wafts of garlic scent for the rest of the day.  I made wild garlic pesto with my bundle (whizzed together the garlic with pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan) to have with pasta – yum!  We didn’t meet many other walkers, but did see some wildlife – lots of pheasants, some buzzards, possibly some seals in the distance at Tentsmuir, a hare, some deer …

We both found it so calming and destressing to have those two days in nature.  I highly recommend getting out about and looking around you, to clear and calm your mind and lift your spirits.


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