I’m hanging over a railing in Walberswick, looking out to sea. The bar presses into my stomach, making me short of breath. Yet I hang on, desperate to catch the first glimpse of the crabs we are raising gently from the depths, to gaze at their alien-looking eyes, carefully avoiding their sharp pincers, before returning them to the water. Another day sees me walking off the beaten track and into the leaf litter in a Cornish woodland. I scramble down through oak, beech and elder to the water’s edge and carefully lift holly saplings that claw at my arms as I pass, to squelch down to the water’s edge, and paddle in the sea.
Exploring the woodland surrounding Trelissick in Cornwall
These two memories are over fifteen years apart – yet there can sometimes be a stigma surrounding how to interact with nature. There are brilliant publications, such as the National Trust’s 50 things to do before you are 11¾, encouraging children to be wilder. Yet I would argue that at 26 I get just as much pleasure as I ever did from rolling down hills, climbing trees and getting muddy. So while we should definitely ensure youngsters stroll off the path, we shouldn’t forget to ourselves when we get a little older, now in nature and #NowforNature.
At 25 years old I started university and fulfilled a life-long dream of living by the sea. However, I still need to remind myself to rockpool! It can be so easy to overlook the nature right under your feet when busy with essays and exams, or just life in general. Yet taking a quarter of an hour to jump from rock to rock, crouching over pools where shrimps shoot away from dabbling fingers, with limpets clinging stubbornly to rocks, helps me to zoom out from day-to-day stress, and remember that if nature can evolve to fill every biological niche, I can definitely get through these deadlines.
During university breaks, I catch the 6-hour Riviera Express train back to London, then travel to Suffolk. The coastline may flatten out, while sandy cliffs subside into the North Sea, yet there are still many ways to be a child again. Oak trees covered in lichen have grown into perfect playgrounds. Scrambling to the top allows vast views over heathland that homes Dartford warblers with their metallic song, and red deer that migrate across the heath in herds.
Lying on my stomach in the bluebells, at Botallack in Cornwall.
For me, nothing trumps that feeling of slight fear when in doubt as to where to place your foot when climbing down a tree or a rock, or the rush in your stomach as you galumph (the mixture of jumping and galloping championed by Arthur Ransome in Swallows and Amazons) down a hill. There may be times, such as when I am close to walkers hiking seriously up coastal Cornish paths, that I hesitate for a second, just out of propriety. However, you only live once, so I roll down the hill, lie on my stomach to inspect bluebells and bees, and climb rocks to feel the wind on my face. So go on, leave the path, squelch in the mud, be at most 11¾.