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Twelve simple ideas to lift your happiness

Let’s face it, we’ve had a lot to deal with in the past 12 months and with national restrictions in place, it hasn’t been an easy ride at all.

Getting outside however, is vital for our all-round health (even just a few minutes can lift the spirits) so we have listed twelve simple ideas to inspire you to get your daily dose of fresh air and exercise. Pick and choose as you please, or work through our list one by one – top down or bottom up, whatever lifts your happiness!

  1. Dust off your trowel

Tend those borders and vegetable patches, weed the paving and generally spruce up your garden so you are able to enjoy it to its fullest in the warmer months. Spending 20-30 minutes outdoors each day, whether it is watering or weeding will certainly help lift the spirits.

  1. Do your bit for the birds

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is giving everyone free access to Garden BirdWatch during the pandemic, helping you stay connected to nature whilst contributing to important scientific research. You’ll be helping Britain’s birds and feel good doing your bit. Join here now.

  1. Embrace outside hygge!

Fire pits and outdoor blankets are a worthwhile investment for your outdoor space, adding another dimension to family life. String up fairy lights, snuggle down with a cosy hot chocolate and you’ll be surprised at the relaxing transformation in your outside space.

  1. Take up outdoor meditation

Oh so simple and an excellent way to reduce anxiety and lessen stress, the use of nature and outdoor space in meditation is proven to yield mental health benefits. We don’t purport to be experts, but finding a quiet spot outside, closing your eyes and focussing on your breathing is a great place to start.

  1. Get snapping

Your best camera is the one that is always with you and who doesn’t leave the house without their smartphone these days? Next time you head out for your daily dose of exercise, use it to capture a view or a moment in time. Perhaps you could document your walks each day or challenge yourself to achieve a magazine-worthy wildlife shot?

  1. Exercise with a buddy

What better way to motivate yourself to get outside for a daily dose of exercise than teaming up with one pal from your support bubble or another household? Walking, running or cycling in unfavourable weather is far more enjoyable with someone by your side (albeit 2 metres away). So put the feelers out and you’ll be surprised at the response!

  1. Organise a scavenger hunt

Unleash your inner Bear Grylls and organise an outdoor scavenger hunt for your family. A super boredom-buster, children (and competitive parents) will love exploring whilst working through their checklist in your garden, a local park or nature reserve. Anything goes, from leaves and flowers to insects and animal tracks!

  1. Plan a winter picnic

Layer up, fill your flask with hot coffee and pop some warm snacks in a thermal food container (foil works pretty well too). Find a sheltered spot and, unless the weather is biblical, you will be surprised how enjoyable it can be. Beaches and countryside are all outdoor public places we can visit with friends now, so lets make the most of it.

  1. Have a go at foraging

Don’t be put off by cold, damp weather – we are in some of the best months for foraging! Dandelions, hawthorn berries and sweet chestnuts are just some of the goodies found on chilly walks. Take a good field guide with you (positive identifications are vital) and be sure to check first that you are allowed to forage in an area – never taking more than you need.

  1. Cook al fresco

Most people don’t think about cooking outside at this time of year, but why shouldn’t we extend our barbeque season? Providing its dry, cooking al fresco in the cooler months is still good fun and can be very satisfying. Food always tastes better when cooked outside.

  1. Try cold water swimming

Yes, we are serious! An icy dip releases endorphins, adrenaline and cortisol, helping to lift mood, whilst the effect of submerging your body in cold water increase the body’s white blood cell count, improving immunity and your reaction to stress. Whether it’s (your own) pool, a lake or the sea that appeals, clue yourself up on safety advice first: nowca.org

  1. Plan your next holiday (outside, with a coffee)

Because, let’s face it, we’re ready for one! We don’t mean actually booking and paying for it, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of escapism. Whether it’s beaches and mountains, or lakes and hills that tick your holiday box, dreaming about your next trip (and even the one after that) should put a smile on your face.

Please stay safe and follow the rules at all times.

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Enjoy the outdoors this autumn

Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons, with fields, parks and gardens full of crisp colourful leaves and lawns doused with dew. Now is not the time to stay inside for days on end with the heating cranked up high. Embrace the autumnal freshness and get some exercise, or have some fun in the fresh air. The great outdoors is the best medicine for everyone and best of all its completely free! There really is nothing better than stepping outside to clear your head and to get some fresh country air. We encourage you all to embrace the autumn weather; here are 6 activities you can enjoy in the countryside…

  1. Walking 

Walking is a simple form of exercise but often overlooked! It is one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses. One brisk walk a day keeps the doctor away, as the saying goes. You do not have to walk for hours on end: even a brisk 10-minute daily walk has a lot of health benefits. So grab your favourite reliable walking boots, a warm jacket and take time to appreciate your stunning natural environment.

  1. Cycling

Cycling is one of the best ways to take in scenery and nature. This fast-paced activity is sure to draw you in, having the wind in your hair and enjoying the peace and tranquillity that the countryside offers – you will never want to return! Find a path, trail or track and you are guaranteed to stumble upon a beautiful cycling route. All you need is a bike to enjoy the fun, and with so many places you can hire a bike from for the day, no one needs to miss out!

