Blog written by Jeni Bell

Sat in the shade of a thick trunked oak, I leant back against its bark and listened to the wheezing calls of yellowhammers from the adjacent fields. Buttercups swayed in time with the breeze, and I watched as a buzzard skimmed the steep slopes and rose up into the day’s blue skies.

It turns out Middleton Down, in the Chalke Valley, was the tonic I needed to counter a busy morning staring at the glare of my laptop screen. I had gotten tunnel vision, my body felt tight and strained from sitting for too long, and my head was buzzing.

Time spent in nature can help to alleviate stress and boost our well-being; it gets us active and encourages us to tune into the world around us. I needed to get out, get moving and get some fresh air.

This Wiltshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve is the epitome of peace. Hidden amongst the spectacular rolling countryside it feels like a truly wild space. Descending down the sloping path it seemed as though I was walking into the heart of the landscape.

Photo of Middleton Down

My thoughts quickly turned from work to wildness, and I found myself scanning the copious amounts of buttercups for other flora that makes its home there. Orchids thrive on these slopes: common spotted, pyramidal and even bee orchids are just some of the species you may spot on a visit. This act of looking for them helped to ease my work-related worries.

Photo of an orchid emerging

There are some steep parts to this nature reserve, and the slopes scattered with leafy oaks certainly got me moving. But each time I stopped to catch my breath I was rewarded with spectacular views, skylark song, and I even spied a sandy coloured hare gently grazing in the next field. As well as rock roses, various vetches, and the common spotted orchid I had been searching for.

Photo of a hare in the distance

However, I wasn’t the only one enjoying the variety of flora on offer. After a few moments standing still in the sun, my eyes tuned into the myriad of butterflies working their way through the grasses and wildflowers. I was held captivated by the tiny wings of the small blue as they shimmered like mirages through the undergrowth. Although I didn’t see any, the rare Adonis blue butterfly is resident here at the reserve; that’s a reason to come back if ever I needed one.

Photo of a small blue butterfly

Sitting with my back against the rough bark of the oak I felt so much better than I had that morning. I was now grounded and connected to nature. My tunnel vision had disappeared, I ached less, and I had developed a smile that wouldn’t disappear. I hadn’t spent long at the reserve either, perhaps only an hour – but it had turned out to be the most important hour of my day. It was much easier to be mindful out in nature, absorbing the surroundings and engaging my senses.

Plus, is there really any better place to be on sunny, early summer day than outside?

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