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Ruth’s Story: Nature in Manchester and the Countryside

Mental Health Awareness Week may be over but we had so many great stories and pictures from staff that we wanted to keep sharing them on here and on our social media channels. 

Longford Park and Ryebank Fields, Chorlton

I’m a city girl. Born in London, settled in Manchester. I love everything that cities offer. But I love nature and the country too. I get out walking whenever I can. So during the lockdown – particularly the first one – I felt really anxious and lost without the freedom to leave the city and hang out in the hills. Instead, I took daily walks to my local park, and green space – Longford Park and Ryebank Fields in Chorlton. I took pretty much the same route every day, stretching it out to take the full hour. I went at different times of the day, and saw the trees transition from winter to spring and then onto summer. Sometimes I stopped by a tree and had a little dance, as if I was at an outdoor festival. Other times I stopped to admire the borders, blooming from the care and attention paid to them by one householder.

Being outdoors, watching the seasons change, hearing the birds sing, smelling the blossom and flowers, kept me going through that weird and scary time.

I’d lived so close to these spaces for 20 years, and yet it is only in the past year that I have come to fully appreciate how these spaces, in amongst our cities, can be so valuable, healing and sustaining. Now, whatever the weather, I still make the effort to pop up to the fields or the park. They are my mindful moments. My connection to nature. My lifeline.

North West Wales

Dinas Bran above Llangollen is one of my happy places. It’s quite a touristy destination, so I try and get up there as early in the day as I can to avoid the people. It’s an ancient ruined castle on a hill, with spectacular 360 views. I always feel so satisfied to arrive at the top – you can’t get there without some exertion – and I have a particular place where I like to stop. It’s here, looking out at the view, that I set a timer and meditate. Sometimes I meditate with eyes closed, focusing on the movement and feel of my breath, or the sounds around. Mainly, however, I keep my eyes open, somewhat focused on the horizon, and let everything wash over me. The sounds, the sights, my body sensations, my breath, the smells of nature, the feel of the hard cold stone under my jeans. It’s never not a magical experience. Unplugging from technology and plugging into nature is incredibly grounding and healing for me. The noise from everyone else, and from inside my head calms down, and all I am left with is what’s going on inside my body and in the environment around.

The expansive views and nature around me are a great reminder of my insignificance. This can seem quite scary and anxiety-provoking but in fact for me, it’s a real boost, because my own issues, negative thoughts and problems seem to shrink in the face of this. All that matter is this moment, this breath, this bird flying over, that sheep baaing, this breeze over my skin. Enjoying each moment as it passes brings me joy, peace and resilience.

I get up again feeling refreshed, revived and grounded. You don’t need any special skills to plug into nature. You don’t even need an adapter. You just need your senses, and the willingness to just stop and absorb whatever is around. Why not find your happy place, and give it a go?

Ruth, Resilience Co-ordinator