  1. Foraging

There are plenty of berries, seeds and nuts to go round at this time of the year. They will be easy to spot in hedgerows and woodland, and you might find that local parks and your own garden provide foraging hotspots. All you need is something to collect your bounty in. Be mindful and make sure you leave plenty behind for wildlife, so only pick from an area with a plentiful supply. October is great for damsons, walnuts, hazelnuts and, if you are near the sea, it’s also the perfect time for collecting mussels.

  1. Bird Watching

As mentioned above, berries, fruit and seeds are readily available in autumn. It is a time when you will see birds preparing for the cold winter that lies ahead; flocks of birds are also very common sightings at this time of the year. So, it’s the perfect time to grab your binoculars and head outside. As well as bird watching, you’ll also have the opportunity to spot some other wildlife!

  1. Horse Riding

To quote Winston Churchill, ‘no hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle’ and this is the time of year for blissful long canters through soft fields and gentle trots along idyllic bridle paths. No more pestering horse-flies, cough-inducing dust and hard-baked ground, just crisp air, a riot of coppery colours and that gorgeous autumn glow. Notwithstanding the small matter of wet mud (much easier to brush off once dry!) autumn is arguably the ultimate season for equine pastimes.

6 Yoga and Mindfulness

Finally, take some time for yourself this autumn. Roll out your yoga mat in the garden or in a park and move mindfully in the fresh air. It is best to layer up, then, as you get moving you can start to remove some layers as you get warmer. If yoga is not your thing you can still take a mat, towel or blanket outside, sit down and practice meditation or mindful breathing. You might even have time to do this before work whilst the mornings are still light.  

Stay warm and dry this autumn with the Nikwax Sweatproofing range, which cleans and conditions all next-to-skin clothing (think synthetic and woollen base layers), with no loss of performance. BaseWash® and Wool Wash gently clean, remove embedded odours and prevent the build-up of odour-causing bacteria whilst also accelerating the ability of the fabric to dry – to help regulate body temperature when sweating. For maximum enjoyment in the great outdoors, reach for the Nikwax!

 

 

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Top 5 foods to forage

If you thought there was no such thing as a free lunch, think again! UK woodlands have plenty to offer with delicious plants, berries and nuts that are safe to eat and offer a number of health benefits.

We’ve rounded up 5 of the best wild foods – chosen for their abundance, nutrition and safety.

1. Berries

Berries are one of the easiest foods to forage. Look for them in woodlands, hedgerows and parks from late summer. There’s a large variety of berries available; including blackberries, raspberries, mulberries and hawthorn berries. All are tasty and packed with Vitamin C and can be eaten as a snack or used in juices, jams, pies, cakes, wine and more!

Be warned, some berries are highly poisonous, if you’re not sure what they are do not risk eating them.

2. Wild Garlic

Ramsons, known as wild garlic is easily identifiable, forming lush green carpets in woodlands close to bluebells and emitting a distinctive garlicky smell. It tastes much like regular garlic but has a milder flavour.

Its bright green, lily-of-the-valley-like leaves are delicious chopped into salads and stir-fries or can be used to add flavour to soups and stews.  Also, its white flowers with six narrow petals have an al dente texture and subtle taste when eaten raw. Wild garlic has many health benefits, including helping to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It’s also good for gardens to ward off pests and diseases, and the juice can be used a household disinfectant.

Please be aware that ramson leaves look very similar to those of the bluebells, except bluebell leaves are poisonous. Always smell the leaves to check they are garlicky.

3. Nettles

Many people avoid nettles as they can leave painful welts on the hands of the picker. However, if you have a decent pair of gloves, the pros of foraging for nettles outweigh the cons. You can find nettles in gardens, woodlands, pastures and orchards. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, and contain more Vitamin C than oranges! Boiling nettles will remove the sting and they can be used be make tea, soup, beer and even haggis. Be careful to pick the youngest leaves in early spring as mature leaves can damage the kidneys.

4. Nuts

Nuts are a great source of protein and energy for hungry foragers. Forage for nuts in the autumn and eat them either raw or roasted. A woodland favourite is hazelnuts. Hazelnut leaves are roundish, downy and toothed while the nuts are encased in a green, leafy cup. These nuts are ripe for picking when the leaves are just beginning to turn yellow. Other widely available nuts include chestnuts, beechnuts, and walnuts. Nuts can be used in nut roasts and nut breads, or mixed into salads and stir-fries for extra crunch. Ground nuts can be pressed through a fine muslin bag to extract the oil, to use for frying and salad dressings.

Horse Chestnuts, more commonly know as conkers, are poisonous – do not eat these under any circumstances!

5. Elder

Elder is widespread and abundant in hedgerows, woods and roadsides. Elder bushes are usually covered in sweet-smelling flowers by the end of June, followed by berries between August and October. Elderflower has enormous uses; the aromatic blooms can be eaten raw, cooked, dried or powdered, and added to cordials, salads, ice cream, cakes, biscuits, jellies, jams, sweets, tea and used to make elderflower champagne! It is also fantastic in beauty products such as skin lotion and eye cream. Elderberries can be put to many of the same uses as the flowers but the leaves and stems are poisonous.

Responsible foraging

Before you head out foraging always check whether the land is protected and if it is public – if it isn’t, ask permission from the landowner. Also remember that nature’s larder should never be stripped bare as many birds and animals rely on it for survival.

On a final note, take great care when selecting and eating wild foods, it’s easy to mistake a deadly fungus for an innocent field mushroom! If you can’t be sure of a foods identity do not eat it.