By Kayleigh Wright
Hello, my name is Kayleigh and I am a trainee with The Wildlife Trust, nature photographer and an all round nature nerd. For many years I have struggled with anxiety and depression and even now I still have my down days. Last year during the first weeks of the first lockdown, my mental health took a turn for the worst. It was as if a thick, dark fog was constantly surrounding me and I couldn’t see a way forwards. But then that fog started to clear when each day I found a comfort in nature.
Being out in nature has always been a healer for me, I’ve always enjoyed going out for long walks in the Peak District or nearby nature reserves, but during lockdown it was a different story as like everyone else in the country, I was unable to get out to my favourite countryside walks. As we could only keep to our local areas, I was truly able to explore my local nature trail and witness the beauty of each season unfurling around me as the days, weeks and months went by. Whenever the fog was starting to take over again, I went out for a walk down the nature trail and instantly felt the fog begin to lift. I listened to birdsong along the whole stretch of the trail, matching the songs to the birds that I knew and remembering the ones I hadn’t heard before that I wanted to learn. Listening to the birds helped me focus, I wasn’t thinking about the worries racing around in my mind, but instead I was thinking about how melodic the woodland sounded. I heard my first local cuckoo, spotted tree creepers scaling up the trees, Goldcrests hiding in the blackthorns and song thrushes high above the tallest of trees with their songs that play on repeat. I couldn’t believe how I hadn’t noticed any of these birds before, how after all this time, there was a whole world of wildlife waiting to be seen right on my doorstep.
It wasn’t just the birds that helped me through those difficult days, but an abundance of wildflowers that sprung up during spring and into summer. Evenings became my favourite time to wander the woodland, just as golden hour began. After work, it became a daily ritual, to wander along the woodland trail following a glorious, golden sunlight that poured in through the canopies and glistened upon the wildflowers. During spring there was a show of bluebells and forget-me-not painting the woodland floor with a sea of blue and early red campion starting to appear down at the wildflower meadow. By the time summer arrived, the meadow transformed into a carpet of oxeye daisies that was teeming with busy bumblebees and butterflies.
I finally picked up my camera again, after weeks of leaving it untouched upon my bookcase in my bedroom. Those few hours each day I spent just wandering around my local nature trail, taking in the seasonal changes and being distracted by nature helped me start enjoying the things I love again. That foggy feeling was still there but it wasn’t strong enough to engulf me and so spending time out in nature when I felt a wave of anxiety overcome me, helped a lot. I found a comfort in nature and learnt that nature will always be there for me no matter what.