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Six Ways to Cure Your Nature Deficit

When Richard Louv penned his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, little did he know that his phrase ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ would strike such a chord and become a modern buzzword. When did you last kick through the leaves, run your hands through the soil or watch garden birds? Well if your answer isn’t today or yesterday, then you may need to remedy that. Find out about the disorder, its symptoms and our six recommended treatments…

Dr Ross Cameron of the department of landscape at Sheffield University gave a lecture at the Royal Horticultural Society in November, exploring Nature Deficit Disorder and what can be done about it. Ross believes that as urban populations increase, city and town dwellers are missing out on the emotional, physiological, and psychological benefits of engaging with the natural world, benefits that humans are hard-wired to respond to.

"As biological beings we are physiologically adapted to be in certain environments - to run, to play, to hunt, to be active basically," says Dr Cameron.

pavingweedsAlthough Nature Deficit Disorder is not a recognised medical condition, Dr Cameron believes there are a number of symptoms that come under the banner, including a lack of awareness and appreciation of the natural world, and less empathy for the plight of flora and fauna. He also believes that increasingly sedentary lifestyles and the health implications of this, including rising obesity rates, can also be attributed to a disconnection with the natural world.

So, what can be done? Ross thinks that any green environment - be it pot plants, or the weeds growing between paving stones, can play a part in healing the rift, by providing some green space that attracts wildlife and exposes people to the positive potential of the natural world. Designing appropriate green spaces within towns and cities and challenging sedentary lifestyles are part of the solution.

There are plenty of things you can do for yourself and for your children, whether you’ve got five minutes or five hours…

5 minutes: Tend to one of your house plants

Take time to really inspect the plant and marvel at its beauty. Wipe the dust from the leaves using damp cotton wool, remove any dead foliage and feel the soil, making sure it is nice and moist. Take a moment to appreciate the fact that plants like this provide the oxygen we breathe.

20 minutes: Photograph your local greenery

Make it a mission to find a green patch within 10 minutes of your own home. It doesn’t have to be a park or a woodland, just a single tree, bush or small flowerbed will do fine. Challenge yourself to take a photograph that brings out the beauty of this small green patch.

Robin in the snow40 minutes: Do a spot of bird watching in your own garden or local park

There are an amazing range of birds that forage in our gardens and parks. Print off a simple guide to garden birds from the internet and see how many of each species you can spot within half an hour. Once you get the hang of it, why not register to take part in the annual RSPB Garden Bird Watch? It takes place in January every year, is one of the largest community wildlife surveys in the world and makes a vital contribution to nature conservation planning.

1 hour: Build a nature corner in your back yard or garden

Choose one small corner of your garden that you can leave a little wild. Make a shelter for frogs, hedgehogs and insects by stacking some old logs and leave some leaves and long grass to give nature chance to flourish. Now stand back with the satisfaction that you’ve given nature a home.

cornmillllangollen3 hours: Take a countryside walk

At iFootpath we are firm believers of the benefits of a countryside walk. Browse the iFootpath walking library and find somewhere new to explore. There are walks that will help you discover every aspect of nature, from beaches to woodlands and heaths to moorland. While walking, make a mental note of the five things you love best along the route.

5 hours: Volunteer for an environmental project

There are plenty of organisations that would love your help, be it maintaining footpaths, planting trees or restoring canal towpaths. Try the Woodland Trust, Canal and River Trust or a local group. A bit of physical activity in the great outdoors is good for mind and body, while the warmth you will get from volunteering will also feed your soul.


20 December 2016

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The length of our walking guides is given in miles and rounded to the nearest full mile (whole number) for simplicity. For short walks (of less than 2 miles) or walks that have a length that ends in .5, a more accurate walk length may be given in the first section of the walk introduction. For example, the Length in the header may be listed as 6 miles, and the introduction may confirm that the exact length of the walk is 5.5 miles. The walk length is calculated from the GPS file that was created by the walk author GPS tracking the walk whilst walking, using the iFootpath App GPS Tracker, meaning it is very accurate. Our bespoke tracker is particularly detailed and plots a walkers position about every 10 seconds. The tracker is calibrated to match two other reputable map and walking sources, Ordnance Survey and Nike. As with all standardised walk and map lengths, the distance does not take account of hills and slopes, just the distance you would measure using a piece of string on a flat map version of the terrain, so hilly walks will feel longer than stated. If you track the route using another GPS App or Tracker App or Fitness Device, you can expect the distance you record to be different due to different calibrations. This is particularly true of those Apps and devices that count your motion and steps – these can only guess the distance you have travelled with each step and so are much less accurate.

Grade (Boots)

The grade of a walk is an indicator of how difficult the terrain is that you will encounter along the way. This does not take into account the walk length but does suggest how challenging the walk will be. It takes into account things like hills, path surfaces and obstacles (like stiles, gates, steps and rock scrambles). An easy walk, graded as 1 (and shown as 1 Boot) indicates a walk that is essentially flat, has no sharp hills to climb, has no stiles, is easy to navigate (probably along a well-worn path) and is suitable for most levels of fitness. A difficult walk, graded as 5 (and represented by 5 Boots) indicates a walk that is strenuous and involves steep ascents and/or descents. It may be technically challenging involving difficult terrain or obstacles that require scrambling with your hands. Please note that the grading for walks is subjective and open to interpretation and should only be used as a guide when selecting a walk.

NOTE: Do be aware that the level of stamina required for any walk will vary depending on both the walk length and the difficulty grade - you should only walk within your limits.

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