Croftless Crofter: Nic Goddard

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Yesterday I filled my camera with images of fallen leaves, dying back bracken, and astonishing fungi.

I fell asleep last night to the sounds of stags roaring. It was autumn when I fell in love with the highlands and 10 autumns later the magic is still there every October day.

I was recently talking with a friend about nature connections and wellbeing and explained that despite enjoying the cosiness of being in a sturdy house rather than an off-grid static caravan at this time of year, I still consider my default space where I feel at home to be outside. I don’t ‘go outside’, I feel that I simply am outside until I ‘go indoors’.

I attended a lecture on ‘the state of nature conservation’ last month where the speaker opened the floor to comments and questions and there was a very heavy focus from the audience on ‘education’ as the key to improving engagement with environmental issues. Hardly a newsworthy or groundbreaking notion but one which I have been pondering on ever since.

As a home educator who raised my two children, now both adults, in a fairly unconventional way with no formal schooling and a childhood fully immersed in the natural world, my stance on education is that it rarely comes from a curriculum and is almost always as a direct result of engagement.

To the small child treasure is a found feather, a shiny conker, a sparkly seashell. Joy is a jump in a puddle, waking up to a white world of snow outside, seeing a newborn lamb take it’s first wobbly steps into the world. As adults we see the beauty in a rainbow, a sunset, a clear night sky filled with stars, a spiders web heavy with morning dew or a dragonfly hovering close by. We know this, we understand it, we have the education, what we seem to lack is the opportunity to engage.

A survey in 2017 found that Britons spend around 92 per cent of our time indoors and even some of that 8 per cent outdoors time is spent walking to the car. During lockdown however many of us re-engaged with the outside world in new ways – getting into gardening, walking in the local green space or taking up activities such as wild swimming. RSPB reported the biggest garden Birdwatch event ever with over a million people reporting what species they had spotted in their gardens.

As the world begins to open back up with people returning to indoor gyms for exercise, theatres and cinemas for entertainment, and pubs and restaurants for socialising it is all too easy to lose that connection to the outside world, particularly as the days grow shorter and the temperature drops at this time of year.

I urge you, though, to continue your education and your engagement with nature and the outside world. This is the best time of the year for sunsets and starry skies, peak aurora spotting potential. The colours of falling leaves, heather covered hillsides and dying back ferns and grasses make for wonderful views.

Even while writing this piece I looked up from my computer and out of the window, I opened it wide and called to my husband to come quickly – flying across the sky in a perfect V formation were a skein of migrating geese.

We hung out of the window and could hear them honking to each other as they flew. Sure, we closed it again fairly quickly afterwards, the fire was lit and we didn’t want to let all the warm air out! But look out of the window, take your teabreak outside, plan a woodland walk this weekend or find out just what that bright star you can spot in the night sky is called. I promise you it will be worth it.