Published: 08:49, 20 June 2020
| Updated: 09:52, 20 June 2020
The National Trust is encouraging people all over the county to make the most of the summer solstice by noticing and enjoying the moment outdoors as research shows nature has helped people through the coronavirus pandemic.
The conservation charity wants people to spent the longest day experiencing a dawn or sunset in their garden or local green space; or noticing the wildlife and flowers active at dawn or dusk in their garden or local park, after a poll showed people's increased relationship with nature had helped them through the coronavirus outbreak.
Findings in the YouGov poll revealed that more than two-thirds of adults either agreed or strongly agreed that spending time noticing nature around them had made them feel happy during lockdown and more than half - 55% - also agreed or strongly agreed that they plan to make a habit of spending as much time in nature once things go back to normal.
Findings also revealed that since lockdown interest in nature has risen by a third, with interest growing the most in the 25-34 year old age group.
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens lead ranger Peter Dear has seen an increase in local people discovering the gardens and estate for the first time: “Early into lockdown we had to close our car park, in line with Government guidelines, but our right of ways remain open, which allowed walkers to access the acres of farmland and woodland.
"People who’d never previously visited, but who lived just a short distance from Sissinghurst started to explore this amazing green space on their doorstep. I chatted with lots of them on my daily walks, and it was clear how much they were enjoying the tranquillity and beauty of the place, and of course the nature, which is everywhere at Sissinghurst.
“I love the freshness you experience early in the morning, but to be honest I’m more of a night owl - the duvet is just too cosy. At dusk, Sissinghurst’s famous white garden shines bright in the low light and you feel the day’s heat as you pass the brick walls. You see the wildfowl landing on the lake and settling in for the night, and the limey-orange light from female glow worms around your feet. Bats dart across the water straight over your head, picking off insects which have been attracted to your body heat. As the birdsong fades it’s replaced by owl calls. If you wait until you’re in darkness you’ll find that your eyes adjust really quickly, and you feel that much more connected to what’s around you.”
Andy Beer, Noticing Nature project lead at the trust, said: “Although we suspected that nature was providing the nation some level of comfort during these distressing and unprecedented times, we wanted to get a better understanding of how it was helping people through this period.
“The results tell us that people have found spending time in nature or seeing nature has had a positive effect on their mood, and hopefully therefore, helped their mental wellbeing. The fact that people are recognising so fully how nature has helped them during the crisis can only be a good thing for people, nature and wildlife.”
The connection between nature and wellbeing is becoming more and more recognised. The trust launched its Noticing Nature report with the University of Derby earlier this year which revealed that even simple, everyday acts of noticing nature -and celebrating natural events like the solstice - result in a connection to nature that's linked to higher levels of wellbeing.
Professor Miles Richardson from the University of Derby said: “It’s great to see that many people have found a friend in nature and long may that continue, because a close relationship with the natural world leads people to do good for nature in their everyday behaviour. After all, there’s no wellbeing without nature’s wellbeing.”
He continued: “That’s why it’s important to tune in and celebrate nature – being in touch with the passing of the seasons and events such as the summer solstice can play a part in developing that close and meaningful relationship.”
The National Trust also asked people whether they considered themselves to be an early bird or a night owl with results pretty evenly split.
Results revealed that early birds appear to have more of an affinity for activities involving being outside in nature, whereas night owls were more inclined to cultural activities or entertainment. But, when asked how habits had changed since lockdown early birds and night owls were showing similar habits with watching TV, walking and reading coming out on top, with night owls adopting walking during lockdown.
The longest day is not a day that the majority of people celebrate, so the charity is encouraging people to mark it in a simple way, wherever they are, by watching nature at dawn or dusk.
Andy added: “If the only good thing that has come out of the pandemic is that more people have a better connection to the natural world, then that has to be a good thing and we want to do more to help signpost moments of nature’s calendar for people to engage with.”
For more ways to enjoy the solstice weekend see nationaltrust.org.uk/nature-dawn-to-dusk and share your nature discoveries over the weekend using #EveryoneNeedsNature.