21 ways to let the joys of Nature calm your soul in troubled times

An unexpected snippet on the radio reminded us of the healing power of Nature, something which is never stronger than at this spectacularly pretty time of year.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner usually reports on the most miserable of human situations, but he took a different tack on a recent broadcast that we happened to catch. Instead of talking about terrorism or hacking here he was chirruping about how, every year, he goes to listen to Colin the Cuckoo when the bird returns to its (secret) second home on a Surrey heath.

He’s not the only high-profile person to find solace in Nature’s many small pleasures, an effective reminder that there are pockets of tranquillity to be found in even the busiest lives and places. Here are more ways to lighten the soul:

  • Sit by a pond: no one can be unhappy in the presence of ducklings, moorhen chicks, dragonflies or water boatmen.
  • Visit the library: the atmosphere of these precious places, which need your support, gently discourages uncivilised behaviour .
  • Sit in a sand dune: no one will notice if you shelter in its warm cusp to listen to waves .
  • Investigate a brownfield site: it may not be the prettiest of landscapes, but an overgrown car park can be as rich in birdsong and insect and fox life as the remotest countryside.
  • Pull off the beaten track: tea from your own flask refreshes mind and body more than a sip from a costly polystyrene beaker
  • Walk beside a canal: the pace of waterway life steadies the heart rate.

The Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire. Credit: Alamy

  • Help in the lambing shed: it has its messy moments, but even the least sentimental farmer finds it life-affirming.
  • Wander through ancient barrows: let your imagination drift and you’ll hear plainsong .
  • Get up early: watching the sun rise and hearing the birds will make you smug and calm .
  • Stay out at dusk: take deep breaths as the light gently fades.

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Sunset over hay bales near Crantock in Cornwall.

Sunset over hay bales near Crantock in Cornwall. Credit: Alamy/Helen Hotson

  • Go in the garden: prune the roses, chop wood, weed a border or simply make a daisy chain.
  • Count stars: this only works properly in a dark-sky reserve, sadly.
  • Count wildlife: myriad citizen surveys for charities enforce stillness in the garden for 10 minutes.
  • Take photographs: life through a lens is life anew.
  • Get lost in a wood: wander until all you can hear is birdsong.
  • Buy fish and chips: this must be at the seaside to work properly.
  • Wait for a steam train to pass: you’ll have company, but it’ll be peaceable.
A steam locomotive 44806 (Magpie/Kenneth Aldcroft) on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway travelling through Beck Hole.

A steam locomotive on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway travelling through Beck Hole.

  • Take a pew: sit at the back of a church — the music of organ or bell-ringing practice will be a bonus.
  • Watch village cricket: enjoy the gentle thwacks and polite clapping.
  • Sit in front of one painting: the Clore Gallery of Turners at Tate Britain is recommended.
  • Go fishing: a centuries-old, failsafe method.