Connecting with Nature

I hesitate to suggest that there have been benefits to the current situation through which we are all living, but one unexpected opportunity which the past 14 months has afforded us has been the chance to connect with the natural world around us. Whether it was our hour’s daily exercise outside, the sound of birdsong so audible last spring with the absence of cars on the road, or simply the time and space we have had in our normally busy lives to appreciate the dynamic wonders of the world around us, interest in the natural world has seen significant and growing interest over the past year.

It was therefore little surprise that the theme for last week’s national Mental Health Awareness Week was ‘Connecting with Nature’. As Mark Rowland, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation explained, “Going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies and 45% of us reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health. Websites which showed footage from webcams of wildlife saw hits increase by over 2000%. Wider studies also found that during lockdowns, people not only spent more time in nature but were noticing it more…And it is only since a 1960s study in the US found that patients who were treated in hospitals with a view of nature recovered faster, that science has started to unpack the extraordinary health benefits.”

At Wellington College, we are blessed with one of the most biodiverse and unique natural landscapes of any educational campus in the country, a truly wonderful resource for our community. Very few schools have a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on their estate, but the area of the College grounds which stretches down beyond the golf course to Little Sandhurst, made up of woodland, lowland bog and heathland, has been granted that specially protected designation. It is home to the Dartford Warbler, one of the UK’s rarest birds, nocturnal Nightjars, and a small colony of Silver-studded Blue butterflies, which was believed to have been lost decades ago, only to be rediscovered in 2020.

In addition to the SSSI we are also fortunate to have mature gardens, mixed woodland, ponds and lakes, not to mention numerous areas which are being left less carefully managed to develop more as nature intended. In the hurly-burly of the average Wellington College day, it is sometimes easy to overlook the wondrous natural beauty of the estate, particularly when the weather is as inclement as it has been recently. But this past week, indeed this past year has given all of us who live and learn at the College the opportunity to stop, look, listen and appreciate more the privileged habitat which provides our educational ecosystem.

As restrictions ease further today and we are able to welcome back parents more regularly and more broadly to the College site, we look forward to sharing our wonderful campus with you once again so that you too have the opportunity to reconnect with the natural beauty of the Wellington site. Many of you have already registered for the Welly Wildlife Walking Tours to be held in June which are now sold out, and I do hope that even more of you will have the opportunity to explore and enjoy learning about the remarkable flora and fauna to be found here at the College. In the meantime, please do follow @WellyWildlife on Instagram or Twitter for an insight into the broader life of our campus which so often goes unseen and unappreciated, or visit the website – wellywildlife.org – for a moment of calm and inspiration.

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