Grasping the nettle by the stem

Flowing stream in Norway.

You may have noticed that things at the Lucy in the Wild online world have been a little quiet over the last months, but in reality it has been a different story.

2017 saw the beginning of my Lucy in the Wild adventure. I took a brief period off work and used that time to set up the blog and website, something that I had been talking about for well over a year.  Things got off to a good start but gradually the daily grind reduced my time and, to a certain extent, my drive and inspiration too.

I spent the beginning of last year contemplating life in general, suffering with ill health, exhaustion and an overall sense that things were not as I had hoped they would be.  In May everything came to a head and I realised that there was so much more that I wanted to do with my time and my passion for wildlife and the great outdoors.

Walking in the Lake District

I found myself at a junction; to leave my job of nearly four and a half years, expand my knowledge and set out on my own path; or to stay in the same place, feeling disillusioned with the situation I found myself in, remaining static, as I had done for quite some time.

I remember speaking to many loved ones and close friends during that time but one in particular stood out to me “Grasp the nettle by the stem”.

So, with a deep breath, that’s what I did. By the beginning of June I had left my career as a zoo keeper, leaving behind the animals I had worked closely with for years and yes, just like grasping the nettle by the stem, it stung like hell.  It also opened up a whole new world to me as my friend had said it would.

Tyrion, the Little Owl I hand-reared during my time as a keeper.

I have spent the last seven months exploring my options and my local area of Sussex.  I have been lucky enough to find freelance work with a number of local wildlife organisations, some of which may lead to some exciting projects, so keep your eyes peeled for further posts!

I am now volunteering with Sussex Wildlife Trust helping with their Forest Schools programme, and with the RSPB at Pulborough Brooks helping conduct wildlife surveys, both of which have increased my knowledge incredibly.  I have spent time outside in nature, being still and noticing the little things, taking time to walk and to take photos.  My extra time has also allowed me to undertake courses on particular areas that interest me or to help fill some gaps in my knowledge such as a “Grasses, Sedges and Rushes” course through the Field Studies Council at Preston Montford.

Moss on rocks in Norway.

One of the things that has impacted me most however, is the realisation of something that deep down I already knew.  That not only do I enjoy being involved with nature because I am interested and passionate about it, but also that being outdoors is a great benefit to my physical and mental well-being.  A great number of studies have been conducted on the effect of nature on peoples well-being, and the results do not really come as a surprise.  One of the studies states that “being in nature, specifically in forests, reduces the cortisol levels in our brain (stress hormone) and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression”.  So there is scientific proof for that feeling you get when you are walking through the woods or in a forest, the feeling of relaxation, of curiousness and calm.

Nature is integral to us as a species, without it we simply could not survive, and not just because of food, water and the air we breathe. In a world where we seem to spend more time inside, looking at computer screens, in cities and away from nature, it is increasingly obvious that it is something that we need and crave to aid our overall physical and mental health.  This is something that I have been exploring and will be the focus of my next blog post which will be coming soon.

So I encourage you to get outside, enjoy your local woods or nature reserve, and most of all to do something great… Grab the nettle by the stem.

Sam, taking photos at a Norwegian fjord.

Lastly, I wanted to take this chance to thank everyone for their wise words and advice over this past year.  I have been utterly blown away by the support from my family, my friends and especially my partner, Sam.

To keep up to date with my blog posts, and to see what wild things I am getting up to, follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (links at the top of the page).  Thanks!