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PRACTICE RECIPROCITY WITH NATURE.

We are Nature and what is good for Nature is good for us. We already know that connecting with the natural world boosts mood, improves mental health, supports the immune system, aids recovery and increases fitness (not to mention its soul-nourishing benefits). So, given everything Nature does for us, have you ever stopped to consider how you might return the favour?

 

Simple acts of reciprocity that support Nature can nurture your connection with the natural world. We’ve compiled some hints and tips for supporting Nature near you this summer.

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Water.

One of the best things you can do is to offer water. Water is essential for life but simply being close to water has surprising additional benefits. Did you know that a coastal view can support your mental health and spending time near large bodies of water boosts your mood more than simply spending time in green space? Even a small water feature such as a fountain in an urban space can have positive effects. Water is vital for Nature too but can be tricky to come by, especially in cities and towns. This means offering water is a great reciprocal act that you can take to support Nature.

 

  • Providing a wide, shallow bowl of water is an ideal water source and ensures that all manner of animals can stop for a drink while also allowing enough room for smaller birds to take a bath. Placing a few pebbles in the water will ensure insects can safely stop to quench their thirst and easily escape the water if they accidentally fall in. During dry spells or cold snaps ensure your water bowl is topped up/defrosted regularly.

  • If you have room, a larger water feature like a pond is an excellent addition to any outdoor space. This not only provides essential drinking water but also a home for many aquatic or semi-aquatic plants and animals. Ensure your pond has at least one shallow side or a plank of wood to help insects and small animals climb out if they fall in.

  • Don’t forget to offer a drink to the trees and plants too. During a hot summer, many plants will appreciate a good watering to keep them growing strong. Offering a drink to a tree or a plant can also be a symbolic act of reciprocity and connection. Next time you are out and about, take the time to offer a drink to a plant, a tree or the Earth before taking a sip yourself. This simple act reminds us that these are living, breathing beings and encourages us to notice and give thanks for their presence. 

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Food.

Unfortunately, for many species, food is becoming harder to find. This is especially true in urban areas where buildings, landscaping projects and manicured lawns and gardens have stripped the area of natural food sources. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, courtyard, balcony or even a window ledge, see if you can use this space to offer some food sources. Food for Nature comes in many different forms.

 

  • Place out bird feeders with a variety of fillings such as nuts, seeds and fat balls. This is especially helpful for birds in the winter months. Remember to clean your bird feeders regularly to protect birds from disease.

  • Build a compost heap for your kitchen scraps (this provides instant food for the invertebrates in your garden, and will later become food for your plants).

  • Offer supplementary food for hedgehogs such as specialist hedgehog pellets or meaty cat food (avoid milk and bread as this will make them unwell).

  • Mulch garden beds with a light layer of fallen leaves. This will protect your plants overwinter and the leaves will break down to provide nutrients in the spring.

  • Research which wildflowers are native to your region and plant a mixture in your outdoor space to support your local pollinators. Wildflowers and native plants provide food and shelter for insects, birds, and other animals. If you have the room, consider planting a mixture of native flowering plants, shrubs, and trees to create layers of habitat.

 

If you can’t feed the wildlife at home or would like to do more, see if you can get involved with your local community park group and support caring for communal green spaces. This gives back and supports your community with diverse green spaces to enjoy and connect with Nature. 

Homes.

Provide shelter and security in your outdoor space. Remember to consider which species are likely to make their home in your garden and do your research on the best position for your new home to ensure that residents move in. 

 

  • You can purchase purpose-built homes for wildlife including bird boxes, bat boxes, hedgehog houses and bug hotels. There is a huge variety of wildlife homes available, check out your local garden centre or town market for options. 

  • If you’d prefer to make your own, you can find guides online that upcycle materials you may already have.  Alternatively, you can build a simple log pile or rockery - Voilà you have a beautiful bug hotel.  

  • Consider the existing homes in your outdoor space and protect what is already there. Avoid cutting or trimming trees and bushes in the spring and summer months to avoid disturbing bird nests, be careful mowing long grass or overgrown areas where hedgehogs might be snoozing and avoid renovating your shed if you suspect foxes are living under there. 

  • In winter, remember that creatures may be hibernating in your garden so be careful when moving items. If you are aware of any animals hibernating, leave the area undisturbed until the spring. 

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Remember, access to the resources you are offering is important too. If you have a walled garden it will be harder for wildlife to find their way in. If possible, improve access by providing holes in your perimeter. If this isn’t possible be sure to focus your offerings of food, water and shelter on the species you know can get into your outdoor space. 

 

Be patient and observe the changes in your area as you spend more time connecting and giving back to Nature. You may wish to keep a garden journal to note which species visit and what plants are thriving. Over time, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your local ecosystem, a deeper connection to the land and a stronger understanding of how to live in a reciprocal relationship with the incredible natural world on your doorstep.

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