Back to nature

Coming home for Christmas supplies my yearly dose of relaxation, fattening but delicious food and nature. Only when the greenery and mud surrounded me did I realise how much I’d been missing contact with the natural world. It’s so satisfying to observe biological systems just getting on with their things, autonomously and quietly.

Pollarded Ash Tree

Pollarded Ash Tree

It’s also great to be using tools that have been around for thousands of years. Swinging an axe just feels so natural – highly recommended for stressed city workers – in the right environment of course.


Being back in the garden of my parents was felt like taking a magic high-tech medicine. No wonder people have described “nature deficit disorder” as a disease. Evidence shows that contact with greenery, even just in city parks has large health benefits.

The sad news is that access to green spaces is becoming more and more difficult. Paranoid parents keeping their children inside, development, and the global shift to cities (90% of people in the UK live in urban areas, around 50% and growing of people worldwide) have all meant that people spend less time in contact with mother nature. Add to this the attention-grabbing messages, pictures and sounds provided by increasingly ubiquitous internet connections, and it’s easy to imagine that we’re making less use of the little green space that’s left.

The good news is that urban allotments, land restoration and outdoor community projects are flourishing, such as those organised by Grow Sheffield, and various nature volunteering projects.

What’s great about these projects is that they do not need vast expanses of rural land and can be very energy efficient. Therefore, in many ways, the humble spade can be seen as an eco-technology, allowing high quality of life in the near absence of fossil fuels.

I have been re-invigorated by this return to the country and vow to spend more time outside when I head back to the city. What can be done with the wood? Well I’m hoping to make a giant spoon like this, just for the fun of it:

DIY spoon – a low energy but highly rewarding item

So my Christmas message is this: get outside!


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