Reflecting on Mental Health Awareness week
This Mental Health Awareness week (10 - 16 May) we have been reflecting on the benefits that nature brings to mental wellbeing.
The theme of this year's event is 'Nature and Mental Health', a title which is extraordinarily apt given the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, and more importantly the healing benefits which nature has brought to millions of people over the last 18 months.
During the last week, mental health campaigners, charities and environmental bodies have been collectively recognising the need for us all to enjoy a greater connection to nature. Here in the Broads that might be going for a walk or jog along the riverbank after a day in the office, enjoying a quiet paddle on the water, pitching up for a relaxing afternoon of fishing or heading out on your motor cruiser and finding a quiet spot to moor up and watch the sun set with a drink in hand.
The key message behind the week is that no matter what we do, where we go or who we do it with, it doesn't really matter as long as we take time to experience nature and allow ourselves to take it all in once in awhile.
Our Rangers, Quay Assistants and other front-line staff have been busy this last year preparing for the return of visitors, facing an extremely busy summer and working to help ensure members of the enjoyed their trip to the Broads. We asked them where they most valued in the Broads to unwind and catch a moment of peace.
Summer Seasonal Ranger Stephen said he loved the quieter upper reaches:
"On a warm summer evening, I like to take a walk out along Horsey Dyke to the little viewpoint that looks out west across Horsey Mere. Settle down on one of the two wooden benches and open a chilled bottle of white wine, and enjoy the sunset over the water."
Reedham Quay Assistant David, who used to work in London, found the journey to and from work the most relaxing part of the day:
"I feel much more in touch with nature and the passage of the seasons now. I get to observe the farmers sow their crops according to the season, watch them grow and then see the harvest being gathered. You can't beat watching both the local and visiting wildlife coming and going throughout the seasons, along with those truly atmospheric dawns and sunsets."
For Ranger John, Reedham was his go-to spot:
“Reedham Quay is a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. You can park your car right next to the river and look out onto the powerful tidal river while asking yourself, where does all that water go!? Its lovely to watch the ducks swimming against the strong tide with their little feet paddling as fast as they can to get to one of the many people feeding them from the bank.
"The river is quite narrow and just the other side is nothing but endless views of open marsh land and those big skies. Every now and again the swing bridge will open to let the larger boats through and then there is the occasional train to make the bridge rattle and shake, but then it's back to peace and quiet.
"A marsh harrier often makes an appearance, hovering and gliding low over the reeds in front of you, showing just how good she is at this flying stuff before moving off to another area to perform to a different audience. Take a deep breath and then back to our busy lives.”
Ranger Tobi was a little less specific:
'For me, it's not a specific place, but more the culmination of a few factors: it's got to be a slightly overcast, maybe even a little rain, on the water in the middle of a broad - perhaps Wroxham, Salhouse or Malthouse... preferably calm but with a slight lull to the water for the feel and visual satisfaction. Usually in the afternoon.
"The weather conditions are important, for when it's overcast at this time of the year, the swallows and house martins will be feeding, and to have that chaotic yet precision flying as they swoop, soar, dive, twist and turn all around you is exciting yet settling for the mind. Throw in a few swifts screeching as they join the fun for good measure and it is just about as perfect as can be. Capturing this experience on camera will never do it justice; it's about being, and feeling part of nature. And wishing I could fly like any of these winged wonders!"
We hope you have managed to discover your own sanctuaries during the last year to appreciate just how lucky we are to have such beautiful landscapes on our doorstep. See the campaign website for more information about Mental Health Awareness week and visit Mind for more ideas around nature and mental health.
If you are returning to the Broads this summer, please try to be respectful and kind to other visitors and our staff.
For guidance or advice during your visit please call Broads Control on 01603 756056 or email Broads.Control@broads-authority.gov.uk. You can also contact us on social media for non-urgent enquiries.
Friday 14 May 2021