Two TCV mugs with flasks and hot chocolate

December 19, 2023

Blog: Embracing Winter through our Wild Ways Well project with TCV

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Paul Barclay, The Conservation Volunteers, Senior Project Officer, shares his updates over the last few months of our Wild Ways Well project.

We’ve had a great summer with our Wild Ways Well nature and wellbeing project at St John’s Hospital. Over the past few months we’ve taken dozens of participants out into the greenspaces surrounding the hospital to experience how spending time in amongst nature can help everyone to manage their wellbeing and lead a happier, healthier life.

It’s winter now and we can feel the cold breath of the Cailleach Bheur sweeping the land. For many folk this is a time to stay indoors and avoid the cold, dreich weather – but if you’re not prepared to go out in the cold in Scotland you’ll never go out at all!

Winter is actually a great time to work some Wild Ways into your life – a walk in the cold, still air of a frosty day can be a magical experience. As the frost nips at your nose, the wind whips around your ears, and (this is Scotland) the rain fills your shoes, there are few better anticipatory experiences than knowing you’re heading back to some warm dry socks and a hot cup of tea!

We provide the tea during our sessions (it tastes better outdoors) and we’ve been experimenting over the weeks. We planted up a ‘tea bed’ in the Walled Garden and filled it full of plants like chamomile and mint that we could forage to brew up with. We try a different variety of tea every week and it’s always fun to see what folk are going to think of the different flavours (my own favourite was the chocolate mint, although many people actually enjoyed the nettle tea!).

In the summer we learned about butterflies, bumblebees and wildflowers but winter is also a great time to spot wildlife and we’ve been learning to identify the birds that come to the feeders we fill. We’ve followed deer tracks in the woods and spotted the squirrel dreys up in the tree tops, and over the coming weeks, we’ll learn some of the tricks to identifying the different trees themselves, as well as the stories our ancestors told about them.

Winter is a time to rest and renew ourselves. Nature teaches us that winter is also the time to let go of the things that are no longer helping us in life and invest our energy in those things that will support us on our journey and bring us joy in the year to come. Don’t fight the rhythm of the seasons, understand them and work with them – no matter how dark the Winter, Spring will come.

Right now, the trees are covered in the buds of next year’s leaves, and queen bumblebees sleep, laden with the eggs that will become next year’s pollinators. Snowdrops, primroses and daffodils are already stirring beneath the ground, steeling themselves to burst open in the light of spring. Badgers and foxes are preparing their underground homes for next year’s young.

We’ll look for all these signs this winter and learn for ourselves how they can affect us. We planted daffodils and wildflowers in October and November and we’ll be there waiting when they arrive next year. We’ll plant some trees in February and watch them grow, we’ll celebrate the ancient cycle of the seasons and find our place in the vast web of life that surrounds us.

And we’ll do it all together, in good company – even if we spend the whole time with one eye on those warm socks waiting for us when we get back indoors!

How you can take part

We offer free events and activities throughout the year.

Check our events page for upcoming events or contact Paul Barclay for more information: 07795 800970 or [email protected].

Wild Ways Well posters of outdoor activities
Green Social Prescribing workshop

Nature Heals, a blog by Paul Barclay

It’s a simple statement, a simple message, but sometimes the simple things are the most powerful.

Read more from Paul about how he has benefited from healing power of nature and how he is now helping others benefit from it now too.