8 wild things to do – and join a 30-day Wild Challenge
When did you last give a tree a hug, or see a sunset? Have you ever made nettle soup or created a house for a hedgehog? A new guide, 50 Wild Things to Do at Home or Nearby, is published this month by The Wildlife Trusts and Elliott & Thompson, and aims to encourage people to get closer to nature.
You can buy an e-book for £3.19.
June also marks the UK’s biggest annual nature challenge, 30 Days Wild, which is organised by The Wildlife Trusts, a grassroots movement of 46 charities with more than 850,000 members and 38,000 volunteers. The group believes that people need nature and nature needs us.
I have picked 8 of the best Wild Things to do from the guide. These are extracts from the publication but there are many, many more.
My pick of 8 Wild Things to Do
1 Give a tree a hug
Although, strictly speaking, trees don’t really need a hug from us, they deserve one. Absorbing pollution, regulating heat in our cities, unbeatable climbing frames, homes for a wide range of wildlife, even increasing our house prices, trees really do improve our
quality of life. So go on, find one near you and give it a squeeze.
2 Watch the sunset
This is easy, although it requires a little luck. Just make sure you’re outside on a clear evening and hope for something stunning. Sunsets can be magnificent in cities as well as on hilltops.
In winter, sunset comes early and feels more important, washing the sky with much-needed colour for a few glorious moments amid the gloom. The sky somehow seems bigger in the winter too, when the trees are bare and the air is icy.
The best sunsets are probably the ones that happen while you’re on holiday, when you’re relaxed and you can watch it from start to finish in all its burning glory. Watching the sun pool and drop into a lake or ocean is truly joyful and often memorable.
3 Cook nettle soup
Healthy, delicious and found absolutely everywhere, nettles are a wonder leaf that can be cooked up into a wholesome soup. Food that’s free and full of goodness – perfect! You’ll need to pick the tender tops of young nettles in the spring.
YOU WILL NEED:
450 g young nettle tops
8 wild garlic (ramson) leaves, torn (optional)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 shallots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
HOW TO DO IT
- Go nettle picking – make sure you wear gloves and long
- Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain.
- Melt the butter in a large pan and cook the shallots, celery
and wild garlic leaves over a low heat with a lid for 10 minutes until soft but not brown.
- Wearing rubber gloves, sort through the nettles, selecting
new, young tops and discarding any tough stalks.
- Blanch the nettles in boiling water for 2–3 minutes.
- Add the stock, cooked potatoes and blanched nettles to the
pan. Simmer for 5–10 minutes, until the nettles are tender.
- Purée in a blender then return to the pan and reheat.
- You could stir in some crème fraiche or serve with a swirl of
cream and some crusty bread.
4 Feed butterflies
Many species of butterfly have suffered due to the loss of wildflower meadows, hedgerows and woodland. Pesticide and herbicide sprays have also had a negative impact on butterfly
populations. With a bit of thought and some careful planning, you can help butterflies by providing food sources in your garden.
Attract them with nectar-rich flowers, choosing plants with simple flowers that make it easy for butterflies to access the nectar. Avoid double-flowered varieties as they often have no nectar.
Plant them in a sheltered, sunny spot and don’t forget to provide food plants for caterpillars too.
Aubretia, primrose, sweet rocket, valerian, marjoram, lavender, knapweed, globe thistle, verbena, sweet scabious, ice plant and Michaelmas daisy are all good.
5 Go cloud spotting
Cloudspotting has to be one of the cheapest, and most addictive, hobbies. Once you start watching the skies it’s hard to stop.
Predicting the weather, admiring a particularly fine example of a nimbostratus or maybe just spotting strange shapes in the sky, you may find yourself looking upwards at any opportunity.
Clouds are grouped and named in the same way as plants and animals. This means they are divided into groups. Throughout our atmosphere, there are 10 main types of cloud, which can be broken up into many smaller species and varieties. Here are some of the most common clouds to look out for:
This cloud often looks like a fluffy splodge of cotton wool in the sky. Cumulus clouds have flat bases and cauliflower-shaped tops. They appear on sunny days, at the top of invisible columns of hot air rising up from the ground.
Cumulonimbus are little fluffy cumulus clouds grown out of control! They can reach an enormous size, up to several miles in height. They are the only clouds powerful enough to produce thunder and lightning.
If you are a long way from a cumulonimbus and see an anvil shape at the top, this is called an incus. It can spread over hundreds of miles across the sky, and spells bad weather.
These clouds form up to eight miles above our heads and look like giant wispy horse tails. They are often seen on really clear, bright days. The bad news is that if you can see more cirrus clouds forming, a nimbostratus is probably heading your way (see below).
The wispy bits are a “rain” of ice crystals falling through the atmosphere. They are called “fallstreaks”.
Bad luck if you are standing under one of these. It is a low cloud which is full to bursting with water, and this water will fall on our heads as rain, sleet or snow. A nimbostratus cloud can rain for hours and hours and hours.
FOG OR MIST
Fog and mist are clouds that have formed around us at ground level. You are more likely to see them after cold, clear nights when warm air gets cold very quickly and the water vapour turns to droplets before it has a chance to rise high in the sky. The difference between a fog and mist is the thickness of the cloud.
6 Make an insect hotel
Attract insects to your garden by providing them with valuable habitats: Make like a minibeast property magnate and build them a hotel. You can go for the express version or try creating something a little bit more deluxe.
THE INSECT EXPRESS
- Hollow plant stems, like bamboo canes
- Twigs and sticks
HOW TO DO IT
- Collect handfuls of stems, twigs and sticks.
- Tie the bundles quite tightly in two places.
- Post the bundle into a hedge or hang in a sheltered place,
perhaps from a bushy tree.
- For a different kind of look, you could stuff the sticks into a
7 Bake a bird cake
In the winter months it can be hard for birds to find enough food to survive, so treat the birds in your garden by baking them a cake that will keep them nice and full up.
YOU WILL NEED
- Bird seed
- Cooked rice
- Grated cheese
- Dried fruit
- Chopped unsalted nuts
- Hard cooking fat (lard/dripping)
- A pine cone, coconut shell or yoghurt pot
HOW TO DO IT
- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
- Add the fat and give it a good mix around.
- Choose your feeder: you could plaster the mixture all over
a fir cone, put it inside a coconut shell, or press it into an
empty yoghurt pot.
- Attach a string to your feeder before you fill it with the bird
cake, ready for hanging.
- Hang your feeder where you can watch birds without disturbing them.
8 Take a bark rubbing
A tree’s bark is often one of its most distinguishing features and it’s usually possible to identify the species of a tree from just its bark alone, as each has its own characteristic pattern.
To take a bark rubbing all you need to do is to hold a sheet of paper against the trunk of a tree and gently rub the side of crayon over it. You can take rubbings of pretty much anything – leaves also work well.
Collect fallen leaves and then take a rubbing while resting them on a flat surface.
A nice idea for home-made wrapping paper is to decorate plain brown parcel paper with bark rubbings done with a colourful crayon. You could even make a gift tag from a large dried leaf.
Do 30 Days Wild
30 Days Wild is the UK’s biggest annual nature challenge run by The Wildlife Trusts and inspires daily Random Acts of Wildness every day during June.
With a million people taking part over the last five years, 30 Days Wild has been proven to improve the health and happiness of those involved – as well as inspire more nature-friendly behaviour during and after the challenge, helping wildlife, too.
Whether it’s taking a walk outdoors barefoot or building a bug hotel, every act counts and helps to build our connection with the natural world. Find out more at wildlifetrusts.org/30dayswild.